Meanings: “Wee,” “Damn”

December 22, 2011

Geoff Pullam at Language Log helpfully explains that when a Scotsman says he’s “going for a wee cup o’ tea,” he doesn’t mean that the cup of tea will be a small one.  Likely it will be regular size. And when someone complains that they’ve “lost their damn keys,” it doesn’t mean that their keys are substandard or suffused with evil.

Instead, words like “wee” and “damn” are instances of conventional implicature: they provide a commitment to an extra message that (metaphorically speaking) comes through on a second channel, without adding anything to the factual content of what is said.

You probably should read the whole post if this seems a little odd.  I found it helpful.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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