BE _dah-dah-dah_

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 6 19:30:28 UTC 2009

On The Judges, it's normal to hear contemporary black speakers using

"And then he said, 'Man, I don't owe you no more money! Talk to your
old lady, somebody!' _dah-dah-dah_ [,d^d@'da]."

in place of the more-courtly _and so on and so forth_ used by my
parents and grandparents.

IAC, this _da-da-da_ is, IMO, very likely merely ordinary
"dot-dot-dot" from _..._, less interesting in terms of inventive
sound-symbolism than the _splah-dah-dah_ ['spla,da,da] used by black
GI's or the _obba-stobba_ [,ab at .'stab@] used by boyz in the 'hood in
L.A. in gear-dagum (IIRC, "days of yore" in Beowulf; the hyphenation
is that of Tolkien).

Black GI's used _foul_ with the semantics of German slang _faul_
"(stupid) drunk." I really doubt that these GI's were of the fact that
*they* were using German slang and not that the Germans were using
*American* slang. Some such successes of the segregated American
educational system weren't even aware of the existence of Holland /
The Netherlands. In an L.A. neighborhood bar, I came across a guy
wearing a Hong-Kong-Charlie* souvenir German-military-service jacket.
There was some random conversation. Then:

I. Say, man, you ever go to *Holland*?

He (exhibiting signs of confusion, since I clearly expected a positive
response). Uh, naw, man. I ain't never been there.

I was taken aback by his response. Why, Holland was to black GI's what
the South Sea Islands were to 18th-century European sailors! Then, it
hit me.

I. Well, I *know* you been to *Amsterdam*!

He. *Amsterdam*?! Aw, shit yeah, man! "The Dam" is a *dynamite* place!
(The pronunciation, "Dy-No-MITE!" was peculiar to the TV-show
character. This conversation predated the TV show, IAC.) I was
*livin'* there! Etc.

I'd bet money that this poor fellow was even unaware that The Dam was
not located in Germany. You got on the train in Frankfurt. You got off
the train in Amsterdam. What other country? Language? Just a different
dialect. Nothing special about that. Even I, fully aware that I was in
a whole 'nother country, nevertheless thought that Dutch was German
spoken with a Dutch accent and not the actual Dutch language, the
first time that I heard a conversation in it, and not merely the names
of towns where the train made stops. (Train crews use English, when
speaking to someone who's probably not Dutch, as does everyone else.
So, I had been in The Dam for hours, hearing nothing but English being
spoken around me.)

*There were Chinese tailors everywhere who made bespoke outerware of
all types, from cheap rayon souvenir jackets to fine wool three-piece
suits, at lower-than-low prices. These tailors were referred to and
addressed by all GI's as "Hong-Kong Charlie," in much the way that all
Pullman porters were once "George."

I think that, in fact, the tailors were officially supplied by a
number of Hong-Kong-based companies, since Hong-Kong Charlie could be
found at any PX or AFX and probably at Naval bases, too. It wasn't as
though you had to duck into a dark alley or anything. But that's just
a WAG.
All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society -

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