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  Issue 151, page 4

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New Ask Us Theory About
Sez You...

From Drummerbob:

This argument began when I was a student at a large Southern University, taking grammar from an erudite professor of non-Southern heritage, who insisted that I was merely being colloquially redundant.

When I say she might could go I do NOT mean she could go (she is able to go), she might go (she may choose to go) but, instead, I am using the combination of might could to mean something entirely different: she may be able to go. 

I will add that this construction does not appear with any frequency in my speech.

It doesn't appear "with any frequency" in Melanie's speech, either, but when it does Mike goes into giggles.  And remember, Melanie is from Texas, considered a southern state.

We do agree with your explanation, though.  And we think the phrase has an elegant conciseness, too.  Your professor uses two more words to say she may be able to than you do saying she might could.

 From Carolyn Diamond:

In issue 149, page 4, Qaz said: 

P.S. I am interested in the extent to which the net is influencing usage. I have noticed a tendency on the net to shorten some words and end them in -y. Thus, probably and address have morphed into prolly and addy respectively. Do you find such derivations a beautiful display of language in action, or, blasphemous and to be shot on sight?

Just as an aside, it's a common occurrence in Australia to shorten words in this way, and has been for years. Hence a lipstick is a "lippy", to make a u-turn is "to chuck a u-ey", politician becomes "polly", a spectacular mark - an expression from Australian (and thus Aussie) Rules football where a player leaps high into the air to catch the ball - is a "speccy".

The Brits are known to do this, too.  An umbrella is a brolly, for example, and an English friend of ours refers to the book store called Barnes and Noble as "Barney's and Nobby's".  We suspect the popularity of this "shorten and add -y" phenomenon stems from Britain/Australia and is catching on in the US.

From Selwyn Tupou:

I remember watching Saving Private Ryan and thinking that the word the soldiers were asking the translation of was a mispronunciation of the German word furchtbar meaning "terrible" or "dreadful". Could that be any relation to fubar? Maybe colloquial German teenage lingo?? Anyway, just wondering, can't hurt to ask, but hey love the website, check in every week to read the latest, keep it up!

Fubar is pretty well documented as an acronym, but your suggestion is nonetheless interesting.  Thanks for the kind words!

From Philip Salansky:

As always -- I love your site.

This suggestion is in regards to a possible connection between nasal mucus, boogers, and devils (Issue 149, Words to the Wise). I had been told that the practice of saying "Bless you" when someone sneezes stems from the Medieval belief that one expels demons with the sneeze. If true, could there be a connection between the nose bogies and the sneeze bogies? Could you also comment on this origin of blessing a sneezer?

From Carolyn Diamond:

I can't contribute anything to the origins of the word booger/bogy, but in terms of its connection to the devil, my thought was that it's related to the concept of blessing someone when they sneeze; from what I recall, it was thought that when someone sneezed, they created a kind of portal through which demons or bad spirits could enter the body, and hence being blessed immediately acted to repel evil. As nasal mucus is often expelled through a sneeze, perhaps it was considered to be a conduit for evil to enter the body, or to signify the presence of the devil within a person.

Anyway, there's my five cents' worth (two cents no longer being legal tender in Australia ;-)

PS As a recent subscriber, I'd just like to throw a bouquet to you for a fascinating and illuminating web site..thank you!

Yes, you both bring up an interesting point, in that some cultures did believe that sneezing was an attempt to expel an evil spirit.  This belief probably arose by virtue of the fact that sneezing often heralded illness.  However, the custom of saying "God bless you" after a sneeze is not connected directly to this belief.  Instead, it was begun by Pope Gregory (of Gregorian calendar fame) in the 6th century during a particularly virulent outbreak of plague, of which one symptom was copious sneezing.  Anyhow, back to evil spirits - this may indeed be the source of the term "booger" or "bogey" being used to describe coagulated nasal mucus.  Now, is everyone ready for dinner? (And thanks for your words of praise, Philip and Carolyn!)

From Andrew Charles:

Perhaps a further explanation for dashboard is needed for those unfamiliar with the earlier development of the automobile. Early cars were (naturally) often little more than motorized carriages, with the engine beneath or behind the passengers. Since the driver sat immediately behind the dashboard at the very front of the vehicle (as in the first mass-produced car, the famous "curved dash" Oldsmobile), that became the logical place to mount any instruments as they were introduced. Panhard placed the engine in front of the dashboard, and as vehicle controls settled in their current forms and positions the instrument panel became the only visible remnant of the original dash.

Thanks, Andrew.

From Jenny:

I love the Curmudgeons' Corner, and the Curmudgeons themselves; they are the only people who get as annoyed as I do about tiresome grammar errors that are repeated over and over again. If I complain to the perpetrators (or anyone within earshot), I am (rightly, perhaps) accused of being a pedant. Therefore, your website is a "safe space" for me!

However, this week, Barb was annoyed with the use of "to coin a phrase" when the speaker was actually repeating some tired old cliché. Barb, I think people are just being facetious, poking fun at their unimaginative use of the cliché Come on, even we pedants can have a sense of humor!

Certainly some people may be using the term facetiously, but others, it is clear from context, are using it as Barb described.  Thanks for the kind words, Jenny!

From Tom Messenger:

In your article on 

"The Indo-European root *skep- is the basis of many words with meanings related to cutting, hacking and scraping."

There was no mention of the skep that old time bee keepers know of. Skep used to be the word for bee hive. Think of the old style cones or domes often still seen on labels for honey. 

Any idea how this fits in with the rest of the article?

They're not related.  This skep comes from Old Norse skeppa "basket, bushel".  It dates from 1494 with the meaning "a  beehive", and from 1100 with the meaning "a specific amount of grain, charcoal, etc., being the amount contained in a basket or other container of a certain size".


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