Heard on The Judges: crack

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sat Apr 12 14:20:37 UTC 2008

On Sat, Apr 12, 2008 at 9:56 AM, Mark Mandel <thnidu at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Sat, Apr 12, 2008 at 3:00 AM, Seán Fitzpatrick <grendel.jjf at verizon.net> wrote:
> > << This feels like something that's also used in other dialects. Is it? >>
> >  Indeed, yes.  At my mother's knee in both of the ways you use it.  The "ish"
> >  suffix is applied to adjectives to indicate uncertainty or approximation:
> >  ten-ish (about ten o'clock); large-ish (sort of large; not small,
> >  certainly--getting there, but not yet what you'd call really LARGE);
> >  greenish (slightly green, e.g., his complexion took on a greenish tinge).
> >  "Ish" is also applied to some nouns in the way you describe to indicate a
> >  quality:  girlish, boyish, manish (of a woman).
> Ditto. Except it's spelled with a double N, "mannish". (Cf. "tanning",
> "crammed".)

Seán might have been following the spelling that Wilson provided
upthread for the Muddy Waters song "Manish Boy". That is indeed the
spelling as it appeared on the original 1955 Chess single:


(BTW, Seán's post didn't show up in my email, even though it's in the
online archive.)

--Ben Zimmer

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

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