Posted by Neal on October 21, 2007
As I was setting Doug’s and Adam’s drinks on the table, Doug knew he had to act fast. If I was already sitting down when he asked if he could have some ketchup, he knew from experience that I’d say, “Sure. It’s in the door of the fridge.” If he wanted me to get the ketchup for him, he would have to ask me specifically, and do so before I sat down. Furthermore, if all he requested was for me to bring the ketchup, and then, upon receiving it, he tried to expand the scope of my mission to include actually squeezing some onto his plate, I’d most likely say, “You can do that,” and head to my seat. If he wanted to take his ease while having both of these simple tasks done for him, he’d have to make both requests at the same time, and right now. So he quickly mustered his wits and said,
Hey, Dad, can you bring over and squirt some ketchup onto my plate?
“OK,” I said, but as I walked to the fridge, that familiar feeling came over me, that nagging post-processing sensation that something wasn’t quite right. I mentally reviewed Doug’s utterance as I returned with the ketchup, and realized that — hot dog! — he had just created another “Friends in Low Places” coordination (aka right-node wrapping, or RNW) to add to my list.
A review of the anatomy of an RNW coordination: It has form A and B C D, but is semantically equivalent to [A C] and [B C D], instead of [A C D] and [B C D], as it would if it were parsed as an ordinary, parallel coordination. In this example:
A = bring over
B = squirt
C = some ketchup
D = on my plate
His intended meaning was equivalent to [A C] and [B C D], i.e. “bring over some ketchup and squirt it (the ketchup) on my plate”; it was not “bring over some ketchup on my plate and squirt it on my plate.”
Do I dare say that I relish moments like this?