Countable folks

Mark Odegard markodegard at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 24 22:28:21 UTC 2001

In my father's family 'folks' meant my grandparents, i.e., it meant
'parents'; but you cannot refer to one parent or the other as 'a folk'. This
is an early 20c version of the Northern California accent (the one that used
'chesterfield' for 'sofa'); this may have been influenced by a Norwegian

Another usage is not so much that of 'people', but 'community', and can be
either with or without the s. "That community has good folk[s]."

You can also refer to another family/household, but always with the s: 'the
folks living on the corner'.

You also see 'folk' used to describe the bearers of a particular
archaeological horizon, as in 'Bell Beaker folk'.

'Three or four folks' for 'three or four persons/people/individuals' is
strange sounding.

>Our college PR director recently commented to me that our president, who is
>not especially folksy, had suddenly become fond of using "folks" in
>letters, speeches and the like.  My response was that I'd noticed lots of
>people using "folks" a lot lately (in preference to "people"), but that the
>main thing I'd noticed was a trend toward making "folks" countable.  I
>think it was probably about 7-8 years ago that I began to notice other
>people using the word in ways that at least came awfully close to
>countability.  I can't remember actual quotes, but these new usages seemed
>to at least test the boundaries that constrain my own uses of the word.
>Lately I've actually heard people (oops, sorry--folks) refer to "three or
>four folks," which definitely goes beyond my boundaries.
>Has anybody else noticed this?  Or has it been around for a long time and
>I'm only now noticing it?  Or have other folks always been able to count
>Peter Mc.
>                                Peter A. McGraw
>                    Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
>                             pmcgraw at

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