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How it goes

A correspondent wonders whether the constructions “he goes on to say” and “she went on to say” are appropriate in lengthy quotations. Wouldn’t “he continued” be preferable? Is “go” wrong here because they are speaking, not going? Isn’t this a form of “Valley speak” from the 1980s that we’re better off without?

Well, go is a protean verb, with senses that do not involve physical motion, so that need not be a problem.

“He goes on to say” and “she went on to say” are more conversational than “he continued,” which probably explains their appeal to reporters. They are a trifle wordy, and if writers overindulge in the construction, everything is going to start sounding like a codger sitting on the bench in front of the feed store.

But neither is an example of “Valley speak,” which would involve the substitution of the solitary “goes” for “says,” as in “Like, my boyfriend and me, we’re like at this bar? And I go, let’s get out of this dump, and he goes, I want to stay for another couple of rounds …”

You get the flavor. Don’t go there.


Tomorrow on the blog: The second thrilling installment of “GRAMMARNOIR 3: The wages of syntax,” will be posted sometime during the morning.



Posted by John McIntyre at 10:36 PM | | Comments (11)


I've always seen “he goes on to say” as an editorial statement... a not so subtle dig at the droning on of someone making points the writer neither believes or cares about.

If that is the usage... it's fine with me.
Perhaps others have taken to using it with straight reporting?

For my part, "said" suffices. Writers who have people, state, aver, declare, reveal, remark, divulge, murmur, disclose, opine, bark, chirp, giggle, snap, chortle, and gasp go on my "B" Christmas card list.

Respectfully Prof. McI., wasn't your example (above) of typical "Valley speak" from the '80s basically an embellished reiteration of my earlier point re/ the usage of the annoying "constructions", "he goes"/ "she goes", that I brought up in my reply to blogger "mike"? (Of course, you used "I go" instead, but essentially the usage is the same.)

Clearly, as you pointed out, neither "he goes on to say", or "she goes on to say" are idiomatic constructs of "Valley speak".(Dah!) I'm quite sure I didn't even go THERE in my earlier post, but for some reason you felt it was important to make that distinction.

Now I did learn something instructive from your ,"How it goes", article. Namely that "go" is a "protean" verb. Thanks much for that. I'm more into carbs, myself. (Groan)

Like, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's 2nd installment of your Grammarnoir 3 chronicles, and the fate of Ms. Wurd Smith.

(How you going to keep 'em down on the "content farm", after they've seen 'Parie'?)


Which reminds me of another irritant. "So and so continued on...." One merely continues, without the redundancy of "on."

Frank Zappa's 'valley Girl' springs to mind.

I seem to recall that back in my Nancy Drew days people expostulated and (heavens) ejaculated rather than "said" anything.

"He also said" or "he added" might be good alternatives.

Hmm . . . isn't it more properly "me and my boyfriend"?


Hmm......... and here for all these many years I thought those immensely popular Nancy Drew mysteries that my young female peers were immersed in, back in the day, were so darn innocent, and totally beyond reproach. Yikes, was i wrong.

My, my, my....... all that expostulating (not too gross--almost has a religious air about it), and ejaculating (well heavens-to-Betsy...... or Nancy HA!) on the printed page sounds awfully 'suggestive' to 'moi'. But, pray tell, what would 'social intercourse' be without them, I ask?

Frankly, I was naturally more of a Hardy Boys fan myself as a curious prepubescent kid back in the '50s, but I don't recall a lot of 'ejaculating' going on back then w/ the sleuthing brothers. (Well reading between the lines, I frankly did have my suspicions. HA!) Although, one has to admit, they did get into some pretty 'sticky situations', nonetheless. (Yuck! Oh, behave. HA!)

Dahlink, thanks for getting this fine Friday morning off to such a 'suggestive' start.

I AM off to the washroom to wash my mouth out w/ a fresh bar of Irish Spring. I've been a naught boy, for sure. I'll try my best to behave, going forward. Honest.

Dahlink, hope you have a great weekend.


Highly unscientific and all that, because (among other reasons) I've made no effort to weed out any false anythings, but:

Seems the peak of "He goes on to say" predates valley speak by a century and a half or so, and has been in steady decline since.

Oops. Dated the wrong plot, but the point remains.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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