March 15, 2008

OK OK vs. really OK

Last year, we featured the illustration of "Contrastive Focus Reduplication in Zits" (6/11/2007):  "I am up. I'm not not up-up." Yesterday's strip offers another example of the phenomenon.

Other relevant citations:

"Reduplication reduplication", 6/11/2007.
"Contrastive focus reduplication in the courtroom", 6/11/2007.

[Jonathan Weinberg writes:

Stuff you've figured out already, but which took me longer: If CR means, a la Ghomeshi et al., "a more sharply delimited, more specialized, range . . . the prototypical instance of the reduplicated lexical expression," then often that can be conveyed pretty well by appending "really" to the expression. It wouldn't work to say "Like-them-like-them? Or really like them?" The two mean more or less the same thing. So why not in the Zits strip? Because of ambiguity as to what the prototypical meaning of "OK" is. If the prototypical meaning of "OK" were fine/successful/no problem, then the usage in the strip wouldn't work. The usage in the strip makes sense -- and is funny -- on the understanding that the prototypical meaning of "OK" is adequate-but-not-great, while the meaning of "really OK" is something better.


Charlie Clingen writes:

Somehow reminds me of the joke (?) about computer software product development:

Done: It ran for the first time.

Done-done: Draft documentation available, but, uh, a few features haven't been completed yet.

Done-done-done: dropped on System Test a week before scheduled release date.


Posted by Mark Liberman at March 15, 2008 06:55 AM