Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A quirk of philosophical speech

I've noticed a speech pattern that sees a lot of action around here. I don't remember hearing it before coming to Pittsburgh, but I wouldn't trust my memory too much on that matter. The pattern is: well, you might think X. The "well" is optional. It is often used as a way of introducing a view or objection. For example: well, you might think that representation is essential for linguistic meaning. Or, you might think that the conceptual is unbounded, which would lead you to object to bare presences like sense-data contributing any sort of justificatory element. Is this a widespread pattern? I don't think this has crept into my speech or writing.

I'm now done grading finals for the class I'm TAing, so hopefully I can get back to putting up contentful posts, like that one on Goldfarb on showing I promised recently.


Daniel said...

This formulation didn't actually strike me as weird at all. "You might think" gets seven million hits on Google, though it's generally "X than you might think". So I started narrowing the search. '"you might think" -cars -"than you might think" -"as you might think" -"what you might think" -"that you might think" -"who you might think" -"why you might think" -"where you might think"' still gets 166,000 hits. Google notes that "You might think that" was a sort of catchphrase on
this show I've never heard of
, so I went ahead and threw in '-"house of cards"' too. (The '-cars" was to rule out a song by the name "You might think" by a group named the Cars.)

Once I narrowed the search results that much, though, I did start finding some instances of the form you mention. "You might think the loss of geometry — like the loss of, say, Latin —. would pass virtually unnoticed." "Because of society's stereotypes about bisexuals that we've all grown up with, you might think that you have to be a certain way to be a bisexual." "Although you might think the desert is just cactus, sand, and sagebrush, you might be surprised to know that after it rains the desert comes to life with ..." "you might think the doings in one small-town mosque dont amount to much. You would be very wrong." And here's an article using the form you mentioned to frame its entire content.

Presumably, not all of these random internet hits are Pittsburghian. So, I wouldn't trust your memory too much here, either.

Greg said...

During my time in the 'Burgh, I noticed this too, especially in a slightly more aggessive version: "Look, you might think..."

Shawn said...

That usage is the one that caught my attention. It is good to know it has been here a while.