snippets from books

Susan Gilbert-Collins‘ book, Starting from Scratch, is described by Sally Koslow:  “Take one part Jane Hamilton, one part Julie Powell.  Season liberally with originality, and you have Starting from Scratch, the tender, humorous debut.”

from the book –

Father persisted.  “I for one would be very happy to see your dissertation.  You could walk me through it.  I’m not claiming I would understand it all, but it can be a useful experience to have to explain your research to someone who doesn’t understand it.”

“She should explain it to me, then,” Aunt Rubina broke in with a small, self-deprecating laugh.  “I’m sure I wouldn’t understand half of it.  I still don’t understand what an implicature is.”

“It’s something that true even though you havent said it,” Aunt Barbara told her.

“No, it isn’t,” Olivia said.  She sighed.  She didn’t want to get drawn into this.  ‘”For heaven’s sake, lots of things are true even though you don’t say them, that’s — you’ve almost got it backward.”

“Well, what is it, then?”

Olivia knew what Aunt Barbara thought she was doing.  She watched J.C. stand up again and stretch–just a small tune-up stretch this time–and saunter toward the kitchen.  Finally she turned to Aunt Rubina and said, “Here’s an example.  Person A says, ‘Where’s Aunt Barbara?’  person B responds, ‘I smell something burning in the kitchen.’  Now, Person B hasn’t actually answered the question, have they?  It sounds like they’ve even changed the topic.  What is Person B really trying to say?”

“Aunt Barbara is in the kitchen burning something,” Rubin said helpfully.

“Exactly,” Olivia said.  She hadn’t had to think hard to come up with this example; it had been Vivian’s favorite way of explaining Olivia’s work to other people.  “Person B didn’t say it in so many words, but we understand it nonetheless because we assume Person B is being cooperative and trying to contribute something relevant to the conversation.  So the idea that Aunt Barbara is in the kitchen burning something–of course, this is just an example, Aunt Barbara–is an implicature: you can infer it from what was said, but it’s not a condition for the truth of what was said.  That is, it’s true that person B smells burning from the kitchen, whether or not it’s Aunt Barbara who’s responsible.”

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