"Long, Tall Texan"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Thu Dec 2 00:44:50 UTC 2004

Wilson, I take it that "everybody" includes your elders?  Your recollection (once again)
is important because the phrase doesn't appear in print till John A. Williams used it about 1960.

BTW, I think it was Fred Shapiro who unearthed a couple of "motherfucking" exx. from 1880s murder trials - in Texas, of course.  Too late for HDAS II, I discovered a 1918 "motherfucker" in a seriously ill-advised letter from a black doughboy to his draft board.

"So what?" the world replies. Our limited material evidence of actual American shock language before Henry Miller and outside of NYC makes this information more valuable than it might appear.


Wilson Gray <wilson.gray at RCN.COM> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Wilson Gray
Subject: Re: "Long, Tall Texan"

On Dec 1, 2004, at 1:33 PM, Mark A. Mandel wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: "Mark A. Mandel"
> Subject: Re: "Long, Tall Texan"
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> Wilson writes:
> Well, people look at me and say
> "Hurrah, hurrah, is you the law?"
> [...]
> This must have been transcribed by a Northerner, because nobody from
> down home would misspell [^ r^] as "hurrah." I've never seen this
> string in any kind of writing or in any kind of print, so I don't know
> how one *would* spell it. "Uh ruh," perhaps? But "hurrah" can't
> possibly be right.
> <<<<<
> Well, what does it mean? How is it used? I don't know of any other
> interjection (or other stuff) that sounds anything like [^r^] and
> would make
> any sense there.
> -- Mark
> [This text prepared with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.]

I don't know what I can tell you, Mark. Clearly, the use of [^ r^] is
far less widespread than I had assumed. In the past, I've had the same
problem with, e.g. "fuck over [someone]," which stunned my white
barracks-mates back in 1960. I just assumed that everybody knew it
because everybody that I had known up to the point at which I "went
public" with it knew it.

As I've noted in reply to a question raised earlier, I've never lived
anyplace where this sound is not used as a pause-filler by black people
- well, it's used by black people of my generation and older, at least
- especially in story-telling, preceding a "semi-quotation": the er-rah
tells a listener that the speaker - the LT Texan - is claiming only
that something *like* what he is saying was spoken by the absent third
party; and as a polite way of getting someone's attention, as is also
the case in the song, wherein local yokels want to question the LT
Texan about his social status. However, when I heard the original, 1963
version of the song, obviously - or maybe only seemingly - sung by
white people, I leaped/leapt to the apparently-unwarranted conclusion
that the use of er-rah was common to all people of Southern heritage.


Do you Yahoo!?
 All your favorites on one personal page – Try My Yahoo!

More information about the Ads-l mailing list