Everybody has smiles on everybody's faces

« previous post | next post »

I like this:

"Everybody is jumping around. Everybody is happy. Everybody has smiles on everybody’s faces,” center fielder Adam Jones said.

That's in the locker room after the Baltimore Orioles' season-high fourth straight win — a happy change of mood after a string of losses. They started the season, surprisingly, in first place in their division; now they've been in last for quite a while, but they've gotten in some new players, mostly rookies, who have started out strong.

So is repeating the quantifier instead of putting in a bound-variable pronoun a marker of exuberance? Since I'm an Orioles fan, I'll happily accept it!


  1. Cecily said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 4:12 am

    I would think that "Everybody has smiles on their faces" is the more natural and correct way to say it. However, if it was said off the cuff, in the thrill of victory, I'd put it down as a verbal typo – or possibly a deliberately ear-catching usage.

    Incidentally, is there a word for the spoken equivalent of a typo: when you change the direction of a sentence part way through so that some preceding element does not agree with what follows?

  2. Nigel Greenwood said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 5:44 am

    Sounds like a subeditor's subsequent correction. Or am I stating the obvious?

    Every time I (as a BrEng speaker) see the word homer in a sports report, I'm reminded of the couplet in Pale Fire about a newspaper clipping:

    Red Sox Beat Yanks 5-4
    On Chapman's Homer …

  3. Trent said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 6:54 am

    Hard to tell without hearing Jones, but I suspect he was being humorous. That's how I read it, anyway. Perhaps in the back (or front) of his mind was the notion that using "their" would create a conflict in number because he had already treated "everybody" as singular.

  4. Ellen said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 6:57 am

    That gives me the weird mental picture of people having smiles not only on their own faces, but on each others.

  5. Mark Liberman said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 7:03 am

    In the version here, an editor has intervened:

    "I think you could see it in our dugout," said center fielder Adam Jones, the self-appointed rookie welcoming party. "Everybody is jumping around. Everybody is happy. Everybody has smiles on [their] faces because the team is getting a little younger but it is getting more interesting. Everybody is enjoying it."

    The same article gives independent evidence of Jones' exuberance:

    "Jones is having a good time putting shaving cream in everybody's face," said [Orioles' manager] Trembley. "He's having a real good time. It's driving me nuts, coming in my office all the time. He's just walking in my bathroom. He's not even asking anymore. He's a piece of work. Let them keep doing it, let them have fun. They're kids."

    Video of the press conference in question, with a pieing incident spliced in at about 5:40, is available here.

    Words like everybody and everything seem to have been highly activated for Orioles players recently. From a 5/22/2009 news story:

    Credit Danys Baez with a rare daily double. The Orioles' veteran reliever earned the victory in unique fashion Friday night, when he scored the decisive run in a 4-2 win over the Nationals. Baez netted the first big league hit of his career and perhaps the first run of his life in an eventful extra-inning win.

    "Everything happened at the right time, at the right place," he said. "Everything was perfect for us tonight."

  6. Andrew said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 8:19 am

    Trent: yes, but doesn't a conflict in number (supposing we consider that to be a problem) arise in any case from 'faces'?

  7. Mark Liberman said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 8:26 am

    If anybody has ever previously written "Everybody has smiles on everybody’s faces", Google is unaware of it. But as background to Adam Jones' inspired choice, these counts may be instructive:

    "everybody has a smile on his face"      5
    "everybody has a smile on her face"      1
    "everybody has a smile on his or her face"      0
    "everybody has a smile on their face" 1,030
    "everybody has a smile on their faces"      5
    "everybody has smiles on their face"      0
    "everybody has smiles on their faces"   113

    And also these:

    "a smile on everybody's face" 2,750
    "a smile on everybody's faces"  227
    "smiles on everybody's face"  236
    "smiles on everybody's faces"  863

    Aside from the poetic conception of shared smiles on communal faces, there's the syntactic issue that the frame "X has/have (a) smile(s) on Y's face(s)" has four separate loci for grammatical number — every word except for on.

  8. Mark Liberman said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 8:53 am

    The proportions seem to be somewhat different for everyone, which is a bit more formal as well as commoner overall in writing (432M vs. 19M in Google's estimate for the web):

    "everyone has a smile on his face"   478
    "everyone has a smile on her face"       0
    "everyone has a smile on his or her face"    169
    "everyone has a smile on their face" 6,130
    "everyone has a smile on their faces" 1,750
    "everyone has smiles on their face"       7
    "everyone has smiles on their faces"   124

    The pattern here is less different:

    "a smile on everyone's face" 51,300
    "a smile on everyone's faces"  2,960
    "smiles on everyone's face"  2,030
    "smiles on everyone's faces"  5,570
  9. Glenn Willen said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 9:09 am

    I definitely first read this in the same way Ellen did — with people having smiles on each other's faces, whatever that means. It confused me greatly. :-)

  10. John Cowan said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 9:17 am

    I like how the mlb.com editor corrected Jones's original into a singular their. Eat flaming death, prescriptivists!

  11. jamessal said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 9:48 am

    "everyone has a smile on his face" 478
    "everyone has a smile on her face" 0

    Maybe Ross Douthat was right after all!

  12. Nicholas Waller said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 9:55 am

    I don't know why the editor saw fit to "correct" the exuberant original comment, which got the we're-extremely-happy idea across admirably and contributed to the gaiety of nations.

    This kind of verbal typo might come under the general term "Colemanballs" in the UK, from the Private Eye column featuring verbal gaffes, inadvertent witticisms or mixed metaphors from commentators, TV presenters or interviewed players, and named after David Coleman, a commentator prone to making them. The column has produced 15 spin-off books.

    ""[There’s] bound to be a deeply beating heart inside that young brain." – BILL LESLIE

    "We didn't underestimate them. They were a lot better than we thought." – Bobby Robson after England nearly lost to Cameroon, WC 1990.

    "If you can't stand the heat in the dressing-room, get out of the kitchen." – TERRY VENABLES

    "If we played like this every week, we wouldn't be so inconsistent" – Bryan Robson (1990)

    "I can see the carrot at the end of the tunnel" – Stuart Pearce (1992)

    "Ah! isn't that nice, the wife of the Cambridge president is kissing the cox of the Oxford crew" (this sounds apocryphal and is uncredited; it is supposed to be about the annual University Boat Race, btw).

    "I never comment on referees and I'm not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat" – Ron Atkinson (1979)

    http://www.compsoc.man.ac.uk/~heth/funnies/coleman.html for some good, some not so good.

    And here’s Moses Kiptanui, the 19 year old Kenyan, who turned 20 a few weeks ago. – David Coleman, BBC

    http://quotesformsn.wordpress.com/2005/01/01/colemanballs-quotes/ for some more, some of the same.

  13. Cecily said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 10:14 am

    Colemanballs and malapropisms are great fun, with "fun" being the operative word.

    Far more common is the sort of verbal typo that comes out mangled, but in an uninteresting way, such as "There is w-… two reasons why…", because when you started the sentence, you could only think of one.

    Does anyone have a name for that?

    [(myl) "False start" is one, though it doesn't distinguish between cases where you change your mind and cases where something you didn't intend comes out. "Self-correction" is a somewhat more general term for a repaired "speech error".]

  14. Nicholas Waller said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 10:24 am

    @Cecily – "when you started the sentence, you could only think of one."

    I also hear a lot of people saying "both" and then listing three things, or more. I wonder if that is the same thing as you identified (as per the Spanish Inquisition – "Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…fear and surprise…. Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency…. Our *three* weapons are-" etc ), or just that some people are now a bit slack on the meaning of "both".

  15. Cecily said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 10:25 am

    PS I know you don't spell "one" with a W, but wrote it that way, as that's how it would sound.

    Surely there's a better word than Hillary's "misspoke"?

  16. mgh said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 10:45 am

    Similar formations, found with google:

    "Everybody is not doing everybody's job."
    PDF, Improving Efficiency in Product & Process Development: A case study on a consumer products creation process (Master's thesis by Xiaoqin Dong, MIT), p. 25

    "[…] everybody is paying for everybody's health insurance […]"

    comment by misscoleopteramolly on thinkprogress.org

    "everybody is everybody’s brother, and everybody’s got everybody’s back"

    quote from ex-Marine in a Tribune Chronicle newspaper story posted here on the leatherneck.com Marine Corps Community forums

    "Everybody’s learning is everybody’s responsibility"

    PDF of an article on education ("Getting Better: ALN and Student Success"), quoting another paper ("Becoming a learning college: milestones on the journey")

    "Every party, every group is negotiating and everybody is in everybody's strategy"

    quote from politician in India, in story posted on outlookindia.com

    "Everybody is competing on everybody's turf"

    quote from technology consultant, in story posted on businessweek.com

    "everybody is eating everybody's lunch"

    passage on a website about companies adapting to increased global competition

    There are many others ("everybody is pirating everybody's employees", "everybody is under everybody's scrutiny", "everybody has produced everybody's pictures", "everybody has become everybody's enemy").

    However, with the exception of the quote in this post and the first citation above, all of them can be reworded as

    everybody is Xing everybody else's Y

    *everybody has smiles on everybody else's faces

    *everybody is not doing everybody else's job

  17. Andrew said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 11:05 am

    Ellen: I think it's clear than in most contexts, this construction would indeed have that meaning; 'everybody played with evereybody's toys' implies that people played with other people's toys as well as their own. Of course, this makes sense, while having smiles on other people's faces doesn't.

    Nicholas Waller: I'm guessing that people are indeed slack on the meaning of 'both'; this is not too surprising, because in some contexts there is no real way of expressing the equivalent of 'both' for more than two items. 'Both my children are here' becomes 'all my children are here' if I have more than two children; but 'he was both brave and generous' has no natural transformation if I want to ascribe three qualities, so people end up saying 'he was both brave, generous and intelligent'.

  18. Robert Coren said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 11:33 am

    My guess: the editor doesn't like singular "their", and has been diligently trained not to use generic "his", and either felt "his or her" was overly "wordy" or realized that it would be silly when talking about an all-male team, and punted — not realizing that this is a case where "his" would have been fine.

  19. Mark Liberman said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

    mgh: with the exception of the quote in this post and the first citation above, all of them can be reworded as 'everybody is Xing everybody else's Y'

    I was able to find a couple of other examples on the web, with "everbody's own" or "everyone's own". One from an article in the Journal of Applied Sociology from 1921:

    This no doubt is as it should be, but the excessive demands of the public has forced the program of the college to educate everybody in everybody's own way.

    (Though that one has a slightly different syntactic form, with one everybody as the object and the other one in a manner PP.)

    And another from a weblog entry:

    Everyone is just in everyone's own world listening to themselves speak or hearing what they want from the other person.

  20. iakon said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

    everybody has smiles on everybody's faces
    meant to me 'everybody is smiling at everybody else', in other words, it's reciprocal.

  21. mgh said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 1:16 pm

    Mark, I like that second one.
    Here's another I just found, that I like:

    It was shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow, rear end to front, and heel to toe, and everybody was bringing everybody's uncle in to buy weapons, munitions, equipment. (link)

    A funny twist on the usual idiom "everybody and his uncle."

  22. Lauren said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 4:23 pm

    How sad that an editor suppressed the ebullience of Adam Jones' statement. It was perfect.

  23. Mark Liberman said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 6:03 pm

    Another one, from Dorothy's House Party, by Evelyn Raymond:

    There’s a basket of them yonder in the storeroom and everybody must wait on everybody’s self. Else we’ll never get through.

    And from Douglas William Jerrold's St. Giles and St. James:

    It was provided by fate that there should be half-a-dozen smugglers, bound on an unhallowed mission to the coast ; who, first observing St. James's horse, masterless and quietly grazing at the road's side, made closer search and thence discovered young St. James, as they at first believed, killed, and lying half-way down the hollow. "Here's been rough work," cried one of the men ; "see, the old, wicked story — blood flowing, and pockets inside out. He's a fine lad ; too fine for such a death." " All's one for that," said a second ; "we can't bring him to life by staring at him : we've queer work enough of our own on hand — every one for his own business. Come along." "He 's alive " exclaimed a third, with an oath; and as he spoke, St. James drew a long, deep sigh. "All the better for him," cried the second, "then he can take care of himself." "Why, Jack Bilson, you'd never be such a hard-hearted chap as to leave anything with life in it, in this fashion?" was the remonstrance of the first discoverer of St. James; whereupon Mr. Bilson, with a worldliness of prudence, sometimes worth uncounted gold to the possessor, remarked that humanity was very well — but that everybody was made for everybody's self — and that while they were palavering there over nobody know who, they might lose the running of the tubs.

  24. Ben F. said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 7:25 pm

    To me there seems to be a strict grammatical interpretation, which leaves the phrase confusing and incorrect, even grotesque, but there's a poetic one as well that I gravitated towards, which has everyone making each other smile–the happiness is contaigous and, as iakon noted, recpricol.

  25. Barbara Partee said,

    May 29, 2009 @ 11:49 pm

    Although I strongly suspect the intended meaning is just the one for which we'd usually put a bound-variable pronoun ('their' being the normal colloquial one, as the editors in the version Mark found chose), and as is clearly attested in those last few examples that Mark and mgh found, I would go even further than Ben F. in saying that you could actually (though improbably, I think, in locker-room talk) get the reading he mentions quite literally, no poetic license needed, by interpreting "had" in its causative use, as in "I had him in a corner", "He had me stymied". "He was looking sad, but by the end of our conversation I had a smile on his face." "Don't pout – we'll have a smile on your face in no time." With that "had", the two 'everybody's' would be normal — everybody was doing things that were causing everybody to smile. (That was true in that Orioles game!)

  26. Doc Rock said,

    May 30, 2009 @ 12:18 pm

    As another Orioles fan, I am happy to see them pick up a little; however, nobody else smiles on my face but yours truly. >;-}

RSS feed for comments on this post