Ask LLOG: "Noticed"?

« previous post | next post »

From D.D.:

Interesting use of “noticed.” I guess it must be Congressional jargon.

[link] House Republicans had planned to hold a conference call to explain to the rank-and-file the prospective rules package deal that leadership wants to cut with McCarthy’s opponents. We laid out the outlines of this hoped-for agreement in the PM edition last night and the AM edition on Wednesday morning.

As of late last night, the call had not been noticed to the broader conference, so we’ll see whether it ultimately comes together.

This use of notice seems to be a more general legal thing — thus a Google search for "been noticed to the" turns up an estimated 115,000 links like these:

[link] The original text has previously been noticed to the public, with the exception of the following
[link] Notice of the November 17, 2022 meeting of the Board of Examiners for Land Surveyors […] has been noticed to the Land Surveyors website since December 2, 2021
[link] It was the testimony of Mr. Angell that the factors and methodology to be employed in order to determine the lobster trap allocation pursuant to Part 15.14.2 of the Marine Fisheries Regulations had been noticed to the public and had been the topic of comments at public hearings
[link] This regular meeting of the Gloucester City planning board has been noticed to the Gloucester City News and the Courier Post in accordance with the open public meetings act.

By some chance, I was previously familiar with this usage, though it struck D.D. as an odd and unexpected piece of jargon. But it's not common enough to have been noticed by the OED or by Wiktionary.

Merriam-Webster has sense 4 "to give a formal notice to" for notice as a transitive verb — but that seems to be wrong, or at least a different usage from the one in the citation pattern above, since it implies that the direct object should be the person or group to whom the "notice" is given, rather than the noticed information itself, with the recipient(s) as an indirect object.

Update: I wondered briefly why observe doesn't allow the same re-arrangement of arguments ("*We observed <SOMETHING> to <SOMEONE>", or "*<SOMETHING> was observed to <SOMEONE>"), until I realized that this use of notice is denominal, parallel to what happens with subpoena in the sense "To summon with a subpoena".



  1. Dick Margulis said,

    January 6, 2023 @ 9:01 am

    Bog standard for anyone involved in governance at any level. Laws and regulations at all levels of government require covered organizations to notice certain actions to one or another constituency in advance of taking those actions. A zoning board notices the public X days in advance that a hearing is scheduled on petition Y (attached). A condo board notices owners that the attached proposed budget will be voted on at the next meeting. A corporation notices its shareholders that organization Z is proposing a hostile takeover. A federal department notices a 30-day public comment period on revisions to regulation Q.

    I think the best gloss would be "gives notice," as in an employee giving two weeks' notice. Yes, it's jargon, in that if you're not involved in any sort of regulated governance, it doesn't come up. But it's certainly common in that context.

  2. David W said,

    January 6, 2023 @ 9:39 am

    Probably related:

    "In English, we do not notify the person of the thing, but notify the thing to the person."

    (John Witherspoon, 1781, quoted in Mencken's "American Language", 4th ed., page 6)

    On the next page:

    "Benjamin Franklin, on his return to the United States in 1785, after nine years in France, was impressed so unpleasantly by to advocate, to notice, to progress, and to oppose that on December 26, 1789, he wrote to Noah Webster to ask for help in putting them down…"

  3. Robert Coren said,

    January 6, 2023 @ 10:56 am

    David W: In modern speech, at least in my experience, Witherspoon's assertion seems to be exactly backwards.

  4. David L said,

    January 6, 2023 @ 11:23 am

    @Dick Margulis: I spent quite a bit of time working in federal govt-adjacent areas, and was not familiar with that usage. But I was not involved at all in governmental business of that type.

    However, I wonder what's wrong with "notifies" instead of "notices"? Something more than the general desire of lawyers to be a little abstruse?

  5. Dick Margulis said,

    January 6, 2023 @ 11:33 am

    @David L: Bureaucrats gonna bureaucrat. I describe. I don't excuse.

    But there is a subtle difference. I can notify a group that such-and-such is going to happen, but it takes fewer words to say that I notice such-and-such.

    Example: "The board noticed the upcoming hearing" vs. "The board notified the public of the upcoming hearing."

    This is also related, I assume, to the classified advertising category "legal notices," which I think most people old enough to remember print newspapers will be familiar with.

  6. Breffni said,

    January 6, 2023 @ 12:12 pm

    NB: The pattern isn't always "notice to ". In the second Google cite of the OP the notice of the meeting is noticed [sic] to a website; and in the fourth one, the meeting has been noticed to two newspapers in accordance with a particular law – so as a legal public notice, not as a press release, for instance. In those cases the indirect object is the medium where the notice gets posted, not the intended viewers of the notice.

    Re "notify", I'd say (1) it wouldn't work in cases like those two, and (2) it seems to be confined to cases where there's regulatory or at least procedural requirement of "giving notice". If you notify X of Y, that might be just a courtesy; if you notice Y to X, I imagine that means "I took the procedurally required step of notifying X of Y". Admittedly I'm basing this only on the evidence in this post, never having encountered the usage before.

  7. Breffni said,

    January 6, 2023 @ 12:17 pm

    First sentence should read: The pattern isn't always "notice <something> to <someone>."

  8. Breffni said,

    January 6, 2023 @ 12:32 pm

    I wonder if a further difference between "notify" and "notice" is that "notify" entails that the party notified now actually knows about the meeting or whatever, whereas if you "notice" a meeting to the Skibbereen Eagle or the noticeboard down near the fire exit it's possible (and maybe secretly hoped) that nobody who ought to know about it ever will. You'll have "noticed the meeting" per requirements but notified possibly nobody at all. (Cf this.)

  9. Chester Draws said,

    January 6, 2023 @ 3:06 pm

    Indeed Breffini.

    To notice something is to go through the official process.

    To notify is to actually tell them, in person.

    Quite different things. As any Vogon would know.

  10. MarkB said,

    January 6, 2023 @ 10:53 pm

    If I understand correctly: to notice is to make an official announcement; to notify is to inform. i might notify the town that my street has a pothole, but they would notice residents that they were going to be repaving streets next week. Maybe.

  11. /df said,

    January 7, 2023 @ 7:02 am

    Noun me no verbs …

  12. GeorgeH said,

    January 7, 2023 @ 9:42 am

    Agree that, unlike notify, notice connotes fulfillment of a legal requirement. The direct objects also differ. Notify connotes a specific set of recipients. Notice means (essentially) to notify the general public–to advertise something to the whole world.

  13. Philip Anderson said,

    January 7, 2023 @ 10:20 am

    In the UK, local or national governments would publish or issue a notice, while an individual or unofficial body might place a notice in a newspaper. We also give notice of a marriage, or civil partnership, as well of resignation.

  14. Michael Watts said,

    January 8, 2023 @ 4:11 am

    I wondered briefly why observe doesn't allow the same re-arrangement of arguments ("*We observed <SOMETHING> to <SOMEONE>"

    I'm confused — this is allowed, though I would understand "observe" to be a verb of quotation in this usage. You can observe <something> to <someone> for the same reason that you can say <something> to <someone>.

  15. TIC Redux said,

    January 8, 2023 @ 10:48 am

    Not really pertinent, but this r'minds me a bit of being surprised ( but neither impressed nor enthused) several years ago at work when a new (to me) use of "socialize(d)" briefly b'came all the rage… For awhile, everyone seemed to be tripping over each other to say/type things along the lines of, "this idea hasn't yet been socialized beyond the core group" and "the concept needs to socialized to a larger audience" and the like…

  16. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 9, 2023 @ 4:56 pm

    @Michael Watts: Can you give a real-life example? The construction "We observed to that " sounds idiomatic and unexceptional to me, but that's not exactly the same thing — I mean, it would be synonymous semantically (holding the values of SOMEONE and SOMETHING constant), but it's not particularly uncommon that for whatever somewhat historically-contingent reasons you can use one syntactic construction to express something but not a different syntactic construction, even though you could use both constructions in free variation to express essentially the same thought if the VERB you were using was different.

  17. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 9, 2023 @ 4:59 pm

    Something went awry in my prior comment when I mouse-clicked to submit it, maybe because the site interpreted my angle brackets non-literally as instructions. Let me omit them. The construction that sounds natural to my ear is "We observed to SOMEONE that SOMETHING."

  18. Michael Watts said,

    January 10, 2023 @ 5:58 pm

    Pulling some examples from COCA:

    Most district employees, including paramedics, said Brunner, earn an hourly wage in the neighborhood of $20. " Our salary base for paramedics is in the middle of the road, " he observed

    Obama, observed Richard Epstein of the time he met him at U of Chi for his stint at " teaching " Constitutional law, plays " intellectual poker " to avoid disclosing what he thinks.

    " Victory has a thousand fathers, and defeat is an orphan, " as John F. Kennedy observed

    " Some great cars, " he observed.

    None of those feature a to- phrase marking the addressee, but all of them are direct quotative uses of "observe". You can add the to-marked addressee if you want to.

  19. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 10, 2023 @ 9:00 pm

    @Michael Watts: Not to be gratuitously disagreeable, but none of your instances actually ARE supplemented with a "to-marked addressee," so I remain unconvinced that it would be idiomatic AmEng to append a "to-marked addressee" to them. I could be wrong, of course. (Also, the example sentence involving Obama and Richard Epstein is somehow weird enough in a way I can't quite pin down to kind of give me a headache. Maybe it was written by someone with a political agenda exemplified by the scare quotes?" (I don't necessarily think it a substantively unfair critique of Obama, just that it's written in a polemical style that is kind of clumsy and overwrought.)

  20. Michael Watts said,

    January 10, 2023 @ 9:29 pm

    I had to read more than 200 examples of "observed" being used in more common senses to find those four. That's why none of them have an addressee marked.

    But here, cited to "MAG: Magazine Antiques":

    Chase observed to Pach, One reason be Velazquez seems to near to us is that be, like ourselves, journeyed to a country where great art of the past was to be seen, and studied and copied there.

    I would guess that the bolded "be" is an OCR error for "he"; I have more difficulty explaining "one reason be [why?] Velasquez seems to [so?] near to us".

    Here's one in perfect English:

    According to one jaundiced account of his conduct at a dinner in December, Gunn observed to Hamilton, " with that plain freedom he is known to use, 'I wish, Sir, you would advise your friend Rufus King, to observe some kind of consistency in his votes. There has been scarcely a question before the Senate on which he has not voted both ways. On the representation bill, for instance, he first voted for the proposition of the Representatives, and ultimately voted against it.'

    'Why,' said Colonel Hamilton, ' I'll tell you as to that, Colonel Gunn, that it never was intended that bill should pass.' "

    From "FIC: Analog Science Fiction & Fact", a clean and pure example:

    " You're inflating the lift zeppelin, " I observed to Gurk.

    I don't really understand why you think this should be impossible; observe is, in this usage, completely interchangeable with say.

  21. Michael Watts said,

    January 10, 2023 @ 9:33 pm

    (The sentence about Epstein's opinion of Obama is, as far as I can tell, a blog comment. Those occur in pretty much every possible style.)

  22. Michael Watts said,

    January 10, 2023 @ 9:41 pm

    To make my confusion over your confusion more explicit:

    Can you provide any examples of a verb of speaking in which the party or parties being addressed cannot be supplied as an object of to? [And, on my assumption that this can't be done — why would "observe" be different than any other verb describing speaking?]

  23. Taylor, Philip said,

    January 11, 2023 @ 4:06 am

    For me, there is no problem with "observing to SOMEONE", as in "It's unusually cold for this time of year, as I observed to my wife only yesterday", but I do have trouble interpolating a SOMETHING. If I try to re-cast the preceding with a SOMETHING, it would end up as "I observed that it was unusually cold for this time of year to my wife only yesterday", which doesn't feel natural to me.

  24. J.W. Brewer said,

    January 12, 2023 @ 3:41 pm

    @Michael Watts: Philip Taylor has reasonably accurately explicated my position. To recast one of your found-in-the-wild examples: "I observed to Gurk that he was inflating the lift zeppelin" sounds fine (given sci-fi context …), but "I observed that Gurk was inflating the lift zeppelin to him" (or "I observed that Gurk was inflating the lift Zeppelin to Gurk himself") sounds weird. The "observed to Pach" and "observed to Hamilton" examples are parallel in structure to the first of those, not to the second, because the SOMETHING that was observed is not inserted in between the verb and the to-phrase.

    Perhaps one of the things that's going on is that "I observed SOMETHING" can easily be ambiguous as between "I saw SOMETHING" and "I stated SOMETHING." If you insert the hearer of a statement before the SOMETHING (e.g. "I observed to Jones that it had rained overnight" that cleanly signals that the "stated" sense is what is going on before you get to the SOMETHING that was stated. If you start with "I observed that it had rained overnight," by contrast, that may already have been parsed as the "saw" sense before the hearer of the statement is introduced, creating a somewhat jarring effect. But I don't even know that this sort of thing needs to make sense as opposed to being a random VERB-specific fact about which syntactic constructions it can and can't go with. By way of comparison whether an English VERB is transitive in the strict sense or requires a prepositional phrase as a complement cannot be uniformly/reliably predicted from the semantics of the situation and it's not that uncommon for two potential VERBS to be approximately equally apt for describing the situation except one can be used transitively and the other can't be.

  25. Michael Watts said,

    January 12, 2023 @ 7:55 pm

    I've been looking at this as a question of what syntactic arrangements are allowed by the verb. So by my analysis, it's possible to have a sentence of the form "We observed SOMETHING to SOMEONE", where:

    1. SOMETHING represents directly quoted speech;

    2. SOMETHING is the direct object of the verb; and

    3. SOMEONE is the addressee.

    Those questions are independent of the word order in the sentence; I've been reading you as saying that it's fine to say I observed to Gurk that he was inflating the zeppelin, but not I observed to Gurk, "You're inflating the zeppelin". The contrast is between "SOMETHING" (an object, here almost always quoted speech) and "that SOMETHING" (a subordinate clause).

    You now appear to be objecting instead to the idea that anything might come between the verb observe and the addressee (when the addressee is supplied).

    I agree that this is rare and in all the presented examples will come across as a mistake. I don't agree that that is due to syntactic considerations; I think that's because the quoted speech or subordinate clause is very heavy and therefore it's extremely awkward to place it between two other related constituents. (And, when observe takes a subordinate clause, placing the addressee after it risks the interpretation that the addressee's to-phrase lies within, not after, the subordinate clause.) Note that it's fine for the object of observe to come before the verb; that has to occur by some kind of fronting, not the specification of the verb.

    In other words, I see the awkwardness of I observed "You're inflating the lift zeppelin" to Gurk as being analogous to (and lesser than) the awkwardness of *I gave him it where in fact I gave it to him is required; the fact that the double-object form is forbidden is not a fact about give.

RSS feed for comments on this post