Square from Delaware, etc

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Sep 5 00:51:42 UTC 2008

At 8:35 PM -0400 9/4/08, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>On Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 7:46 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
>>  At 8:36 PM -0300 9/4/08, David A. Daniel wrote:
>>  >Mebbe wrong, but I don't think the pronunciation of Spokane is the issue; I
>>  >think it is the meaning of "lane" if any(thing special other than "street")
>>  That would surprise me.  Seems like a spelling pronunciation of
>>  "Spokane" would be a lot more likely than an anti-spelling
>>  pronunciation of "lane" (as /laen/).  Is there any evidence for the
>>  latter?  We've already seen that there are speakers who pronounce
>>  "Spokane" to rhyme with, er, "mane".
>This is further underscored by the variant spelling of "lane" as
>"lain". In fact, that's the earliest attested spelling -- HDAS has
>1933 and 1936 cites, predating the "Spokane" elaboration. HDAS also
>speculates that it represents "a Black E. Pronun. of 'lame' with
>strongly nasalized vowel and consequent obscuration of following
>consonant, but attested prior to corresponding sense of 'lame.'"

Interesting.  That was my first thought, having learned this meaning
of "lame" from Labov's work in the early 70s.  I was going to mention
it, but I thought it would be a lame idea (and I was too lazy to
check HDAS).


>And if anyone missed the HDAS definition given in the original thread,
>a "lane"/"lain" is "a person easily imposed upon or cheated; victim;
>sucker; (also) (now usu.) one who is foolish or socially
>unsophisticated; square."
>--Ben Zimmer
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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