Skeptical Linguistic Essays

By Paul M. Postal | Go to book overview

5
The Structure of One Type of
American English Vulgar Minimizer

1. Background
In the summer of 1995, Haj Ross and I began jointly looking into the grammar of the vulgar American English slang forms in (1):
1. SQUAT = Vulgar Minimizers = {beans, crap, dick, diddley, diddley-poo, diddley-squat, fuck-all, jack, jack-shit, jack-squat, piss-all, poo, shit, shit-all, squat}
Some examples of some uses of these forms, taken to be members of the nonchromatic class in chapter 4, are given in (2):
2.
a. Olmstead didn't say dick about the new dean.
b. Olmstead knows fuck-all about Botswana.
c. Olmstead didn't contribute jack to the emergency fund.
d. Olmstead doesn't understand squat about topology.
In naming these expressions as I have, I intend to bring out what I take to be a genuine connection with other minimizers, a standard category of negation studies; see Horn (2001: 452–453). Generally, a minimizer is a type of DP that denotes minimal elements on some scale:
3. Minimizers that are not vulgar minimizers include, for example, a drop/a word/a red cent/a finger, as in (4):

-159-

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