James E. Clapp jeclapp at WANS.NET
Thu Sep 2 15:21:32 UTC 1999

Laurence Horn wrote:

> First, I think we need to be consistent here:  It's either "New York"  or
> "Noo Yawk"; "New Yawk" is a register conflict.

You are so right.  I knew it looked odd, and at 2:00 a.m. I just couldn't
get my brain together to figure out what was wrong.  This morning I woke up
and said to myself "Oh!  It's *Noo* Yawk!"

> Second, at least for me, there's a difference between literal "on line"
> (for the queuing up sense, as in 'to stand on line') and the extended use,
> which for me would have to be 'getting one's life back in line', as in
> '...in order'.  I could never use "on line" in the latter case, and so the
> inadvertent pun in the passage you cite would have been unavailable to me.

Yes again.  It struck me as an odd extension of the New York idiom.

Incidentally, the first time I heard "on line" for "in line" was in a summer
"Intensive Teacher Training Program" that I came to New York to participate
in in the 1960's, when New York was offering free and quick teacher training
for people who would agree to teach for two years in ghetto schools.  The
principal who taught one of my classes told us how to get kids to line up
for some purpose or other:  In an authoritative, no nonsense tone of voice,
you say "Boys!  On line!" (pointing to one wall next to the door); then
"Girls!  On line!" (pointing to the other wall next to the door).  I
literally thought that in New York schools they have a line on the floor
along each wall leading to the door!

> As for the "three hits on the day", I'm pretty sure that's not
> NYC-specific; more likely related to "on Saturday", "on the 18th".

If so, this too has been extended beyond its origins, because it also
applied to "32 home runs on the season" and "11 strikeouts on the game."
Could be an extension of "gained 13 yards on the play"; but my feeling is
that it isn't so logical.  It seems like just a fad that has caught on in
sports circles.  I'm not sure these people would use the same locution in
other contexts (or would have at first; by now it's probably second nature
to them).

James E. Clapp

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