Oral contraction of "does"

Discussion in 'English Only' started by LV4-26, Oct 23, 2005.

  1. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Good evening people,

    I've sometimes heard (and indeed seen) "does" being contracted to "'s" as in
    What's it do ? How's it work ? What's it key on ? Where's it go ?
    for what does it do, how does it work, etc...)

    I was wondering whether this oral and colloquial (and incorrect) usage was restricted to interrogative pronouns as in the above examples (what, how, where, etc...) or whether this phenomenon also occured in any other syntactic environments.

    Are there any examples that come to your mind ?

    Thanks a lot
  2. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    No other examples other than when following those interrogative words springs to my mind, but I will continue to mull it over. By the way, I don't understand "what's it key on?" - what do you mean by that or is it some American phrase I don't know?
  3. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Thanks very much Tim.
    Yes I suppose it's AE. It goes with the first two questions. The sort of questions you'd ask about a new device or a new software. I guess it's close to "how does it work". I think "what does it key on" could be paraphrased as "what kind of criterion does it work on/does it take into account", "what is it based on" (for a program) "what is it sensitive to" or something like that (for an electronic device, a tracking device for instance).
  4. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    Thanks - I'm lucky I've got you French to explain this new-fangled American English business to me:D
  5. GenJen54

    GenJen54 Senior Member

    Downright Pleasant, USA
    USA - English
    Well, I thought I'd be able to help in the A'mur-'kin department, but I am apparently not well-versed in IT technical jargon. I've not heard "what's it key on?"

    Given that does in this sense can only be used in the interogative, I cannot think of any example when it would make sense to use it in the affirmative.

    Note, in the "plural," it can be used in the present and past tenses:

    What'd they do? What do they do? What did they do?
  6. Nick

    Nick Senior Member

    Western USA
    USA, English
    Don't be fooled: "What does it key on" is not even close to common American English. I've never heard it and I don't understand it.

    Back on topic: This doesn't happen with other words because "does" does not really follow other words. The only other words that can ever even come before "does" are third-person singular pronouns (eg: "it", "he", "she") or the things they replace (eg: "pillow", "Bob", "Susan"). In this case, we don't contract "does". We don't say "Susan's work hard" instead of "Susan does work hard". So to answer the question, no there aren't other times when this happens.
  7. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Not to my ear-- what'd or more properly wha'd means only "what did." If you wanna contract "what do," you hafta resort to the dreaded whatta.

    Wha'd he say, and whatta ya think about it?
  8. mjscott Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest, USA
    American English
    Never heard, "What's it key on?"
    --What's it key on?
  9. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Thanks all for your precisions on the issue that kept me wondering.

    Now, for the other issue.
    Obviously not, judging from all the answers we got. Thanks for making that clear. However.....
    ....I wouldn't want Tim to think I "taught" (?) him a word which doesn't exist (in this sense) .
    So I felt compelled to give you all a few genuine examples among numerous others. (I took the first google hits for each one of the two sample sentences)

    1. It keys on
    Here is the source for more context

    2. What does it key on ?

    (From movie Alien (1979). Walter Hill and David Giler/ by Dan O'Bannon)
  10. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    "To key on" is not that new or "technological" an expression.

    Have you ever heard an orchestra tune up? If you'll notice, it's always the first-desk oboe player who sounds a lonely A-natural, followed by high-register strings, flutes and clarinets-- then the trumpets chime in, sounding a little snide if it's a youthful group. I don't know what it is about trumpet players. Finally in come the lower-pitched instruments, just about all at once-- a cue for the pegged instruments to start scrawing away in fourths, fifths, arpeggios. The flutes join in with these, I've been told more to warm up the brass or silver than to tune the instrument-- all that takes is a twist or two of the mouthpiece.

    Anyway, when an orchestra tunes up, they always key on the oboe. Now why does that sentence work for me as an AE/BE hybrid, re singular and plural verbs for the same collective noun? When it "tunes up," an orchestra achieves singular-verb status-- but it's individual members who key in on the oboe to accomplish this. What a metaphor to stumble on, for this tug-of-war across the pond we're always having.

    I guess a lot of techno wonks ran with the musical crowd in highschool, especially in schools big enough to have a band and an orchestra. Well, I don't have to guess at that, it's been true for decades.
  11. bartonig Senior Member

    UK English
    In written standard British English What's it do is simply wrong. In the written language 's is the short form of both is and has. In the spoken language does does have strong and weak forms. Try saying How does it work? and then again How does it work? with emphasis on does (you'll need a British English speaker). But there aren't matching forms in the written language. There is only the full form. Does is does.
    Of course, we don't all speak standard British English and What's it do? is used a lot. My advice would be not to use it in, for example, an interview.
  12. mandarina_82

    mandarina_82 Banned

    Interesting i always like learning these kind of things.
    could you use "wha'd" for "what had..." ?
    i guess "hafta" = "have to" isn't it? ;)
  13. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    The first time I noticed the existence of this short form for "does" was in England when I heard this joke based on misunderstanding :

    - What's a piecost ? (or whatever the spelling of that is)
    - Two and six. (former British currency :))

    Of course I got it clear from the start that the second speaker understands "what does a pie cost" instead. But I've never been able to figure out what the first one meant by a piecost (or a piekost or a pykost or whatever). So I'm still wondering : what's a piecost ?
    However I did gather that this wasn't a very funny joke anyway :D.
  14. whatonearth Senior Member

    UK, English

    "What had..." can be contracted to "What'd"

    "Hafta" isn't a "proper" contraction (i.e. it isn't a real word) it is more a slang expression only used in spoken English or very informal written exchanges (i.e. MSN Messenger or something) but, yes, it does mean "(to) have to..."
  15. mandarina_82

    mandarina_82 Banned

    thank you! ;)
  16. whatonearth Senior Member

    UK, English
    I think the question is "What's a pie cost?" (i.e. how much does a pie cost?). To be honest, I've read that over a good few times and it doesn't make any sense to me at all...I really can't see what the joke is there...maybe it's got to do with the answer being in "old" currency...still isn't very funny though...:confused: :D
  17. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The point of the piecost joke is that there is no such thing as a piecost.

    So, A says to unsuspecting and gullible B:
    A: "Go and get me a piecost?"
    B: "What's a piecost?" <Meaning what is a piecost?>
    A: "About 85p." <...or whatever the current price of a pie might be - answering What does a pie cost.>
    A rolls about laughing.
  18. whatonearth Senior Member

    UK, English
    Ahhh...I see now...still not very funny though ;)
  19. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Obviously I'd missed this first little bit. Thanks panjandrum, you've just put an end to 35 years of perplexity :D
  20. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Snobby-looking gent has been hired to play at the saloon. He regards the old upright py-anno like he just hit a sour note and he's sniffing it out to see if maybe a mouse died in it. But he doesn't lift the hood (bonnet) and check the moving parts-- the looks of the thing are enough to put him off.

    He arches an eyebrow and sneers. "You said you had a grand piano."
    "Heeheeh....she's the grandestess one in these parts!"
    "I only play a Steinway."
    "Whut the hey-all's a Steinway?"
    Bartender chimes in. "Big one's about a a half pound I guess, without the beer."
  21. HistofEng Senior Member

    New York
    USA Eng, Haitian-Creole

    ...I myself never realized that we contract does like this (in speech)

    I've come to notice, that I do it all the time too.
  22. Txiri

    Txiri Senior Member

    USA English
    Ha ha , that was fun reading down that thread line.

    I just wanted to chime in, that it´s very common in AmEng to ask,
    "What´s he do for a living?"
    "What´s she gonna say about that?"
    "What´s it really like?"

    That also there was a character in a Newbery-prize winning novel for children by Madeleine L´Engle, uhhh .... (the title just flew out the window) named "Mrs. Whatsit". Oh the title is A Wrinkle in Time. (Thanks, google) Very nice novel, too, not a bad read for an adult, although the story is obviously meant for children

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