June 24, 2004

Also, Fish-Faced Gargoyle

Hooked tenuously to this discussion of British vs. American uses of "quite," via Prudence Whittaker, the private secretary in Summer Moonshine who constantly says "Quate," my two favorite Wodehousean insults:

"Kickworthy young heel" (Summer Moonshine)
"Pumpkin-headed foozler" (The Code of the Woosters)

P-h f gets the edge for appearing on the same page as this philosophically important piece of dialogue:

"He would!"
"What do you mean, he would?"
"Well, he did, didn't he?"

Your task, should you choose to accept it: Why doesn't "he did" imply "he would"?

Posted by Matt Weiner at June 24, 2004 12:24 PM

Isn't "He would [x]" idiomatic for something like, "It's in his character [to x]"? Since people can do things that are out of character, x-ing doesn't imply its being in one's character to x, which therefore doesn't imply "he would [x]".

Just a stab.

Posted by: Jason Turner at June 25, 2004 07:32 AM

That seems like a good account to me.

Next up might be an account of why we use "he would!" for that idiom--is it the same "would" as in "If you were to help him, he would be grateful"? Does the Wodehouse dialogue reflect a counterfactual that's not counterfactual?

Posted by: Matt Weiner at June 28, 2004 10:54 AM