August 18, 2006

Denial of service attack

   <church sign>

We saw a sign just like that the other day. Outside a bar rather than a church, but I'm in love with a church sign generator. The sign actually looked more like this one, but without the bit about the animals:

   <no shoes no service image>

What animal would you leave outside? But I digress. When my son noticed the sign, the following brief exchange took place...

Noah: Daddy, why can't you have shoes and shirts and service?
Me: Huh?
What I should have said: Well, son, the first two Noun Phrases are understood disjunctively, and the third is understood as the consequent of an implicit conditional which takes wide scope. You mistakenly analyzed both missing connectives as conjunctions. (Whack!) The same is true for this sign I once saw outside a hairdressers, denying curling service  to scruffy would-be customers.

   <no pain no gain>

OK, I lied. Like most good things in life, I found it on the web. It's probably not from a hairdressers, and obviously is intended to be understood as involving implicit conjunctions. Randomly pick a natural occurrence of two noun phrases in a row, and I'll give you good odds they're understood conjunctively:

   <no retreat no surrender>

As far as I can tell, the implicit disjunction is more unusual than the implicit conditional, though conditional readings are often indistinguishable from conjunctions. Take the earliest no-no construction I came across, from our pal Shaxper's Timon of Athens:

Flavius: No care, no stop! so senseless of expense,
    That he will neither know how to maintain it,
    Nor cease his flow of riot: takes no account
    How things go from him, nor resumes no care
    Of what is to continue: never mind
    Was to be so unwise, to be so kind.

Flavius is complaining about his overgenerous master, Timon, who doesn't care about his rapidly empyting coffers, and (hence) doesn't stop spending money and giving stuff away. Is no care no stop a conjunction or a conditional?

 But it's easy to pick up bona fide implicit conditionals on the street:

   <no pain no gain>

And summarizing the blogger's life:
   <no cure no pay>
Oddly, the No cure, no pay refrain is more common in the Netherlands than in the UK or US. The meaning is sufficiently bleached that it's standardly used to describe a lawyer taking on a case paid only on condition of winning. I've also seen the oxymoronic eggcorn no cure no pain. Something else about no cure no pay:  it's not clear that  pay is a noun. Verbs following no are not uncommon, though perhaps more common in dialectal or non-standard Englishes, as  with this protest from Zambia:

   <no fish no eat>:

We also find adjectives. On the web I found No Edie, No Happy! and  No food no happy. There's often something mock-Asian about no combined with a non-noun, like the web example: No likee, no clickee. And this Korean movie

   <no sexy no happy image>

is rendered in English translation No sexy, no happy, though I need the services of a helpful web denizen to tell me what the original says literally. Asian salaciousness may be part of the subplot of the no-no construction (though one can't really make such a prognosis on the basis of the web, which filters everything through porn-tinted spectacles):

"no money no honey"

And to provide a musical frame for the no-no construction,  here's the same thing in blues.

But I didn't.

Posted by David Beaver at August 18, 2006 10:48 AM