Christmas Eve Antedating : "Humbug"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Aug 1 14:07:34 UTC 2010

All the "humbugs" are in HDAS II, but Bonnie has nicely antedated the verb.
The dearth of AAVE texts before ca1970, about which I posted not long ago,
makes it impossible to know whether AAVE "humbug" is a survival or a
reintroduction - though why it should be  a reintroduction requires a more
creative SWAG than I'm capable of.

"On a humbug" would, I believe, mystify 99.999% of white speakers who hadn't
spent thirty years compiling a slang dictionary.  In fact, when you get
right down to it,Wilson's precise nuance is a bit elusive even to me. "For
some trifling reason that might lead to trouble" perhaps?

"On a hummer" is a variant.


On Sat, Jul 31, 2010 at 10:09 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Christmas Eve Antedating : "Humbug"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Sat, Jul 31, 2010 at 7:19 PM, Bonnie Taylor-Blake
> <taylor-blake at> wrote:
> > On Christmas Eve, 2009, Fred Shapiro offered us:
> >
> >> humbug (OED 1751)
> For real, I ain't hardly tryin' t' humbug y'all uh nuthin', but I
> wonder why it is that _humbug_ has been so alive and kicking in BE, as
> both noun and verb, that after I'd heard Basil Rathbone's
> "Bah! [?]!"
> it was years before I realized that the second word was "Humbug!" I'd
> never heard that word used as merely an exclamation before. It sounds
> like "humbug," but it can't be. "Humbug" ain't no exclamation. I ain't
> tellin' y'all this on no humbug, neither.
> -Wilson
> --
> -Wilson
> –––
> 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 -

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list