CHEWED.

My wife was reading John McPhee’s New Yorker article about fact checking (not online, but here‘s the abstract) when she asked me what I thought about this sentence: “One technician who slipped up and used the ‘R’ word was called to an office and chewed.” “Chewed?” I said. “Not ‘chewed out’?” She confirmed the reading. I said it must be a typo. But aside from the irony of having a flagrant typo in an article about fact checking, it occurs to me that I can no longer depend on my intuitions about English, since it has been changing faster than I can adapt or even notice, so I turn to the Varied Reader: if your native language is English, have you ever said, or heard anyone else say, “chew” rather than “chew out” for “reprimand”?
(If you’re curious about “the ‘R’ word,” it was “radiation”; the context was the word-substitution enjoined by the extreme secrecy enforced at the Hanford Engineer Works during WWII. You were supposed to say “activity” instead.)
Update. As the excellent MMcM points out, the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Vol. 1 has this usage under “chew”: “v. 3 Esp. Mil. chew out.” Case closed, and we’ve all learned something!

Comments

  1. Bill Walderman says:

    I’ve never encountered just plain “chew” used to mean “chew out” before and it’s probably just a typo, but now that you’ve drawn my attention to it I plan to introduce it into my vocabulary as soon as an appropriate occasion presents itself.

  2. I’m just wondering what the lexical distinction would be– being ‘chewed’ rather than being ‘chewed out’. Maybe– if the chewer makes an invidious distinction about some member of the chewee’s immediate family…

  3. Wasn’t it just yesterday that you were cheering the descriptivist mantra of anything goes? The present use of language is suddenly less interesting, a “flagrant typo” even?

  4. michael farris says:

    I’ve never heard (or at least can’t recall) hearing such usage.

  5. Would “got chewed” work better for you than “was chewed”?
    It took me a while to get used to “to hang”, as in “to hang out”. I use it all the time now, though.

  6. scarabaeus says:

    “was called to an office and chewed”. Was the tech a nice bone of contention? .
    or
    I guess the poor Tech had to eat the word and digest it before going back to his work bench.

  7. scarabaeus says:

    or may be the poor Tech be a nice delicate meal of delight.

  8. John McPhee is such a good writer and the standards at the New Yorker are high (modulo the usual whines about how they used to be better in the past) that I can’t but think it’s intentional for comic effect, as the article is. Certainly the image of a writer being masticated thoroughly is funny.

  9. SWFrance: “Anything goes” is not the motto, still less the mantra of descriptivists. Please see Geoffrey Pullum’s Language Log piece on “Everything is correct” vs. “Nothing is relevant”.

  10. Joshua E Cook says:

    Maybe a prescriptivist editor had something against ending a sentence with a preposition. This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.

  11. Definitely reads funny to me, though I find Y’s comment interesting — “got chewed” less so.

  12. I have not heard “chewed out” shortened to “chewed”, but I have frequently heard “reamed out” shortened to “reamed”.

  13. Please see Geoffrey Pullum’s Language Log piece on “Everything is correct” vs. “Nothing is relevant”.
    The idiocy of equating a post celebrating language change with a position that no writing can ever be questioned or improved notwithstanding, I’ve always found that piece — and many other pieces at the Log, in fact — perturbing for its insistence that some language MUST be incorrect and only crazies would take the position that “anything goes”? What’s wrong with “anything goes”: with judging language not for its grammaticality but its clarity, its elegance. Isn’t there some debate as to whether grammaticality judgments can even really be scientific?

  14. I’ve never heard just “chew;” it’s always been “chewed out.” I wonder if some over-sensitive writer or editor was trying to avoid ending with a preposition. “Was called into an office and out-chewed” ?

  15. michael farris says:

    Okay, English postpostitions with prepositions insteadof? Me thanksto that usage is now attested and fully part English grammar of.

  16. bill clinton says:

    It sucks to be chewed!

  17. McPhee’s piece also contains the unintentionally humorous line “A-Rod makes an occasional error, and so does the New Yorker.” McPhee’s analogy, intended to highlight the rarity of both events and impress us with how unlikely the New Yorker was to screw up (just about as perfect as A-Rod!), was written the week before we learned rather more about Mr Rodriquez’s errors than we’d anticipated.
    Moral of the story: you can’t fact-check the future.

  18. “Wasn’t it just yesterday that you were cheering the descriptivist mantra of anything goes? ”
    When did that become a descriptivsit mantra. I thought anything went in description as long as it was , you knkw actually descriptive of soem actual speech behavior. I think wghat Hat is wondering about it is if people actually speak this way.
    They probably do. I have noticed a development of “That’s fucked/dorked/hosed” in situations where I would have expected “fucked/etc/etc up”
    ” I wonder if some over-sensitive writer or editor was trying to avoid ending with a preposition. ”
    You mean some semi-literate half-English speaker who can’t distinguish between prepositions (unaccented) and verbal satellites or applicatives or whatever they are calling “up” these days when it’s accented?

  19. I’ve never heard “chewed” used alone like that. Honestly, if I heard it used I would probably assume the speaker is trying to say something different from “chewed out”, but what I’m not certain. It does seem plausible as teen slang somewhere, but in The New Yorker? I’d have to assume typo.

  20. From the abstract: Explaining her work to an audience at a journalism school, Sara once said, “Each word in the piece that has even a shred of fact clinging to it is scrutinized, and, if passed, given the checker’s imprimatur, which consists of a tiny pencil tick.”
    In American this “tick” thing is called a check mark. for any lurking Brits, an American tick is a blood sucking insect that can give you Lyme disease.

  21. You mean some semi-literate half-English speaker who can’t distinguish between prepositions (unaccented) and verbal satellites or applicatives or whatever they are calling “up” these days when it’s accented?
    The “out” in “chewed out” is not a preposition. These days they’re calling it a two word verb, like pour out, chop up, mix up, and screw up.
    Hang instead of hang out, fine. Reamed instead of reamed out, okay. Chew the fat, certainly. But not chewed instead of chewed out. How do you know it wasn’t chewed up or chewed on?

  22. This morning’s LL article seems terribly, terribly relevant: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1140

  23. Wasn’t it just yesterday that you were cheering the descriptivist mantra of anything goes? The present use of language is suddenly less interesting, a “flagrant typo” even?
    For pete’s sake, try to suppress your straw-man tendencies. The “descriptivist mantra,” if there is such a thing, is something like “a language is whatever its native speakers say, insofar as they are not making speech errors” (speech errors being the kind of thing that makes people catch themselves up and say “I mean…”: malapropisms and the like). The question is whether people do say this. If they do, that would be interesting. If they don’t and it’s just a typo, that is not particularly interesting, except as the latest entry in the “going to hell in a handbasket” sweepstakes.

  24. I noticed the lone “chew” when I read this article, too, and wondered if it was a typo.
    The article made me laugh because I wrote to The New Yorker last year about a mistake in an August piece about Russia by David Remnick. Remnick mentioned that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was buried at the Donskoi Monastery cemetery. My recollection is that he implied that Turgenev (no first name but presumably Ivan) was buried there, too. I’ve been to the cemetery and knew there was no Ivan Turgenev grave. The magazine finally removed the reference and added a footnote about the correction in December. I’m sure it wasn’t a priority!

  25. I’m really tired of being dragged into all these chickenshit controversies, as though I cared.
    I don’t care. I’m a nihilist.

  26. rootlesscosmo says:

    I noticed “chewed” and thought it odd. I also (in nearly 30 years as an operating-craft railroader) never heard of air brakes releasing from the middle of the train towards both ends, eels or no eels. The automatic brake valve is on the locomotive and the brakes are released from there, producing an increase in the air pressure in the train line, from head end to rear; when there were cabooses the rear end crew’s job included letting the engineer know the pressure was back up to standard (80 or 90 psi in freight service) on the caboose pressure gauge. I suspect McPhee and the New Yorker may have been coasting on their fact-checking rep for quite a while now and this article, heterodox usage of “chewed” and all, is a pre-emptive strike against possible critics and debunkers.

  27. Yes, and when I here it, it really tees me.

  28. Nobody says just “chewed.” Nobody.

  29. Do you folks use the Urban Dictionary? I checked and there was only one entry that sort of fits: ignored in an internet chat room or whatever
    Hey man, he just ignored you…you got chewed!!
    But it got 12 thumbs down, which I assume means that 12 people have never heard it used that way.
    It seems like a typo to me, although I wonder if there is a tendency for “out” “up” etc to be dropped off. Hang instead of hang out, fucked instead of fucked up. Dunno.

  30. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Aside from in the current context, what does ‘chewed out’ mean? Does it mean to chew something and then spit it out? How come nobody else is wondering about this, do you all know?
    I agree with Jamessal and Language about the other thing.
    I TOTALLY agree with Rootless & Lisa, the New Yorker’s fact-checking days ended with the demise of William Shawn. I kind of hate the New Yorker. I’d never actually pay money for it.
    Why are so many people here suddenly using assumed names like Pete and Bill Clinton and Timothy whatever-it-was?

  31. Chewed out means to yell at someone, to reprimand them harshly. I’d use it if I meant someone raised his voice. I don’t think of it as an obscure expression.
    Maybe these Petes and Bills are new readers? Or old readers come back to the nest?

  32. bill clinton says:

    Why are so many people here suddenly using assumed names like Pete and Bill Clinton and Timothy whatever-it-was?
    In my case, it was because of my joke referring to the woman I did not have sex with.

  33. Hey man, he just ignored you…you got chewed!!
    But it got 12 thumbs down, which I assume means that 12 people have never heard it used that way.
    But it means at least one person does use it that way, which slightly increases the odds that it’s not a typo (though it seems unlikely McPhee is down with the UD crowd).
    Maybe these Petes and Bills are new readers? Or old readers come back to the nest?
    AJP was being funny, since (sorry if I’m spilling any beans, Kron old chap) that’s not his real name.
    Personal to bill clinton: I sent you e-mail at your whitehouse.gov address and heard back from somebody named Barack. Have you moved?

  34. Neither entomologist nor etymologist says:

    Ticks are not insects. They’re arachnids.

  35. RHDAS has chew v. 3 Esp. Mil. chew out. Most, but not all, the examples have an object (usually somebody’s ass).

  36. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Well I can’t wander round the internet as the King of Mars, can I? People would get the wrong impression.
    Czechs are not ticks or insects, despite what Kafka would have us believe in Die Verwandlung.
    mab: Chewed out means to yell at someone, to reprimand them harshly.
    I know that. Look, what I’m trying to get at is that it sounds like a metaphorical usage, like ‘I chewed him up and spat him out’ is. If you ‘chew someone out‘ you don’t really have a go at them with your dentures. So what does the non-metaphorical meaning of ‘to chew out’ mean? Or is there only this, seemingly metaphorical, meaning? Huh?

  37. This may be the closest of the lot, in use and context.
    Life, Feb. 5, 1945, p. 99:

    Mauldin drew a cartoon showing a bearded, weary dogface being “chewed” by an immaculate MP for having some button missing on his blouse.

    Not online as far as I can tell.

  38. oh. I guess I’m not getting jokes today.
    Hm. I don’t know about the “out.” You also lace someone out. What are other “out” verbs?

  39. A.J.P. Crown says:

    To knock out.
    To hit out.
    To spit out.
    To feel out.
    To cut out.
    To write out.
    To spell out.
    To rule out.

  40. Oops, Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang.
    In Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen. Sorted.

  41. I’m just tired of being used as a euphemism for God when I don’t have any of God’s advantages.

  42. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Talking of God, MMcM has eighty-six books on dogs, according to his LibraryThing entry, including Magyar names for Hungarian dogs, by Irene Zerebko. In all, he has 8,192 books. That’s a lot of books; in fact, he’s nearly the top book owner at Library Thing. I just spent an hour reading his reviews and checking out his books. I recommend it, it’s quite amazing. He has three pages of books on flying. Who knew?

  43. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that MMcM was God. Despite the size of MMcM’s library I expect God has more books than the Library of Congress. I just meant god is dog backwards.

  44. A.J.P. Crown says:

    But 8,192 books. At an average of 2 centimetres a book thickness, or threequarters of an inch, that’s 537 linear feet of bookshelves. He could almost run his books down both long sides of a football pitch, should he wish.

  45. scarabaeus says:

    “at least—at least I mean what I say—that’s the same thing, you know.”

  46. “at least—at least I mean what I say—that’s the same thing, you know.”
    Not only is that entirely untrue but your hair needs cutting.

  47. Agree with you about keeping up with English–
    I found an interesting use of “chewed” in the Urban Dictionary:
    ignored in an internet chat room or whatever
    Hey man, he just ignored you…you got chewed!!
    Also, from the Urban Dictionary, I learned that kids use “chewed” to mean being high on marijuana
    “Wow, dude, I really got chewed on that ganja!”
    The youth control our culture–and I guess they are taking control of our language now…
    Oh well, think I’ll go get chewed…
    ur fiend (in English and fact checking)
    thegrowlingwolf

  48. “Wow, dude, I really got chewed on that ganja!”
    I’m still young enough to call that lame with authority.
    I think.

  49. RHDAS has chew v. 3 Esp. Mil. chew out.
    Why didn’t I think to check HDAS? OK, it’s not a typo, and I’ve learned something. Thanks!

  50. In Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen. Sorted.
    Given the context of this thread, I cannot tell if this insinuates a comment on sort out versus the simple verb sort, used in the relevant sense. Only in the last ten years has sort been used in Australia in place of our traditional sort out, which it now threatens to supplant entirely. Of course, hardly anyone notices. Sort in this sense appears to be British. What of America? There it’s sort out, isn’t it?
    The most relevant part of the long SOED entry for “sort v.”:

    14 v.t. a Resolve (a problem or difficulty); solve the problems of (a person); deal with. Usu. foll. by out. E19.
    > B. BAINBRIDGE He could just lie there for several days..trying to sort himself out.
    P. FITZGERALD Sorting out administrative and technical problems since five in the morning.
    R. RENDELL Time had sorted things out for us.
    Rally Sport Mud..clogging the radiator..causing the engine to overheat, but this was sorted at Harrogate.
    b Reprimand (a person); put right or deal with by means of force, violence, etc. Usu. foll. by out. colloq. M20.
    > M. GEE I’ll send the police round to sort you out.

    This was sorted at Harrogate would sound alien to Australian ears before the late 1990s.
    Conversely, American protest as a transitive verb competes vigorously with British protest at, even in Australian ABC news bulletins. I don’t mean cases like She protested her innocence, but cases like She protested the changes to tax law.

  51. Yes, “sorted” tout court is pur sang anglais.

  52. The dog name book is not entirely frivolous: all our dogs have been Kuvaszok, a Hungarian breed. The plane and car books are mostly my wife’s, as are the horse books (she took up polo at 50). My own modes of transportation are MBTA and walking.
    I left out an aitch in RHHDAS the first time. In another thread, michael farris pointed out that sorted has no American equivalent. So I’m trying it out for possible cultural appropriation. (And, no, all these outs aren’t a coincidence.)

  53. sorted has no American equivalent
    Not really.
    If you sort something you are putting it in categories. Sorting mail at a business would mean putting it into the individual mailboxes for the firm’s various employees. Sorting socks in your personal laundry would involve putting two black socks together, two green socks together, etc., so they could be pulled out of the drawer in matched pairs.
    Sorting out implies some sort of cleaning process. You might sort out your papers at the end of the semester–meaning to go through them or look though them and decide which ones you need to keep.
    If there is a problem or argument to be resolved we would say “straighted out”. The children were fighting but I straightened them out.(implies the fighting itself was stopped, possibly by authoritarian means.) “There was an error on my credit card. It took forever to get it straightened out.” (fixed)

  54. *straightened* out

  55. If you sort something you are putting it in categories.
    I missed the discussion in that other thread. Quite a coincidence that it came up there so recently.
    But Nidge, the usage you raise is universal. I and others took pains to isolate use of sort as equivalent to sort out. I began with this qualification: “…a comment on sort out versus the simple verb sort, used in the relevant sense“.

  56. Nidge? Ahem.

  57. the usage you raise is universal
    No. I listed an American usage different from the British usage and a different American expression more or less equivalent to the British usage. And what is relevant in Oz is anybody’s guess.

  58. So what was the verdict on “chewed”? Same as “chewed out” or is it drugs?

  59. A.J.P. Crown says:

    My own modes of transportation are MBTA and walking.
    You could ride one of those enormous dogs. I’ve always wanted to try polo. Now I’m 55 and have a horse/pony perhaps I can try.

  60. I’ve heard “to chew one’s ass”, as in, “he called me into his office and totally chewed my ass”. “Chewed my ass” gets a decent number of Google hits, though many of them add “out” at the end.

  61. joseph palmer says:

    It is fairly obvious that “chewed” is not commonly used in that way, however it is also an attractive seeming “mistake” which is clear in meaning and that has no doubt been made more than once, and will be made again by native speakers. In the absence of negative reactions to mistakes of that sort, reactions which are really essentially prescriptivist in spirit such as the one made by the “language hat” – surely usage in general must become much looser? Why didn’t the editor correct this? Maybe he thought it was a genuine usage from the dialect of the writer? A recent bit of tangy slang? An arresting piece of imagery? Who is really ever going to know?

  62. reactions which are really essentially prescriptivist in spirit such as the one made by the “language hat”

    Hat, have you been leading a clandestine spirit life whose existence has been concealed from us, perhaps even from yourself? When you hold one of your hands in front of your face, can you see through it? (spreading your fingers doesn’t count).

  63. Everybody knows that one of Hat’s hats is a prescriptivist editor’s hat. Why else would people pay him to be excruciatingly correct.

  64. joseph palmer says:

    Linguists generally object to prescriptivism on at least three grounds.
    1. Incorrect information
    2. Suppression of colorful usage.
    3. Oppression of non-standard minorities
    On points 2 and 3 the language hat(and log) are clearly as criminal as anyone.
    As to point 1, one assumes the editors and teachers of the world are supposed to run off to google every time they encounter such an item as the one discussed here. Then they must wonder how many hits will make the “mistakes” viable…….

  65. what

  66. If you pick up on and criticize mistakes, then people using non-standard English get criticized. Even if you do it very nicely, our society, (including the linguistics depts), rewards those who do not make mistakes when speaking/writing standard English.
    Those who use non-standard English most often are of course those who were not brought up with it.

  67. Those who use non-standard English most often are of course those who were not brought up with it.
    That makes no sense whatever.

  68. I just had a funny misunderstanding with a New York Brit on another blog who uses “freaking” as part of his nom de guerre. I interpreted it as a euphemism for the F-word, like “frigging”, but he meant it as “freaking out”, which he claims is idiomatic where he comes from, where ever that is.

  69. A.J.P. Crown says:

    What, Nij, you never heard someone say something happened and they totally freaked?

  70. Yes, but that’s “freaking” as a verb, not an adjective. If someone is a “freaking Brit” I would say that was the same as a “frigging Brit”, not a freaking out Brit or a Brit that is causing others to freaking out, both of which he claims are possible meanings. Dropping the “out” just leads to mis-communication.

  71. A.J.P. Crown says:

    ‘Freaking’ is a euphemism for the swearword ‘fucking’ in both England and New York, not just in the USA. He’s right that a Freaking Brit (I hate ‘Brit’) could mean a Brit who is freaking out, but it would be carrying a double meaning, as he must realise. ‘Causing others to freak’ is not a very practical usage, how is anyone going to know that’s what he meant?

  72. Assuming you are attacking my argument and not my English (!), is it unreasonable to state that people who grow up in houses where standard English is not spoken are especially likely to be frequently told by teacher/editor/grouchy blogger that the passge of English they have just written is wrong? Linguists usually argue, rather bizarrely, that people can master two dialects (as if the existence of “code-switching” means there are a lot of people around who routinely use two very different dialects of English) but even if this is so, is everybody really going to master this process? Language hat (and log) routinely pounces on this and that and calls it a mistake. In terms of squashing dialect and playful usage, it does not really matter how accurately you describe standard educated English, what really matters is whether you jump on “mistakes” and call them wrong and maintain a strict formal English yourself. Anybody who wishes to use formal standard English, and thus be more likely to be considered educated, is likely to avoid this usage of “chewed” after reading your post. And even though the language log response to your topic was relatively liberal, the same thing applies.

  73. Those who use non-standard English most often are of course those who were not brought up with it.
    That doesn’t make any sense to me either. How would someone even KNOW non-standard English if they had never heard it before? It’s something you pick up from your family or social contacts.
    So I ain’t got no call to speak no English like they done got down on the farm? Nope, I reckon I done larned me some English up town in that there fancy college too, so I’d best be usin’ that there kind of English to larn my students.
    So yes, I can switch to a non-standard type of English. I can also switch to a more standard form of English for this blog, a more informal English with more slang for other blogs, and an even more formal kind of English for an academic paper. When I speak Spanish to my students, I don’t strive to be correct. Since it’s not my first language, I strive for understanding, and I frequently ask them for some of the irregular forms that are hard to remember.

  74. ‘Freaking’ is a euphemism for the swearword ‘fucking’ in both England and New York, not just in the USA.
    Thank you SO much, Kron. I am so going to freaking mess with that freaking dude’s little freaking mind.

  75. joseph palmer says:

    You become familiar with standard English by hearing it and reading it. You may be able to put together a few sentences of fake dialect to your own satisfaction, but you may have noticed that most native speakers cannot write a few lines of standard English without making the kind of error that essay-marking linguistics professors would put a big red line through. People like language hat seek out red lines that others would not even notice. The reason that we writing here can write largely error free English is that we are very familiar with standard English, and the chances are high that most of here heard it from mom, which was a very helpful start.

  76. joseph palmer says:

    I had to write that final sentence quickly – inevitably I made an error in it…..
    (I wouldn’t call such an error of omission a typo by the way, at the risk of being an evil prescriptivist)

  77. the chances are high that most of here heard it from mom, which was a very helpful start
    Peer groups have a huge amount to do with language. Otherwise, how do so many of my students’ children speak such flawless English when their mothers are still struggling at Level One–and never finished the third grade in their own language? I could point to the same thing with teenagers picking up the regional speech patterns of their peers when they move to a new school, or of losing their parents’ non-standard accents to keep up with the other students. At that age the brain is a natural for language and picks it up quickly–and teens have huge social needs that give them an extra push to learn it to fit in.

  78. joseph palmer says:

    Yes, but if your mother speaks in dialect then the chances are your peer group will too.
    I don’t want to make a big deal out of it – when it comes to written English the degree to which you expose yourself to written standard English and try to use it yourself is much more important. However only ever reading the kind of English used on, for example, teenage pop music sites, where no attempt is made to follow prescriptive rules, won’t help you to avoid that red ink on your essay.

  79. the degree to which you expose yourself to written standard English and try to use it yourself
    I really don’t understand what you’re trying to say here. Maybe it would help if you identified a specific region you are from or what dialect you are talking about or gave a specific example instead of trying to talk in broad generalities. In this city at least we have compulsory education for ALL children, whether they are here legally or not. They don’t have to “try to be exposed ” or “try to use it”. They WILL use it, with a standardized textbook, in a class with all the other children.

  80. joseph palmer says:

    Of course, because you have schools which go about things in a prescriptivist way, and are not ashamed to. By the way, I’m British, and in my country we have plenty of regions where the majority of people speak a dialect somewhat removed from the standard one.
    I’m just trying to say that bloggers making a fuss about “chewed” is one more part of the great superstructure of prescriptivism which allows you and I to write in a very similar way.

  81. making a fuss about “chewed” is one more part of the great superstructure of prescriptivism
    Oh, I totally disagree. I think it’s great fun to try to figure out whether anyone anywhere actually uses this word in this way. You never know what you might discover from some chance remark.

  82. Ha! Hat, ain’t it grand to be so misunderstood:)

  83. I’m just trying to say that bloggers making a fuss about “chewed” is one more part of the great superstructure of prescriptivism which allows you and I to write in a very similar way.
    I don’t think you understand what’s going on here (which is an effort to discover whether “chewed” was a typo or an uncommon but genuine usage—the latter turns out to be correct—and not “making a fuss”), and I’m quite sure you don’t understand either prescriptivism or why some of us try to fight it. The sad thing is that if I point out to you that from a prescriptivist point of view you should have written “you and me,” instead of having a light go on over your head and saying “My God, there’s nothing wrong with what I wrote, it’s what I and everyone I know naturally say, so if prescriptivist grammar calls it wrong, prescriptivist grammar is a ass,” you’ll say “Oh no, I made a mistake, I’m sorry, I was writing quickly!”
    ain’t it grand to be so misunderstood
    It gets old, let me tell you.

  84. marie-lucie says:

    Those who use non-standard English most often are of course those who were not brought up with it.
    The problem with this sentence is that it is saying the opposite of what the writer intends, which is to use the final it as referring to Standard instead of non-standard English as the sentence stands.
    The writer’s problem (“writing quickly”) is not a lack of acquaintance with Standard English but a failure to reread what he has written with a critical eye – we can all make mistakes (yes) when our thought processes are running faster than our fingers can write, sometimes getting two ideas blended together in a way that ends up as nonsense. This is why the “preview” option is so useful – we can reread what we wrote and notice whether it truly reflects what we think, before it is exposed to other eyes.

  85. The problem with this sentence is that it is saying the opposite of what the writer intends, which is to use the final it as referring to Standard instead of non-standard English as the sentence stands.
    Ah, thank you—at last I understand!

  86. The writer is British also, and I think might be referring to something uniquely British. I have heard that Britain is much more class conscious than we are in American and that England has at least 300 accents that reveal social class. I have also heard that in order to get a good job, you have to have the right accent, so many people have gone about trying to change their accents in order to improve their employment prospects. Perhaps the writer is one of those who is trying to discover the magical language “rules” to a particular accent that will unlock the economic doors.

  87. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Joseph Palmer, you don’t write in a very similar way to anyone.

  88. michael farris says:

    “I don’t think you understand what’s going on here (which is an effort to discover whether “chewed” was a typo or an uncommon but genuine usage—the latter turns out to be correct”
    I don’t know how you can be so confident. Have you communicated with the author and/or copy editor?
    It’s quite possible for it to be a typo (or mistake in copy editing) that just so happens to conform to a genuine but uncommon usage.
    At any rate, I think it was a poor job of copy editying to let such marginal, confusing usage through for whatever reason.

  89. A.J.P. Crown says:

    England has at least 300 accents that reveal social class
    According to HMSO, it’s 460 for the whole of Great Britain, Nij.
    I have also heard that in order to get a good job, you have to have the right accent
    It’s worse than that. You have to have the right accent to get a bad job.

  90. michael farris says:

    While here. As good a place as any. I’m running into a small problem with a translation.
    The context: A middle aged professional man is remembering a period some years previously when he spent a lot of time drinking heavily with friends.
    The frame is: “and the guys I hung out with were some real —–”
    The word that goes in the blank needs to indicate someone who can hold their liquor, drink heavily and make you do the same.
    At the same time the connotations should be neutral with no suggestion of them being barflies or rummies or soaks or (most of the words used to refer to guys who drink heavily). The connotation is something like party animals and that they eventually calmed down without descending into hardcore alcoholism and destitution (but party animal is all wrong).
    Will appreciate any suggestions.

  91. I don’t know how you can be so confident. Have you communicated with the author and/or copy editor?
    No, but given the fact that McPhee is a legendarily careful writer and the magazine, though its standards have slipped from their wonted perfection, is still better edited than 99% of what’s out there, I’m pretty damn confident. I suspect a copyeditor queried him as to whether it was a mistake and he said “No, it’s an old Army term” (or whatever), and in it went.

  92. I’m running into a small problem with a translation.
    Interesting question! Can you give us the term you’re trying to translate?

  93. Could you say “and the guys I hung out with could really hold their liquor,” which doesn’t convey any suggestion of alcoholism? But no, that doesn’t help with the “make you do the same” part.

  94. michael farris says:

    the orginal is: kilku mocnych drwali (some tough/strong lumberjacks(!) not a literal reference of course and for various reasons I don’t think “lumberjack” works in this context.
    Somehwere my brain dragged up the term ‘belter’: “and the guys I hung out with were some real belters”
    But that’s not supported by google at all and I’m having second (and third) thoughts.

  95. Going with the lumberjack theme, “Hardcore, fun-loving, blue collar drinkers” is my unsatisfactory attempt. Really I think a language that can convey “serious drinker” with POSITIVE connotations is one that has a better relationship with alcohol than English.

  96. tosspot (1568)

  97. heavy drinkers?
    hard-core drinkers?
    serious drinkers?

  98. There’s nothing really that says it as well as “and the guys I hung out with could hold their liquor, drink heavily and make you do the same”…
    Reminded me of the time…

  99. Bill Walderman says:

    I never heard “chew” used this way during 3 years in the US Army, but that was 40 years ago.

  100. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Carouser? Boozer? Tippler? Piss artist? I’m just using a thesaurus, here.

  101. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I cut down trees,
    I skip and jump,
    I like to press wild flowers,
    I put on women’s clothing,
    and hang around in bars.

  102. Really I think a language that can convey “serious drinker” with POSITIVE connotations is one that has a better relationship with alcohol than English.
    I’ll never forget the first time I visited Greenpoint (a neighborhood in Brooklyn, then heavily Polish — don’t know if it still is) and stood with awe before a liquor store window that displayed literally hundreds of different brands of vodka, lit with loving care.

  103. “Toper”, is bit archaic. “Trooper” as in “He’s a trooper” which could cover drinking.

  104. joseph palmer says:

    I am not of the opinion that prescriptivism is “good” – it reduces diversity. I am not of the opinion that it is “bad”. It helps create effective communication across communities. I am of the opinion that trashing arguments because somebody writes “you and me” indstead of “you and I” is solid gold prescriptivism, and probably of the factually incorrect kind to boot.
    I understand language hat perfectly. His position is perfectly orthodox in linguistics. However, he does not seem to understand that his blog makes people more aware of their writing and more aware of mainstream habits, makes them correct themselves, and thus reduces diversity.

  105. joseph palmer says:

    Indstead – Now there’s a typo….

  106. I didn’t notice the typo the first time, but I sure did the second.
    The guy still didn’t get it. A half a dozen people have made typos here today, including a very funny editor, and this is the only one who is freaking out.

  107. joseph palmer says:

    You mean me? I’m “freaking out”?
    I’m just trying to acknowledge (yet another) mistake before a bunch of “descriptivists” crucify me again for having poor English!

  108. Yeah right, like they’ve ever done that here.

  109. joseph palmer says:

    I think I have never seen an orthodox linguists vs common herd “prescriptivists” battle where the linguists didn’t end up shredding the English usage of the “prescriptivists” in order to prove how incorrect they are.
    That’s fine if I was arguing that you shouldn’t use split infinitives and I was using them, or something. As a way to insinuate I am ignorant though (i.e nobody uses English like you, Joseph Palmer), it is pure hypocrisy.

  110. joseph palmer says:

    Anyway, let’s get back to the point.
    Language hat sees “chewed” – obviously, to my mind, a ballsy piece of slang. Does he think “Oh, that’s cool, I’ll say that!”. He does not. He runs off to check whether lots of other people are using this slang, because if lots of other people are not using it it is a “flagrant typo”. It should not be used. Prescriptivism.

  111. I agree. Testicles should be kept out of slang. No question, it’s a descriptivist conspiracy.

  112. joseph palmer says:

    The preposition has been dropped on what is already a slangy phrasal verb, the meaning is clear, and the effect is pretty clear too. It seems to me that in a descriptivist universe I don’t need any google numbers to back me up if I want to write that – I can just go right ahead and do it. It isn’t a “flagrant typo” and that is the phrase that makes this particular post explicitly “prescriptivist”.
    On the other hand, if I want to write standard English I need to follow the mainstream of standard English. We all know without looking, I suppose, that “chew” in this context is not going to cut it as standard English. Importantly, since language hat is assuming the role of educated intellectual, it clearly isn’t the sort of thing that language hat would use here himself.

  113. I’m glad we got that straightened.

  114. joseph palmer says:

    Maybe language hat could straighten us out concerning the only “mistake” here that could actually cause any confusion. Since a “typo” is probably most often used to mean an innocent slip at the keyboard, what is a “flagrant typo” exactly? Something like thissss?

  115. Joseph Palmer, I don’t think you understand the idea behind the post or the idea behind prescriptivism/decriptivism at all. And I know you don’t understand what LH is talking about. Here is the Wikipedia article.

  116. Michael — maybe tough guy synonyms? Bruisers, ballbusters, he-men (jeez, that’s like, 1950), gorillas, tough customers, powerhouses; guys who could really get down; guys who knew how to have a good time…

  117. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I don’t know what’s wrong with carousers and piss artists.

  118. marie-lucie says:

    Perhaps “typo” is not quite the right term for the omission of a word, something that can happen to anyone in the course of fast typing (and which careful proofreading can usually catch). And why should anyone jump to the opportunity of adopting what looks like the involuntary omission of a crucial word? I personally have heard “chew out” many times, but I don’t recall just “chew” in the same context.

  119. joseph palmer says:

    I think I’m pretty familiar with the ins and outs of these endless arguments.
    There is not usually much consistency to be seen from any party really. As the article mentions the position of “extreme descriptivism”, all native speaker talk is fine, is very rare. Most commentators tangle themselves in knots instead, prasing here and bashing there. Many “mistakes” native speakers make have plenty of google hits to back them up, whether it be spellings or dodgy collocations. These “mistakes” can thus be learned from imitation of others. The lines are fine. Also, self-proclaimed “descriptivists” can be found lashing out at dialect in the wrong place, constructions such as “the one what I like”. They can be strict about punctuation, when out in the wide world punctuation is usually used very loosely. They seldom seem to wonder about the source of the mistakes made or the social effect of their nit-picking commentary, and none of you have done that adequately in this case either.
    By the way, I read “flagrant typo” to mean “egregious mistake”. Did it?

  120. michael farris says:

    Many thanks to posters here for suggestions.
    To clarify, the word that goes in the blank doesn’t have to have all the connotations I listed on its own. I was giving the connotations I understood in the context leading up to the blank. That is, by the time word appears at the very least it shouldn’t conflict with said connotations.
    Anyway, for the time being I’ve thrown out ‘belters’ (I was hoping people would say it sounded perfect but that didn’t happen). Now, I’m going to go with ‘heavy hitters’ (pending acceptance by the client, of course, which is by no means certain)
    “and the guys I hung out with were some real heavy hitters”
    Protests, warnings, other suggestions are always welcome.

  121. marie-lucie says:

    I read “flagrant typo” to mean “egregious mistake”
    I did not write those words, but “obvious” seems a more accurate interpretation than “egregious” at this point. I don’t think that there was a value judgment added. And can the matter now rest?

  122. More thoughts for Michel Farris: “and the guys I hung out with were some real heavy hitters”
    “heavy belters”, no, belt means “hit with a belt” or just “hit”. If you want to use it with drinking I think you need an object: “Belt one down”. If you’re belting them down you are drinking them quickly, and IME, experienced drinkers will drink something lower in alcohol like beer (Chicago is a beer town) and also drink slowly all night to prolong the socializing.
    “heavy hitters” works for me, but has other meanings, usually an expert in some profession brought out to solve a particularly difficult problem. I think the basis of the word is baseball, where a heavy hitter would be able to knock the ball out of the ballpark or score points. It would have a positive value judgment.
    List from a thesaurus: imbiber (neutral value judgement), tippler (negative-?), toper (?), soak (?), souse (negative), boozer (neg.), bouser (??), guzzler (neg., fast drinking), compotator (?), winebibber (?), carouser (neutral?-loud party person, sexual connotations), wassailer (Br.?), debauchee (neg), bacchant (?), bacchanalian, (fraternities?), convivialist (?), barfly (female).
    Of the whole list the only word I would use myself would be “imbibe”, as in “Would you care to imbibe?” usually said by an educated person while pulling out a bottle of something expensive and unusual.
    “heavy imbibers” works for me, or maybe “serious imbibers” …contagious imbibers?
    You might also say the guys “could really toss them down” although that also might imply fast drinking.
    The “tough guy” words sound too blue collar for people someone who became a professional later would hang out with, unless it’s a story with class differences.
    Likewise AJP’s suggestions seem too British slang.

  123. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Too British for what, Nij? It’s supposed to be a translation into English.

  124. michael farris says:

    AJP, my original assignment was to be neutralish but with American bias when neutrality would get into the way, so “too British” is a concern.
    Ya Star, “but has other meanings, usually an expert in some profession” that actually worked in its favor with me as it implies (for me) both some level of approval and some degree of peer pressure (trying to keep up with them) that motivates the person in other contexts too.

  125. Ya Habibti, …Sorry to take so long to get back to this, but a relapse of stomach flu is making it hard to concentrate.
    AJP: Too British for what, Nij? Okay, the example is “carousers and piss artists”, right? “Carousers” is just someone who parties a lot, maybe they are rowdy, go from place to place, some sexual connotations. Alley cats (and even the occasional cuddly house cat) can also carouse if they are feeling amorous, but no alcohol is involved. What I am picturing is not so much blue collar punks getting lit up and and then going out to trash something, but young professionals who want to sit in one place and keep the beer flowing while they hash things out.
    “Piss artists”? For one thing, “piss” in American English means urine, while in British English I think it only means drunk. (I don’t know how the British pee–maybe they “go to the loo”?) In American English it has the additional meaning of angry. So if Americans “get pissed” they are angry and if British “get pissed” they are drunk. But “pissed” is not a good word to use in public–at least you can’t say it to my mother.
    “and the guys I hung out with were some real heavy hitters”
    By itself, this phrase (heavy hitters) doesn’t mean drinking. The drinking part would have to be added somewhere in the context. Like… “After work we went to the local watering hole” + “and the guys I hung out with were some real heavy hitters”, or something somewhere to indicate that drinking is the activity they are heavy in.
    What about using some sort of negative to indicate they weren’t just sipping?:…”and the guys I hung out with weren’t just casual drinkers”. Or “weren’t just social drinkers”. Or “weren’t lightweight drinkers”. “Lightweight” and “heavyweight” also refer to boxing classifications–“heavy weight” being something like “heavy hitter”, and “lightweight” being something someone could be taunted with if they didn’t keep up with the rest in draining their mug.

  126. michael farris says:

    Nijma, he’s just spent several paragraphs talking about drinking so the context is there and by the time the sentence in question appears there’s no way to think it’s about anything else.
    I hadn’t thought of the negative phrasing and that’s an intriguing idea but the job is already out of the door which means I cease worrying about it until and unless it comes back for revisions (not out of the question by any means) and now I’m just waiting for the check to clear.

  127. michael farris says:

    Oh, and sympathies about the stomach flue (my vote for most disgusting illness that doesn’t necessarily put you in the hospital) I’d mention a week long bout I had some years ago but I don’t want to gross anyone out with the details.

  128. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Nij: “piss” in American English means urine, while in British English I think it only means drunk.
    If that’s what you think don’t ever use the word in England. (Don’t worry Nij, I’m just taking the piss.)

  129. marie-lucie says:

    In Canada I have heard people using “get pissed” for “get drunk”.

  130. @michael farris: Glad it’s done. The only thing worse than throwing up half the night (and why is it always at night?)is not being able to accept tasty ethnic snacks from your students the next morning. The only thing more exciting than a cashing a check for writing is seeing your name in a byline.

  131. AJP, are you going to enlighten us, or do we really want to know?

  132. AJP, are you going to enlighten us, or do we really want to know?
    Enlighten whom about what? Does who really want to know what?
    Some facts:

    1. In British and Australian, she’s pissed means she’s drunk.
    2. In American, it seems, she’s pissed means she’s angry.
    3. In British and Australian, she’s pissed off means she’s angry.
    4. In American, it seems, she’s pissed off is not standardly used.

    Are there further facts, or questions, about being pissed [off]?

  133. No, we say “pissed off” for angry too. In fact, I would have guessed it was an Americanism.

  134. “Pissed” and “pissed off” is the same in American, maybe “pissed” is more emphatic. Bumper sticker: “Jesus is coming back down and is he ever pissed.”
    Kron is “taking the piss” but he doesn’t say what that means. Americans would be “taking a piss”, meaning urination, although that language is a bit crude.

  135. I was ready to be corrected about my take on what is standard in American usage. That’s why I worded things as I did:
    In American, it seems, she’s pissed off is not standardly used.
    I was right enough in that it seemed that way to me. Perhaps I only noticed when Americans used she’s pissed, because that is what differs from our Australian usage.
    It’s hard to do Google searches that differentiate American from non-American sources. We need better-marked corpora than the web itself. And Google searches in general tend to yield logically impossible results, like “A+B” getting fewer hits than “A+B+C”. This seems to be happening more lately, as Google secretively changes the workings of its engine. Another thing: the number of reported hits can shift drastically as you scan through the screens of results.
    In earlier Australian usage (it seems!) come off was more common than simply come, for jouir. I’m not sure how things stand in British these days. Joyce uses come for both men and women. Molly, in Ulysses: “yes because he must have come 3 or 4 times with that tremendous big…”; “I was coming for about 5 minutes with my legs round him”. What about America? Are both used equally, or is simply come the standard, as it now is in Australia?

  136. michael farris says:

    ‘to take the piss (out of someone)’ is a very British expression and means ‘to kid, to tease, hold up to public ridicule’ depending on the context.
    ‘mickey’ is a polite substitute for ‘piss’ in this particular construction.
    In a similar vein, I was recently browsing a forum where there was a discussion of the movie ‘the bank job’ and an american didn’t understand ‘poncey accent’ (or a lot of the rest of the dialogue either most likely) and a helpful Brit offered that it was the same as ‘posh’ (unaware that the word is only a general adjective meaning ‘upscale, expensive’ of very limited use and most Americans are ignorant of all the connotations that the word has in the British scheme of things). Enlightenment, needless to say, did not ensue.
    I almost felt like trying to clarify but overall I thought it was like a nature movie where a turtle gets on its back and the filmmakers don’t want to interfere with the natural order.

  137. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I think you were right not to interfere.
    ‘To take the piss’ is an excellent expression that I would have thought is used in Australia as much as in England — or isn’t it, Noetica? I could be wrong.
    I have never heard of ‘come off’, except with the meaning ‘to appear’, as in: “he’s only talking in that poncey accent in order to come off as posh”.

  138. Ah, Корона. Here some people use those expressions with native abandon, but I don’t. If it’s not in Joyce, it’s not my style of gutter talk. Nous sommes des gens cultivés.
    where a turtle gets on its back and the filmmakers don’t want to interfere with the natural order
    Deftly referencing both Bladerunner and an episode of Futurama.

  139. michael farris says:

    “A turtle isn’t yourself. Why do you care about it?”
    Actually I was thinking of an old Disney nature movie that regularly traumatized American children. But I like the above quote as well.

  140. A.J.P. Crown says:

    ‘Posh’ was a word I was never allowed to use when I was a child. In principle it’s useful, because it embraces both ‘upper class’ and ‘rich’. I think it must have been considered by my mother to be a non-U word. I don’t think it is any longer, but though I’d have no difficulty using ‘poncey’, ‘posh’ still kind of makes me shudder. It shows how influential early training is — as if we didn’t already know that.

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