NYT: "blather" from Pa.?
bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Tue Apr 1 17:30:27 UTC 2008
On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 1:29 PM, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> From a New York Times article about Obama's campaigning style in Pennsylvania:
> "Pennsylvania's culture, as the historian David Hackett Fischer noted
> in his book 'Albion's Seed,' is rooted in the English midlands, where
> Scandinavian and English left a muscular and literal imprint. These
> are people distrustful of rank, and finery, and high-flown words. It
> should come as no surprise that the word 'blather' originated here."
> Hackett doesn't actually claim...
I meant Fischer, of course.
> that "blather" originated in
> Pennsylvania, but argues that it's one of many importations from the
> North Midlands to the Delaware Valley (which itself may be a
> questionable claim):
> "Not only the pronunciation but also the vocabulary of the England's
> North Midlands became part of American midland speech. In the word
> lists of Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire we find the
> following terms, all of which took root in the Delaware Valley:
> _abide_ as in "can't abide it," _all out_ for entirely, _apple-pie
> order_ to mean "very good order," _bamboozle_ for deceive, _black and
> white_ for writing, _blather_ for empty talk, [...] None of these
> words was invented in America, though many have been mistakenly
> identified as Americanisms. All were carried from the North Midlands
> of England to the Delaware Valley, and became the basis of an American
> regional vocabulary which is still in use today." (_Albion's Seed_,
> pp. 472-3)
> --Ben Zimmer
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