April 28, 2007

Everybody are doing it

Another example for the collective collection (verb agreement division) -- Alec Baldwin, as quoted by Alessandra Stanley, "Under Fire, an Actor Lashes Back With a Plan", NYT, 4/28/2007:

"Everybody who works in tabloid media are people who are filled with self-hatred and shame," he said. "And the way that they manage those feelings is that they destroy the lives of other people and reveal your secrets."

To complicate matters further, when he says "your" he means "my". It's the inclusive your. Or something like that.

[Update -- Peter Metcalfe writes:

He's referring to himself in the second person. My previous experience with this phenomenon was a politician who had a billboard with the legend "Your country needs you".

Nice, but not quite the pattern I had in mind, though I guess you could interpret it that way. What Baldwin did was to use the generic second person in order to make his own position more appealing, by putting the hearer, at least pronominally, into Baldwin's situation. The odd thing about this particular example is that the group that "your" refers to is the same as the group referred to by the immediately preceding phrase "other people" -- and both are really attempts to raise to generic status what Baldwin thinks happened to him.

Here's another recent (but more conventional) example of blame-shifting with generic "you". The quote is from a college student facing felony charges after he and some others allegedly forced their way into an apartment in order to avenge a friend who had been punched (Pete Bosak, "6 PSU players face felony charges; 20 more may face questioning", Centre Daily, 4/28/2007):

Dozens of teammates answered Scirrotto's call for help, according to court documents.

Hayes said the contingent of football players went to the Meridian II thinking they were going to Scirrotto's aid when, police said, his scuffle with the three victims had been over for almost 45 minutes.

"You got to do what you got to do," Hayes allegedly told police when asked whether they went to the apartment to seek revenge for Scirrotto being roughed up earlier. "We went down to protect."

Police said six of them forced their way into the apartment and at least two of them attacked Imle and anyone who tried to stop them. Almost 20 other football players were outside, police said.


Posted by Mark Liberman at April 28, 2007 09:08 AM