Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

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Eebster the Great
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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby Eebster the Great » Wed Oct 05, 2016 8:11 pm UTC

I'm not sure how you can decide what a phrase "should be." The phrase still makes sense, evokes the right image, and if anything conforms better to linguistic norms with "thing." But it is arguably more specific and older with "think." Both seem fine.

Besides, the phrase is mostly used in informal speech, where "thing coming" and "think coming" frequently have near-identical pronunciations.

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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Oct 05, 2016 9:59 pm UTC

I would say they sound nearly identical in all but the most unnaturally careful speech. The /k/ is held longer in formal speech, perhaps, but it would almost always sound strange to release it.
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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Oct 06, 2016 1:03 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:I would say they sound nearly identical in all but the most unnaturally careful speech. The /k/ is held longer in formal speech, perhaps, but it would almost always sound strange to release it.

Agreed, I don't think anyone would release the /k/ unless they were deliberately speaking unnaturally (e.g. to be understood exactly when dictating a message over the phone or to explain this very distinction). But even in informal speech, some people will hold the /k/ longer in "think coming" than in "thing coming," albeit not by much. Hence "near".

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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby chridd » Thu Oct 06, 2016 7:34 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:I would say they sound nearly identical in all but the most unnaturally careful speech. The /k/ is held longer in formal speech, perhaps, but it would almost always sound strange to release it.
I think the difference isn't so much in the /k/ itself, but rather the fact that vowels and sonorants are pronounced shorter before voiceless consonants (pre-fortis clipping)—something like [θɪ̆ŋ̆k] vs. [θɪːŋː] (or whatever /θ/ and /ɪ/ are in the person's dialect). I think that I would pronounce them differently that way even in casual speech (though I don't think I make as much distinction between casual and formal speech as some people do, so maybe other people are different).

To answer the question in the title of the thread... for me, I think when I think I understand (descriptively) how a particular word or phrase or construct is used/pronounced/said, and then someone violates that (perceived) rule enough for me to notice, and then people keep violating that rule, there can be some sort of mild irritation there, at least for a while. Probably also depends on other factors, though, and this might just be me. Also if I'm confused by it at first, then I think it tends to continue annoying me even after I realize what's going on (e.g., "all but", "SO" for "significant other" (I wouldn't mind "S.O."), "XD" as a smiley, writing nicknames in quotes (particularly between first and last names)).
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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby CharlieP » Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:00 am UTC

Yes, the confusion is clearly caused by the fact that both phrases sound practically identical in speech - many people might only have heard it spoken and transcribed it with the wrong[1] noun, which in turn led to some people reading the wrong[1] version and repeating it, until such point that there is a sizeable minority who are unaware that they're using a misspelling.

I often think that there are two different types of people - those (like me) who see words as written data, and speech merely a transmission medium, and those who hear words as sound patterns, and text merely a means of storing them so that they can be repeated later. That's the only way I can explain people writing things like "as a pose to" (as opposed to), "tow the line", "chester draws", "just desserts", "bare with me" etc.











[1] Wrong in the sense that at one stage there was only one version
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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby Copper Bezel » Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:16 am UTC

I think that's a useful distinction to make historically, because precisely that difference varies wildly with the kinds and degrees of literacy in past civilizations. I'm not sure that anyone in Western society today is going to be sort of oral-primary in that sense, but a someone possibly could be closer to that by degrees than someone else. At the same time, I think the logic we apply to language varies wildly simply because different people and especially people of differing degrees of education simply apply different logical toolkits as a matter of habit. I doubt many people are parsing those phrases all over again when they write them in these illogical forms - probably more the opposite. English has a lot of fixed phrases and idioms, not all of them make logical sense, some of them contain words that don't exist in ordinary speech otherwise, and not everyone puts a lot of significance or time into teasing out what the intended logic might be.

"Just desserts", particularly, is one of those fossilized phrases - "desert" isn't really used anywhere else. A person could easily see it as an unfamiliar word and guess the food spelling instead of the one matching "deserve", or just as easily have some elaborate metaphor in mind involving an ordinarily desirable thing that follows the main course. "Tow the line" is the same way - it could be read as a metaphorical figure of speech where the underlying logic of the expression appears to be lost, but "everyone knows what you mean" and it doesn't matter.
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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby Angua » Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:24 am UTC

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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby CharlieP » Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:28 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:I'm not sure how you can decide what a phrase "should be." The phrase still makes sense


I'm still struggling to see how "another thing coming" makes sense, as to me it just raises the questions (a) what was the first "thing" and (b) what is the new "thing".

Parent: "Where do you think you're going at this time of night?"

Child: "I thought I'd go to Fred's house".

Parent: "Really? Well, you've got another think coming!"

It seems a bit like "I could care less" - American English speakers will often give reasons as to why that version makes sense, but I just can't see it.
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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby CharlieP » Thu Oct 06, 2016 8:38 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:"Just desserts", particularly, is one of those fossilized phrases - "desert" isn't really used anywhere else. A person could easily see it as an unfamiliar word and guess the food spelling instead of the one matching "deserve", or just as easily have some elaborate metaphor in mind involving an ordinarily desirable thing that follows the main course. "Tow the line" is the same way - it could be read as a metaphorical figure of speech where the underlying logic of the expression appears to be lost, but "everyone knows what you mean" and it doesn't matter.


That raises an interesting question when it comes to idioms - do (some) people use them because they like the allusions they contain, or simply because they've learnt them as blocks of code to be inserted into in certain situations? "Just desserts" was a bad example to pick as I initially thought it was to do with getting sweet treats for being good, but I wondered for ages why sure victors were referred to as "a shoe-in", as I couldn't see the connection to footwear, and it didn't sit comfortably with me until I figured out that it was "shoo-in".
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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Oct 06, 2016 11:43 am UTC

CharlieP wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:I'm not sure how you can decide what a phrase "should be." The phrase still makes sense


I'm still struggling to see how "another thing coming" makes sense, as to me it just raises the questions (a) what was the first "thing" and (b) what is the new "thing".

Parent: "Where do you think you're going at this time of night?"

Child: "I thought I'd go to Fred's house".

Parent: "Really? Well, you've got another think coming!"

It seems a bit like "I could care less" - American English speakers will often give reasons as to why that version makes sense, but I just can't see it.
The new thing is whatever will actually happen, instead of the thing the child expects (going to Fred's house).

The *thing* that will happen isn't the *thing* you think. I imagine it's always been perfectly clear to anyone who isn't so distracted by knowing the original that they apparently can't see how truly generic a noun "thing" is.

(Are you similarly thrown by phrases like, "and another thing"?)

As for caring less, the historical process of losing one negative in phrases with two is a well-trodden path, even if in this case it appears to produce a phrase with a different meaning. (I say "appears to produce" because it doesn't in fact have a different meaning, as evidenced by everyone using it the same way.)
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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby HES » Thu Oct 06, 2016 12:35 pm UTC

CharlieP wrote:That's the only way I can explain people writing things like "as a pose to" (as opposed to), "tow the line", "chester draws", "just desserts", "bare with me" etc.

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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby CharlieP » Thu Oct 06, 2016 12:47 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
CharlieP wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:I'm not sure how you can decide what a phrase "should be." The phrase still makes sense


I'm still struggling to see how "another thing coming" makes sense, as to me it just raises the questions (a) what was the first "thing" and (b) what is the new "thing".

Parent: "Where do you think you're going at this time of night?"

Child: "I thought I'd go to Fred's house".

Parent: "Really? Well, you've got another think coming!"

It seems a bit like "I could care less" - American English speakers will often give reasons as to why that version makes sense, but I just can't see it.
The new thing is whatever will actually happen, instead of the thing the child expects (going to Fred's house).

The *thing* that will happen isn't the *thing* you think. I imagine it's always been perfectly clear to anyone who isn't so distracted by knowing the original that they apparently can't see how truly generic a noun "thing" is.


Even when the thing is in fact the absence of a thing?

"You've another think coming!" is essentially a comical way of saying "Ha, think again, sunshine!" By the sounds of it, people wrongly copying it have basically concocted a minor variant which sounds the same and has had a much clunkier explanation engineered to fit.

(Are you similarly thrown by phrases like, "and another thing"?)


Not when used to preface a follow-up statement. If somebody were to open with it I'd probably think it rather odd.
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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Oct 06, 2016 1:07 pm UTC

Sure, but you wouldn't open with *any* "another" phrase. Both "another thing" and "another think" only make sense after a first thing or "think" is mentioned.

Person A: *thinks a thing*
Person B: Well then you've got another think/thing coming!

How does that not make equally good sense either way?
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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Oct 06, 2016 4:14 pm UTC

Judas Priest wrote:If you think I'll sit around as the world goes by
You're thinkin' like a fool 'cause it's a case of do or die
Out there is a fortune waiting to be had
If you think I'll let you go you're mad
You've got another thing comin'
You've got another thing comin'


Makes sense to me. He's wrong about what's coming to him. He thinks Rob will sit around as the world goes by, but Rob will actually become a rock star. That's a different thing.

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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Oct 06, 2016 7:36 pm UTC

For whatever it's worth, while it's true that "another think coming" remains more common in English books than "another thing coming", the former accounts for 5 out of every 6 occurrences of "another think". Meanwhile, "another thing" occurs about 35 times more often than "another think", which probably helps to explain why the new expression is overtaking the original.

(Source: Google n-grams)
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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby CharlieP » Fri Oct 07, 2016 8:13 am UTC

SERIOUSLY? So much for my personal observation that it's a minority of cases. :( Is this another US/UK thing, like titbit/tidbit, couldn't/could care less etc.?


Clearly we're never going to agree on this, but I still remain of the opinion that "think" works far better as an idiom, because (to me) it means "your expectations are ridiculous and you will find yourself quickly rethinking them". And I will just leave things there.
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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby HES » Fri Oct 07, 2016 12:30 pm UTC

To me it means "You expect one thing, but your expectations are ridiculous and what actually happens will be a different thing entirely".

But I suspect in both cases, our definitions are justification after the fact.
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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby Angua » Fri Oct 07, 2016 12:35 pm UTC

Yeah, I always thought of it the way HES does.

Really? He thinks that he's going to get [chocolate milk]? Well, he's got another thing coming! [water]. Or, you know, whatever. I never thought of it as saying that the person you were talking about had to think something else. Just that what they'd get would be a different thing to what they were expecting.
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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Oct 07, 2016 1:35 pm UTC

CharlieP wrote:I still remain of the opinion that "think" works far better as an idiom, because (to me) it means "your expectations are ridiculous and you will find yourself quickly rethinking them".

We all know what "think" means to you. What I have difficulty understanding is your persistent confusion about what "thing" means to the rest of us.

Why will you have to rethink your expectations? Because you're going to get someTHING very different from what you expected.

And I will just leave things there.

What things? You didn't mention any other "thing" in your post, so I'm very confused by its sudden introduction right at the end.
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Re: Why are some linguistic patterns irritating?

Postby Eebster the Great » Fri Oct 07, 2016 8:43 pm UTC

"Leave things there" as in "stop arguing after this post."


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