Another pair of unrelated links:
1) The Roguish Chrestomath q_pheevr has posted a brilliant essay related to certain ongoing manifestations of know-nothingism; it begins:
Linguists here in Canada have been following closely, with a mixture of amusement, bemusement, and, it must be admitted, a little trepidation, the deliberations of our neighbours to the south, who are currently considering, in a courtroom in Pennsylvania, whether “Wrathful Dispersion Theory,” as it is called, should be taught in the public schools alongside evolutionary theories of historical linguistics. It is an emotionally charged question, for linguistics is widely and justifiably seen as the centrepiece of the high-school science curriculum—a hard science, but not a difficult one to do in the classroom; an area of study that teaches students the essentials of scientific reasoning, but that at the same time touches on the spiritual essence of what it means to be human, for it is of course language that separates us from our cousins the apes.
The opponents of Wrathful Dispersion maintain that it is really just Babelism, rechristened so that it might fly under the radar of those who insist that religion has no place in the state-funded classroom…
Go, read, enjoy. (Via Mark Liberman at Language Log.)
2) Richard Nunley, for many years professor of English at Berkshire Community College and now retired to Portland, Oregon, has a nice piece in my local paper, the Berkshire Eagle, on the expression “There you go”; he begins by describing a conversation with a man “shoveling nice black mulch into a wheelbarrow”:
Between shovelfuls he gave me a friendly nod as I passed by.
“That’s a good way to work off the pumpkin pie,” it emboldened me to reply.
“There you go!” he said with a chuckle.
There you go.
I have been ruminating ever since on that idiom of genial agreement. It is one of those useful phrases that oil social conversation. I am intrigued by its difference from “There you go.” That means something different — “all done,” “all set,” “transaction completed,” “be on your way now.”
“There you go” is one of a family of phrases — “Right you are,” “You said it,” “You’ve got it,” “You’re telling me” — all meaning some shade of “You’re right,” “I agree.” Each phrase, though, is slightly different in what it conveys — an echo of an earlier decade or level of gentility.
To a sensitive ear, they are not interchangeable. “Tell me about it,” though superficially expressing agreement, gives voice to a decidedly different mood. It carries a weary sense of grievance, a flavor of bitterness — “Why presume to tell me what I already know more about than you do?”
And though the words were almost the same, Ronald Reagan’s famous “There you go again” in one of the presidential debates, meant something entirely different from what the mulcher meant…
He ends with the following rumination:
I like the phrase “There you go” in the sense that the mulcher meant it. I think I shall adopt it — if I can remember it in time in the quick shifts of live conversation. (I’m a slow thinker.) To my ear, “There you go” conveys an inviting friendliness, a good-humored openness, sunny acceptance, undoctrinaire inclusiveness — indispensable attitudes for the shopping season.
That kind of expression has to be one of the hardest for a foreign learner to come to terms with; seemingly simple, it shifts meanings according to context and intonation.
(Thanks for the link, Martin!)