Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Further FLoPs

Posted by Neal on August 24, 2005

A few more Friends in Low Places coordinations to add to the collection:

In response to a previous post, commentator Chris linked me a post on Blogslot with some more unusual coordinations, which turned out to be FLoP coordinations–that is, it was of form

[A and B] C D

where only the C had been factored out of both coordinates, and the D belonged only to the second one. A paraphrase would be:

[A C] and [B C D]

Here are the coordinations, along with blogger and Washington Post copy editor Bill Walsh’s comments:

“In the players’ box was Tony Nadal, the uncle and coach of Rafael Nadal since he started playing as a youngster.”

Tony didn’t become Rafael’s uncle until Rafael started playing tennis? No.

“Members of the platoon testified that they punched, kicked and struck the detainee with their rifles.”

They punched him with their rifles and kicked them with their rifles? No.

In the first quotation, A = uncle, B = coach, C = of Rafael Nadal, and D = since he started playing as a youngster. In the second quotation, A = punched, B = kicked, B’ = struck, C = the detainee, and D = with their rifles.

Chris also mentioned that other not-quite-parallel coordinations were just fine in German, which reminded me of some well-known German examples in the linguistics literature that I was going to comment on. But that’ll have to wait, because over at Piloklok, Bob Kennedy adds the latest example:

Senators sign and trade Hossa for Heatley

It doesn’t mean that the Senators signed Hossa for Heatley (which doesn’t make sense) and traded Hossa for Heatley. It means that they signed Hossa, and traded him for Heatley. In this example, A = signed, B = traded, C = Hossa, and D = for Heatley.

7 Responses to “Further FLoPs”

  1. I had suspected that the Hossa headline was a FLoP (rather than a more ordinary WTF) but wasn’t 100% sure. Your equation of
    [A and B] C D = [A C] and [B C D]
    is a pretty crisp diagnostic, so I’ll know next time I see one.

  2. Bill said

    I have a similar problem with a common fiction device:

    “I don’t love you anymore,” she said, and turned away from me.

    She said it, but she didn’t turn-away-from-me it. I think another “she” is required after “and.”

  3. chris said

    I am, to paraphrase a more illustrious language blogger, a guy of the female variety.

    Couldn’t the last example be easily fixed with a comma? “Senators sign, and trade Hossa for Heatley.”

    Another maybe-FLOP, and a strange coordination in any case:

    “In London, the London Firebrigade made a guest appearence in the wolf’s glenn, where Max forges the magic bullet, with which he hopes to win the shooting competition, and the girl a garter.” (BBC Prom 36 live on BBC Radio 4, commas intentionally inserted at pauses.)

    I still can’t decided if the girl hopes to win a garter in the wolf’s glenn, or if Max hopes to win a garter for the girl (and the shooting competition with the magic bullet). In German, the case suffix at “the garter” would decide one way or other.

  4. chris said


    1. Delete “intentionally”. Cut’n’paste error.

    2. It’s the case of “the girl” that would clarify the issue in German.

  5. Neal said

    Oops. Sorry, Chris. The correction has been made. Moving on, I don’t know how to parse the BBC coordination either. If he were contrastively stressed with the girl, I’d take it to mean Max hopes to win the competition with a magic bullet, and the girl hopes to win a garter with the magic bullet. If not, I’d take it to mean that with the magic bullet, Max wanted to win the competition and to win the girl a garter. But that’d be a strange coordination of a single NP with a two-NP chunk, so I wouldn’t be sure I’d got it right even then.

  6. […] Last summer, I added to my list of Friends in Low Places coordinations a couple that I got from a posting on Blogslot, written by Bill Walsh, a copyeditor for The Washington Post. Walsh read my post quoting him, and had this to say in a comment: I have a similar problem with a common fiction device: […]

  7. […] The cofounding didn’t take place over 15 years; just the owning did. Unlike most of the other RNWs I’ve collected, which involve coordinated verbs, this one has coordinated nouns. The only other one with a noun that I recall is: Tony Nadal, the uncle and coach of Rafael Nadal since he started playing as a youngster […]

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