We are considering how the concoction by H. P. Grice, an Oxford philosopher,
applies, or fails to apply, to the recent Nobel prize for literature. Wikipedia
Bob Dylan (/ˈdɪlən/; born Robert Allen Zimmerman [...]) is an American
songwriter, singer, artist, and writer.
The first non-implicature is Cartesian.
i. Cogito; ergo sum.
As Rabelais reparteed, "sum what?" ("am what?"). Descartes, briefly (cfr.
Grice, 'be brief') responded,
ii. Sum Renatus Cartesius.
i.e. in English
iii. I am Descartes.
I say this would be the first non-implicature as we apply it to Dylan ("maybe,"
as McEvoy would add):
iv. I am Bob Dylan.
This compares, in parts, to Quine's example to
v. Giorgione was so-called because the size of his nose.
vi. Dr. Jeckyll = Mr. Hyde.
In this case, we would have
vii. Robert Allen Zimmerman = Bob Dylan
(by Leibniz's Law). Now, if Bob Dylan says, alla Descartes,
viii. I am Bob Dylan.
the implicature is not triggered, and so there is none. Bob Dylan however may
disagree, since he expanded on the "Bob" and the "Dylan" (To show off that he
is on a first-name basis with him, McEvoy notes:
ix. [I've] been on the phone to Bob [Dylan] since [this past] Thursday - hope
no one else's been tryin' to call him.
which contrasts with
x. I've been on the telephone with Dylan since last Thursday -- we've just hung
up -- I hope, etc.
As Dylan explains, he (Bob Dylan) was born Robert Allen Zimmerman.
If you must use the Hebrew name, as if to answer Rabelais, "am who?", the
answer would be:
xi. שבתאי זיסל בן אברהם
pronounced "Shabtai Zisl ben Avraham."
His paternal grandparents, Zigman and Anna Kirghiz Zimmerman, emigrated from
Odessa, in the Russian Empire (that part which is now called "Ukraine"), to the
United States following the anti-Semitic pogroms.
His maternal grandparents, Ben and Florence Stone, were Lithuanian Jews who had
already arrived in the United States.
In his autobiography, "Chronicles," Dylan notes that his paternal grandmother's
maiden name was Kirghiz and that HER (i.e. Anna Kirghiz's) family originated
from Kağızman district of Kars Province in northeastern Turkey.
Dylan's parents, Abram Zimmerman and Beatrice (nicknamed "Beatty") Stone, were
part of a small, close-knit community.
In 1959, Bob Dylan performed, as "Elston Gunnn," two dates with Bobby Vee,
playing piano and clapping. So
xii. The singer who formerly known as Elston Gunn.
(alla Prince) also applies, but it's not an implicature.
It was during his Dinkytown days in Minneapolis, that Zimmerman began
introducing himself as "Bob Dylan" -- which stuck. As J. L. Austin says ("How
to do things with words), 'introduce' is a performative:
xiii. I hereby introduce you to Bob Dylan.
xiv. Let me introduce myself: I'm Bob Dylan.
In his memoir, Dylan, and there may be an implicature here (or there) saiys
that he hit upon using this less common variant for "Dillon," a surname he had
considered adopting – when he unexpectedly saw some poems by Dylan Thomas.
Note that in "Dylan Thomas," Dylan is a first name, whereas in Bob Dylan, Dylan
is a surname. Incidentally, "Thomas," in "Dylan Thomas," is originally a first
As Dylan Thomas (who is Welsh) notes, "Dylan" is a Welsh male "given" name.
Etymologically, Dylan Thomas also notes, "Dylan" triggers to the Welsh educated
ear a few implicatures.
""Dylan" derives from two words "llanw," meaning "tide" or "flow" and the
"Much flow," as it were," Dylan Thomas notes.
"Dylan ail Don" was, Dylan Thomas, a very educated poet, notes, is a a
character in Welsh mythology.
"But I would say the "popularity" of Dylan as a given name in modern times
arises from its use by me".
(Dylan Thomas's second name is "Marlais" -- "which never attained this
'popularity,' alas," Dylan Thomas observes -- "perhaps because I hardly use
Interestingly, the use of "Dylan" (literally, "much flow") as a SURNAME stems
from the adoption of the name by Bob Dylan -- who, as he notes, once considered
adopting "Dillon," instead -- in which case possibly "Dillon" would have become
more popular than "Dylan," but this is not an implicature.
For the record, in Wales, "Dylan" was the most popular Welsh name given to baby
boys in 2010.
The first registered use of "Dylan" as a surname (other than in "Bob Dylan")
may invite an implicature -- or not. Possibly the first to adopt the practice
was Bob Dylan's son. Maybe.
Explaining his change of name in an interview, Bob Dylan remarks,
xv. You are born, you know, the wrong names, wrong parents. I mean, that
happens. You call yourself what you want to call yourself. This is the land of
Each part of that utterance, alla Grice, invites a nice implicature. Consider:
"You" are born, "you" know. Bob Dylan is using what an Oxonian don would have
as "one" ("One is born, one knows"). I.e. Dylan is speaking about his self, not
'you'. But 'you' means 'one'. Then he goes on
xv. Wrong names = wrong parents.
This is pretty complex. It didn't happen in Ancient Greece, where "Socrates was
called 'Socrates'" is used by Kripke, in "Naming and necessity" as an example
of philosophical paradox. It is otiose to argue that Socrates was born "wrong
Kripke, as most, would agree with the fourth part of Dylan's utterance,
xvi. You call yourself what you want to call yourself.
By adding the lines from the well known adage
xvii. O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Bob Dylan ALSO implicates. The lyrics "the land of the free," as used by Bob
Dylan, come from "Defence of Fort M'Henry", a poem by the lawyer Francis Scott
Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the
Royal Navy in Baltimore Harbor during the so-called "Battle of Baltimore". Key
was inspired by the large star-spangled banner, flying triumphantly above the
fort during the American victory. And Dylan therefore implicates something
along those lines.
But McEvoy adds further ("this is otiose," Geary says, ""to add further"").
"There's probably more implicature in Dylan than any other lyricist and
probably most poets."
Note his double use of 'probably' (as in Grice's "There's probably infinite
"but," McEvoy adds, "it arises more in ways like this." He quotes now straight
from Bob Dylan:
I miss you, Nettie Moore, and my happiness is o'er
winter's gone and the river's on the rise,
I loved you then and ever shall
but there's no one left here to tell
the world has gone black before my eyes.
As McEvoy quotes Dylan providing, yes, a Griceian exegesis in terms of
'conversational implicature,' McEvoy notes:
"It's the way it's a song to a lost lover, but actually the lost lover is an
old song, and the new song to the old song somehow grows into a requiem for a
whole culture and way of life - without him having to say any of that
But merely implicating. To use Grice's example -- his first example of
implicature in the William James lectures, not the Oxford previous lectures):
xix. A: How is C getting on in his new job at the bank?
B: He hasn't been to prison yet.
("I would say the implicature here, as opposed to Mooreian entailment, is that
C is potentially dishonest; but I would surely not like to ADD _that_ to the
explicatum or propositional content of the utterance made. It is for this type
of cases that I intend to introduce the term of art 'implicature' -- as Witters
never did -- whereas J. L. Austin ALMOST!")
McEvoy quotes Dylan gives further evidence for his alleged implicature
(actually Dylan's alleged implicature -- 'conversational implicature,' by
conceptual analysis, must be 'calculable'). The case is paradoxical, because
Dylan cannot EXPLICATE his implicature, while he INVITES it. It must be 'ex
"Just those little twists of archaic language ("o'er", "ever shall") and echoes
of older images, like the rising river that do it for you."
Or one, as an Oxford don would correct.
McEvoy goes on to expand on Dylan's Griceian exegesis of his own, er,
"And in with that, those bits where he's leaving it to you to decide exactly
what he's saying - is there left he can tell or no one left he hasn't told? And
should there be a comma or a full stop before "the world has gone black"? And
that, my friends, is poetry."
"These simple, astute comments reveal much of Dylan's kind of "implicatures"".
Let's revise Dylan's wordings:
"Those bits where [the utterer] is leaving it to [his addressee] EXACTLY
[although for H. P. Grice implicature is by conceptual analysis,
'indeterminate,' and cancellable] what the [utterer] is putting forward (as
opposed to IMPLICATING)" Dylan goes on with a rhetorical question:
"Is there left [the utterer] can tell or no one left he hasn't told ["or
explicated," as Grice would NOT put it]?"
"And should there be a comma?" etc. This reminds me of a recent review of an
editorial book I read in The New York Times:
"Gottlieb and Caro fight about semicolons, which Caro finds indispensable, and
Gottlieb uses only as a last resort. Often, their shouting matches erupted into
the hallways of Knopf’s offices, when one of them slammed the door and stormed
out. Gottlieb would always say, ‘Bob Caro has a terrible temper.’ "The truth
is, we both have a terrible temper," says Caro. "He’s willing to spend an
entire morning fighting over whether something should be a period or a
So that's Griceianism forya!
Thanks to McEvoy for the great Dylanian quotation!