August 26, 2004

Grackle Rules OK

I had been wondering about the syntax and semantics of "Grackle rules OK" since re-reading Talking to Strange Men, which contains that statement. John Quiggin suggests a possible analysis, but I hadn't really thought of it as a question. Further comments from native speakers would be welcome.

Posted by Matt Weiner at August 26, 2004 01:08 PM

I'm not a native speaker of English English, but this catchphrase was very popular (notably in graffiti) in Britain from, IIRC, the 1970s. The standard form is a rhetorical question, demanding acquiescence in the supremacy [or general excellence] of Grackle [or whoever].

However, there is plenty of room for ambiguity. For example, I want to suggest that proxy rule by Sistani would be OK, though far from ideal.

Posted by: John Quiggin at August 26, 2004 02:51 PM

My recollection is that the phrase was normally a statement rather than a question.

The first time I saw a question-mark was in this rather erudite version on the wall of a university physics laboratory:

"Heisenberg probably rules, OK?"

Posted by: Kevin Donoghue at August 26, 2004 04:03 PM

I don't think punctuation was included in the graffiti version, but a minatory rhetorical question was normally implicit.

That's why educated writers added the comma and question mark.

Posted by: John Quiggin at August 26, 2004 05:11 PM

I'm glad I'm not a linguist who actually has to answer this question... Nice pun, anyhow.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at August 27, 2004 08:59 AM