NYT: "blather" from Pa.?

Benjamin Zimmer 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:
>  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/01/us/politics/01obama.html
>  "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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