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Giveth, taketh … and embellisheth

I stumbled across today’s op-ed contribution, “The Great Iceland Meltdown”, by Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times, where he says a lot of clever things (as usual), but also this (emphasis added by me):

Globalization giveth — it was this democratization of finance that helped to power the global growth that lifted so many in India, China and Brazil out of poverty in recent decades. Globalization now taketh away — it was this democratization of finance that enabled the U.S. to infect the rest of the world with its toxic mortgages. And now, we have to hope, that globalization will saveth.

I was shocked – as I usually am when native speakers use the Shakespearean or Biblical -eth ending wrongly. But this time I decided I wanted to find out about this, and I wrote an e-mail to Prof. Arnold Zwicky (Stanford University), one of the contributors to the fabulous Language Log. I half expected to be ignored (who knows – does he even read the mails that are sent to that address? Does he care about a German reader’s questions?). Well, I wasn’t. Only a few hours later Arnold Zwicky replied and told me he had written a blog entry about my question.
And now for an explanation of the headline of this entry. Zwicky says in his post (my emphasis):

Modern speakers, for the most part, don’t appreciate that -eth is historically appropriate only for 3sg present tense verb forms, and so use it ornamentally.

Well. Hm. I really find this surprising. Even intellectuals like Friedman don’t realize that they are producing grammatical nonsense (sth. will *saves)? Amazing.
But please, have a look for yourselves. Prof. Zwicky’s post is full of good examples and also explains why the quotation in question is a snowclone:
Language Log: Giveth and taketh

8 comments to Giveth, taketh … and embellisheth

  • ‘will saveth’ is not wronger or badder than “Impossible is nothing” or “I’m loving it” ;-)

  • rip

    Well, it’s a matter of taste, I’d say. I find “will saveth” more awkward and nonsensical by far.
    “Impossible is nothing” always reminds me of Yoda in the Star Wars movies, e.g.: “Strong is Vader. Mind what you have learned. Save you it can.”
    The Mac ad is discussed in this intriguingly named forum. “fran” writes:
    It is really a question of register. On the most informal, spoken level of any language, it is acceptable to use language that contains what would be grammatical, syntactical, or even pronunciation errors on another register. This company likes to make an attempt to connect with its perceived customer base by talking to them in what it perceives to be their language. I’m sure hundreds of hours of market research told them that grammar nerds aren’t exactly their base.

    The same company that that mounted the “I’m lovin’ it” ad is super invested in talking down to the level of the people, even if it ends up looking really stupid in the process. About three or four years ago they mounted a breakfast campaign in ‘urban’ areas that used the phrase “get up wit’ me,” which was a faux phonetic transcription of the way many African American people pronounce the word ‘with.’ Such racist pandering is just one example of the way they lower the quality of their ads to match the quality of their food.

    I also like “Tysto’s” explanation:
    I am believing that the slogan “I’m loving it” was being invented by a person from India. ;-)

  • Hey, getting Language Log writer to write about you is an amazing Celebrity Blogger Hijack! I’m very impressed! Reading all that giveth, taketh, thinketh and embellisheth (try actually saying that) gave me a headache, though.

    Jochen, I think you’re wrong in your judgment of “I’m lovin’ it”. I’ve used it in class a lot as an example of the fuzzy warmth that oozes from the -ing-form and that is evident in other uses such as “I’ll be missing you.” And we all know that droppin’ gs has now become part of the mainstream, albeit not the liberal mainstream…

    Now, what really annoyed me was that Langnese Magnum billboard advert that said “Yes, I’m.”

    I’m what? The question came up in my beginner’s class today (one very bright child actually asked if you could use the short form in a positive short answer) and I went off into a lengthy rant about “Yes, I’m” that amused the students. One of them tried to calm me down by suggesting it was just a marketing ploy designed to get me to buy Magnum ice cream. Well, if it was, it certainly failed to convince me. No Magnum for me.

  • > No Magnum for me.

    What a pity. I was looking forward to YOUR review ( ;-)

    As Oscar puteth it: I can resisteth everything except temptationth.

  • I just googled around and found out there was actually a rather bad tv advert for that “Yes, I’m” Magnum thing. They pronounced it correctly – “Yes, I am”, but WIYOWIY did they have to spell it that way?

  • rip

    @Jochen: Can I call you “Jochenth”?

    @Sabine: Thanks for mentioning the freaky “I’m” ad.
    Oh, and thanks for being impressed ;-)

  • > Oh, and thanks for being impressed ;-)

    Oh, btw, “I’m” too.

  • rip

    Oh, Jochen, thank U2 :)