Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Sat Aug 21 22:25:47 UTC 2004

In a current TV ad a guy who has lost more in the market than he
would like to admit tells his wife that he has lost some, a little,
etc... and then he says he has lost a "skowsh" ("scowsh"?) /skosh/,
the vowel of "boat". The etymology of this seems crystal clear to me;
it is surely from Japanese "sukosi" ("sukoshi" for those who don't
like phonemic spelling), meaning a tad, a a little, etc.... (The
monosyllabic English pronunciation falls out directly from Japanese
vowel devoicing, which is heard as "nothing" by English speakers, in
the first syllable and the last. High vowels are "devoiced" between
two voiceless consonants or between a voiceless consonant and pause,
yielding /skosh/ from /sukoshi/.)

But that's enough phonology (which never seems to get me anywhere anyhow.)

When did this item enter English? Is it a WWII, Korean War, or later
(or earlier) loan? DARE doesn't have it (as expected, since I don't
suspect it's regional), and I can't find it in other dictionaries
(and I don't know how to spell it in English anyhow, which makes it
tough to look up).


Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African Languages
A-740 Wells Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
Phone: (517) 432-3099
Fax: (517) 432-2736
preston at

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