Accepted ungrammatical phrases?
September 20, 2021 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Every politician - including the smart ones - uses the phrase “good-paying jobs”. Is there a term for a phrase like this, that isn’t grammatical but that’s just what people say?
posted by ftm to Writing & Language (11 answers total)
 
English.

See also: Linguistic description
posted by zamboni at 10:39 AM on September 20, 2021 [7 favorites]


I'd call it an idiom.
posted by Orlop at 10:39 AM on September 20, 2021 [3 favorites]


In descriptive linguistics (what zamboni linked), language is grammatical if people use it. To a linguist, “me and Julio went to the store” is grammatical, and so is “good-paying job”. Language evolves over time and place, so something may be grammatical now that wasn’t in the past.
This differs from prescriptive grammar, which is the stuff we learn in high school English classes and style guides: it’s prescriptively ungrammatical to end a sentence with a preposition or use the adjective “good” in place of the adverb “well”, etc. People don’t tend to speak according to what prescriptive grammar deems “correct”; it often has to be taught, and like spitbull mentioned, it’s associated with social prestige and signals certain levels of education and/or class.
posted by chaiyai at 11:39 AM on September 20, 2021 [2 favorites]


Linguist here, I would call this idiomatic usage.

This particular example is an instance of a more general trend in English where the adjective form of a word is being used in contexts where previously only the adverb form would have been acceptable. As chaiyai noted, in descriptive linguistics this isn’t considered “incorrect” if it’s common usage; it’s just an example of language change.
posted by mekily at 11:51 AM on September 20, 2021 [4 favorites]


IMO cynic here: they use 'good paying jobs' instead of 'high paying jobs' or 'jobs that pay well' because they are trying to weasel around those terms. They mean 'good' as in not causing direct social harm or being extremely temporary, and to lawyer-speak around payscales to include jobs that don't pay particularly well.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:22 PM on September 20, 2021 [3 favorites]


"Colloquialism" is another word for idiom, isn't it?
posted by wenestvedt at 1:30 PM on September 20, 2021


including the smart ones

What is smarter - Is intelligence shown by using the construction that we are taught in school is "grammatically correct" and thereby demonstrating that one has achieved a high level of education, or is intelligence shown by using the construction that will be best at achieving the goal of getting into or staying in office?
posted by yohko at 1:37 PM on September 20, 2021


Idiom. Usage. Language.
posted by signal at 3:14 PM on September 20, 2021


“ Is there a term for a phrase like this…”

Yes; the term is piss-poor grammar.
But then I’m still furious about the verbification of “parent.”
posted by BostonTerrier at 3:37 PM on September 20, 2021 [1 favorite]


BostonTerrier: " But then I’m still furious about the verbification of “parent.” "

Language changes, as others have said. Parent as a verb is in use since the 1660s.
posted by signal at 3:45 PM on September 20, 2021 [5 favorites]


Michael Dukakis used the slogan "good jobs at good wages." Now I wonder if it was to get around the grammar issue.
posted by FencingGal at 6:18 AM on September 21, 2021 [1 favorite]


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