Saturday, June 11, 2011

Being selling

A while ago - in fact, a few years ago - I saw this and wondered, 'Being selling? - hmm':

It occurred to me that this 'being' might be a typo for 'begins'. Still, I thought 'being selling' made sense to me (if not appropriate in the given context).

When I saw the headline "Touro College accused of being selling grades and degrees", I was more confident that this was an instance of nonfinite progressive BE. But then, when I follow the link to the original article, the interesting construction is nowhere to be found.

I don't know about you, but I happen to think that being doing something, as opposed to doing something, is a wonderful stretch of the English verbal system. Why don't people do this more often?

Over three decades ago, Halliday spoke of this as a gap to be filled (in 'On Being Teaching', which you can see cited here). My question is, is the gap being filled now? Or would I be accused of being filling the gap too forcefully?


Ran said...

In neither of your examples does the gap-filling seem necessary or useful to me.

In the first one, "Psystar being selling PCs", "being selling" is equivalent to "selling".

In the second one, "accused of being selling grades", I think there is a clear difference — "accused of selling grades" could be true even if there had been just a single instance of grade-selling, whereas "accused of being selling grades" makes clear that it's an ongoing thing — except that according to the linked article, it's not an ongoing thing. Worse yet, the linked article isn't actually about the accusations of grade-selling; those past accusations are treated as background, with the current article being about the president's salary. So the headline is completely infelicitous.

Brett said...

Interesting! I hadn't run into this idea before.

I mostly agree with Ran that Q's examples aren't the clearest. I went looking for some others and did find some in speech, but they all strike me as either speech errors or transcription errors. I can't come up with any myself.

Q Higuchi said...

Yes I know it is a gap - if it indeed is one - that has little use; hence the last sentence in my post.

I found someone tweeting thus:

*alternates being leaning against the wall and pacing in DMs, hoping @Blay_BDB has calmed @TehrrorBDB_DU enough to be able to see me*

You know, it is almost always like this - this person may not do that in proper writing; 'leaning' here may not have the sheer verbal quality that, say, 'jumping' would have; etc. Still, this phenomenon tickles some part of my brain.

I forgot to mention one thing. The English language appears to abhor the mere combination of ing-ing; there has been a whole lot of discussion on so-called 'doubl-ing', or even 'tripl-ing', since the 70s. You can glance at the classic paper on the issue by Ross here:

Like everything else, language is a dynamic, ongoing result of various factors. I don't even know what the exact status of the 'being selling' type construction might be. I simply hoped to tickle some part of your brain, that's all.