NYT: "blather" from Pa.? (UNCLASSIFIED)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Apr 1 21:29:24 UTC 2008

At 4:26 PM -0500 4/1/08, Mullins, Bill AMRDEC wrote:
>Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
>Caveats: NONE
>Wasn't it recently proven by Daniel Cassidy that all these phrases were
>Irish in origin?

Yes, to his satisfaction.


>>  -----Original Message-----
>>  From: American Dialect Society
>>  [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Benjamin Zimmer
>>  Sent: Tuesday, April 01, 2008 12:29 PM
>>  Subject: NYT: "blather" from Pa.?
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  -----------------------
>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
>>  Subject:      NYT: "blather" from Pa.?
>>  --------------------------------------------------------------
>>  -----------------
>>  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 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
>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>  The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>Classification:  UNCLASSIFIED
>Caveats: NONE
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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