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Go + noun? Idiom or bad grammar?

Go + noun? Is it an idiom or bad grammar?

There’s an old Finnish road movie parody about a Soviet accordion band (played by a Finnish group) that goes to the USA. The title of the movie is “Leningrad Cowboys Go America”.

In 1995, a yearly art happening was born in Helsinki, Finland, where small art exhibitions are put up in pubs and restaurants. The happening is called “Art Goes Kapakka” (‘kapakka’ = pub).

With Google you get about 8 000 results with search term “goes America”, and 25 000 with “go America”. In some of them America is the subject of the sentence, but in some of them it is used in the same way as in the Finnish slogans. What strikes me in the latter case is that so many of the net sites are Finnish or German.

Now is this structure just bad grammar from Finnish slogan-makers who didn’t do their homework at school, or is it an idiom used also in the Anglo-Saxon world? I know the expression ‘go crazy’. Can a noun be also used?

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Anyone? Speedwell? We have a heated discussion about "go America" here, and I promised to try to get some anglo-saxon comments on it.

So: is "Leningrad Cowboys Go America" just bad grammar (perhaps mocking bad English spoken by our (then) Soviet neighbours), preposition 'to' left out, and it should be "Leningrad Cowboys Go to America"?

Or is it an idiom, meaning "Leningrad Cowboys go American Style"?

And can it be used in other connections, as in "Art Goes Kapakka" (=art goes pub)?

Perenna November 8, 2004, 6:07pm

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Heh. I couldn't see anything wrong with it, so I thought I'd wait to see what others said before I commented. The construction is not used in formal contexts, but it is fairly common in colloquial, "everyday" speech.

After checking a dictionary (American Heritage 2000), I notice that the construction is grammatically correct. Here's the part of the definition that applies:

10a. To continue to be in a certain condition or continue an activity: "go barefoot."
b. To come to be in a certain condition: "go mad;" "hair that had gone gray."

Notice that all the examples in the definition follow the form "go [adjective]" (as does "go kapakka"), but your first example looks like "go [noun]." This is actually OK. Most nouns may easily become adjectives, when they are used to modify other nouns (I do not know the formal grammar term for this). Examples of this are "Windsor knot," "Greenwich time," and "computer software." (We've talked about this in another thread a few weeks ago.)

speedwell2 November 9, 2004, 3:23am

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Thanks, Speedwell. I am astonished at my own blindness as to this expression. Somehow I took it to mean "go TO America" with the 'to' just left out. "Art Goes Kapakka" I took to mean "Art Goes TO Kapakka" with the 'to' just left out, because that's what happened in that happening: pieces of art were taken to pubs.

My blindness is even more foolish when I think that the adjectival (?) use of nouns is a perfectly familiar phenomenon to me. It was lucky enough that I didn't bet on it.

Perenna November 9, 2004, 4:30am

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I like Kaurismäki, no matter how he titles his films! :-)
I know that he meant "... go America" in the same way one may say "... go crazy." But just wonder is the title just the same in Finnish? Or had it been released with a Finish title?

goossun November 11, 2004, 8:27am

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Goossun, the title is the same in Finland - not in Finnish, of course. :)

Leningrad Cowboys is a Finnish film, and the title has been given deliberately. As to American and British films, Finland has adopted the habit of keeping the English titles of movies. So "The Day After Tomorrow" sounds like that in Finland too. It is strange, but has an explanation: the title must not change the movie poster. The title must fit into the same space, no matter what language it is in. This sounds rather a bad explanation because surely you could downsize the font, and ALL Finnish words are not that long.

The real reason may be that the translated title must be accepted by the film company, and often there's such a hurry in releasing the film in Finland that there's no time to get the film company's approval. (As if they had any idea what the Finnish title stands for, even if they were asked.)

Perenna November 11, 2004, 5:32pm

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Perenna, I guess that has to do with a Scandinavian symptom that came to exist during 60's and 70's. Although Finland may not be consider "Scandinavian", however it was and is fashionable to upload the native language with English words or phrases. Yet not all the Kaurismäki's films have English title,some are in finish. It is not for poster either because they have to print it differently anyway in different countries. It is even sometime awkward. For instance I would say "I hierd a hitman" rather than a "contract killer."

goossun November 12, 2004, 10:37am

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Goossun, the impact of English is still enormous, it has by no means diminished. In Finland we like to count ourselves in with the Scandinavians, in spite of the fact that, strictly taken, Scandinavia doesn't geologically include Finland.

The fact that the posters must be printed anew doesn't change the fact that the name must fit into the original poster.

Perenna November 12, 2004, 5:22pm

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I don't think phrases like "go America" are so commonly used over here in the US, but I assume most people would understand them. I think it'd be more common to say something like "Leningrad Cowboys do America." But again, I don't think the "go" construction is so weird. (And I'm loathe to criticize Kaurismäki anyway ;)

Johanna November 14, 2004, 6:11am

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Hmmm, I'm a bit uncertain now after Johanna's post, but I seem to remember phrases along the lines of

"Beatles go disco"


"Hemingway goes Shakespeare"

(excuse the silly examples) rather frequently to denote a change in style?
Also, the usage of "do" feels slightly different to me:

"Beatles do disco" = Beatles play disco-type music (by other artists, or disco'ed versions of their old songs) for a certain occasion

"Beatles go disco" = Beatles release new album which stylistically is closer to disco than what they did before


MM December 4, 2004, 1:06am

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I would have expected "go American", if the persons in question were becoming American in some way, and "do America" if the persons were performing some tasks in America. But "Beatles go disco" sounds fine to me and in fact was going to be my example as well. On the other hand, "disconian" is a pretty silly-sounding word so this may simply be a case in which the adjectival form of a noun happens to be the same as the noun itself.

joachim December 15, 2004, 4:28am

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Certainly "go <noun>" is valid, but doesn't mean exactly the same thing as "go to <noun (probably a place)>". I'm not at all familiar with the movie, but is it possible that the title is intentionally bad grammar that means "Leningrad Cowboys go to America", but is conjuring an image of non-Americans (from Leningrad) who, as non-natives, can't speak English very well? A sort of politically incorrect jab at foreigners?

porsche May 1, 2007, 10:43am

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Common (London, UK) talk now is to say e.g. I'm going McDonald's to mean I'm going TO McDonald's.
Not a good language progression to lose the preposition, methinks, but this is the way youngsters around here express themselves.

Peter Wilkins June 14, 2011, 11:34pm

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Yes     No