Wednesday, November 07, 2012

What I Learned From Election Night

First, I suggested a drinking game where every time a pundit said "if you will" we had to take a drink, but nobody would take me up on it.  At one point Chuck Todd said it four times in one turn.  Woulda been a good game.
But second, I'm confused about the word "vote."  Sure, it can function as a count noun (she got two votes) and a mass noun (she got 50% of the vote), but I kept hearing it used as a mass noun in the oddest contexts (these are just the ones I scribbled down; there were lots more):
"He's already got more vote now than in 2008."
"There's still a lot of vote yet to be counted."
"They [a precinct] are not going to count their vote tonight."
"I don't know where Mitt finds the vote to make this up."
These are all cases where I would use the count noun.  I can't come up with any generalizations about what's going on, but you know, I was up late last night...


Gregory Lee said...

On the contrary -- you did come up with a generalization about what's going on: vote is being used as a mass noun.

Gregory Bryce said...

""There's still a lot of vote yet to be counted."

The juxtaposition of "vote" as a mass noun and the participle "counted" is part of what makes this sound unidiomatic.

Substitute sand or sugar.
"There's still a lot of sand yet to be counted."

Sand or sugar would be measured (by volume or weight, I suppose), but not counted.

Gregory Lee said...

Well, you can count radioactivity. It's sounds a little off, to me, but I find examples using Google. That is perhaps because the prototypical instrument for measuring radioactivity is a Geiger counter. So by analogy, since vote[mass] is measured by counting devices, that makes it okay to count an amount of vote.

Eugene said...

I agree that I'd use the count noun in the examples presented. However, we are comfortable talking about a percentage of the vote, and nobody flinches when we talk about getting out the vote, and MTV can even rock the vote, so the mass noun usage is well established. Innovation is then inevitable, especially in professional jargon.
It reminds me of how you or I would post signs to give information, but professionals who manage places and events talk about signage.
Somehow, when you're talking about a lot of something - for example in public policy realms - it becomes uncountable.
Strictly speaking, votes are still countable, though the Florida results in 2000 suggest that maybe it's not as precise as one might hope.