A BBC announcer discussing a film just now said it was "what the Americans call a 'tough watch.'"
"Do they?" I found myself thinking. "Do the Americans call dark films 'tough watches?'" I ask because I know a number of Americans (I say this not by way of boast) and I read a considerable amount of American news coverage, and I am not familiar with the phrase.
So I googled it, and got more than I bargained for. While most Americans (judging by the returned results) use "tough watch" to describe wrist-borne timepieces able to withstand the vicissitudes of wind and weather, at least one American - Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, to be exact - used the phrase "tough watch" to describe "an impending game between two inept teams."
Apparently, this remark was an alleged case of nonsentential assertion (as opposed to nonessential assertion, which describes my blog).
Reinaldo Elugardo and Robert Stainton took up the question of Mad Dog's remark in their paper, "Ellipsis and Nonsentential Speech" which is, let me be the first to say it, a tough read (and would probably be a tough watch too, if anyone ever took a notion to adapt it for the cinema).
Tough watch is a "post-deletion fragment of what linguists call a 'tough construction,' a canonical example of which would be, 'Chuck is tough to talk to.'"
"Chuck is tough to talk to" is in turn derived from a structure like, "It is tough to talk to Chuck," often called a "tough movement." (I refuse to consider what the Americans I know use the phrase "tough movement" to describe, call me a coward, I don't care.)
The authors then trace a four-step path from "It will be tough to watch that game" to "tough watch."
Which leaves me feeling both more informed and strangely ignorant, a state the Brits call a "soggy crumpet."
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7 years ago