<a> new dance craze (the?)

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Phoebe1200

Senior Member
Russian-Russia
Hunter Street, TV series
Context: It's biology class and the students are studying the Heimlich maneuver. The teacher notices that Max is playing on his phone and not paying attention. So she calls him up to the front of the class to demonstrate the Heimlich maneuver using the skeleton. But since Max doesn't really know how to do the Heimlich maneuver he just starts fooling around, like introducing himself to the skeleton and then dancing with it.

Max
: Let me take you all back to the twentieth century when all the kids were doing a new dance craze called the Heimlich maneuver. Like this. (starts dancing with the skeleton)


Why did he use "a"?

Is it because he meant to say that it was "one of the many new dance crazes at the time" or simply because he was introducing information?
 
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    There isn't much - can you conceive of how it would affect the sense of the conversation in that context? We are having difficulty imagining it making a difference there. The logic and context make it very unlikely that he was trying to communicate something about the number of dance crazes there were in the 20th century:eek: :)
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish/AE
    Hunter Street, TV series
    Context: It's biology class and the students are studying the Heimlich maneuver. The teacher notices that Max is playing on his phone and not paying attention. So she calls him up to the front of the class to demonstrate the Heimlich maneuver using the skeleton. But since Max doesn't really know how to do the Heimlich maneuver he just starts fooling around, like introducing himself to the skeleton and then dancing with it.

    Max
    : Let me take you all back to the twentieth century when all the kids were doing a new dance craze called the Heimlich maneuver. Like this. (starts dancing with the skeleton)


    Why did he use "a"?

    Is it because he meant to say that it was "one of the many new dance crazes at the time" or simply because he was introducing information?
    There's syntax, and then there's semantics. Syntax demands a determiner in order to have a full noun phrase. Obviously, we couldn't say "all the kids were doing new dance craze called the ..." So, there's a gap that needs to be filled:
    all the kids were doing ___ new dance craze called the Heimlich maneuver.

    If there is a difference, it would be rather small and largely irrelevant in the dialogue, because "new dance craze" is defined as "the Heimlich maneuver" (we know which new dance craze is meant). Still, what I see is this:

    a new dance craze called the Heimlich maneuver ("one" of several "new dance crazes")
    the new dance craze called the Heimlich maneuver ("the" is self-referential, and only refers to the "new dance craze" being talked about)
    some new dance called the Heimlich maneuver ("some" refers to the existence of a "new dance craze")
    this/that new dance called the Heimlich maneuver ("this" and "that" point to such particular "dance craze;" this points to the dance we are doing now; that points to the dance kids were doing in the 20th century. Either way, it's the same Heimlich maneuver dance).

    Mind you, there isn't a sharp boundary between these semantic meanings. In fact, the meanings tend to overlap; after all, a, the, some, this, and that belong to the same lexical category ("determiners"). And with all of them, you are introducing new information; presumably, the kids only knew about this new dance when Max told them about it.

    As far as syntax is concerned, it doesn't matter which determiner is used, as long as one is used.
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Let me take you all back to the twentieth century when all the kids were doing a new dance craze called the Heimlich maneuver. Like this. (starts dancing with the skeleton)
    I suggest that "a" is used because the dance craze was and is not well known. If it was the twist I think it would be the new dance craze.
    Mind you, there isn't a sharp boundary between these semantic meanings. In fact, the meanings tend to overlap; after all, a, the, some, this, and that belong to the same lexical category ("determiners"). And with all of them, you are introducing new information; presumably, the kids only knew about this new dance when Max told them about it.
    I hope I understand you and am pretty sure I agree with this. :)
     

    Barque

    Banned
    Tamil
    Sorry if I'm stating the obvious but you do realise that the Heimlich manouevre isn't a dance, leave alone a craze. Max has no idea what it is, just wants to fool around, and decides to pretend it's a dance, that is, some dance or the other, and that it happened to be a craze at some point.

    Let me take you back to the 20th century when all the kids were doing a new dance craze = a dance that was popular at a certain time in the 20th century.

    It's much the same principle that's been discussed in other threads of yours, for instance:
    <a> run (the?)
    giving <a> speech (giving the speech?)
     

    RedwoodGrove

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Sorry if I'm stating the obvious but you do realise that the Heimlich manouevre isn't a dance, leave alone a craze. Max has no idea what it is, just wants to fool around, and decides to pretend it's a dance, that is, some dance or the other, and that it happened to be a craze at some point.
    Good point.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    If he'd said "the", it would sort of immerse the listener into the time the speaker is talking about. Like, several years ago, one would've asked another:
    -- Do you know the new dance craze?
    -- No, what is it?
    -- Gangnam Style, look: [starts dancing]
     

    Phoebe1200

    Senior Member
    Russian-Russia
    If he'd said "the", it would sort of immerse the listener into the time the speaker is talking about. Like, several years ago, one would've asked another:
    -- Do you know the new dance craze?
    -- No, what is it?
    -- Gangnam Style, look: [starts dancing]
    Thanks a lot.:)
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish/AE
    Sorry if I'm stating the obvious but you do realise that the Heimlich manouevre isn't a dance, leave alone a craze. Max has no idea what it is, just wants to fool around, and decides to pretend it's a dance, that is, some dance or the other, and that it happened to be a craze at some point.

    Let me take you back to the 20th century when all the kids were doing a new dance craze = a dance that was popular at a certain time in the 20th century.

    It's much the same principle that's been discussed in other threads of yours, for instance:
    <a> run (the?)
    giving <a> speech (giving the speech?)
    Yes, but linguistically, it doesn't really matter if the Heimlich maneuver is or isn't a dance. What matters, linguistically, is that Max is introducing this "new information" into the discourse (the Heimlich maneuver as a "crazed dance" in the 20th century), and he can do so with several determiners (a, the, some this, that). Of course, that doesn't prevent any other kid in the class from saying to Max, "What are you talking about? That's not a dance!"
     
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