Salikoko S. Mufwene s-mufwene at UCHICAGO.EDU
Mon Nov 29 02:54:27 UTC 1999

    Just about 40 minutes ago, my daughter (11 years old) asked me why
"dam!" is treated as a cuss/curse word. After all, she said, beavers build
dams and nobody is offended by such a construction. I replied that the cuss
word is not really the same "dam" as in beavers building dams. First I
related it the interjection to "darned" and then corrected myself, relating
it to "damned" (< French "damner"). It occurred to me that for those who
say "dam!", there may be no trace of the etymological final consonant
cluster simplification that has taken place here.

    How is this all related to my subject heading? Tazie (my daughter) had
just bought a CD which she was impatient to play. The title of one of the
songs is "Wild, Wild West" but I swear all I heard was "wah-wah-wes"
[wa:wa:wes]. So Tazie said, "Daddy, the song would not be the same if one
tried to pronounce that sequence correctly."

    Just a hasty take on interesting linguistic observations from
[sa:say(d)] Chicago.


Salikoko S. Mufwene                        s-mufwene at uchicago.edu
University of Chicago                      773-702-8531; FAX 773-834-0924
Department of Linguistics
1010 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

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