This question is about the very confusing grammar of the following construction:

  • Just wait one cotton picking minute!

This on its face normal seeming construction is what I'm talking about. It's a commonly occuring construction, with the policy on this type of things formulating language experts strangely neglecting this . My at first sight occuring idea was to add it to a formal grammar, but then I wasn't sure how to do it, because I didn't have good intuition on whether these rather commonly and naturally appearing examples allowed, pronouns, etc.

After I got a clear, complete, answer, and accepted it, the question was closed! I think that this is a bad confidence-with-the-users building measure.

Why was this question closed? In think only so that it can't be upvoted, because it was downvoted many times, by people who did not recognize this as part of the grammar, but as an algorithm for generating idioms.

I have italicized each time I have used this construction in the above question. I want to know how it works. I really don't know for sure. The question was sincere, and the quick and clear appearing answer was excellent.

This is the question: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/60121/is-this-americanism-grammatical

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  • The phenomenon looks a lot like the 'Saxon' possessive, adding an "'s" to the end of a noun phrase, not just the head noun (e.g. "the man that went to the store's dog", it's the man's dog, not the store's). What's the full rule for your phenomenon? Because it is not formal English, it's probably not in a style manual. – Mitch Mar 6 '12 at 14:24
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    @Mitch: It isn't in a style manual, but it occurs frequently in the New York Times, so a formal grammar has to include it, hopefully with the correct rules and with the correct restrictions. Since it isn't in a style manual, I couldn't find what these restrictions are, or even what the construction is exactly, and the examples are too rare to see the rule immediately. I got a good answer, which I accepted. Usually, when questions are closed they are either duplicates, out of scope of the site, or unanswerable, and this is obviously not one of those cases. – Ron Maimon Mar 7 '12 at 4:09

I closed the question because I didn't find the approach you've taken in your questions nor your attitude to be compatible with the community of this site. This site is not your personal playground to test out unorthodox theories on the structure of English grammar. While sincerity is appreciated, you'll have to combine it with a healthier dose of grace and kindness if you want to participate here. Your unusual line of questions might have been better received if you had asked with kindness instead of stridency.

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    So you closed the question because 1. you think I'm a dick, 2. I asked about a grammar rule you didn't think exists. Those are not good reasons to close. Close a question when 1. It's a duplicate 2. It can't be answered 3. It's out of the scope of the site, 4. Its incomprhensible. I am a dick. Dickishness is the immune system of academia--- it exposes charlatanry, which otherwise feasts on a polite field like gangrene. You say in your profile that you don't like prescriptivist things, and any formal grammar is by its nature presecriptivist, and includes things beyond human limits. – Ron Maimon Mar 7 '12 at 3:48
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    We are not in academia. If you want to stretch the boundaries of discussion here, you'll have to do it without being so abrasive. I'm not serving any pizzas made from split dough, and the pizzaiolo who can't stretch out a pizza dough without breaking it gets fired. – nohat Mar 7 '12 at 6:40
  • Let's remember, not only does Ron believe he knows more than most of the world's physicists (see physics.SE passim, and his profile, current and previous versions), he believes that he knows more than most of the world's linguists too: "those people have not given a complete specification of English grammar ... This means that they don't know what they're talking about" english.stackexchange.com/questions/313/… – 410 gone Mar 7 '12 at 12:22
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    @EnergyNumbers: Actually, I only suspected that I might know more than all the worlds linguists, but now after seeing the state of the art parsers, and their dogmatic indefensible stance regarding Warlpiri and Piraha, I am certain that I do. – Ron Maimon Mar 8 '12 at 1:03
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    @RonMaimon A+ story. Thanks for sharing. – nohat Mar 8 '12 at 5:26
  • I far prefer @RonMaimon 's style, which I find humorous and appropriate, to your passive-aggressive assertion of superiority in this answer. I still have no idea what people could find problematic with the original question. It seems honest and clear to me, and not to be offending anyone. Do you mean the vague reference to unspecified "language experts"? Also you say you closed it because of the OP's approach in other questions, which indicates you're biased against this question because of other questions? What? – Dronz Aug 10 '15 at 17:04
  • @Dronz It's pretty simple. I was biased against that user because he was an asshole. – nohat Aug 11 '15 at 21:02
  • Ah. I haven't seen whatever was so offensive to warrant that. I looked a bit and only saw things warranting "smart Alec". I suppose it must've been pretty annoying. – Dronz Aug 11 '15 at 21:09

It was probably closed because of your unfriendly usage:

"response to ignorant comments, answers, and downvotes"

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    Well, that and the fact that I can't tell what the question is. It's a bunch of argumentative words, with no sense behind them. – Marthaª Mar 6 '12 at 15:07
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    I thought there was some sense (in between the lines) but, yes, inappropriately argumentative and presumptuous. I though 'unfriendly' was the most salient at this point. – Mitch Mar 6 '12 at 15:12
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    @Martha: the question was about the general form of an obscure grammar construction that is required for reading the New York Times by a machine. It is the rule that forms "This on the internet spreading meme" from "this meme spreading on the internet". I know how to do it now and when, thanks to the answer I got, which is complete and correct, hence I accepted it. As far as argumentative, deal with it. It wasn't that bad. The comments and downvotes were profoundly ignorant. – Ron Maimon Mar 7 '12 at 3:51
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    @RonMaimon You're not going to make yourself a case by calling people ignorant. – simchona Mar 7 '12 at 19:58
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    @simchona: You determine truth by thinking, not by politics. Politics is useless for determining how things like English grammar works. That's why prescriptivists generally say stupid things. I don't give a rat's ass about politics. I want to know the grammar of English, even if that makes me a social pariah. – Ron Maimon Mar 8 '12 at 1:09
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    @RonMaimon You are on the verge of answering your own question. "Politics" is the art of getting people to do the things you want them to do. If you don't give a rats ass about politics -- if you call a community "sick" and "profoundly ignorant" -- you should expect a less helpful response. There is no need to make a pariah of yourself. I don't think anybody here demands that you give up your cherished theories, but a little humility would go a long way. – Pitarou Mar 8 '12 at 3:13

Let me start off by saying that I'm tired right now, and your question (the one you linked to, not this one on meta) is longer and more complex than what I'd consider light reading, so I'll look over it in the morning. I suspect @nohat is right on this one, but I'll review it independently to give you the benefit of the doubt.

That said, in my opinion, I disagree with nohat on one thing. You are perfectly entitled to your own opinions about English grammar, and you are welcome to voice it on our site as long as you do so constructively.

@nohat: See, the difference between linguistics and physics, is that you don't allow assholes to beat up the frauds. We allow that (actually, we require it) in physics. This is why your field is sick, and this is why you can't make progress. Notice how long it took to appreciate that universal grammar does not describe pre-literate languages. Physicists place honesty as first priority, and niceness last, and they generally will not participate in a forum where these priorities are inverted.

However, your tone does concern me. Is there anything wrong with a little courtesy and respect towards others? As far as most of us go, if we're wrong, we want to know why we're wrong, and we want to learn—calling people "ignorant" usually doesn't help them, since it puts them on the defensive. You don't have to call someone "ignorant" to disagree with them—you can just say that you disagree strongly with them without calling them names. Honesty is important, and I welcome you to be honest when we're dealing with facts, but when you start insulting people, I strongly suggest that you consider carefully your choice of words.

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  • I understand, believe me I wasn't criticizing you, or anyone else you are likely to know, or anyone honest and intellectually curious. I was criticizing certain professionals who have a vested interest in a certain obviously wrong position that they have banked their entire career on, and then use their position of power to squelch evidence that shows that their position is totally, completely, obviously, indefensibly wrong. This type of thing happened in physics 400 years ago, in Galileo's time, now its linguistics' turn. I have no beef with people who aren't conscious, knowing, frauds. – Ron Maimon Mar 10 '12 at 6:04
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    I don't think many people on this site are English linguistics professionals. Most of those people live in Linguistics.SE from what I can tell. – simchona Mar 10 '12 at 7:33

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