Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Another “Friends in Low Places” Coordination

Posted by Neal on November 2, 2004

An AP article last Sunday talked about Bunnatine Greenhouse, a contracting official in the Army Corps of Engineers who questioned Halliburton’s no-bid contracts. At one point, she wrote this:

There is little or no incentive for the contractor to reduce or keep the cost down.

Taken as a strictly parallel coordination, Greenhouse is saying there is little or no incentive for:

  1. the contractor to reduce the cost down.
  2. the contractor to keep the cost down.

The phrase reduce the price down, although it makes sense, is decidedly unidiomatic. I’m pretty sure what Greenhouse intended was reduce the cost or keep the cost down.

In that case, this is another example of a coordination like the one in “Friends in Low Places.” I need to find a name for these things in case I find more of them. I could go with “non-parallel coordination of a transitive verb and a transitive verb with a resultative phrase,” but the problem with that is, none of the substantive words starts with a vowel, so it won’t make a neat-sounding acronym. Even if I include a and and in the acronym, I just get NPCATVAATVWARP.

So instead, I’ll call them “Friends in Low Places coordinations,” after the first one I noticed. This makes a more pronounceable acronym: “FILP coordinations.” More pronounceable, but not very pretty. Maybe I could leave out the in, and take the first two letters of low, and get “FLoP coordinations.” That’s better, and slightly more intuitive, since you can think of the direct object (my blues in the original example, cost in this one) getting flopped into the body of the coordination.

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