Syntax of fuck – Reviving “Studies Out in Left Field” on The Toast

Only a few days before this blog started, I wrote an article about the syntax of “fuck” on The Toast, reviving the cult classic linguistics article English Sentences Without Overt Grammatical Subject and the subsequent book Studies Out In Left Field, by and for James D. McCawley, respectively.

I’m just going to quote my favourite example sentences and send you to The Toast for the whole thing:

*Fuck you or I’ll take away your teddy bear.
*Describe and fuck communism.
*Fuck those irregular verbs tomorrow afternoon.
*Fuck communism on the sofa.
*Turn off that radio which fuck.

2 thoughts on “Syntax of fuck – Reviving “Studies Out in Left Field” on The Toast

  1. Bendi Reichstag December 18, 2014 / 7:32 pm

    It strikes me that in the phrase “fuck you,”you” may not be an object at all but an inverted subject. The phrase “says you” comes to mind and is a similarly odd usage of the verb “say.”

    At least in the Romance languages, similar epithets either use 2nd person or imperatives, so the “you” of “fuck you” would make more sense as the subject.

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  2. Jane May 29, 2016 / 1:01 pm

    But, the “fuck” in “fuck you” is in the second person singular form: fuck you, the inverted form of you fuck, or so you are implying. Therefore, the inverted form of “you say” is “say you,” and NOT “says you,” “says” being the third person singular form of the verb to say, as in he, she, it says, likewise he, she, it fucks. I have heard the usage, “say you” as in “What say you?” in formal and literary speech, but I have only heard “says you” in vernacular speech.

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