"They're more mask into"?

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There's been a lot of political reaction to what Donald Trump said in  Chris Wallace's 7/19/2020 interview. But I haven't seen any reactions to a curious linguistic innovation — or maybe it was a mistake? — that happens at about 10:52 of the interview:

hey Dr. Fauci said don't wear a mask
our surgeon general terrific guy said don't wear a mask
everybody was saying don't wear a mask all of a sudden everybody's got to wear a mask
and as you know masks cause problems too
with that being said
I'm a believer in masks I think masks are good
uh I leave it up to the governors
many of the governors are changing they're more
they like
the concept of masks
but some of them don't agree

Maybe this is an extension of the "X curious" construction? It's probably true to say  that many of the governors are "mask curious".

On the other hand, the pauses around mask make it plausible that the president painted himself into a linguistic corner that "into" helped him jump out of.

Or maybe "X into" is like "nurdles" — one more aspect of the English language that's somehow passed me by until now.

Anyhow, here's the segment with video and all:

[h/t Ben Zimmer]



  1. Jim said,

    July 20, 2020 @ 4:58 pm

    The audio clip doesn't seem to be playing right for me, but if I had to guess, maybe it's an accidental reversal of "into masks", with "into" in the sense of "interested in" – he said the second part before realizing the phrase couldn't be easily flipped around, and stumbled a bit on the recovery.

  2. D.O. said,

    July 20, 2020 @ 5:12 pm

    If I started "they're more mask…" and was lost for words, I would continue with "…friendly", but maybe this construction is not in Trump's vocabulary.

  3. Andrew Usher said,

    July 20, 2020 @ 8:44 pm

    A stumble, I would certainly say. It's not really news that the way Trump speaks makes him quite prone to these things (and not correcting them).

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo dot com

  4. Slade said,

    July 21, 2020 @ 3:59 pm

    It sounded intentional to me. He seemed to be using "into" as an adjective complement, and "mask" as its attributive noun. When it comes to masks, they are more into. They are more mask into.

  5. Andrew Usher said,

    July 21, 2020 @ 9:20 pm

    After listening again, I have to still agree with the first two commenters: the phrase was not a completely fluent choice. In this case it's clear what he meant by it, and not hard to understand why it might not be trivial to put into words.

  6. Jerry Friedman said,

    July 21, 2020 @ 10:41 pm

    I think a reasonable possibility is that he started to say "they're more mask-friendly", decided he didn't like that and stopped after "mask", started to follow "they're more" with "into masks", decided he didn't like that and stopped after "into", and finally went with wording he found acceptable. The result is odd, and his tone of voice is oddly firm for someone who's trying to find the right words, but maybe he didn't want to sound indecisive while being indecisive.

    Either that, or he's been listening to the kind of verse where you can put prepositions after noun objects. "Through pastures green he leadeth me/ The silent waters by."

  7. Peter said,

    July 22, 2020 @ 5:53 am

    My impression was similar to Slade's. To me it seems analogous to usages like these:

    * mask-averse
    * mask-skeptic
    * mask-phobic

    * mask-friendly
    * mask-loving
    * mask-curious
    * mask-into

    But I got the definite impression that it's an innovation, presumably arising from the president searching for a construction like mask-friendly and giving up after a second.

  8. Michael said,

    July 22, 2020 @ 2:23 pm

    Does not sound intentional to me, sounds like a slip. I have certainly never heard anyone else say it. Make America covfefe.

  9. Anna said,

    July 23, 2020 @ 4:35 am

    He also says "I think maskses are good"

  10. Maurice Waite said,

    July 25, 2020 @ 12:08 pm

    @Anna: Perhaps this was a variation on the doubled copula: "I thinks masks is are good"; we know Trump is very inventive with language. But, actually, that "masks" sounds normal to me; and both "masks"es in that line are virtually the same. They are more fully articulated than in "masks cause problems" above, where the second "s" is hardly sounded.

  11. Andrew Usher said,

    July 26, 2020 @ 7:36 pm

    And that is probably an assimilation with the following 'cause', because in ordinary speech I think it's more likely for the /k/ to weaken than the plural /s/. I actually can see how you could hear 'maskses', though there's hardly a full schwa there.

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