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The passage below comes from a book, What The F.

The first use is found in sentences like Step the fuck down or Shut the hell up. We’ll call this the Get-the-hell-out-of-here construction, based on the earliest known attested use, from 1895, which was that, verbatim.

In this sentence I want to ask what the bold-faced pronouns, which and that refer to. It seems that which refers to the use and that to get the hell out of here. Am I right?

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    You have that right. – Yosef Baskin Mar 22 '17 at 14:59
  • Even after Kevin Mark's editing and despite Yosef Baskin's endorsement, I have no faint clue what you asking, nor on any level how which was that could relate to Shut the hell up or anything even loosely of that form. That no-one else has commented since 23 March seems to indicate no-one else has a clue, either. – Robbie Goodwin Jun 18 '17 at 19:21
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    I agree with Yosef's assertion that morti's summary is correct. This makes perfect sense to me. ...which (the use) was that (the example), verbatim. – Davo Sep 19 '17 at 18:29
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That question deserves a proper answer and I will go for it: Yes, you are right.

Without having the full context, I imagine the author meant that the original use of a 'get-the-hell-out-of-here' construction was applied to the expression Get-the-hell-out-of-here and to nothing else. While this recent (and elegantly named) book extends that class to other expressions.

In other words:

  • "which" refers to the use of the construction paradigm named Get-the-hell-out-of-here
  • "that" refers to the expression (Get the hell out of here) taken verbatim, i.e. as itself.

Since we all had to read the sentence a couple of times, it was perhaps not exactly clear in the first place (or else we are missing the context).

Did we answer the devil out of this question?

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"which" refers to the earliest known attested use

"that" refers to "Get the hell out of here"

So--you're right, as the commentators all note.

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