Issue 209, page 4

Search Home FAQ Links Site map Book Store


New Ask Us Theory About

Sez You...

Do you enjoy reading Take Our Word For It?  Donate!  Just click the button.

It's been a long time since our last issue, and we received a lot of mail during that period.  We have selected a small sampling of what our readers have been saying for the last three years (crikey, has it really been that long?)!

From David R. [we are refraining from using last names due to numerous requests; if you write us and truly want us to use your last name, tell us]:

Here's a little link on puddin' tang:

That's a great link which puts to rest our suggestion that pudding tang and poon tang are related.  We will update our sexual slang page to reflect that.  Thank you, David!


From Steve W.:


I've also heard crank call used as a substitute for prank call. However, isn't it also possible for the term to have originated with the original method of calling over phone lines, termed "ring down," where a person cranks the phone to get an operator? Additionally, the rural phone system used cranks as recently as October 1983 where a person calling another rural subscriber would turn the crank in a specific pattern, like 1-2-1, where they would turn the crank once, pause, turn it again twice, pause and then once to identify the wanted person or house on the party line. I believe that mistakes made on either end would be dismissed by the receiving person as a "crank call." I have no evidence to support this, just a collection of facts and one logical conclusion. It would be interesting to find out if this is true.


This is indeed very interesting.  However, since all calls up to a certain time were made by turning a crank, it seems unlikely that the phone's crank was the reason that "prank" calls were called crank calls.  Instead, the explanation we gave in Issue 198, that people who were cranks made the calls, still seems the most likely.

From A.:

I have just discovered your website and find it wonderful!

About a month ago I attended a professional conference in my career subject matter.  In the particular workshop I attended my small group had to review some suggested teaching materials and offer suggestions, if we felt we needed to make any corrections.  On one of the forms I found the word irregardless used a couple of times.  I learned long, long ago that irregardless is not a word, but is a combination of irrespective and regardless.
When I brought this typo to the attention of the person facilitating the workshop I was blown off and later received a scathing email telling me that the form had been written by a Canadian teacher and that in Canada, the British Isles, and Australia the word irregardless is indeed an accepted word.  The fact that we are in America (not any of the above countries cited) should preclude the differences of spellings or grammar and usage of other English-Speaking countries.  (Example:  behaviour and several other similar words in England have that extra "u" at the end, which we do not have in the USA).
My question to you:  IS the word irregardless part of the accepted lexicon in Canada, the British Isles and Australia?  Have you ever run across such a statement before?  I have a feeling I am being misinformed by someone who did not wish to be criticized.  Please let me know your thoughts.

Hahahah, that is ridiculous!  Yes, you are being misinformed by someone who does not wish to be criticized!  The OED does have an entry for irregardless but labels it "in non-standard or humorous use" and,  on top of that, notes that it is "chiefly N. Amer."  The OED is, to us, the ultimate arbiter on UK English.  They have historically been a bit weak on English of other locales, especially American English, but they're getting better. 

We invite our readers who live in Australia, Canada, and the UK to comment.

Do you enjoy reading Take Our Word For It?  Donate!  Just click the button!
From Bruce W.

I'd like to suggest that cahoots or in cahoots stems, not from the French, but from the Spanish.  I think everyone agrees that cahoots seems to stem from the 19th century; and from the Southwest or the South.  I suggest that cahoots comes to us, probably from the Southwest, from the Spanish conjunto, meaning "to be a part of [a group]", or "to go along with".  For example, if I were to tell my hypothetical Texan that Pablo and I are "en conjuntos'", I think it's fairly obvious 'in ca-hoont-os' became shortened to 'in cahoots',

That is an interesting example.  There are English words that derive from Spanish in the Southwest U.S.  Buckaroo (deriving from vaquero) and lariat (la reata) are some examples.  However, while this sounds quite plausible, we can't say it is correct without some evidence, for example, early instances of cahoots spelled "conhoots" or "cohoons" or references to cahoots having been picked up from Spanish speakers, etc.

From Shonda:

I am a student at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and am presently haunted by the origin of the term crabapple.  The topic was brought up while I was having a conversation with a friend, and I became determined to find its origin.  I have spent a rather lengthy amount of time perusing the web and literature available, and your response to Glenn is the most informative excerpt that I have been able to find.  I absolutely take your word for it, but I was wondering if you might share with me where you found this information.  Most of the info I have found hasn't really explained to me why crab came to be.  Why not "shrimp" or "dog" or perhaps "crustacean" apple?  Your help with this matter would be greatly appreciated (I really am on the verge of losing sleep over this bit of trivia, ha ha).

We get most of our etymological information from the OED.  Then we do further research to expand the basic story or give alternative explanations.  If the word or phrase is not in the OED, we use other resources, such as the books listed in our bibliography We also use the Internet a great deal.  Occasionally we go back to primary resources when information from other sources is lacking, or if we believe we can antedate a word.  In the case of crab apple, the OED was indeed the main source of our information.


Or read the last issue to see what all of these people are talking about!

Comments, additions? Send to Melanie & Mike:
Copyright 1995-
2010 TIERE
Last Updated 02/20/10 04:29 PM