I didn't check in shit today

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2006/02/18 14:51 -08:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2006/02/18/534852.aspx


Warning: if the site censors this post I'll probably pull it down and repost after I find out how to avoid the censors, maybe with a bit of phishing! :-)

A small riff on Language Log's Geoffrey K. Pullum, and his post I didn't write shit today....

Mike Dolenga and I have joked in the past about how some days you feel like you wasted way too much time -- maybe in investigating a bug but going down the wrong path, or unintentionally checking in code that turned out to have a bug, or just approaching an algorithm the wrong way and needing to just start over, or whatever.

Where sometimes we'd almost want to go to Julie's office and slap a $20 or $50 or $100 bill on her desk (amount of money based on the seriousness of the time wasted by the mistake).

Just to symbolically apologize for wasting the time, or for checking that shit in....

Now simultaneously, the phrase has the same sort of slang meaning that the expression usually suggests, which is perhaps more of an I didn't [even] check in shit today[, let alone the quality code I was supposed to].

Or perhaps it is better stated as the difference between:

didn't check in shit today

versus

didn't check shit in today

Of course it depends on intonation too, and I could provide audio examples as WAV or WMA files.

But I am not really going to start podcasting just to allow people to have a recording of me using swear words with different intonations.

Although both phrases could go either way, it is interesting to me how the meaning is different when you emphasize that one word.

Try it to yourself a few times, (if you are not writing code for a living, this specific test will not work with Geoffrey's formulation since he does not have the preposition in there, but I think the context is self explanatory).

Why does the meaning seem to change with the word order, if the words emphasized do not?


# Michael S. Kaplan on Saturday, February 18, 2006 5:55 PM:

Ah, no censorship! :-)

Note Geoffrey's other issue -- about the park on a driveway, drive on a parkway comedian (I thought it was Gallagher, others suggested it was Stephen Wright -- cf: http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2005/05/08/415539.aspx)

# Michael S. Kaplan on Saturday, February 18, 2006 8:25 PM:

Of course "checkin" and "check in" actually are another interesting construct that I will talk about another day....

# Mike Dunn on Saturday, February 18, 2006 8:36 PM:

In my mind, having "shit" before or after "in" doesn't change the meaning, it's all about the context the phrase occurs in.

# Michael S. Kaplan on Sunday, February 19, 2006 10:06 AM:

Perhaps it is just how I am doing the intonations -- perhaps I *should* have podcasted this topic? :-)

# Mark Steward on Sunday, February 19, 2006 8:45 PM:

Actually, I reckon "[to do] shit" is so regularly used in this sense that it's gained (perhaps by analogy with "[to do] FA") a specialised meaning of "[to do] nothing".  So very few people (that I know) think of the implied "even".

I think that's probably why (guessing at your intonation) there's a difference - in the form "check shit in", the group "check shit" is parsed as a unit of its own, followed by "in".  Whereas "check in", when read as a verb, fits the familiar pattern above, as the shit is intoned separately.

If you stress "shit" enough in the second one, its negative sense overcomes the strange grammar.  Similarly, in "I didn't do *nothing*", stressing nothing the right way can change the double-negative to an intensified negative.

Can't believe I just wrote all the above - I must be really desperate to get away from my essay.

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