Assorted comments

James Landau jjjrlandau at EARTHLINK.NET
Thu Apr 13 21:23:11 UTC 2006

> Date:    Wed, 12 Apr 2006 09:32:46 -0400
> From:    "hpst at" <hpst at EARTHLINK.NET>
> Subject: Re: Peasant?
> Off the top of my head a few other words for rural people:
> villain, churl, clown, farmer, pagan, clodhopper, shit kicker, peckerwood,
> sharecropper, ploughboy, hillbilly, redneck, hick, etc.

a rather sloppy list.  The first word should be "villein" not "villain".
"churl" refers to behavior and in my experience is likely to be applied to
a city dweller.  ditto for "clown". "pagan" is used exclusively to refer to
someone of other than Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion. Compare "heathen" =
"non-Christian" but originally "someone living in the heath".  I have never
encountered "peckerwood" outside of ADS-L.  "sharecropper" has a very
specific meaning referring to a type of contract between a tenant farmer
and the landowner in which the landowner advances money and equipment in
return for a specified share of the crops grown by the tenant.  As far as I
know, sharecropping is restricted to the South.  "ploughboy" reminds me of
the title "Piers Plowman".  "hillbilly" does not mean "rural" but rather
"dwelling in the Appalachians."  Someone living in downtown Ashland,
Kentucky (pop 29,245) is a hillbilly.

> Date:    Wed, 12 Apr 2006 13:57:41 -0400
> From:    Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject: spinksterinkdum

Any connection with the song "Skinnamarink a dink a dink"?  (I think it's a
folk song; but it may have been created by Tennessee Williams in "Cat on a
Hot Tin Roof").

> Date:    Wed, 12 Apr 2006 15:33:34 -0400
> From:    "Dennis R. Preston" <preston at MSU.EDU>
> Subject: Re: spaz and Tiger Woods
> In the Louisville area use of the 40's and 50's (sorry to one-up you
> on age Alice), the etymological connection was clear, and the
> full-form "spastic" was the popular usage. "Spaz," a transparent
> shortening for those of us who had earlier used the full form, came
> much later, maybe even late 50's.

I back up your observation.  Growing up in Louisville 1947-1965 I
frequently heard the noun "spastic" used as a pejorative in so many
contexts that it was virtually meaningless.  I don't know how old I was
before I discovered "spastic" also referred to neurological conditions.  I
never encountered "spaz" often enough to recall it; in fact I didn't
recognize it when I first saw it in this thread.

> Date:    Wed, 12 Apr 2006 23:34:23 -0400
> From:    Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject: Re: spaz and Tiger Woods
> David, is your houseguest familiar with "Fawlty Towers"? From time to
> the sign, "Fawlty Towers," would be "anagrammatized," so to speak. On one
> f
> the shows, the anagram read, "Flowery Twats." This was back in the '70's,
> but I'm still trying to recover frrom the shock. ;--)
> "Spastic" and "cripple" are taboo, but "twat" is okay?!

You do remember the old Army saying "there's always five percent [or
whatever] who don't get the word"?  (Actually I heard it first from Air
Force types).  In this case the non-recipient was none other than the poet
Robert Browning, who was under the impression that a "twat" was an article
of clothing, part of a nun's habit, and in his verse play "Pippa Passes" he
manages to refer to priests and nuns as "cowls and twats".

    - Jim Landau

The American Dialect Society -

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