Saturday, November 20, 2010

The ball came out but the whistle blew

As Wisconsin's football team is pummeling Michigan right now (sorry, Ann Arbor friends, colleagues and alums who care), the announcers have I think (at least) twice used a construction that is just impossible for me in the relevant situations: A player carrying the ball has had his forward progress stopped, an official blows the whistle to end the play and after that the ball comes loose. The comment:
The ball came out but the whistle blew.
I can only understand that statement as describing a significantly different situation, namely that the ball was fumbled and after that the whistle blew. In fact, the sentence is just odd, since if the ball came out, something else would have to happen to to trigger the whistle: it's a live ball.

To describe what actually happened, I would have to say:
The ball came out but the whistle had blown.
Do other people get the same reading? I didn't expect any variability here … I would expect this to be pretty stable.

8 comments:

Matt said...

Doesn't strike me as particularly unusual.

ALM said...

During my time teaching German in Madison, I got the distinct impression on numerous occasions that some Upper Midwestern dialects of English do not have the past perfect tense.

Anonymous said...

The past perfect is long gone in Upper Midwestern dialects of English. In fact, when students are required to learn it in other languages (like French, FGerman, Dutch), they tell me it "sound redundant".

Anonymous said...

The past perfect is long gone in Upper Midwestern dialects of English. In fact, when students are required to learn it in other languages (like French, German, Dutch), they tell me it "sounds redundant".

Mr. Verb said...

Is it just the Upper Midwest? If so, that's a pattern worth looking into!

ALM said...

I don't know if it's exclusively the Upper Midwest, but as a non-Upper-Midwesterner, the sentence you gave doesn't work for me, either. Another thing for the Wisconsin Englishes folks to investigate!

Ellen K. said...

For me (non-upper Midwest) it's not something I'd say, but, well, not outside the realm of stuff that's grammatical for some people.

The Ridger, FCD said...

I agree with you, if there's no past perfect I can't parse it with clause-reversed temporality. I'd expect to hear an 'already' or something in there, which would make it work.