June 12, 2008


People Magazine currently carries this headline:

Shania Betrayed: How Shania Twain's 14-year Marriage was Shattered by Her Husband's Alleged Affair with Her Close Friend

This seems to be ascribing causal powers to an alleged affair. Which is interesting, because not only might an alleged affair not be an affair, but if the affair is only alleged then there's no event to which "alleged affair" refers. That facet of the word "alleged" is interesting in itself (a rubber duck or fake duck is still a thing, if not a duck; an alleged spy is probably still a person, if not a spy; an alleged event in many cases is nothing if the allegations aren't true). But it would be somewhat mysterious how an alleged affair could shatter a marriage, if there were no affair; there would be nothing to do the marriage.

There are two relatively straightforward interpretations here:

1) Allegations of the affair shattered the marriage
2) We want to say that the affair shattered the marriage, but the legal department made us put in "alleged"

Well, I think 2) is pretty clearly the case (though I also understand that using "alleged" is no defense against libel suits). But I wonder if there are similar cases that fall between 1) and 2).

Posted by Matt Weiner at 06:09 AM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2008

A Very Important Question About Conventional Implicature

Why is it (emph. added) "I made you a cookie but I eated it" but "I made me a cookie and you eated it"? No, I mean it, it is important. I'm pretty sure that the answer doesn't have anything to do with the differences between English and LOLcat.

Posted by Matt Weiner at 07:16 PM | Comments (9)