PHEEVR AND NUNLEY.

Another pair of unrelated links:
1) The Roguish Chrestomath q_pheevr has posted a brilliant essay related to certain ongoing manifestations of know-nothingism; it begins:

Linguists here in Canada have been following closely, with a mixture of amusement, bemusement, and, it must be admitted, a little trepidation, the deliberations of our neighbours to the south, who are currently considering, in a courtroom in Pennsylvania, whether “Wrathful Dispersion Theory,” as it is called, should be taught in the public schools alongside evolutionary theories of historical linguistics. It is an emotionally charged question, for linguistics is widely and justifiably seen as the centrepiece of the high-school science curriculum—a hard science, but not a difficult one to do in the classroom; an area of study that teaches students the essentials of scientific reasoning, but that at the same time touches on the spiritual essence of what it means to be human, for it is of course language that separates us from our cousins the apes.
The opponents of Wrathful Dispersion maintain that it is really just Babelism, rechristened so that it might fly under the radar of those who insist that religion has no place in the state-funded classroom…

Go, read, enjoy. (Via Mark Liberman at Language Log.)
2) Richard Nunley, for many years professor of English at Berkshire Community College and now retired to Portland, Oregon, has a nice piece in my local paper, the Berkshire Eagle, on the expression “There you go”; he begins by describing a conversation with a man “shoveling nice black mulch into a wheelbarrow”:

Between shovelfuls he gave me a friendly nod as I passed by.
“That’s a good way to work off the pumpkin pie,” it emboldened me to reply.
“There you go!” he said with a chuckle.
There you go.
I have been ruminating ever since on that idiom of genial agreement. It is one of those useful phrases that oil social conversation. I am intrigued by its difference from “There you go.” That means something different — “all done,” “all set,” “transaction completed,” “be on your way now.”
“There you go” is one of a family of phrases — “Right you are,” “You said it,” “You’ve got it,” “You’re telling me” — all meaning some shade of “You’re right,” “I agree.” Each phrase, though, is slightly different in what it conveys — an echo of an earlier decade or level of gentility.
To a sensitive ear, they are not interchangeable. “Tell me about it,” though superficially expressing agreement, gives voice to a decidedly different mood. It carries a weary sense of grievance, a flavor of bitterness — “Why presume to tell me what I already know more about than you do?”
And though the words were almost the same, Ronald Reagan’s famous “There you go again” in one of the presidential debates, meant something entirely different from what the mulcher meant…

He ends with the following rumination:

I like the phrase “There you go” in the sense that the mulcher meant it. I think I shall adopt it — if I can remember it in time in the quick shifts of live conversation. (I’m a slow thinker.) To my ear, “There you go” conveys an inviting friendliness, a good-humored openness, sunny acceptance, undoctrinaire inclusiveness — indispensable attitudes for the shopping season.

That kind of expression has to be one of the hardest for a foreign learner to come to terms with; seemingly simple, it shifts meanings according to context and intonation.
(Thanks for the link, Martin!)

Comments

  1. If the dispersionists recognized that the Tower of Babel was located in the Dravidian areas of South India, their theories might gain some credence. They Semitic languages and the Sumerian langauges are just two of the early branches which diverged from the “left hand” group of Dravidian migrants, with the other Eurasian languages derived from the “right hand” group reached Uzbekistan and split into the Indo-European, Asian, Turkic, Caucasian, and Other languages.
    Africa, meanwhile……………………

  2. John, are you joking about Hindu nationalist theories of India being the origin of everything?

  3. Oddly, I pronounce this phrase /Dr\j@gou/, although I don’t pronounce “there” as “thur” in other contexts.

  4. More just crank theories in general. I actually found one once claiming that the Athabaskans refugee Mongols defeated by Genghis Khan.

  5. Even mo\re maddening is that site (Clive Winters?) that claims that Mandinka speakers sialed wwets and helped set up Mesoamerican civilizations, maddening because he never provides any evidence for a proposal that might have some substance to it. He might try to correlate the -ob noun plural suffix in Yukatec to -b and b- all across Niger-Congo, but no dice. Then again, he also says the Shang were from Africa because of soem reference to soem ravens setting up the dynasty. Anyway, too bad he doesn’t care to discuss his own theories.

  6. I had always presumed that “there you go” was derived from Danish “vaer saa god”, and imported into the UK by a supermarket checkout girl on a quick lager cruise to Esbjerg. The two sound remarkably similar, especially after the lager.

  7. michael farris says:

    I had always presumed that “there you go” was derived from Danish “vaer saa god”
    And not Basque after all?

  8. Well, it could be from Basque zeruko ‘heavenly.’ The semantic development is so trivial I won’t bother to elaborate it here.

  9. no no no no it’s obviously a Yolŋu Matha deictic dhiyaku.

  10. Gabriel Lindor says:

    Just looking through the archives, and something came to mind…a word of advice to all you who aren’t translators but need to quickly translate passages between languages:
    DON’T TRUST ONLINE TRANSLATION SERVICES!!
    eg, Google’s translation service, Babelfish, etc.
    These are good resources only for very commonly-used single-word common nouns and SOME verbs, adjectives or other modifiers. NEVER use them to attempt to translate prepositions, and asking them to translate any sort of phrases will more than likely get them to spit gibberish out at you. These resources are very limited; this is why translators (and students of translation, like me) have yet to be put out of a job.

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