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Linguistics Foo

Having come across questionable data in yet another linguistics article stating it as absolute fact, I was encouraged to seek out other judgements from a population that isn't me. Thus, I come to you, my lovely lovely livejournal readers.

If you would, could you tell me how good/bad/ugly the sentence is, given the following context?

Context: Yvette is a notorious liar, and all of her former friends (particularly those that have fallen victim to her more egregious lies) know it. Jack is one such former friend.

Sentence: Jack is not surprised at what lies she tells.

Now, if someone said this to you, would you be...

...happy?
...mildly upset because it sounded vaguely off?
...upset enough to correct their sentence to something which sounded more suitable to you?

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
jalenstrix
Mar. 30th, 2004 12:28 pm (UTC)
[grin]
Ah, me liberal Regyt!
aelkiss
Mar. 30th, 2004 11:30 am (UTC)
A little upset. More so if it was supposed to mean something other than "Jack is not surprised at the particular lies she tells." Probably a '??'. I want it to be an (exxagerated) Britishism like "they're the ones what done it!" but it doesn't quite work like that.
jalenstrix
Mar. 30th, 2004 12:27 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I believe the intended reading is "Jack is not surprised at the particular lies she tells" - with a possible implication that the lies are big ones or bad ones or something. (Kind of like "Such lies! Tsk.")
aelkiss
Mar. 30th, 2004 12:38 pm (UTC)
Hm. Actually, I think "such lies!" is different from "Jack is not surprised at the particular lies she tells" or "Jack is not surprised at which lies she tells" - if you think about it as "What lies she tells!" where perhaps implicitly it is really "What horrible lies she tells!" then "Jack is not surprised at what lies she tells" (where in speech you'd probably emphasize 'lies' rather than 'what') becomes more acceptable though perhaps still a little bit stilted, archaic and/or British. If you think about it as meaning "Jack is not surprised at which lies she tells," then "Jack is not surprised at what lies she tells" is definitely fairly weird.
thewronghands
Mar. 30th, 2004 01:56 pm (UTC)
Happy. I'd take it as "Such a liar! We all knew it! What style! What grace! What lies!".

If it's meant as "Jack is not surprised at the things that she lies about and what she says about them", it should be "Jack is not surprised at the lies she tells" or "Jack is not surprised at which lies she tells", though.
stillvisions
Mar. 30th, 2004 02:02 pm (UTC)
It comes more natural as "Jack is not surprised at the lies she tells", but that's just me. It could be I'm not used to "tells" coming at the end. Like

"Jack is not surprised at what car she drives."

seems perfectly natural. Maybe it's the use of "tells" as intransitive (though I suppose "a gentleman never tells" is a accepted figure of speech) that makes it kind of odd.
larksdream
Mar. 30th, 2004 03:12 pm (UTC)
Happy. I am thinking of it as "What lies she tells!" in the voice of a shocked Victorian matron, so "Jack is not surprised at ~" seems fine.

Are you going to tell us what the article said now? Or must I be very disappointed at what secrets you keep?
several_bees
Mar. 30th, 2004 06:19 pm (UTC)
Mildly upset. Even the pseudo-Victorianism excuse doesn't fix it for me - "What lies she tells!" only seems to work because it's exclamatory.
bkleber
Mar. 30th, 2004 07:31 pm (UTC)
Completely happy. Seems morally equivalent to "Jack is not suprised by the lies she tells". but, like Regyt, I tend to be a bit liberal when it comes to the english language. I read too much shakespeare, my morphology is TOTALLY screwed.
ravenblack
Mar. 30th, 2004 07:48 pm (UTC)
I don't like it. "At the lies she tells" would be a reasonable phrasing for the given context. "At which lies she tells" would be reasonable for the other context that has somehow come to be the expected one in the comments even though it's completely different from the context you gave us in the first place. Neither of those are actually good either, but I wouldn't twitch at "the". I'd still twitch at "which" because it implies selection from a set of available lies. And "what" in that context is not British-like, not even in a horribly exaggerated Cockney, where "what" can be used to substitute for "that", as in "e's the one what did it, guvnah".

I see the 'what' in that sentence as taking the place of a 'which' (I can't see it as meaning anything else except the victorian exclamatory, on which my opinion matches that of several_bees). If that's so, then it's doubly wrong, since it should be which rather than what, and it shouldn't be which either because the given context suggests that Jack is not surprised by the fact that she lies a lot rather than anything to do with the specific selection of lies.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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