January 28, 2007

Relevance of a different kind

As I noted in my last posting, sometimes including information leads people to search for the relevance of this information, so that what you say will implicate more that its face value.  Other times, information that in most contexts would not seem relevant is included as a bow to the intended audience -- in what I think of (thanks to Monty Python) as the "news for cats" presentation.  Here, excerpted from a review of films in a San Francisco film noir festival, are three descriptions that might strike many readers as odd:

With John Ireland and gay actor Raymond Burr...

With Burr and handsome, rugged Jeff Chandler, whom Esther Williams revealed was a heterosexual cross-dresser with a fondness for polka-dot blouses.

Handsome, reportedly bisexual Franchot Tone came from a wealthy family...

Until, that is, you learn where this review appeared.

It's from the 1/25/07 issue (p. 3) of the Bay Area Reporter, a weekly paper for the local lgbt audience: Tavo Amador, "Return to Dark City: Annual 'Noir City' film fest comes back to the Castro".  For the most part, the review could have appeared anywhere, but in at least three places Amador threw in details that have nothing to do with the movies themselves but might be thought to be of special interest to the readers of B.A.R.  (I'm inclined to be annoyed by this sort of thing, but I do enjoy occasional dish, and I'm delighted by Jeff Chandler's reported "fondness for polka-dot blouses", even though it's entirely off the point and absurdly specific.)

The Chandler sentence also provides another example of whom in a nominative context (serving as an extracted subject of an object clause -- ESOC, as I put in my extraordinarily geeky posting on who and whom):

... Jeff Chandler, [ whom Esther Williams revealed ___ was a heterosexual cross-dresser ...]

I didn't notice this until I typed the sentence in as an example of "gay relevance".  I'm beginning to think these things are fairly common and I miss a lot of them.  It might be worth searching through some corpora -- ah, but which ones? -- for all occurrences of whom, to see what the frequencies of the various types are.  Maybe -- I am ever hopeful -- someone's already done this.

zwicky at-sign csli period stanford period edu

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at January 28, 2007 01:03 PM