Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Three More Right-Node Wrappings

Posted by Neal on March 9, 2007

The latest additions to the list of “Friends in Low Places” coordinations (aka right-node wrapping)…

The most recent sighting is from Glen, who found this one in an article about an out-of-control North Carolina sheriff:

[H]eavily armed deputies were sent at night to the home of an 18-year-old student suspected of assaulting and robbing another student of a video game. (link)

You can’t assault someone of a video game. Next, one I found when I was thinning the stacks of magazines in our bathroom:

During the War of 1812, American troops occupied and burned the town to the ground….
(Mike Michaelson, “Through the Mist,” Home & Away, Sept/Oct 2005, p. 18)

Towns can be burned to the ground, but not occupied to the ground. And last, one from my wife, about a withdrawal from the bank to be recorded:

I’m gonna take and put this in the checkbook.

She took the receipt and she put it in the checkbook, but she didn’t take it in the checkbook.

2 Responses to “Three More Right-Node Wrappings”

  1. Ingeborg S. Nordén said

    Here’s a right-node wrapping that I overheard on the TV show “Futurama”. After Bender destroys a television, Fry asks desperately: “Now what am I gonna watch and drink all day?” If you’re familiar with the show, you’ve probably seen Fry watching TV all day; you’ve probably seen him drinking all day, too. But even in this weird futuristic world, nobody drinks televisions for even a minute (let alone all day)!

  2. Neal said

    Hey, good catch. I wouldn’t call this one an RNW, though; it doesn’t match the [A and B] C D pattern. If you put it as a declarative (I watch TV and drink all day) there’d be no problem; TV is in the VP it belongs in, and all day modifies both watch TV and drink. The oddness comes when you extract the direct object from one VP to make a question. That makes this more like coordinations such as, “something you put in [ ], sit back, and run [ ],” discussed in this post.But even among these examples, this one is unusual, since the last coordinated phrase doesn’t have a gap. Usually that won’t work; for example, observe the badness of *the person I talked to [ ] and had lunch. In fact, the Futurama example isn’t entirely good, either, and the writers are undoubtedly exploiting its questionable quality for humorous effect, but to the extent that it does work, I’d say it does so because watching TV and drinking are so strongly associated with each other for this character.

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