Locative detection

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Another linguistically interesting passage from Ed McBain's Long Time No See:

Detective Richard Genero was at his desk, studying his dictionary. Carella walked over to him and said, “What’s the good word, Genero?”

“What?” Genero said. “Oh,” he said, “I get it. The good word.”

He did not smile. He rarely smiled. Carella imagined he was constipated a lot. He wondered suddenly why no one on the squad called Genero “Richard” or “Richie” or “Dick” or anything but “Genero.” Everyone else on the squad called everyone else by his first name. But Genero was Genero. Moreover, he wondered why Genero had never noticed this. Was it possible that people outside the squadroom also called him Genero? Was it possible that his mother called him Genero? Did she phone him on Fridays and say, “Genero, this is Mama. How come you never call?”

“How would you like to do me a favor?” Carella said.

“What favor?” Genero asked suspiciously.

“How would you like to go downtown to pick up a dog?”

“What dog?” Genero asked suspiciously.

“A seeing-eye dog.”

“This is a gag, right?”


“Then what dog?”

“I told you. A seeing-eye dog down at Canine.”

“This is a gag about when I got shot in the foot that time, right?”

“No, no.”

“When I was on that stakeout in the park, right?”

“No, Genero, wrong.”

“When I was making believe I was a blind man, and I got shot in the foot, am I right?”

“No. This is a real job. There’s a black Labrador that has to be picked up at Canine.”

“So why are you sending me?”

“I’m not sending you, Genero, I’m asking if you’d like to go.”

“Send a patrolman,” Genero said. “What the hell is this? Every time there’s a shit job to be done on this squad, I’m the one who gets sent. Fuck that,” Genero said.

“I thought you might like some air,” Carella said.

“I’ve got cases to take care of here,” Genero said. “You think I’ve got nothing to do here?”

“Forget it,” Carella said.

“Send a goddamn patrolman.”

“I’ll send a patrolman,” Carella said.

“Anyway, it’s a gag, you think I don’t know it?” Genero said. “You’re making fun of that time I got shot in the park.”

“I thought you got shot in the foot.”

“In the foot in the park,” Genero said unsmilingly.


  1. Lukys said,

    January 21, 2012 @ 7:20 am

    Shooting an elephant in his pyjamas, eh?

  2. Sili said,

    January 21, 2012 @ 8:16 am

    Headlines like "Man shot in robbery" used to elicit the response "Where's the 'robbery' on a man?" from me.

  3. Mai Kuha said,

    January 21, 2012 @ 8:27 am

    While between degrees, I worked in conference management. My manager, Lisa, was (needlessly) concerned that her department, consisting entirely of young women, might give the appearance of loose morals at an upcoming conference. Before we traveled to the conference site, she gave us a stern talk about not going to a conference attendee's hotel room under any circumstances whatsoever, not even to deliver a slide tray. Well, at the end of the conference, one attendee was so overwhelmed by all the great learning and networking that he hauled off and kissed me when saying goodbye. I freaked out and ran to my manager, saying: "Lisa! Lisa! Bob Smith just kissed me!" She froze and asked ominously: "WHERE did Bob Smith kiss you?" "In the ballroom foyer!" I said.

    "On the forehead" would have been the accurate answer to the question she was actually asking.

  4. Theophylact said,

    January 21, 2012 @ 10:46 am

    "Shot in the thick of the fray" was an example I remember.

  5. Mr Fnortner said,

    January 21, 2012 @ 10:57 am

    Opened the door in her nightgown….

  6. Ø said,

    January 21, 2012 @ 11:43 am

    Bob Smith kissed her on a whim. In the end, I mean.

  7. Rodger C said,

    January 21, 2012 @ 11:45 am

    The bullet is in her yet.

  8. Spell Me Jeff said,

    January 21, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

    A Mormon explained to his bishop that he had stopped doing his temple work because the temple was too dangerous. The surprised bishop asked what he meant. The Mormon reminded the bishop that Abraham Lincoln had been shot in the temple.

    (I originally heard this as a Jewish joke, but since I live in Utah now . . .)

  9. Eric P Smith said,

    January 21, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

    "Hezekiah turned and shot the footman twice through the livery"

    – Stephen Leacock, Nonsense Novels

  10. Yakusa Cobb said,

    January 21, 2012 @ 1:09 pm

    Yes, but can anyone explain the joke in the first two lines of the dialogue to me*?

    *BrE speaker

  11. mgh said,

    January 21, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

    "I tell you what, where don't you want to be shot?" "South America" -Jeff Goldblum, "Vibes"

  12. Rubrick said,

    January 21, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

    The Bob Smith story compels me to mention the (I'm very sure deliberately) startling title of Paul McCartney's upcoming album, "Kisses On The Bottom".

  13. Jon Weinberg said,

    January 21, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

    @Yakusa Cobb: "What's the good word" is an idiomatic expression meaning, roughly, "how are you". The joke is that in this context it also had a relevant literal meaning.

  14. Russell Nash said,

    January 22, 2012 @ 1:48 am

    Nick: "I'm a hero. I was shot twice in the Tribune."

    Nora: "I read where you were shot five times in the tabloids."

    Nick: "It's not true. He didn't come anywhere near my tabloids."

  15. Geraint Jennings said,

    January 22, 2012 @ 4:19 am

    A WWI anecdote (the gist should be clear enough) from a column by Caouain (George W. de Carteret) published in the newspaper "La Chronique de Jersey" in October 1916:

    V'chin oquo une petite histouaithe que j'ouï l'autre jour:

    Deux femmes étaient en conversation au sujet d'la djerre, quand iune dit à l'autre, "Et dites-mé, missice, avous ieu des nouvelles de vot'e garçon à ches dernyi?"

    "Oui dja, il est en Angliéterre acheteu, à l'hôpita', ayant 'té bliessé à la tchuisse par un êcliat d'obus. Mais i' fait assez bain, Dieu merci! Et l'vôtre, comment qu'i' fait?"

    "Eh bain, i' va un p'tit mus acheteu, mercie, mais il a traîné longtemps, le pouore garçon. Ou viyiz i' fut bliessé, li, dans les Dardanelles."

    "Les dardanelles? Et tchi partie du corps est chenna, mon doux?"

  16. Henning Makholm said,

    January 22, 2012 @ 7:35 am

    @Geraint Jennings:
    > (the gist should be clear enough)
    Is it dialect? Google Translate performs worse on it than it usually manages for French.

  17. Faldone said,

    January 22, 2012 @ 8:36 am

    @Henning Makholm

    I would guess it's Jèrriais, a dialect of Norman Frencfh spoken on the Bailiwick of Jersey. Check it out here.

  18. Geraint Jennings said,

    January 22, 2012 @ 10:09 am

    Yes, it's written in the Jersey language, Jèrriais (check the link in my name). Not in standardised modern spelling, but the gallicised writing style makes it easier to read for the uninitiated.

    "Is it dialect?" Strange question. What isn't?

  19. Terry Hunt said,

    January 22, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

    An old UK favourite . . .

    "You know Hamish, the mountain climber? He's been injured."


    "In the Trossachs."

    "That must have been very painful!"

  20. W said,

    January 22, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

    The Taming of the Shrew re-imagining 10 Things I Hate About You has the same Bob Smith sequence:

    Patrick: I thought you wanted out.
    Cameron: Yeah, well, I did, but, uh… that was until she kissed me.
    Patrick: Where?
    Cameron: In the car.
    (cue typical Heath Ledger eyebrow-raising)

  21. erica said,

    January 23, 2012 @ 4:04 am

    A venerable version of this from The Goon Show (author: Spike Milligan):

    Eccles: How do I open the door?
    Bluebottle: You turn the knob on your side.
    Eccles: But I haven't got a knob on my side

  22. etv13 said,

    January 23, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

    @Rubrick: I don't know if that's where McCartney got it from, but "kisses on the bottom" is in the song "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" ("a lot of kisses on the bottom, I'll be glad I got 'em"). I've always been so strongly focused on the letter in the song, it never occurred to me that might be a double entendre. (Hey, it only took me about twenty years to figure out what "lines on the mirror" was referring to in "Life in the Fast Lane," let alone what was really ironic in Ozymandias.)

  23. CuConnacht said,

    January 23, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

    I have never known how one is supposed to respond to "What's the good word?"

    You can't say "Fine, thanks, and you?" can you?

    And now I don't see any good way of punctuating that last sentence.

  24. Mai Kuha said,

    January 25, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

    An answer to "Where was the American Declaration of Independence signed?"

  25. Just another Peter said,

    February 19, 2012 @ 10:50 pm

    Regarding the name part of the story, one of my brother's friends was always known by his surname. Whenever my brother rang his house he'd have to remind himself to ask for him by his first name.

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