square from Delaware (1939)

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 5 17:08:44 UTC 2008

Damn it! I'm really going to have to read your posts more closely,
Ben. They're really quite illuminating!


On Fri, Sep 5, 2008 at 8:17 AM, Benjamin Zimmer
<bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- 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:      Re: square from Delaware (1939)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Fri, Sep 5, 2008 at 12:21 AM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
>> So, the "lame" of my youth - and of today, for that matter - may be a
>> hypercorrection of "lane," once clipping severed it from Spokane, its
>> partner in rhyme.
> I don't think that's the order that the illustrious Mr. Lighter is
> suggesting. I quoted HDAS in the other thread:
>> 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.'"
> So the conjecture is that "lame" came first (even though the relevant
> sense doesn't show up in print till later), modified to "lain"/"lane"
> (attested from 1933), which then gets put into the "Spokane" rhyme
> c1939.
>> As for Spokane, it may very well have purposely been made to rhyme
>> with cane instead of with can, so that it would also rhyme with lane.
>> You'd probably have had to be there, to know for sure.
> Could be!
> --Ben Zimmer
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