KUKU/TUTU.

In this story from yesterday’s NY Times on Obama’s upcoming trip to Hawaii to visit his sick grandmother, Liz Robbins writes: “Mr. Obama calls Ms. Dunham ‘Tutu,’ a local term for grandparent that he sometimes shortens to ‘Toot.’” Naturally, I turned to my Pocket Hawaiian Dictionary, but under T it simply said “All loan words from English sometimes spelled with initial t- are entered under k-.” Well, this didn’t seem to be an English loan, but I tried the K section anyway and there it was:
kūkū. 1. (Usually pronounced tūtū.) Granny, grandma, grandpa; any relative of grandparent’s generation.
Now, for one thing, I don’t understand how the same term can be used for ‘grandpa’ and ‘grandma’ in a kinship system that distinguishes by gender; more relevant for LH, though, is this business of the consonants. Can any reader more familiar with Malayo-Polynesian than I explain why this word is “Usually pronounced tūtū” when Hawaiian does not have /t/?

Comments

  1. Hawaiian does not have /t/
    Proto-Polynesian apparently did, e.g. Hawaiian “kahu” = cook on a fire, Maori “tahu” = “cook, light, burn”, Samoan “tafu” = “to light fire”. Could it be perhaps that they don’t distinguish between velars and alveolars?

  2. John Emerson says:

    “Local term” in Hawaii can mean anything. My grandnephew’s Hawaiian great-grandmother is called vovo, which is Portuguese. The local speech is an English creole, presumably with some Polynesian influence. It took my brother a month to get more or less used to it when he visited, even though everyone was bilingual in English.

  3. John Emerson says:

    “Local term” in Hawaii can mean anything. My grandnephew’s Hawaiian great-grandmother is called vovo, which is Portuguese. The local speech is an English creole, presumably with some Polynesian influence. It took my brother a month to get more or less used to it when he visited, even though everyone was bilingual in English.

  4. Proto-Polynesian apparently did
    Yes, but they don’t speak Proto-Polynesian in Hawaii.
    “Local term” in Hawaii can mean anything.
    Yes, but this word, unlike vovo, is in the Hawaiian dictionary.

  5. Yes, but they don’t speak Proto-Polynesian in Hawaii.
    The lack of t struck me as strange, is all.
    According to Wikipedia and its sources, “Hawaiian has allophonic variation of [t] with [k]“.

  6. I thought they pronounce [t] on Ni’ihau (but Obama’s family’s from Oahu…), which is considered a conservative dialect of Hawaiian. I’ve forwarded the URL to a friend of mine who speaks Hawaiian.

  7. Could it be perhaps that they don’t distinguish between velars and alveolars?
    I’m looking at a 1948 book by Max Freedom Long who lived near the volcano Kileauea in 1917 (Island of Hawaii). Throughout the book he uses the word ti to describe a large leaf used for firewalking, among other things. His short list of “Polynesian words(from the Hawaiian)” has only one listing that starts with the letter t, “ti or ki, plant used by kahunas”.
    As I recall there is still something called a “ti” leaf that people leave in the cracks between rocks in old temples that has some local religious significance.

  8. My friend Chris sent me this link & i’ll try to answer the question.
    As I told him, there are some exceptions and the word Tutu I have never, ever heard it pronounced Kuku. Same goes for the name of the rain in the Manoa valley (or maybe it was Nuuanu) known as the Tuahine rain. It’s never called the Kuahine rain.
    Although the [t] is prominent on the island of Niihau and in the Kauai dialect, some parts of the rest of the island chain also preserved that sound. I am guessing however, that that extented to a few words like Tutu and Tuahine or even the name of this hula platform on the island form known as Ho’otu’itu’i, not Ho’oku’iku’i.
    As for the one word being used for grandma or grandpa, you should look at it differently. Although most of the time we may hear of Tutu equated as “Granny”, it really doesn’t mean that, but somewhat of an affectionate term to refer to our kupuna or elders. Even that word kupuna, like makua (parent) is a single word that doesn’t specify the gender. Add the suffix -hine to it and you do have a gender specification like kupunahine (usually heard as kupunaWAhine) and makuahine.

  9. Thanks very much, Kalani, you’ve answered all my questions, and I’m crossing out “usually” in the dictionary entry!

  10. I was in Hawaii in September when a tour guide at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau explained to me that the spoken Hawaiian language always had the T sound, but that for reasons unknown when missionaries created a written language they simply changed all the Ts to Ks. He told me that even King Kamehameha I, the most famous Hawaiian of all time, was called Tamehameha in his day.

  11. Matt…there are a few die hard Hawaiians who believe the language changed after the coming of the missionaries. They certainly had an influence since they introduced the alphabet and made Hawaiian a written language but as for the K sound, it always existed side by side along with the T. And yes, Kamehameha was known as Tamehameha and even his son Liholiho had signed his name both Liholiho and Rihoriho, which proves that like the K/T, the R/L sound existed side by side.

  12. Pocket Hawaiian Grammar, entry for ‘T’: “See K.
    Entry for K:
    “Before the spelling system was standardized in 1826, words now spelled with k were often spelled with t, reflecting a variation in pronunciation. To some extent, the sound varied according to geography: speakers on Ni’ihau and parts (or perhaps all) of Kaua’i used [t], those in some other places used only [k], and in still others, speakers used both sounds. However, the difference was not phonemic…”
    The entry on R refers to the entry on L in the same way. According to the entry on L, the phoneme represented by r or l was an alveolar flap, like [ɾ] in Maori, Spanish or Japanese. Hawaiian spelling developed by American missionaries adopted in 1826 abolished r and kept only l, but the decision was reportedly not unanimous.

  13. There are other remnants from an era when T alternated with K: Beretania Street (which would be Pelekania in the standard orthography), maitai drinks (presumably < maika‘i ‘good’), ti (= ki) leaves. During the early years after Cook, Hawaiian was to Pacific explorers and sailors just another Polynesian language, with Tahitian and Samoan being the best known exemplars, both of which preserve T (at least in formal Samoan; T > K in informal Samoan–to oversimplify a bit). Within the Hawaiian archipelago, K was more prevalent on the eastern end, and T on the western end. The major harbor of Honolulu was probably quite a mixing zone, esp. if one includes the languages of Polynesian-speaking sailors from elsewhere.
    I still call the lady in whose home my brother and I lived as college students Tutu, even though she was at the time a gracious Army widow from Texas.

  14. I’m sure glad I asked, and that y’all are so willing to share your knowledge.

  15. “like the K/T, the R/L sound existed side by side.”
    Thanks for this Kalani. I like trying to read Hawaiian words but have trouble remembering the consonant shifts between it and NZ Māori (I also have trouble with the shifts between NZ Māori and Cook Island Maori). I have no problem remembering “Hawaiian L = Māori R” thanks to words like “Aloha”, but I often forget
    “Hawaiian K = Māori T”. Your mention of Tuahine helps, as that is so VERY Maaori-sounding. In Māori, tuahine (pl. tuāhine) = sister or female cousins (of a male). Does it have a similar meaning in Hawaiian?
    I wonder if “Hawaiian P = Māori K” since the “language nest” concept developed in NZ as “Kohanga Reo” is called “Punana Leo” in Hawaaian, I think?

  16. Somewhat OT: linguabloggers have raised the question of Obama’s command of other languages, most notably Bill Poser with regard to Indonesian. But has anyone ever wondered if Obama speaks/spoke Hawaii Creole English? He lived in Hawaii between 1971 and 1979 and went to high school there, it seems likely, doesn’t it?

  17. He probably has passive knowledge, but is not a competent speaker. Among the educated classes in Hawai‘i this is fairly common, since Pidgin is looked down upon by schoolteachers. Ordinary local kids in Honolulu may or may not speak Pidgin well, but it’s almost a certainty that rich local kids won’t.

  18. @Stuart: No, Māori K ≠ Hawaiian P. Māori kohanga “nest” has a cognate in Hawaiian ‘ohana “family”.

  19. Māori K ≠ Hawaiian P “Hawaiian ‘ohana “family”
    Thanks, James. I would hazard a guess that ‘ohana is actually more directly related to the Māori word for family, “whanau”. In Cook Island Maori, one of the regular differences I do remember is that “wh” disappears, so “whanau” becomes “anau”.

  20. I wonder if English homophone-avoidance accounts for the universal use of Tutu instead of Kuku for ‘grandparent’. Imagine if Obama called his grandmother Kookoo, and Kook (instead of Toot) for short. (My maternal grandmother, God rest her soul, was one cuckoo wahine in her old age.)
    BTW, Obama went to Punahou (‘New Spring’) HS, the most expensive high school on Oahu, whose students are not known for their command of local Pidgin (HCE), but are known for their access to top colleges. (I believe Hawaii Prep on the Big Island is more expensive.)

  21. I would hazard a guess that ‘ohana is actually more directly related to the Māori word for family, “whanau”.
    No, according to Tregear the Māori word is a cognate of Hawaiian hānau ‘to give birth’ (from PPN *faanau).

  22. bulbul…I never gave it any thought about Obama speaking pidgin. Whether he does or not, I’m sure he could if we asked him to.
    stuart…to the best of my knowledge, Punana is nest, and that punana leo, patterned after the Maori Kohanga Reo is the literal translation. Doesn’t kohanga mean our ‘ohana? And yes, kuahine is the same as in Maori. Notice my use of the T. :) Only the rain’s name we know it as the Tuahine, but a sister would be kuahine or the term we all learn – kaikuahine. BTW, kaikuahine is what we use for “sister” of a male. Females have kaikunane (brother) and males have kaikuahine (sister).
    BTW, from what I’ve learned, Hawaiian’s “K” is the same as many other Polynesian languages’ “T” while the glottal stop in Hawaiian ” ` ” is the “K” in some other Polynesian languages. In the Hawaiian language however, sometimes there are words that have both the ‘okina and the K, like lizard – mo’o but also the older form – moko of which I only know it to exist in the name of an island given its name after a lizard (mo’o). Same with HAKI and HA’I.

  23. Stuart…I made a mistake. I meant to say notice my use of the K, as in the word – kuahine, vs. the T in the name – Tuahine.
    Here’s one that you might hear – Ka ua Tuahine. In that phrase, the K is used for “the” (ka) but the T is used in the name of the rain. The sentence just says “The Tuahine rain.”

  24. Here‘s Tregear’s K section, where we find:
    KOWHANGA (kòwhanga), a nest: He kowhanga o nga manu o te rangi—Ma. viii. 20. Also kohanga. Cf. owhanga, a nest; oha, generous, warm-hearted; aroha, affection, sympathy, compassion [see Tongan]; aroharoha, to flap the wings; koha, respect, regard; mateoha, loving, fond; maioha, to great affectionately. 2. Overcast with clouds.
    Hawaiian—ohana, a family of parents, children, and servants all living together; (b.) offspring; a tribe; (c.) a litter of pups; a brood of birds. Cf. oha, the small springs of kalo (taro) that grow on the sides of the older roots: loha, love, affection.

  25. LH…thanks, I forgot about their word whanau is our hanau. That reminded me, the word ‘ohana comes from ‘oha, or a bud/shoot/offspring.

  26. Thanks, LH and Kalani. My Māori is embarrasingly minimal, and it is interesting learn more about rthe cognates in other Polynesian languages. It seems that Māori is nearer to Hawaiian than it is to other geographically closer languages such as Samoan and Tahitian. Maybe now that Google is available in Māori I will brush up on it.

  27. Stuart…Maori and Hawaiian are closer to one another than both are to Samoan. Tahitian is similar to Hawaiian, or I should say Hawaiian is similar to Tahitian but I have difficulty in understanding both Tahitian and Maori unfortunately. But once I learn the word, it’s ok. And I didn’t realize Google is in Maori. Good to hear that.

  28. John Emerson says:

    This book is an impressive reconstruction of the settlement of the Pacific, and partly explains the linguistic relationships between the various Polynesian languages. The author takes archeological, linguistic, nautical, and geographic evidence into account and does a great job of it. It’s a little technical and a bit dry, but it’s a must-read if you have any interest in that part of history.

  29. John Emerson says:

    This book is an impressive reconstruction of the settlement of the Pacific, and partly explains the linguistic relationships between the various Polynesian languages. The author takes archeological, linguistic, nautical, and geographic evidence into account and does a great job of it. It’s a little technical and a bit dry, but it’s a must-read if you have any interest in that part of history.

  30. Or as the Essentialist Explanations have it:
    Samoan/Hawaiian/Maori is essentially bad Hawaiian/Maori/Samoan.

  31. Thanks for the link to your Essentialist Explanations. The entries for Punjabi were interesting, especially the one which said “Punjabi is essentially Indo-Iranian that stayed home”. I’m not entirely sure what that means but it’s certainly more complimentary than the description offered by a septuagenarian Punjabi friend who said simply “Punjabi is just bastardised Hindi”.

  32. What, there’s an Essentialist Explanation for Klingon but not LOL CatSpeak??!

  33. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Heaven forbid, but if John Cowan were to be implicated in a British scandal it could be called ‘Cowangate’ (Cow & Gate being a well-known UK dairy retailer). Just trying to be helpful.

  34. A.J.P. Crown says:

    ‘toot’, a local term for grandparent
    That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.

  35. Are there other terms, more specific? For instance, English differentiates brother and sister, yet has sibling, and only has cousin.

  36. James, Kalani,
    thanks for your insight. Should I ever meet Mr. Obama, I will be sure to ask him to speak Pidgin and then post the youtube link :)

  37. According to my Hawaiian dictionary, there’s a word kupuna ‘grandparent’ which can be differentiated into kupuna kāne ‘grandfather (male grandparent)’ and kupuna wahine ‘grandmother (female grandparent).’

  38. kupuna ‘grandparent’ which can be differentiated into kupuna kāne ‘grandfather (male grandparent)’ and kupuna wahine ‘grandmother (female grandparent).’
    In Māori the equivalents are tipuna tane (tāne pl.)
    and tipuna wahine (wāhine pl.), but tipuna on its own is almost used for “ancestor” in a much more remote sense than grandparent. The affectionate term for grandfather is koro, but the female equivalent I hear most even from fluent speakers is Nan (with Oma a surprisingly common alternative).
    The word “tipuna” is most commonly heard in the summons on to the marae, when the ancestors are invoked. It also turns out that the online Māori dictionary I use designates tipuna as an “Eastern dialect variation of tupuna”. This makes sense to me given that I’m on the East Coast, close to areas that have both kept the language alive and kept their own regional identity and dialect.

  39. I don’t understand how the same term can be used for ‘grandpa’ and ‘grandma’ in a kinship system that distinguishes by gender.
    I realize, of course, that gender has largely taken over work previously done by sex, but doesn’t it still retain its meaning in a linguistic context of classifying nouns in ways that may be highly (though not usually perfectly) or only weakly correlated with sex? Is it not possible (in principle, I mean, not necessarily in the specific case of Hawaiian) that grandpa and grandma have the same gender (just as sentinelle and femme have the same gender in French, whereas Mädchen and Frau have different genders in German, or, perhaps more pertinent but dependent on a much less than rudimentary knowledge of Old English, that the words from which our modern words man and woman derive had the same gender in Old English)?
    I’m not trying to be pedantic here, just seeking to extend my knowledge and understanding of linguistics.

  40. marie-lucie says:

    …explain why this word is “Usually pronounced tūtū” when Hawaiian does not have /t/?
    Just because a sound is not used in a given language does not mean that speakers of that language are unable to pronounce the sound. It is not uncommon for languages to use in baby talk sounds that are not part of the normal language, and to preserve sounds or sound combinations which were part of an older version of the language but have evolved into other sounds. So it is not surprising that Hawaiian still uses [t] in Tuutuu and a few other words, while the ancient [t] has otherwise switched to [k].
    For another instance in a different context, it is well-known that the two English th sounds do not come easily to French speakers, who tend to replace them by [s] and [z] (in France) or [d] and [t] (in Canada). But this does not mean that French speakers are unable to pronounce these sounds: many French children use them instead of [s] and [z] and are perfectly understandable (since the sounds are not competing with the th sounds as in English), and adults have no trouble imitating the pronunciation of those children. What is difficult is the realization that in English the sounds represented by th are not just a mannerism or speech defect but are actively put to use in the language: thing is not just an alternate way of pronouncing sing.
    Similarly, most people are capable of producing a variety of “clicks” in isolation, but find it difficult to learn to use them as part of words as they are in some South African languages.

  41. whereas Mädchen and Frau have different genders in German
    It’s das Mädchen and die Frau, right? neuter and feminine nouns as opposed to feminine personages? Isn’t that just an unsusal usage though?
    Sort of like in Spanish where el policía is a police officer and la policía is a police department. Even though the -a ending is feminine.

  42. Athel, my limited experience of medical school (4 weeks) is that confusion of the two terms is the norm, which does make me question a little the utility of introducing the word “gender” to non-grammatical contexts. I would be surprised if things were better in linguistics, the utility of the distinction doesn’t seem to me to be much less …

  43. marie-lucie says:

    It’s das Mädchen and die Frau, right? neuter and feminine nouns as opposed to feminine personages? Isn’t that just an unsusal usage though?
    The reason that Mädchen is not feminine is because the diminutive suffix -chen always makes the word neuter, regardless of what the root is. The same is true of -lein, also a diminutive suffix. Travelling on a German train when I was young, I heard an employee (a nice lady who was sympathetic to my attempts to explain myself in very limited German) refer to me as das kleine Fräulein “the little young lady”. Similarly in French, some suffixes carry a gender (not sex) indication, which is why it is startling for a French person to hear a dark-haired man referred to in English as a brunette – the -ette carries an implication of small size as well as femininity. In my grandparents’ Occitan-speaking area, a little girl could be referred to affectionately with the French-Occitan hybrid ce petit fillou (instead of the French cette petite fille “this little girl”), with a change of gender caused by the addition of the Occitan -ou masculine [or rather neutral] diminutive suffix. Gender change (a linguistic fact) does not imply sex change (a biological fact): perhaps it emphasizes the difference from the original word, as it usually carries an affective connotation.
    Sort of like in Spanish where el policía is a police officer and la policía is a police department. Even though the -a ending is feminine.
    This is a different case altogether: here the -a ending is part of the original word, not added to make another word. La policía “the police” is the original word, and el policía “the policeman” is short for el miembro de la policía, the member of the police force. Similarly in French for le garde “the guard” (a man) and la garde “the body of guards”, itself from the meaning “the activity of guarding”.

  44. A.J.P. Crown says:

    There’s an interesting gender get-out for students of Norwegian. which is that the gender of quite a lot of nouns is associated with dialect and is therefore not fixed. Not all nouns have this, a house is always neuter et hus, but a girl can be ei jenta (f.) or en jente (m.), according to dialect, the latter being (possibly) more snobbish, western-suburbs of Oslo, related to Danish, and the former (possibly) more rural.
    To flatten-out this very slightly class-related gender classification in my language class, when I moved here, we were taught to say ei avis, a feminine newspaper, something that is so extremely pc that no Norwegian I’ve ever met actually uses it.
    One frustrating result of this confusion is that when you consult a Norwegian-English dictionary it never gives the noun’s gender. This has made me realise that these dictionaries are written for Norwegians, not for students of Norwegian, and, of course, many more Norwegians are learning English than vice versa.

  45. the latter being (possibly) more snobbish, western-suburbs of Oslo, related to Danish
    Ah, so the Danes are considered to be more worldly and sophisticated. My mother’s Danish cousin who does business in Norway hyphenated his name so he could keep the -sen ending from his mother’s side of the family.

  46. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    Not worldly or sophisticated, no. They just ruled the country for a long time (up to 1814).

  47. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I don’t think Norwegians are impressed by that kind of thing.

  48. Adrian: my limited experience of medical school (4 weeks) is that confusion of the two terms is the norm, which does make me question a little the utility of introducing the word “gender” to non-grammatical contexts. I would be surprised if things were better in linguistics, the utility of the distinction doesn’t seem to me to be much less …
    Well yes, my feeling is that gender fulfils a necessary function in discussing grammar, and that if the sloppy everyday use is allowed to invade linguistics a new word will be needed.
    As for the everyday sense, my impression is that the invasion of sex‘s territory by gender is more recent than your comments suggests — recent enough not to be something I grew up with. I object to it as a euphemism: people worry that if they ask about someone’s sex on a form they will be accused of asking about their sex lives. Not only is that nonsense, but it flies in the face of what everyone knows, that one’s sex life isl inseparable from one’s sex. Maybe in a generation or two people will talk about gender lives, and then they’ll need a new word to supplant gender.
    If I’m asked to specify my gender on a form produced by someone with power (like the Government) then I meekly write M next to gender, but if it comes from someone with no particular power over me I cross it out and write sex.

  49. My mother’s Danish cousin who does business in Norway hyphenated his name so he could keep the -sen ending from his mother’s side of the family.
    That seems quite unusual–while hyphenated names are extremely common in Denmark, it’s also quite common for people with hyphenated names to “drop” a -sen name, as the non -sen name probably is more unusual and thus more distinctive. Someone who does so is sometimes called a “Sen dropper,” but it can cause a lot of confusion–as in, is Mikkel Bolt the same person as Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen or not?

  50. Ridger…I was thinking about it the other day when i began responding here. There are the Hawaiianized terms – ‘Anakala (uncle) and ‘Anake (aunty). But prior to those terms, everyone in the parents’ generation were just “makua”, whether they were brothers of our mother or father (makuakane), or sisters of our mother or father (makuahine) and the same for the cousins of our parents. They were simply “makua”.
    There is also TITA (sister) and PALALA (brother) but we do have specific terms.
    kaikuaana – older sibling of the same sex
    kaikaina – younger sibling of the same sex
    kaikunane – brother (for a female only)
    kaikuahine – sister (for a male only)
    I’m a guy, i have 2 older brothers and 3 younger brothers. I also have 1 sister who is 3 yrs. older than me, but in Hawaiian terms, I would have these:
    2 – kaikuaana (older sibling)
    1 – kaikuahine (sister)
    3 – kaikaina (younger sibling)
    Bulbul…yeah, that would be cool to see, Obama demonstrating his pidgin skills.
    Stuart…yes, the same for us, at least from what I have experienced, “kupuna” is used as a general sense to convey the elders or ancestors and it isn’t specific whereas some people may call their grandparent “tutu”, or even use it as part of their name as Tutu Kauwila, etc.

  51. They (Denmark) just ruled the country (Norway) for a long time (up to 1814).
    I didn’t know that. I knew Harald Bluetooth (Gorm’s son) claimed to have united Denmark and Norway but I thought that was just rhetoric without any historical basis other than what Harald’s wife put on his tombstone. I also seem to remember, maybe from one of Sigrid Undset’s books, that at one time a group of Norwegian nobles went to Denmark to request to be put under protection of the Danish throne, but a year or so later found they had been levied some new and burdensome taxes and thereafter dissolved the relationship. I’m afraid most of my Norwegian history comes from Snorri Sturleson. But of course Syttende Mai is more than just an excuse to eat lefse.
    Maybe this is a good time to ask about a phrase that I have heard.
    “A thousand Swedes ran through the weeds chased by one Norwegian.”
    I saw this on a button in Wisconsin and I have heard it in Chicago several times, but not in heavily Norwegian and Swedish areas like Minnesota and South Dakota. The people who repeat it never know the meaning, but it must refer to some historical event.

  52. I’ve heard it too (being half-Norwegian, and married to someone whose first husband was Norwegian), but I don’t know of any specific reference. To me it just sounds like generalized ethnic taunting.

  53. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I’ve asked around and we haven’t heard it. My wife points out that it doesn’t rhyme, except in English. Must be an American saying?

  54. Oh, yeah, I took it for granted that it was an American saying, which adds to the unlikelihood of there being any specific historical referent—Americans know little enough about their own history, let alone the Scandahoovian variety.

  55. marie-lucie says:

    … Swedes … weeds … Norwegian
    Could it be from a language pronunciation exercise? The sequence we(e) is repeated three times – could it be for practicing saying [w] instead of [v]? (like “The rain in Spain falls mostly on the plains” is for practicing saying the vowel or diphthong ai).

  56. No, I’m pretty sure that’s just normal assonance. It is a rhyme, after all.

  57. ZOMG! After marie-luce’s comment I channeled the saying in Fargo (yes, we used to sit around drinking some hot dark rum recipe from Katmandu while we looked at photos of Thai temples and practiced our Fargo-speak) and came up with not only w but th as a difficult sound for native Scandinavian speakers to pronounce. So in immigrant English I get:
    “A tausant Svedes ran troo ta veeds, chased by vone Norvegian.”
    As ethnic taunting the saying would leave a lot of questions. First, the taunts I have heard have been told on Norwegians and mostly (okay, all) about bathing. But supposing the bathing thing was further west and therefore later in the immigration timeframe, so maybe something different happened earlier in time or farther to the east. So the saying would appear to be some sort of cowardice accusation gainst the Swedes.
    But when were the Swedes ever cowards? After all, they were Vikings. Saint Olaf? Didn’t he come from Sweden originally, over the mountains? But he didn’t run, he was martyred. Denmark was occupied during WWII and I think Norway too. Denmark smuggled all the Danish Jews into Sweden. But the timeframe is all wrong for being a reference to WWII. In Chicago where they have the rhyme, the immigration was somewhere around 1830-1880. In my neck of the woods, where I never heard it, the immigration timeframe was more like 1890-1920 or so. I know there were some Danish issues with military conscription that may have augmented the immigration wave, but I don’t know of anything Swedish.
    It does make some sort of sense that the rhyme would be a test of some kind. Maybe an immigrant tongue twister or a shibboleth to tell who was a native speaker?

  58. Danish Jews
    I should have said Jewish Danes; from what I have read about WWII, the Danes emphasized the difference.

  59. The cemetery where my great grandparents are buried in Denmark has an eternal flame to four young members of the Danish resistance who were executed during the WWII occupation.

  60. marie-lucie says:

    Nima, would you mind taking the trouble of writing my name properly?

  61. Uffda, did I get it wrong? I am just string to get my own mane right, unfortunately the spell check doesn’t pick of proper names.

  62. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Nijma, how do you pronounce your name? Is it KNEE-ma?

  63. John Emerson says:

    My church had some sort of schism around 1920 which had something to do with Norwegian-Danish differences. Possibly they switched from bokmal to nynorsk. This came up a few years ago at the 100th anniversery, by that time no one alive really knew or cared.
    Up until 1709 the Swedes were military brutes, but they haven’t done much since.
    Icelandic has the “th” sound, and there are a few Icelandic communities in the US where the local accent is still thick, but unlike Norwegian.
    There’s a long string of Ole and Lena jokes, sometimes told by Scandinavian Americans and sometimes told about them. They’re generic — the generic label is “Swede”. My father’s family from Iowa had a bit of prejudice against dumb Swedes.
    The common feature of the Ole and Lena jokes is that they’re not terribly funny. Sort of like the lutefisk of humor. The best one I remember goes like this:
    At his wedding dance, Ole was so drunk that he decided to go to the coat room and lie down. There he saw his best friend Sven, who was having sex with his new bride, Lena. So he went back out into the hall and shouted — “Hey, guys, look at this! People say I’m drunk, but Sven’s so drunk he thinks he’s me!”

  64. John Emerson says:

    My church had some sort of schism around 1920 which had something to do with Norwegian-Danish differences. Possibly they switched from bokmal to nynorsk. This came up a few years ago at the 100th anniversery, by that time no one alive really knew or cared.
    Up until 1709 the Swedes were military brutes, but they haven’t done much since.
    Icelandic has the “th” sound, and there are a few Icelandic communities in the US where the local accent is still thick, but unlike Norwegian.
    There’s a long string of Ole and Lena jokes, sometimes told by Scandinavian Americans and sometimes told about them. They’re generic — the generic label is “Swede”. My father’s family from Iowa had a bit of prejudice against dumb Swedes.
    The common feature of the Ole and Lena jokes is that they’re not terribly funny. Sort of like the lutefisk of humor. The best one I remember goes like this:
    At his wedding dance, Ole was so drunk that he decided to go to the coat room and lie down. There he saw his best friend Sven, who was having sex with his new bride, Lena. So he went back out into the hall and shouted — “Hey, guys, look at this! People say I’m drunk, but Sven’s so drunk he thinks he’s me!”

  65. Sven and Ole had planned to go fishing, but that morning Sven called up Ole and said, “I can’t go, I have a case of Diarrhea.” Said Ole, “Bring it along and we’ll drink it on the way.”
    ~nijmah’s naughty cousin

  66. Siganus Sutor says:

    Coucou !

  67. John Emerson, I would say that’s not a typical Ole and Lena joke. Usually Sven is the innocent rube who depends on Ole to enlighten him, especially when it comes to the birds and the bees. These jokes are always groaners, usually prurient in an uncreative sort of way, and found in a certain substrata of Minneapolis, probably a subset of males who drink at Herge’s and go to White Castle afterwards. These jokes are completely unknown in places like South Dakota where the standard for being housebroken is more conservative.
    bokmal to nynorsk
    I had no idea Norwegian was so diverse. My forebears came from around Bergen so who knows what they spoke. I have a 1910 dictionary of the “Dano-Norwegian and English Languages”, also an 1867 New Testament that is “DAN. & ENG.”, with each language in its own column on the same page, presumably so multilingual families can use it together, but the bookmark in it says “Ev. Luth. Trinity Church NORWEGIAN AND ENGLISH SERVICES alternately every Sunday at 10:30 a.m.”–both books came from the estate of a PK whose family was associated with Luther College. I’m guessing the “Dan.” in this Bible is really some form of Norwegian, especially since the family was Norwegian.
    There is a North Side church (Lutheran of course) on one of the Chicago architecture tours that has morphed from Scandinavian persuasion, to alternating services with German, to now only in English.

  68. Coucou !
    Te voilà !

  69. “Nijma, how do you pronounce your name?”
    I pronounce it nidjmah, a northern Jordanian pronunciation for an old-fashioned bedouin name. The word means star and is written in Arabic ﻧﺠﻢ. There is no standard English spelling, I have seen Najma, Nejma, Nejmah, Najmah, Nidjma, Na3jma…I got that particular spelling on Blogger years ago, then kept it consistent on WordPress, but there are others who blog with the same spelling.

  70. Does “marie-lucie” have a meaning? I think “Marie” is cognate with Mary in some language.

  71. John Emerson says:

    My own church ceased the Norse sevices about the time of my birth, 1946.

  72. John Emerson says:

    My own church ceased the Norse sevices about the time of my birth, 1946.

  73. marie-lucie says:

    Marie is the French equivalent of Mary, and Lucie is the French equivalent of Lucy.

  74. A.J.P. Crown says:

    My own church…
    John James Emerson. I thought you were a Nietzsche fan.

  75. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Siganus Sutor, the only fish that goes Coucou !

  76. Siganus Sutor says:

    Coucou le hibou ?
    Coucou le hibou,
    Coucou, coucou, coucou.
    (Cuckoo without a nest to fly over.)
    (BTW, “couc”, on Mars, — it could probably be written
    kuk — is when you hide from a baby and let him guess where you are. “Couc… couc… alalila !” Play kuk is to play hide and seek. “Couc marée noire” is to play it in absolute darkness — I have no idea if this has a name in “proper” French or in English.)

  77. Siganus Sutor says:

    Te voilà !
    Ben oui, some were busy looking for the family toutou — whose name is not even Mirza. But we finally got her this morning, covered in mud after a night spent at the neighbours or God knows where.
    Z’avez pas vu Mirza ? Oh la la la la la la
    Où est donc passé ce chien
    Je le cherche partout
    Où est donc passé ce chien
    Il va me rendre fou

    (Nino Ferrer, 1965)
     
     
     
    Athel: If I’m asked to specify my gender on a form produced by someone with power (like the Government) then I meekly write M next to gender, but if it comes from someone with no particular power over me I cross it out and write sex.
    It never occurred to me that in French people didn’t seem to ever be ashamed of asking for somebody’s sex. I have never seen “gender” on a form written in French and, so far, I don’t think it has been considered “mauvais genre” to ask such a question — even if one French comic (a former philosophy teacher) had a sketch about a guy who, when asked about his sex, answered “rose” (pink).
    Incidentally: lucky English that has generic siblings.

  78. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Z’avez pas vu Mirza ?
    Zyeuter le chien?
    I got that from Marie-Lucie.
    Kuk. Kuk mal hier! in North Germany means ‘Take a look at this!’, but they probably spell it completely differently. i’ve never seen it written down.

  79. French people didn’t seem to ever be ashamed of asking for somebody’s sex.
    Oh là là!

  80. Two short videos with the coucou hibou melody:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KGFDKNQcPw
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDE80kI1Kf0
    kuk — is when you hide from a baby and let him guess where you are.
    In English this would probably be called “peekaboo”. You can cover your face with your hands then peer out from between your fingers–the baby is mesmerized trying to figure it out. It depends on the idea (that has a fancy name I’ve forgotten) that children can’t understand that something still exists when it’s out of sight until they reach a certain stage of development.

  81. Incidentally: lucky English that has generic “siblings”.
    In principle, yes, but so rare in ordinary conversation that it might as well not exist. A pity, because in principle it is a useful and convenient word. In my experience people never ask “how many siblings have you got?”; they ask “how many brothers and sisters have you got?”.

  82. “Siblings” is in quite common use in NZ, at least in my experience. Not nearly as common as “brothers and sisters”, but definitely not “so rare in ordinary conversation that it might as well not exist.”

  83. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    Siblings in its Norwegian form, søsken, and German (which I can’t remember) is used much more often than ‘brothers and sisters’. It ought to be a useful word.

  84. But without siblings we could have no “sibling rivalry”; there is never “brother and sister rivalry”.

  85. Yes, Nijma, you’re right about sibling rivalry. However, I’m not sure how common that is in everyday speech.

  86. “Sibling rivalry” is common in the sense that everyone knows the meaning. It probably would have come up in conversation more often during the 60′s and 70′s when psychology was something novel and interesting. Now the field seems to be discredited (“the study of the obvious by the incompetent”) or used as a way to manipulate people with semantics (“psychf#ck”). Sigmund Freud is also somewhat out of date now as sexuality is not in the subconscious any more so much as it is on television.

  87. Nijma. OK, I accept that sibling rivalry has a life of its own, but only as a complete phrase — the sibling half of it doesn’t lead an independent existence in everyday speech. It’s not like, say, penis envy, whose two components live their separate lives as well and don’t need the other halves to hold their hands.

  88. michael farrism says:

    “how many brothers and sisters have you got?”.
    Where? In my pocket? For me (US) ‘have got’ tends to imply ready access, I’d always ask “how many brothers and sisters do you have?”

  89. “Sibling” can be as independent as it wants. For instance, an only child is someone without any siblings. Or you could talk about twins being closer than most siblings. It’s sort of an abstract term though or something someone would use if they were trying to be pedantic. If you just want to inquire about someone’s family, you would ask about their brothers and sisters.

  90. Michael, in the American midwest the phrase “have got” is an incorrect form that marks the user as a farmer and a hopeless rube. Imagine my surprise to open a textbook in Jordan where they use the British system and find “have got” in the textbooks as preferred usage. Acckkk!

  91. Michael, in the American midwest the phrase “have got” is an incorrect form that marks the user as a farmer and a hopeless rube.
    Only to the linguistically prejudiced. To a linguist, it’s a verb form like any other. I myself use it regularly.

  92. “I myself use it regularly.”
    In casual speech, of course. But in formal writing?–or more frighteningly, in front of your 9th grade English teacher?

  93. I mean, I haven’t got a problem with it myself, but it’s just WRONG.

  94. A.J.P. Crown says:

    It’s not wrong, Nijma and Michael. It’s just that Americans tend to say ‘Do you have’ and not ‘Have you got’. In England, my English master when I was thirteen or fourteen probably wouldn’t have minded either, but he would have used the latter himself. He was a dreadful old man, but as far as I know he wasn’t a farmer.

  95. Michael Farris says:

    “Americans tend to say ‘Do you have’ and not ‘Have you got’.”
    I say both, but (for me and some other Americans I’ve asked) there’s a slight difference in meaning (or change of focus).
    “Do you have a car?” (simple question of ownership, almost a survey question, no particular relevance to present situation)
    “Have you got a car?” (if the answer is ‘yes’ I expect that the car is close by and we can use it if need be).
    That’s why ‘have you got’ sounds strange for me in reference to siblings, in my dialect ‘have you got’ carries an unspoken extra question ‘that we can use now?’

  96. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Have you got a car?” (the car is close by and we can use it if need be).
    That’s interesting. In England the meaning would be inferred from the context and intonation of the question, I think.
    The usage ‘Have you got siblings that we can use now?’ doesn’t come up often enough to confuse me, but perhaps “siblings”, nudge, nudge, has other meanings I don’t know.

  97. is close by and we can use it
    Yes, Michael, I would certainly interpret “have you got” in the same way, and also here in Chicago where we have so many homeless, maybe as an attempt to appropriate the object, as in “have you got a quarter?”
    It’s not wrong, Nijma…
    If I’m telling you something is “wrong”, I’m telling you something about how I understand the usage of the language from the point of view of my regional speech pattern. (and calling me “linguistically prejudiced” or implying I’m somehow linguisticly unwashed isn’t helpful at all, in fact it sounds mean).
    Does anyone else not find it amusing that I can reproduce the target language in the same sentence as I describe it as an error in usage? Maybe I should write it like this:
    <irony>I haven’t got a problem with it myself, but it’s just WRONG.</irony>
    I’m not just joking around; the information that this is “incorrect” is deeply imbedded in my subconscious understanding of the usage, even as I’m using the form. Now someone should take this and try to figure out which village I’m from, or at least the title of my 9th grade English text.
    The fact that “have got” is produced as an example of correct usage in British English ESL texts but not in American English ESL texts should tell you something about the usage.

  98. A.J.P. Crown says:

    If I’m telling you something is “wrong”, I’m telling you something about how I understand the usage of the language from the point of view of my regional speech pattern.
    I see. By wrong I thought you just meant wrong. Maybe you could use explanatory footnotes.

  99. marie-lucie says:

    “wrong” : It is not uncommon for people to decry other people’s usage of a certain feature and to unconsciously produce the same feature themselves. Language Log often quotes such contradictory samples emanating from language prescriptivists.
    “siblings”: I understand that this word is not an old, established English word but a conscious formation by an anthropologist in order to avoid the awkward “brothers and sisters”. This is why it is not in the general vocabulary: nobody says “Jimmy, stop bothering your siblings!” unless they are highly educated.

  100. But Jimmy ought to listen anyway. He’s really a pain sometimes.

  101. In the context of I have and I have got I’d like to mention something I noticed about my own speech habits many years ago (probably the first time I was in Canada, so 1961). This is that when I find myself in a novel environment, I adopt some usages almost instantaneously, others very slowly, if at all, and I don’t think it’s a case of liking some and not others.
    I started saying “Do you have…” in shops rather than “Have you got…” on about the first day that I realized that that was what Americans say, but others, like “eraser” rather than “rubber”, I have never picked up. The moment I get back on this side of the Atlantic I revert immediately to “Have you got…”. It’s not that I think American shopkeepers won’t understand “Have you got…” or that I’m worried they would think I was a farmer from the Mid-West. So, why do we pick up different usages at different rates (or is it just me)?

  102. It is not uncommon for people to decry other people’s usage of a certain feature and to unconsciously produce the same feature themselves.
    The production of that particular phrase was intentional. I thought of it after I posted, and was giggling so hard I had to go back and put it in. Of course as usual no one here shares my sense of humor.
    Has any one else noticed that Mr. Hat himself does not use this particular construction on his own blog? I’m pretty sure I would have noticed.
    The “It’s WRONG” thing in all caps is also an attempt to reproduce the intonation of a saying that has become popular recently. The first time I heard it was in the local dollar store where a customer was examining a fluffy stuffed toy. If you tried to strangle the toy, it would make a squawking sound. “That’s just WRONG”, she said, “that’s just WRONG,” at a complete loss for words due to the utter wrongness of it all. Next I heard it in the Boston area–I was told it came from a national TV show where two people were arguing about something and one of them couldn’t think of a good comeback, so they said “That’s just WRONG”. It’s used to express outrage over something too obvious (or too unexplainable) to explain.

  103. Has any one else noticed that Mr. Hat himself does not use this particular construction on his own blog? I’m pretty sure I would have noticed.
    From this post: “I’ve got half the books sitting on the floor until I can get around to putting a couple of screwjacks in the cellar to hold up the office floor…”
    From my fifth comment in this thread: “When I get home I’ll try to remember to give you the details on the edition I’ve got.”
    From my hats page: “I always wanted one, and now I’ve got it.”
    I’m sure there are many more examples, those are just the first that came to hand.

  104. A.J.P. Crown says:

    So, why do we pick up different usages at different rates (or is it just me)?
    Not just you. I started using ‘Do you have…?’ after I’d first been to the USA and I was living with an American girl and I’m pretty sure it was a subconscious switch. Changing from saying rubber to saying eraser is much more something you have to decide to do. I only did it when, after having lived in the USA for a year, I went to architecture school and I got tired of people laughing every time I asked to borrow someone’s rubber. So I think grammar switches are made less consciously than noun or verb switches, but I’ve got nothing to back that up.
    When I moved back to Europe I reverted to a lot of the English English usages I’d given up. I had to do that all consciously.

  105. I’m sure there are many more examples
    Ah, I guess I didn’t notice, now I’m embarrassed.
    Interesting, none of those examples carries Michael’s “that we can use now” meaning–but they DO all pertain to describing items in a collection.

  106. Actually looking at the first example more closely
    I’ve got half the books sitting on the floor
    it’s more of a process description of moving things around or fixing things. (“I’ve got the printer hooked up to the laptop, but I haven’t got the portable drive configured yet.”)–used in place of “I’ve moved” or “I’ve finished”(?)

  107. marie-lucie says:

    I think grammar switches are made less consciously than noun or verb switches, but I’ve got nothing to back that up.
    That’s a very good observation which makes perfect sense in terms of linguistics. What you mean is that switches in syntax are less conscious than switches in vocabulary. We are very conscious of using particular words and we know when a word is new to us, but as we create new sentences all the time to meet whatever communicative goal we have at the moment, we don’t usually need to keep these particular sentences in mind. We are also more likely to adapt our syntax to that of the person we are speaking to, especially if we are surrounded by people whose syntax is a little different.
    Changes in syntax as a result of language contact (through bilingualism or the availability of extensive translations) is well-documented. Probably the best-known example is Kupwar, a village or small town in India inhabited by two linguistic communities, speaking a Dravidian and an Indo-European language respectively. Most of the men in this place are in constant interaction with men of the other community and at least understand the other language, and there is also intermarriage. Neither community is considered socially superior to the other. In this context, each of the languages has adopted some syntactic features from the other one, so that each of them has become quite different from the way it is spoken in unilingual areas, but each has stuck to its own vocabulary.
    As another example, I have commented several times here on changes in French syntax resulting from hasty and not always accurate translations from English, especially from the American press. Most people make fun of the Académie Française for trying to keep people from saying “hamburger” or other English words, but to me such additions to the French vocabulary (although sometimes extreme) are much less bothersome than the Americanized syntax I often encounter in the French press.

  108. Kron:If I’m telling you something is “wrong”, I’m telling you something about how I understand the usage of the language from the point of view of my regional speech pattern.
    I see. By wrong I thought you just meant wrong. Maybe you could use explanatory footnotes.

    I’m trying to think of how to explain this, especially with what I’m sure are scads of hawk-eyed prescriptionist-eating vultures lurking about who are ready pounce and shred with their poisonous talons anyone unwashed enough to appear to violate the gospel of linguistic prejudice.
    But when you get right down to it, the prescriptionist/anti-prescriptionist dichotomy may be useful on many levels, but it’s a false dichotomy. Life is not dichotomous. A pox on both your houses.
    So linguistically washed or not, here is the best footnote I can come up with. How do you decide what words to use? At some point you come up with rules. A lot of times it’s just what “sounds right.” So when Hat says, “I always wanted one, and now I’ve got it,” that sounds “right” to me while the “how many siblings have you got?” example sounds “wrong” or “foreign” or “British” or at best stilted, even if I can’t think of the rule right off the bat. Of course I judge it. Everyone does, whether they admit to it or not. Language is a great marker of all kinds of social information we need to interact with each other. And what else do I have to judge something by but my internalized set of invisible rules.
    The rules are inputted from various sources. The ninth grade English teacher may be presenting a lesson based on some common immigrant mistakes or who knows what, and you may learn from that that in standard English you can’t use double negatives, or the word ain’t, or present tense instead of past tense, or the word can for permission.
    As time goes on you learn that a certain type of vocabulary will give a people an impression of who you are, and you learn to choose words based on how you want to present yourself–educated/standoffish/charismatic/informal/folksy/trendy–according to the values of the people you must communicate with as well as your own values. Or you use one set of words with your friends or another with your family or yet another with international speakers.
    Then you learn the rules change as language changes and you have to add a footnote to “can” that says you can now use it for permission since people have already been using that way for the last 50 years.
    If you use a word that is “wrong” you still have to use it in a way that says you understand that it is “wrong” and are using it for a good reason–like to convey informality or a meaning that can’t be conveyed another way, rather than you couldn’t be bothered to pay attention in the 9th grade. So when I say something is “wrong”, that means it breaks some rule and even if I decide to use the word for any reason or for no reason, I am still aware it breaks the rule.
    I hope you like long footnotes.

  109. marie-lucie says:

    Back when I studied syntax I remember conversations between linguistics students or profs (coming from different places in North America) discussing the finer points of what could be considered grammatical or not: if they disagreed they would say “in my dialect (this is OK [or not], or this is normal [or not], or that’s the way we speak, or we say XYZ instead)” rather than telling others “you are WRONG!” Not that they spoke something other than Standard North American English, but there are many little differences even within that general form of speech.

  110. marie-lucie says:

    It never occurred to me that in French people didn’t seem to ever be ashamed of asking for somebody’s sex. I have never seen “gender” on a form written in French
    It is because genre means many different things: it can be translated into English as “genre” (literary), gender (grammatical), kind (of thing or person), self-presentation or “look” (“bon/mauvais genre”), and there are probably even more meanings. Until maybe a generation ago the word “gender” in English was only used for grammatical gender, and even though there are three such genders in English (masculine/feminine/neuter), linguistic problems only come up when referring to human beings. Grammatical gender in most other European languages is something completely different, as it differentiates noun-classes, which are only loosely connected to biology as the vast majority of nouns (all of which possess “gender”) do not refer to biological entities, and even if they do sex distinctions are of usually of limited concern (if you are swatting a fly, or collecting butterflies, not many people will care whether your victims are male or female). The use of the word “gender” in English (which did not have another, everyday meaning, only the grammatical one) started to take over when “sex” was used more and more to refer to sexual activity. In this new usage, there are only two genders, and the term refers to social roles rather than to biological differences. Putting “genre” on a form in French would be extremely puzzling: in grammatical terms this is a property of the noun, not of the person referred to.

  111. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Nijma, I think you should give up on your defense of wrong, but I agree with the second part of your footnote. We’re told for years that things are right or wrong and we’re rewarded for behaving correctly and then suddenly a bunch of linguists tells us it’s all rubbish; well, fuck ‘em is my reaction, too.
    Jamessal recently told me how he came upon the argument, you might like this:
    I started wondering where all these pre- and proscriptions were coming from, i.e., where exactly all these rules of grammar were actually codified, and I bought a few actual grammars. To my bafflement, these grammars dispassionately treated all the usages I’d been taught were evil as just examples of English. I didn’t know what to make of it. Then a few months later I read David Foster Wallace’s infamous Harper’s piece on the prescriptivist/descriptivist wars (http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/DFW_present_tense.html), then stumbled across a vicious dissection of it on some blog called Languagehat (http://www.languagehat.com/archives/000510.php), and finally ended up writing the author to tell him where his thinking was fuzzy. Steve whooped me real good (there’s no better in experience in life than truly and profoundly losing an argument) and in the process recommended the perfect antidote to my variety of prescriptivism: Jim Quinn’s American Tongue and Cheek (http://www.amazon.com/American-Tongue-Jim-Quinn/dp/0140060847).

  112. Yes, I urge Nijma and anyone else trying to come to terms with these issues to read American Tongue and Cheek, which is sensible and funny and convincing.

  113. ready pounce and shred with their poisonous talons anyone unwashed enough to appear to violate the gospel of linguistic prejudice.
    Can we please put to rest this nonsense about descriptivists picking on prescriptivists, as though we’re doing it just for the sake of political correctness or to be mean? Prescriptivism HURTS people (sometimes intentionally: see David Crystal’s book). It makes them pathetically self-conscious about using their own language. If you’re punching someone in the face and I jump on you to make you stop, I’m not being a bully.

  114. Nijma and anyone else trying to come to terms with these issues
    Oh no, I have come to terms with the issue and I REJECT THEM ALL, prescriptivist and descriptivist alike. I don’t know how I can be more clear without breaking out of character and resorting to profanity. And for Jamessal, since I don’t know which one he is or whether he’s bleeding profusely or if it’s only a flesh wound, let me do a bit of triage right off the bat and offer virtual bandaids and/or tourniquets.
    But thanks, Kron for bringing this back into the discussion. I’ve gotten busy with work and with excavating and dusting off my seasonal hat and there was something in the back of my mind about the discussion that seemed unfinished. And today at work was particularly upsetting as I semi- got in trouble from trying to teach the students about nuanced usage instead of just having them regurgitate the book. The text is from 1970 so the technology vocabulary is out of date, also the gender neutrality, which is a particular bugaboo of mine, since I’m old enough to remember the days when there were separate “help wanted male” and “help wanted female” sections in the classifieds. But they don’t want to hear that language changes, even in as little as 40 years–I have just broken them of the habit of standing up every time they give an answer to a workbook problem. Not to worry-vengeance was mine in the form of a 2-hour grammar drill. They did ask for it.
    The Wallace piece is interesting, for style as much as for anything else. I had come across Hat’s take on it earlier without reading the original piece. But I don’t read Wallace as either prescriptivist and descriptivist. He is saying you have to change your dialect based on who you’re talking to. And throwing in all that academic jargon including the obligatory Chomsky reference I found rather amusing. Of course I’m easily entertained. Anyhow he had a new example for misplaced modifiers that I had never heard before: “There are many reasons why lawyers lie, some better than others”.
    Thanks for the book recommendations, my amazon password, among other things, is messed up at the moment, but they are on my list.
    The fact is there ARE standards and there IS a correct usage, even if what they might be at any given moment is sometimes hard to pin down.
    Sometimes you can’t get a particular job without knowing standard English–how many people in television with regional accents have used speech coaches to try to break into national television? I understand England is much more class conscious in that regard–some 300 accents, and people intentionally change their accents just to be able to get a job. For immigrants in America, learning standard English has been the key to economic survival, if not for them, for their children.
    There is also the tiny matter of being understood. If you can’t use the common vocabulary and grammar that everyone else uses to do business, how are you gonna communicate? Which brings me to this “translated freestyle battle”, which I was trying to find a way to work into the conversation without appearing to be too off topic.

  115. Just for clarification, since there is still some misunderstanding:
    [t]/[k] are in free variation in Hawai’ian, naturally, as various island dialects show. Some words simply became more popular with a particular spelling/pronunciation depending on cultural and social influence.
    Those who like to mock the missionaries or to say they “chose” to “leave out” certain sounds show a fundamental lack of linguistic knowledge. The fact that [r]/[l] (flap versus liquid) and [t]/[k] were in free variation was attested by their choosing one of the two letters to represent both sounds. At the time, they knew people would pronounce the word according to their own local dialects, but spoken, the words are essentially identical. Yes, most people from ‘Oahu would say they don’t really hear Kuahine or Kuku instead of Tuahine or Tutu, but speaker can and probably exist that use these variant pronunciations. And they are all valid. And before someone brings up “missing” kahako’s and ‘okina’s from the missionaries’ orthography, please remember that at the time, all speakers knew where they were, so to the missionaries, it was a predictable sound, much like accents in some languages. They didn’t realise at the time that they were phonemic.

  116. Thanks, Jon, that’s a very useful reminder.

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