May 17, 2005

Indirect speech acts in Detroit

From Elmore Leonard's City Primeval (1980). The characters are Sandy Stanton and Clement Mansell, the book's designated bad guys.

Clement lay around the rest of the day while he thought and stared out at Motor City. Sandy sat at the desk to write a letter to her mother in French Lick, Indiana, that began "Dear Mom, The weather has been very warm for October, but I don't mind it a bit as I hate cold weather. Brrr." And stopped there. She rattled the ballpoint pen between her front teeth until Clement told her to, goddamn-it, cut it out.

She went over and turned on the TV and said, "Hey, Nashville on the Road. . . my God, anybody ever tell you you look like Marty Robbins? You and him could be twin brothers." Clement didn't answer. Sandy turned to him again after a few minutes and said, "That doesn't make any sense, does it? Marty goes, 'Would you like to sing another song for us?' And Donna Fargo -- you hear her? -- she goes, 'I can't hardly pass up an offer like that.' What offer? Marty didn't offer her nothing." Clement was staring at her, hard. Sandy got dressed and left the apartment without saying another word.

Posted by Mark Liberman at May 17, 2005 06:52 AM