antedating "hobo" 1885

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed May 27 03:04:35 UTC 2009

At 10:44 AM +0800 5/27/09, Randy Alexander wrote:
>On Wed, May 27, 2009 at 5:06 AM, Mark Mandel <thnidu at> wrote:
>>>  >>Hmm...For me, that's not <CoCo> but <C [diphthong]o>
>>>  >
>>>  >Sorry; I've been using angle brackets for written forms. <CoCo> means
>>>  >a word written as any consonant letter + "o" + a consonant letter +
>>>  >"o", and I'm looking from the perspective of a reader of the cite.
>>>  Well, technically, I would argue that in <boyo>, the <y> is not a
>>>  "consonant letter", but a vowel letter, which is why I invoked the
>>>  diphthonginess factor. Å (Weren't we always taught that the vowels are
>>>  "a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y"? Å And isn't this one of those times?
>>>  Or is that just for "cycle", "by", and such?) Å So if the boyo is
>>>  wearing a diphthong, he's got only one consonant letter to his name.
>>  I don't think the 1885 readers of the cite would have been thinking in
>>  those terms.
>Why not?  Consciously or not they would have to divide it somewhere,
>and there only seem to be two choices: boy-o and bo-yo.  If you think
>1885 readers would favor the latter (if I'm understanding you
>correctly that way), I'm curious as to why you would think so.
>Growing up, I was taught "a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes w and y", and
>was always puzzled as to why "w" was included because while it's
>common for "y" to be a vowel by itself, the only words that I could
>find where "w" was a vowel by itself were Welsh words like "cwm" or
>"cwtch", and I couldn't imagine that such obscure words would be
>included in the "rule".  It wasn't until I started writing a reading
>textbook that I realized the rule must be referring to the
>combinations "ow", "ew", and "aw", but if that's so, then what about
>"l" and "r" in "walk", or "more"?

I'd forgotten that <w> is sometimes included in 
the "sometimes" part, which I agree does seem to 
support the view that it's (at least) diphthongs 
that the "rule" had in mind, not (just) syllabic 
w/y occurrences, given that as you note this is 
much more marginal with <w> than with <y>.  As 
for the "l" in "walk" or the "r" in "more" I'm 
not sure those are systematically vowel-like 
enough (cross-dialectally or underlyingly) to 
throw a monkey wrench into the works.


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