Remember the time when the beef was contaminated?

Recent English Xinhua article headline:

Oklahoma firm recalls beef products might be contaminated

I knew we forgot something!

Graduate, promote, advance

Several months ago there was a sign outside a middle school near where I live which read,

Congratulations to the promoting class of 2009!

I was familiar with the use of promote as something a school does to a student advancing to the next grade, and the particular significance of being promoted from middle to high school. But the syntactic contexts for this were school promotes student or promotion of student, etc., roughly transitive uses. This contrasted in my usage with graduate, where a student may graduate or a school may graduate a student. So, for me, graduating class was perfectly normal, while promoting class was out. But it seems to be not all that rare, and after all, why not? If it’s to be used pretty much parallel to graduate, why not let it take syntactic positions more like the latter?

But still, would you expect to find it as a main rather than in the -ing form? From here:

6th grade students who have promoted in 2008 will attend a middle school campus and 8th grade students who have promoted will be assigned to a high school site.

So far I’ve found only one such thing.

Then, there’s also advance. Students and classes advance to the next grade, and there are advancement ceremonies. But would anyone congratulate the advancing class of 2009?

Whose side are you on

There’s recently been a string of sexual assaults in the area directly to the south of the UC Berkeley campus, known around town as southside. In the student newspaper, the Daily Californian, an article on the topic began:

Students and police are intensifying their efforts to curb what officials are calling an unusual string of sexual assaults being reported on the Southside of campus.

You know what they say about descriptivists (scratch ‘em and you find a prescriptivist), and I have to say I do not like the Southside of campus. With Southside as a single (compound) word, complete with compound stress (on the first element), it functions as a proper name, and does not have the complementation pattern that side, the head of the compound, originally had. Maybe reasonable people could disagree with me on this.

At the same time, I noticed that the proper preposition of southside (and northside) is on. One lives and eats on southside, not in or at southside. Why should that be? Other districts of Berkeley properly take an in: Elmwood, Claremont, etc. Well, maybe it’s the fact that side collocates with on. A little cute, perhaps, but I don’t really have a better story.

My plan is to present the original sentence to a bunch of undergrads tomorrow to see if they have the same reaction I have. If it ends up interesting, there’ll be a report of it.

Order strikes again

So, you know the old (?) ABC (?) Saturday morning cartoon jingle: “After these messages, we’ll be right back.” Well, back when I was in first grade or whenever it was that I remember them from, I thought, “Why do they have it in the wrong order?! Shouldn’t it be ‘We’ll be right back after these messages’?”

In my more advanced age, I had a rather different reaction to the Target Christmas commercial with a bunch of elementary school students reciting, “There’s no place like Target / at Christmas to save.” Since it’s in verse, the order isn’t so exceptional. What’s interesting is trying to figure out the semantic parse — and if any of the various parses actually means anything different from any of the others. What’s clear, I think, is that to save is an infinitival relative modifying place. What’s up for grabs, I suppose, is whether at Christmas hooks up with save or with be, and if like Target modifies place, place to save, or place to save at Christmas. I think basically all of these mean about or exactly the same thing.

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Who picks up the phone

In the March 19th issue of the Economist, there is an article “Kamikaze Politics” about political scandals in Japan, which has the following two sentences.

At midweek a new deputy governor, Masaaki Shirakawa, looked likely, at least for a while, to fill the vacuum—an unnecessary one, since candidates acceptable to both sides have been there for the choosing all along, notably Haruhiko Kuroda, head of the Asian Development Bank. By not putting him forward, Mr Fukuda showed himself unable and unwilling even to pick up the phone to the opposition.

Pick up the phone to? What’s that?

A cursory examination of google search results indicates that this seems to be a UK and Australian thing to say. If it happens in America, I’ve certainly never heard it. It’s a nice example of a multiword expression. What’s interesting is that it’s a communication verb that incorporates the means of communication (like phone, fax, email, and write) but which, perhaps due to syntax of the words in the expression, requires the person called to be expressed with the preposition to (like talk, speak, and write).

(yes, write goes in both places: I write (letters) to my aunt every week, but I write my uncle every month)