elastics, tennies, and 'meant to have'

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sun Sep 24 20:29:27 UTC 2006

The coated ponytail things are also (to my mind) "elastics" and "elastic bands," but if I were speaking unrehearsed I think I'd be likely to describe one as "_some kind of _ elastic band" !


Lynne Murphy <m.l.murphy at SUSSEX.AC.UK> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Lynne Murphy
Subject: elastics, tennies, and 'meant to have'

Not liking being on the Digest version of the list, but can't handle the
individual message volume these days. Makes me shy about replying, as I
don't know whether I'm repeating things that have already been said. But a
catch-up session:

elastics: I/my people differentiate between elastics and rubber bands.
The things that are coated in something (some kind of polyester woven
thing, usually) that are used for putting hair into ponytails, those are
elastics. Rubber bands don't have a covering. This distinction was made
very clearly when I was a long-haired youngster in the 70s in western NY

tennis shoes: never used this growing up, and came to perceive it as a
very west-coast thing. ('Tennies' is unknown in the UK, as I've discovered
by playing it often in Scrabble.)

16 were meant to have died (etc.): When I first read the sentence that was
originally posted, I thought it was very odd, but reading subsequent
sentences has made me realize that I do hear this (though I'm not sure
whether or not I use it).

Here's another example, from
(in a blurb about the plot of a thriller):

"Why is Emil Sarotzini so secretive? How does he know so much about them?
Could he be the man who was meant to have died in 1947 - the man who was
the inspiration for Aleister Crowley? What is the truth behind his offer?"

As far as I can tell, 'meant to have' doesn't mean that someone intended
that he die but that didn't happen, but rather that he was believed to have
died, but that belief may be wrong.


Dr M Lynne Murphy
Senior Lecturer and Head of Department
Linguistics and English Language
Arts B133
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QN

phone: +44-(0)1273-678844

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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