Folk etymology

Alice Faber faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Fri Oct 20 15:38:38 UTC 2000

Bob Fitzke wrote:
>Just received this via email from a member of another list. Does this
>qualify as folk etymology?

It sure does. This one's been making the rounds in various forms.
There was a (brief, as I recall) discussion of something similar
within the past month on alt.folklore.urban, much to the puzzlement
of some of the non-USA participants. As I recall, the version that
got discussed there had the "86"="kill" but not the interpretation of

What's immediately below was posted on Sept. 28. There wasn't a whole
lot of productive follow-up discussion, since the topic has a
tendency to become political rather than folklorical.

>This morning Rush Limbaugh asserted that "86 means to kill something,"
> and then pursue that theme into comments on the irony of the name of
> the drug 'RU486'.

Alice Faber

>"People please tell me I'm dreaming.
>Darrel Ward -- of Indianapolis, just enlightened me today as to what
>the abortion pill's ID really means. People, this is not coincidence. In
>fact, I am certain someone managed to slip this in without no one
>even catching
>on. Surely this is designed to effect womens right to choose. Some scare
>tactic I suppose. We should fight to change the name, and sue the bastard that
>came up with this acronym.
>"As you read what follows, hold on to your hats.
>"The breakdown of RU 486.
>"Are You For Killing.
> R     U     4     86
>"86" in websters dictionary means to kill or to cease."
>"People this cannot be a coincidence, what the hell happened here?"

Alice Faber                                             faber at
Haskins Laboratories                                  tel: (203) 865-6163 x258
New Haven, CT 06511 USA                                     fax (203) 865-8963

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