November 27, 2003

Like, I care whether semantics are or is?

Mark Liberman quotes some remarks from a costume designer named William Ivey Long that include the clause "the semantics are confusing" and suggests in connection therewith that "Geoff Pullum will not be pleased to see that Mr. Long interpreted semantics as a plural count noun."

I think I can speak to this, what with me being Geoff Pullum and all, and I am here to tell you that you would be absolutely astonished to know just how little I care about whether some costume designer treated the morphologically pluralized lexeme semantics as a morphosyntactically plural count noun. I mean, it's not just a question of neither being pleased about Mr. Long's choice of verb form nor not pleased; we are talking about a deep and unbounded apathy here, a cosmically profound level of apathy down to which few people's refusal to give a monkey's fart ever descends. The depth of how much I deeply do not care about this would be impossible to overstate, though I will try. Why, just the other day I retired for a while to a fairly small room of my house and sat quietly reading there for, oh, a long time, without any thought of what suffixes dress choosers in New York were putting on verbs that had nouns like semantics as subject in a finite clause. I spend whole days sometimes not thinking about the verb agreement selection Mr. Long made -- indeed, not thinking about the inflectional decisions made by any parade costume designer anywhere. Let me try to explain further just how slender are the chances of my coming to care about this...

Oh, what's the point. People will always think I care about crap like subject-verb agreement. Let's face it, I'm a grammarian. No one is ever going to think I am anything but a boring old pedant. Not ever. No one realizes that I am actually a super fun wild and crazy guy, great in bed, sexy, witty, lively at parties, popular with children and animals. Even if people were to be shown a picture with parrots in the wild peacefully sitting on me they still wouldn't believe it. Sniff.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at November 27, 2003 10:55 PM