April 28, 2013

Over-anti-hyper-correction?

Or: Over-assuming Obama must be right?

A dialogue about grammar (arising out of the discussion of "good-paying" and "well-paying" that began in a blog post called "Speaking of my stream of consciousness, blowjobs, and 'the Golden Age of Male Rage'").

ADDED: Obama said "good-paying" twice in the October 16, 2012 presidential debate:
Now, the most important thing we can do is to make sure that we are creating jobs in this country. But not just jobs, good paying jobs. Ones that can support a family....

So... on wind energy, when Governor Romney says "these are imaginary jobs." When you've got thousands of people right now in Iowa, right now in Colorado, who are working, creating wind power with good-paying manufacturing jobs...

42 comments:

wyo sis said...

All of it sounds bad to me by now. How about high paying?

edutcher said...

Well-paying, since well, as an adverb, modifies the verb, pay.

Ann Althouse said...

"Well-paying, since well, as an adverb, modifies the verb, pay."

"Paying" is an adjective, modifying "job." The standard argument, which John clearly believes, is that you need an adverb ("well") because it's modifying an adjective.

Ann Althouse said...

I understand that argument. I just think there's an additional twist that I can't articulate. I can get to Square 1. The question is whether there's a Square 2.

ndspinelli said...
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Meade said...

"But this itself is a correction which can be overdone."

Much like electing Obama was a correction that was overdone. Sorry - much as electing Obama was...

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

Well-paying, since well, as an adverb, modifies the verb, pay.

"Paying" is an adjective, modifying "job."


True, but the root is the verb, pay.

ndspinelli said...

My high sschool English teacher nun, and my bride

Hmmm, I dassent...

JohnJEnright said...

Turning it around, does a job pay well or pay good?

betamax3000 said...

Wait a minute. There was a post titled "Speaking of my stream of consciousness, blowjobs, and 'the Golden Age of Male Rage" -- how did I miss THAT?

Tim said...

"My dad says: "From the grammatical standpoint, John's right, it's "well-paying." (Although I have a soft spot for the Platonic form of the Good.) "Good-paying" is a widely used colloquialism, though, and John McWhorter would doubtless welcome it as a step in linguistic evolution...."

Indeed.

Of course it's "well paying."

Almost everyone knows that; more to the point, there was a time when everyone did.

But, re: "linguistic evolution," all things tend toward entropy, so why not language too?

Tim said...

Who knew one could ever intellectually masturbate over grammar?

End times, baby, end times.

James said...

"What's needed is a noun, as in "money-paying.""

lucrative. As in "The petroleum and coal industries provide lucrative blue-collar jobs."

"good-paying" and "well-paying" are adjectives. The synonym is "lucrative".

The reason we say "good-paying" is because we want jobs with "good pay".

The noun would be "boon" or "score", I suppose. But we're not supposed to want to make significant profits, right?

rcommal said...

Would you say good-meaning person?

For that matter, would you say bad-paying job?

Perhaps pondering those will help.

rcommal said...

Well-fed child or good-fed child?

Poorly fed child or bad-fed child?

Well-behaved dog or good-behaved dog?

Ill-behaving dog or bad-behaving dog?

rcommal said...

There's a family story that my Yorkshire-born grandfather (now dead, born in 1903) referred to a healthy paycheck as a good screw until told that his slang didn't translate well overseas. I always found that hilarious. I vote we switch to grandpa's youthful description!

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

What I want to know (and this was an actual question in a Safire column, long ago) is why we pronounce "short-lived" with a short "i." I mean, obviously the word means "having a short life," right?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Relatedly, can't we get rid of the adjectival "woman"? I mean as in "woman judge," "woman conductor," "woman weightlifter," "woman scholar," whatever. We have a perfectly good adjective for women, which is "female." We use the corresponding adjective, "male," in compounds like "male nurse" and "male secretary." What the hell is wrong with "female"? I can assume only that everyone is imagining "female" as pronounced by Ferengi on "Deep Space Nine."

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

What I want to know (and this was an actual question in a Safire column, long ago) is why we pronounce "short-lived" with a short "i." I mean, obviously the word means "having a short life," right?

Tim said...

This is a good crafted thread.

ndspinelli said...
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Mary Beth said...

Barack "mommy and me will get the same exact tattoo" Obama?

What do you want, good grammar or good taste? (Raise your hand if you're old enough to remember this.) We're getting neither.

Ralph L said...

If Obama had said "lucrative jobs", I would make a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons. But the whole idea of profit is anathema to the left--unless they're the ones profiting.

The original post reminded me of a mortifying moment from 30 years ago. My parents, 80+ grandmother and I were discussing haircuts, and I said something like, "the place I go charges $10 for a cut and blowjob," instead of blowdry. Grandma then asked, "What's a blowjob?" Thank goodness my father didn't start laughing.

"Screws" was also British slang for prison guards.

The Godfather said...

We're overthinking this. Unless we are public school English teachers, we don't apply rules of grammar. We write and say what sounds right to us. We have (we hope) internalized the rules of grammar, so that what is grammatically correct sounds right to us. We get into these tizzies when a new turn of phrase doesn't fit into our internalized sense of what sounds right, or when some authority figure says something that sounds wrong to us, but must be right because so-and-so said it.

I KNOW that it's a "well-paying job", because it sounds right. Anything I say in support of that position is a rationalization, which will not persuade you if "good-paying job" sounds right to you (but please don't let Obama influence you!)

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

I would go with "a job that pays well," or "a job featuring good pay," or something of the sort. You don't have to get into the adverbs-modifying-adjectives mess unless you positively want to. "Lucrative" I'd avoid, because it has connotations beyond "good pay."

Ann Althouse said...

"This is a good crafted thread."

You have an "-ed" verb made into an adjective. Think about an "-ing" verb. A good-crafting thread would be a thread that manufactures good. That would obviously be correct. A well-crafting thread would be wrong.

I've absolutely skewered you there, no?

Ann Althouse said...

"A good-crafting thread" shows my point about wanting a noun before the "-ing" adjective where the noun that's being modified is doing the activity.

Obviously, "well-paid employee" is correct in form. "Well-paid job" is the wrong meaning, because the job isn't receiving the pay.

Ann Althouse said...

"I KNOW that it's a "well-paying job", because it sounds right. Anything I say in support of that position is a rationalization, which will not persuade you if "good-paying job" sounds right to you (but please don't let Obama influence you!)"

My problem is that "well-paying job" sounds wrong to me.

Basta! said...

"You have an "-ed" verb made into an adjective. Think about an "-ing" verb. A good-crafting thread would be a thread that manufactures good. That would obviously be correct. A well-crafting thread would be wrong.

I've absolutely skewered you there, no?"

I don't see that making a compound adjective with a present active participle (-ing) vs. a past passive participle (-ed) necessarily makes a difference.

Consider far-seeing and high-flying, in which both "far" and "see" are simple (or flat) adverbs compounded with the present active participle of a verb. Well-paying follows this pattern.

ndspinelli said...
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LTMG said...

@ rcommal

While working in the 1990s in the UK near Heathrow Airport I became aware of a British synonym for working hard, *beavering*. Has a different mental image on this side of the pond. Similarly, I had a US colleague nicknamed *Willy*. Has a different mental image that side of the pond.

The Godfather said...
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The Godfather said...

Ann says: My problem is that "well-paying job" sounds wrong to me.

EXACTLY! And it sounds right to me. In dozens of posts no one has proved that one way or another is grammatically correct (and most aren't even trying to do that -- they (and you) are trying to prove that it's logically correct, and this being language that will never work).

You (and Obama) should write it the way you think it sounds right, and I will think that it's a clumsy locution that sounds wrong.

Palladian said...

Fuck prescriptive grammarians

Basta! said...

I think the problem has to do with what we understand as the logical object of "paying". In either case, we have to (mentally) insert an unexpressed word, but that word will differ, depending on which understanding we have.

You, for example, expect the word before "-paying" to be its direct object, therefore you have to imagine a noun that refers to WHAT the job is paying, and you wind up with a job that pays good (money) = a good-paying job.

I, however, understand that phrase as describing HOW a job pays, therefore I wind up hearing a job that pays (someone) well = a well-paying job.

Ralph L said...

Fuck prescriptive grammarians
Because they're tight-asses.

James said...

If "lucrative" is no good then perhaps the word should be "fair-paying". That way no one is implying that they are being compensated for one penny more than they are investing.

I guess whether it is "good paying" or "well paying", the implication is that the pay is just barely acceptable since the alternative is "lousy paying" or "exploitative".

James said...

"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages. Nobody but a beggar chooses to depend chiefly upon the benevolence of his fellow-citizens."

James said...

To rephrase Adam Smith for today, no generosity in the human heart could very often entice anyone to spend 8 hours a day for years making and serving coffee to strangers who are often more wealthy than the server. But for the sake of concupiscence [self-love, and a desire for profit] many such people can be readily found.

Meade said...

Q: How are you?

A1: Well
A2: Good
A3: Fine

I'm looking for a fine-paying job so that I can finally ask that fine-looking lady to go out with me.

rcommal said...

LOL.

Clark said...

There are jobs that pay well; those are well-paying jobs. And there are paying jobs that are also good jobs; those are good, paying jobs. Did Obama say "good, paying jobs" or "good-paying jobs"? I understood him to say the former.

Meade said...

Palladian said...
"Fuck prescriptive grammarians"

Don't be too harsh on them. They mean well. You could even say they are do-gooders.