Scot LaFaive spiderrmonkey at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 18 22:53:42 UTC 2007

Speaking of eleven, has anyone ever heard eleventeen as a variant? I could
swear that I remember hearing this when I was around that age (mid-1980's),
though I can't be sure I wasn't just creating it myself, or that my memory
is misfiring.

>From: sagehen <sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM>
>Reply-To: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Subject: Re: forty-eleven
>Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2007 17:21:39 -0500
>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       sagehen <sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM>
>Subject:      Re: forty-eleven
> >        "Forty-eleven" is an impossible number, therefore an impossibly
> >number.  It seems to me that I first encountered the expression in a
> >blues song, very many years ago; in any event, I have had the notion
> >that it was an expression used by black people.  Which indeed it seems
> >to be, but the second item below is from a story by no doubt a white
> >author, and the character who speaks is no doubt white.
> >        I don't see it in tbe OED or HDAS; didn't check DARE.
> >        It has a long history, since my first cite is from the 1830s and
> >last, a variant, from a play written in the 1980s or 90s, though set in
> >the 1960s.
> >
> >        [Cornelia Latting, a young colored woman, sentenced to 2 years, 6
> >months; she tells the court] that she did not care a d--n if they had
> >sent her up for forty-eleven years.
> >        New York Transcript, February 15, 1836, p. 2, col. 4
> >
> >        I never go into one [a toy store] without wishiní it was
> >once
> >a week, and I had forty-eleven children to buy toys for.
> >        S. Annie Frost, ìThe Daffodils Prepare fot a Fancy Fair,î Godeyís
> >Ladyís Book, July, 1866, p. 52, col. 2  (Proquest's Amer Periodicals)
> >
> >        [He will] go back to London and join the forty eleven colored
> >who are now located and settled down in amalgamation row never to return
> >to America.
> >        Chicago Defender, June 17, 1911, p. 1, col. ?  (Proquest's
> >Defender)
> >
> >        Well, I don't even care/ If my baby leaves me flat/ I got forty
> >others/ If it comes to that.
> >        Josh White, "Evil-hearted Me", in The Josh White Song Book,
> >Quadrangle books, 1963, p. 51.  White says he learned the song from
> >Blind Blake, who was recording in the 1920s.  "Forty-eleven" doesn't
> >appear in Michael Taft's Blues Concordance (
> >nor does he include "Evil-hearted Me".  It appears that White recorded
> >it in 1944.
> >
> >        They was out there pouring whiskey on the grave... had two
> >buckets full of dice and fifty-eleven decks of cards they dumped in the
> >grave with him.
> >        August Wilson, Two Trains Running.  Act 2, scene 2.  I saw a
> >performance o this play a few weeks ago, and caught this expression on
> >the fly.  I quote it here from the recent database of Afro-American
> >plays, the title of which I forget.
> >        The second and third items above I found by searching Proquest's
> >Historical Newspapers for "forty-eleven".  Until I heard Wilson's play I
> >hadn't realized that there were variant formulas and I haven't searched
> >for other base numbers.
> >
> >GAT
>  ~~~~~~~~~
>My mother-in-law (white, b. 1902, childhood & youth spent in Washington  &
>Alaska) used this word, but her version was "forty-leven."   I'd guess that
>she picked it up in Alaska, but  since the population there came from
>everywhere that doesn't help much!
>The American Dialect Society -

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