Talk:fire off

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Deletion debate[edit]

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This doesn't much seem like a true phrasal verb. DCDuring TALK 12:24, 27 November 2009 (UTC)

Eh?? What makes you say that? In defence, there are two meanings in the entry, both idiomatic, but one of which is most definitely idiomatic. When I read the report, without delay I fired off a letter to the editor. -- ALGRIF talk 13:19, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
Well 1. To ask an unexpected question rapidly.
That's to fire off a question right? The definition is wrong. Mglovesfun (talk) 16:50, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
For questions and letters it's the same sense: to launch rapidly. Equinox 16:51, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
I was WT:BOLD and merged them, what do people think now? Mglovesfun (talk) 16:57, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
The new definition does not seem accurate. The scope of object ("task") wrong, I think. The object needs to be something that can be sent, hurled, exploded, or directed. A task like "interment" or "vacuuming the rug" would not be suitable. I could "fire off" a communication, a projectile, a projectile-hurling weapon or an explosive device, a package, a gift, etc. One could also "fire off" (remove by subjecting to fire or heat) some impurities from materials or an object.
On the general question of whether this is a phrasal verb: To me "off" just seems an adverb for which could be substituted other adverbs ("away", "out") or an adverbial expression, such as a prepositional phrase headed by "at", "to", "in", etc. DCDuring TALK 18:10, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
WT:CFI doesn't agree with you, (IMO) "An expression is “idiomatic” if its full meaning cannot be easily derived from the meaning of its separate components." I can't guess the meaning from fire + off. Mglovesfun (talk) 18:13, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
It does not mean that the meaning is readily derivable from the literal or the most common senses of the components or the one's any one reader or listener happens to know, or even the meanings that a certain dictionary-in-progress happens to have. Please see the meanings of "fire" and "off". If those definitions are unsatisfactory consider those at OneLook. DCDuring TALK 19:19, 27 November 2009 (UTC)
DCD, are you stating above that fire off = fire away = fire out? What evidence have you got to make that assertion? And I don't really see where you are going with the bit about prepositional phrases. We're talking about fire off which is not a prepositional phrase, it's a phrasal verb (much as you seem to dislike the concept). Also, I see you are heading back to the untenable position of look up fire and off,...,we should improve those entries. Are you also planning to delete look up after improving look and up? -- ALGRIF talk 10:25, 28 November 2009 (UTC)
I have nothing against phrasal verbs. CGEL does, though, dismissing them as not forming syntactic constituents, ie, verbs. I would prefer if we had replicable criteria for differentiating them from their nonphrasal look-alikes. Coming up with such criteria seems to be a challenge. We could simplify the task by positing that anything that merited an entry in any print dictionary of phrasal verbs merited an entry here. Or we could adopt the new approach which says that if someone thought it worth entering it probably is worth keeping. In either case, if it is of the form of a verb + adverb or verb + preposition, then we categorize it as a "phrasal verb". End of.
If we don't simplify in one of those ways: In the case of "look up" there is a clear distinction between the phrasal verb sense in which the meaning of "up" has little to do with the phrasal meaning and the non-idiomatic sense of "look" + "up", in which it does. I cannot substitute other adverbs or adverb phrases for "up" that preserve anything like the meaning of "look up". In the case of "fire off", "off" retains its meaning. The development of the figurative sense of "fire" (igniting powder => directing projectiles => directing non-projectiles) yields a meaning of "fire" that works with a wide range of adverbs and adverbial phrases. DCDuring TALK 11:43, 28 November 2009 (UTC)
How odd that Cambridge also edits the Cambridge Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs and includes fire off in it's pages. I think you are trying to take a point of debate within the CGEL and make it a point of order for Wikt. The arguments you produce from CGEL fly in the face of the facts. The general linguistical consensus is that phrasal verbs are a fact of the English language and grammar. The debate as to what constitutes a phrasal verb is not over, either. I don't see that trying to continue that debate here is of any use, as it is not the place for an in depth study of what constitutes a particle. One point though, phrasal verbs are identifiable in many ways, one way is by their being quite specific. In the case of fire off, it is specifically about forms of communication (and therefore I still disagree with the modified entry, and will be amending it shortly). The point at issue should be (imho) 1. whether the entry is useful 2. what users would find it useful (in this case language learners, for instance) 2. what are the benefits of removal of an entry that many people think is useful.-- ALGRIF talk 12:16, 28 November 2009 (UTC)
The CGEL point is instructive solely that it suggests that grammatical analysis is not likely to be the source of any widely accepted criteria.
We have been patiently awaiting some criteria for such entries. If there is not a narrow, bright line between phrasal verbs and their non-idiomatic look-alikes, then how is one to know what is worth including and what is misleading if it is included? Including SoP phrases implies that a user needs to commit something to memory. If the phrase is SoP, we are asking a user to not take the path of understanding the generalizable principles of word combination and instead resort to rote. As always we have no actual facts about user behavior here or in using dictionaries or other references to help resolve this.
If linguists do not agree that there is not a narrow, bright line, could we have two documented sets of criteria broadly accepted by linguists as indicating:
  1. what definitely was a phrasal verb and
  2. what definitely was not.
An area of indeterminacy would gray area would remain.
The other operational criteria I suggested remain available:
  1. presence in any reputable print or on-line idiom dictionary (list to be be agreed on) or
  2. the fact that someone felt an entry of suitable structure to be worth entering. I could live with any of the three or no resolution, always the most likely outcome. But I don't find the semantics of "fire off" to make a compelling case for idiomaticity. DCDuring TALK 13:47, 28 November 2009 (UTC)
  • fire and off. Which of these two words is going to indicate that you only use the collocation when talking about communication, and which tells us that it is a very rapid action? The moment you take them apart, some of the sense is lost. The sum is greater than the parts.Therefore it's an idiomatic phrasal verb. However, I am with you in that some agreement on the theme of assessing phrasal verbs is of pressing urgency, as you well know ;-) -- ALGRIF talk 16:02, 28 November 2009 (UTC)
  1. It is not limited to communication, though it is common in that use in the experience of people like us. I could fire off a gift or other package or any projectile or a form of directed energy.
  2. "Fire" in itself communicates rapidity of "projecting" since this branch of meaning of "fire" descends from a "firearms" sense for which projectile speed is inherent.
  3. I agree that "off" is a somewhat meaningful modifier whose removal slightly changes the sense. But it seems quite optional and replaceable without the core meaning in "fire" being lost. "Fire" does seem to require some kind of adverbial modifier. I could "fire a response at you" (as I am) or "fire a post to you" or "fire a zinger from my keyboard". The "off" is mostly a hint at the remoteness of the recipient of the projectile from the sender of the projectile. One doesn't "fire off" anything at someone with whom one is face to face.
As I said, I am perfectly happy to agree with any replicable, practical operational set of criteria for determining inclusion and/or exclusion of phrasal verbs, even ones that barely cover a majority of cases or occasionally lead to error. Grammaticality rules seem to lead to sharper criteria than semantics-based ones, but CGEL doesn't help. Statistical collocation rules don't seem to find much support, judging by the number of those willing to try them. But no one wants to delegate inclusion to lexicographers at other reference sources either, nor do we trust users.
BTW, so many of our basic-word entries are out of date that I don't rely on our definitions to determine idiomaticity. "Fire" is an example of an entry with senses mired in the world of Webster's 1913, a century ago. DCDuring TALK 18:33, 28 November 2009 (UTC)
DCDuring, that's just not what WT:CFI says. It says "An expression is “idiomatic” if its full meaning cannot be easily derived from the meaning of its separate components." Not only can't I do it easily, I can't do it at all. It doesn't matter what the individual parts actually mean, it just doesn't say that. Mglovesfun (talk) 12:49, 28 November 2009 (UTC)

Kept. Mglovesfun (talk) 13:49, 11 March 2010 (UTC)