Fun, Amazing, Etc.

This is the official blog of indie author / adventure writer Andy R. Bunch, author of the fantasy book, "Suffering Rancor." As always, I'll post funny or amazing things I find in my travels or from poking around online. This is a great place to kick back and relax a bit. You may note that I’m not too clean or too dirty. For more information on my book, go to Here are links to first two books and

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fun with English part 2

I found another fun fact in English. Well this is a little more technical, but if you are an English nerd like me this is cool. If you are anyone else maybe not.

Marc EttlingerPhD, Linguistics, UC Berkeley.
Votes by George Corley (PhD student in Linguistics, University of Wisco...),Thomas Wier (Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the Free ...)Amy Zhou,Vaibhav Bhatla, and 131 more.
The up  in screwed up is referred to as a particle and it's a pretty common phenomenon in English, with other examples including think overeat uplook up and so on. 
The way to distinguish a verbal particle from a regular preposition is that you can move a particle around:
He screwed up the picture.
He screwed that up.
You can't do that with a plain preposition;
He walked up the steps
*He walked the steps up(=bad).

Or compare look up her dress and look up her number. The latter is a Phrasal verb, the former is not. 

A particle can indicate a number of different meanings. Taped down, for example, is pretty literal, but can become more metaphorical as in think over
Up is an interesting one since it can have a number of functions:

put up the drapes
lift up the table

Transparently metaphoric
bring up the topic
drive up the street

look up the number
screwed up the experiment
took up knitting

Both up and down often indicate something called Grammatical aspect and in particular, indicates Completive aspect, or the perfective, signaling that something's been done, completed.
For example, compare chase to chase down or burn to  burn up/down.

With screw up, you're essentially saying it's screwed to completion, as opposed to screw with. Note the metaphor of physical screwing and skewing with the actually meaning of "messed up."

As you can see with burn and other verbs like write up/downbreak up/down,close up/down they are often times interchangeable with very subtle differences in meaning.

Because of that, it seems to me that the lack of a metaphorical sense for  screw down (versus screw down the plank) is mainly a function of convention.

John David Ward suggests that up is more productive than down, with downapplying where the semantics of down sync up with the verb, e.g. burn down, take down, slow down, bring down, chase downcalm down, water down, shoot down all have some connotation of coming to rest, decreasing or literally coming physically down. For example, less speed, less alcohol, less intensity etc. This leads to down possibly being less productive with new verbs.

However, I'm not sure about write down (you could do some semantic hurdles to get it to work) among others, and I'm not sure that the same loose semantic explanation can't be made about up words. 
Regardless, the reasons why up is more productive is also a matter of speculation - because it's shorter, because it's more frequent, because of other reasons. Crucially, it just begs the question, and so convention is all we have to go on for now.

No comments: