From Hanna Szoke:
I still check it out from time to time: has Issue #196
appeared? But no. Will it ever appear? I love your site! I miss it! Please come
Thank you, Hanna, and all of those who wrote us over the past year, wondering where on
(or off!) earth we were and when a new issue might appear! We did not intend to take a year off, but that is what
happened, for various and sundry reasons. However, we are back and hope to maintain our twice-a-month schedule
for TOWFI. Stay tuned, and thanks so much for your patience. We would not be doing this if it were not
for you, our faithful readers.
Oh, and, by the way, TOWFI has been around for TEN YEARS this year!
I wish to express my appreciation for your very helpful and
You recently responded to a question and explained the origin of
the phrase pardon/excuse my French and said that it was first used in Harper's Magazine in
1895. I would like too add that apparently it was used publicly even earlier. In the collection of
essays Early Stages: Theatre in Ontario 1800-1914, Robertson Davies claims that the phrase was first used
publicly in the popular American stage play The Mighty Dollar by Benjamin E. Woolf in 1875.
According to Mr. Davies this same play introduced the North American public to the slang term PDQ and
popularized the little-known expression OK.
Thank you again for providing a wonderful site!
And thank you for providing this information! We (and the
OED) love hearing about usage that predates what we currently know about a word or phrase. We'll be
researching this one (can't just take Mr. Davies' word without doing a little research to back it up) and will
update you soon.
From Anna Kendall:
I stumbled on your site, and I was very happy to do so.
Therefore, perhaps it is mean of me to point out what I consider to be bad English: the tautological "exact
same" in the following sentence.
The noun wake comes from the exact same source as the
Perhaps you consider it to be acceptable given that it is so
commonly used. Perhaps if I researched the phrase I'd find it one of antiquity. Perhaps it grates on
my sensibilities just because my parents hated it so much.
One thing I know for sure, I pounced on it, priding myself on
finding it on your (otherwise) lovely site.
Yes, we have quite a few readers who pore over our site, looking for
similar problems, ready to pounce and bring them to our attention. It's only fair! And we do own up to
our mistakes (well, sometimes!). Exact same is indeed repetitious, at best. In this instance we
have let some of our dialectical speech creep into our written work. Other examples of such usage, which Mike
(Welsh) catches Melanie (Texan) employing, are big giant and little baby used as adjectives, as in
"Look at that big giant dog eating that little baby sausage". Mike laughs every time.
From Katija Koehler:
Suzanne Carpenter wrote "I understand "you all"
and "you guys", but I am still mystified by "youse". well, I didn't grow up with
the term, but I live outside of and work in Philadelphia now, so I think I can answer that one.
Basically, it's used the same way that y'all is used (or is supposed to be used). It's a plura of
"you", they just added an s to the end like a lot of other plurals. Personally, I don't like
the word. The same applies to "yuns" (a Pittsburghism). I assume it's supposed to be
"you ones", but it doesn't make as much sense to me as y'all or youse.
I grew up in Pittsburgh and while the term "yuns"
(according to Kristy) is not something I have said, I have heard it my whole life. In fact, "yuns"
should be "yinz". It is derived from the phrase "you ones" and is occasionally misused
when a Pittsburgher says "yinzes" (misused because "yinz" is already plural).
Sometimes the phrase is extended to "yinz guys". Also, the official language of Pittsburgh is
Pittsburghese, there is no such thing as a "Pittsburghism". You can find out more about
Pittsburghese at www.pittsburghese.com, a website devoted to this
wonderful (wink wink) dialect.
And if any of you saw the recent Robert McNeil special on PBS (in the
U.S.) called Do You Speak American?, you may recall the segment on Pittsburghese. Linguist Barbara
Johnstone, speaking with McNeil, correctly identifies yins (sometimes spelled yinz in Pittsburgh) as
a Scottish/ Irish word (she says "Scotch-Irish", which refers to the Scots who moved to Ireland after
1611) that is still heard in Scotland and Ireland today.
Check out the web site on the McNeil series at http://www.pbs.org/speak.
Type "yins" into the search engine at the site and you'll find more information on Pittsburghese.
was also a segment on the Texas dialect in that series , which reminded Melanie of her favorite quote from her 95-year old
grandmother. Speaking about how much fruit she picked and canned from her garden, Grandma said, "I got
five gallons o' tomaters offen two rows." Wonderful stuff!
From Matt Tearle:
Glad to see that a new issue is on the way. Just in case you're wanting material,
I thought I'd chime in on the question in the last issue about the origin of kangaroo. I don't
claim any expertise or that I do know the answer, but I do know a couple of facts that are likely to be
important. First, there is no single Aboriginal language (as you note in your answer); indeed, there are
several hundred! Second, there are several species of kangaroo, and several species of wallaby (which
would look suspiciously similar to an early European explorer). Therefore, it seems likely that when Cook
arrived and said "What's that weird-looking thing?", he received the answer "kangaroo" from
whichever tribe he asked, and in response to whatever he was pointing at. Twenty years later, Hunter and
Tench may have heard a totally different tribe describing some type of hopping marsupial that may or may not
have been the same beast as that of Cook. whatever the case, it is wrong to think that there is one
"correct" word for "members of the family Macropodidae" -- rather, it is most likely that
both kangaroo and patagaran are correct, in the same way that dog, chien, and hund
all describe a canine, depending on whether you speak English, French or German. We call the beasts
"kangaroos" because that was what Cook and banks first heard.
I suspect you know all this, but I didn't think it was clear from your answer (dare I
be so critical?). And the OED description certainly didn't clarify the matter.
Finally, the American Heritage dictionary claims that "recent linguistic fieldwork
... has confirmed the existence of a word gangurru in the northeast Aboriginal language of Guugu Yimidhirr,
referring to a species of kangaroo".
Linguistically, however, the apparent disappearance of an Aboriginal word
corresponding to kangaroo was disturbing, because it meant that kangaroo's origins could not be
researched. It was natural to suggest other explanations for kangaroo, when, even as recently as a few
years ago, its Aboriginal predecessor had not been found, despite full knowledge of the existence of many different
Aboriginal languages spoken in Australia.
That being said, evidence of a word in Guugu Yumidhirr that seems to
correspond to kangaroo is exciting to hear!
From Peter van der Krogt:
Thanks, Peter, what a great site that includes the origins of the
names of each of the elements! We'll add it to our Links page.
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read the last issue to see what all
of these people are talking about!