I Forgot to Go to the Store and Get Any
Posted by Neal on July 23, 2012
A few days ago, as I was pulling into the garage, I suddenly said to myself,
Well, crap! I forgot to go to the store and get any club soda.
How annoying. We had run out of club soda two days before, so my wife couldn’t make any more of her favorite drink: club soda with cranberry juice (the sweetened kind, with lime flavor already in it). I couldn’t make any more for myself, either, and when that happens and there’s no iced tea made, it gives me an unfortunate excuse to continue my love-hate relationship with Coke.
Of course, that’s not what compels me to write about my utterance here on the blog. As with my last post, I was interested in a negative polarity item (NPI), in this case, the word any. You can’t say things like,
*I got any club soda.
*I want to get any club soda.
*I went to the store and got any club soda.
There has to be a negation or question or something similar involved; for example,
I didn’t get any club soda.
Do you want any club soda?
The verb forget counts as something similar, with its implicitly negative meaning of “not remember,” so you can certainly say,
I forgot to get any club soda.
So because my sentence had forgot as its main verb, there should be nothing surprising about having the NPI any somewhere in the complement to forgot, right? But in that case, why doesn’t this next sentence work?
*I forgot to scoop out the litterboxes and get any club soda.
At least, I don’t think it works. Do you? And the reason it doesn’t is the same reason that you can’t say something like
*Club soda is what I forgot to scoop out the litterboxes and get [ ].
For you to make a relative clause out of club soda, which plays a part in only one of the coordinated verb phrases, those verb phrases have to have some sensible relation to each other. Go to the store and get club soda go together as two steps in a single undertaking. On the other hand, scoop out the litterboxes and get club soda don’t have any relation to each other. Unless…
- …you keep bottles of club soda buried in your litterboxes.
- …scooping out the litterboxes is something that always happens right before you get club soda.
- …scooping out the litterboxes sets a Rube Goldberg apparatus in motion that results in the delivery of club soda.
In those situations, that sentence would work, and so would I forgot to scoop out the litterboxes and get any club soda, I think. This is interesting. I hadn’t read or thought about NPI licensing as something that could be relevant to these coordinations that require a special relationship between the coordinated items.
P.S. I see that when I view the preview for this post using Chrome, the words continue, housecleaning, and filled are hyperlinked to spammy sites. I’ve been using Firefox up until now, and I see that these tacky ads don’t show up in that browser. Good on you, Firefox, and Chrome, I’m very disappointed.