"Q: "show me out [something]" = show to me?

Damien Hall halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Feb 8 16:25:12 UTC 2008

I think there might be another possibility here, but some actual speaker of
German will have to confirm or deny.  Could this be a calque on a German or
Pennsylvania Dutch verb?  Joel, where is this play from / who's the author?

I ask because my first reaction on seeing the title of the post was like Joel's,
that 'shew me out' could be synonymous with 'point out to me' > 'point me out'
(which I think I can get).  It looked to me like a calque on German, of the
type sometimes said to be made by speakers of Pennsylvania Dutch etc.  And,
sure enough, German does have several verbs meaning things like 'show' which
begin with the particle *aus-* (postposed when there's an object, I think).
>From what I can work out from my dictionaries, *ausstellen* or *ausweisen* seem
the most likely to be the source of this calque, if calque it is.  My PA Dutch
dictionary has *veisa* (< G. *weisen*, I suppose) for 'show v.' - there's no
translation including *aus-* - and German dictionaries also have *weisen*, no
particle, for 'show v.'.  (In fact, the LEO online dictionary has this very
phrase as an example sv *weisen*:  'show someone the door', *jmdm. die Tuer

So, I fall down here because my German is really of the reading variety.  Can
anyone who actually speaks the language be more authoritative?  As I say, all
this could be completely improbable.

(There's a French phrase which would have come in very useful to me a couple of
times in this post:  *confirmer ou infirmer*, where *confirmer* = 'confirm' and
*infirmer* is the opposite.  Is there an English equivalent for that?  'Confirm
or deny' isn't it, because 'deny' is used of an allegation, not of a
supposition, I don't think, whereas *infirmer* is used specifically of a
supposition in this phrase - though maybe for allegations in other contexts.)

Damien Hall
University of Pennsylvania

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

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