PP attachment of the week

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"Trump Wanted to Sell Puerto Rico After Hurricane", Political Wire 7/11/2020:

President Trump raised the possibility of selling hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico to his Secretary of Homeland Security in late 2017, the New York Times reports.

The obligatory screenshot:

The intended interpretation is that he suggested something to the Homeland Security Secretary, that something being selling off Puerto Rico. As the NYT puts it:

Ms. Duke is the latest in a series of senior officials who have gone public to describe — often in vivid, behind-the-scenes detail — their discomfort and sometimes shock at the inner workings of the Trump presidency.

She said she was especially taken aback, during the response to Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico, when she heard Mr. Trump raise the possibility of “divesting” or “selling” the island as it struggled to recover.

“The president’s initial ideas were more of as a businessman, you know,” she recalled. “Can we outsource the electricity? Can we can we sell the island? You know, or divest of that asset?” (She said the idea of selling Puerto Rico was never seriously considered or discussed after Mr. Trump raised it.)

In other words, this structure:

Not this one:


  1. ycx said,

    July 13, 2020 @ 1:33 pm

    FWIW, the correct interpretation was that he was considering selling the island to an unspecified entity, not to the DHS secretary.


  2. Neil Weinreb said,

    July 13, 2020 @ 1:46 pm

    Maybe Denmark would take it in exchange for Greenland.

  3. Greg said,

    July 13, 2020 @ 2:19 pm

    I had no problem parsing the intended meaning, which surprised me after I re-read it as I always thought that the idiom was to raise something *with* someone (as attested, e.g. here: https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/raise+with ). Is "raise to" North American, perhaps?

  4. Philip Taylor said,

    July 13, 2020 @ 2:22 pm

    In Britiah English we would speak of raising the possibility with someone, not to someone, which completely avoids the ambiguity. As a non-native reader of <Am.E>, I really did think that Trump was proposing to sell Puerto Rico to the Secretary of Homeland Security, and it was only on the light of the comments that I realised how completely I was taken in.

  5. Gregory Kusnick said,

    July 13, 2020 @ 3:27 pm

    Maybe he hoped to get a bidding war going among Cabinet members.

  6. David Morris said,

    July 13, 2020 @ 4:03 pm

    I also find 'raise to' unacceptable here. Maybe he *suggested* selling it to the Secretary.

  7. Kenny Easwaran said,

    July 13, 2020 @ 4:06 pm

    Both "He raised this possibility to me" and "He raised this possibility with me" sound ok to me, as an American English speaker. The former somehow does seem slightly better, but perhaps this is because both are elliptical for slightly longer phrases "He raised this possibility while speaking to me" and "He raised this possibility while speaking with me".

  8. Alexander Browne said,

    July 13, 2020 @ 4:39 pm


    To sweeten the deal, we could through in the U.S. Virgin Islands (former Danish West Indies).

  9. Alexander Browne said,

    July 13, 2020 @ 4:40 pm

    I meant "throw" obviously.

  10. Philip Taylor said,

    July 13, 2020 @ 4:55 pm

    Kenny, I am not convinced that "he raised this with me" is elliptical for "he raised this while speaking with me". I see the former more as directly analogous to "he discussed this with me", which I think you will agree is not elliptical.

  11. J.W. Brewer said,

    July 13, 2020 @ 5:28 pm

    I find that "raised such-and-such to [interlocutor]" sounds very weird to my AmEng ear, but I suspect that when, as here, enough words and/or a complex enough structure occur in between the "raised" and the "to" the infelicity or oddity of the construction is not so striking. On the other hand, my AmEng ear is not definitive, because if you google phrases like "raised it to him" where the separation is as minimal as possible, you will find instances of it used in this sense, including at least some uses by speakers/writers who appear to be native AmEng speakers.

  12. Laura Morland said,

    July 13, 2020 @ 5:58 pm

    Another native speaker of AmEng chiming in to say that "he raised the issue to X" doesn't sound strange to my ears.

    Nevertheless, I had to read the sentence twice before I could parse the proper meaning. (And I did so with a smile on my face, because the "misplaced PP2" of my first reading was so amusing. A bidding war among the Cabinet Members indeed!)

  13. JPL said,

    July 14, 2020 @ 2:09 am

    How about the "pick a construction and go with it!" mashup:
    "The president's initial ideas were more of as a businessman, you know."
    Where is the point of indecision between "The president's initial ideas were more those of a businessman [than a president]" and "The president's initial ideas were offered more as a businessman [than a president]"? (Or perhaps, "The president's initial ideas were more of/(like) a businessman's ideas [than a president's]".)

    (And while we're at it, since she was at the table, can we get the response to that suggestion by the other people in the room, and Trump's response to that response?)

  14. PAC said,

    July 16, 2020 @ 2:19 am

    For what it's worth, as neither a BrEng or AmEng native speaker (CaEng from Quebec :) ), it sounds odd to hear, "he raised the issue to X." Much gentler to my ear is, "he raised the issue with X." It almost sounds like the former expression may have origins in "he brought the issue to X…"

  15. Philip Taylor said,

    July 16, 2020 @ 8:34 am

    Interestingly, in British English at least, we can use a synonym of "raise" in such a context : "he escalated the matter to his line-manager".

  16. Andrew Usher said,

    July 19, 2020 @ 8:52 am

    That use of 'escalate' would imply to me (and presumably originally did everywhere) that it had been previously raised at a lower level but went nowhere.

    I could never have gotten the wrong reading of this phrase – even without knowing anything about Trump, selling Puerto Rico to the cabinet secretary is completely excluded by sense. On the other hand wanting to be rid of it somehow and asking if anything could be done _does_ make sense, and was obviously what happened.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo.com

  17. Philip Taylor said,

    July 19, 2020 @ 9:33 am

    Andrew, yes. My assumption was that the matter had been raised with (the person referred to as 'he') who had then escalated it to his line-manager.

  18. ~flow said,

    July 20, 2020 @ 7:47 am

    > selling Puerto Rico to the cabinet secretary is completely excluded by sense

    One more assumption that has gone out of the window under the current administration.

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