Query for database searchers/dictionary editors

Rudolph C Troike rtroike at U.ARIZONA.EDU
Fri Feb 25 06:12:05 UTC 2000

I was quite surprised in my American English class today to find that none
of the 30 students had the slightest idea what <picayune> means. Since it
is a Louisiana French borrowing, it occurred to me that my familiarity
with it might be due to my Texas upbringing, although my wife (from
California) knows it [however, she produced a pronunciation, "picayuny",
which rang a distant bell for me, though it could be interference from
<pickaniny>, the first part of which is ultimately from the same
etymological source].
        I wondering whether the evidence suggests a regional restriction,
which would explain why students in Arizona (including many from the north
and northeast) don't know it, or whether the term is genuinely becoming
obsolete (like <mill> "tenth of a cent", which inflation has long since
driven out of existence, and hence out of knowledge -- I recall that they
actually paid sales taxes with mills in Oklahoma in the 1930s).
        Thanks for any enlightenment,

        Rudy Troike

More information about the Ads-l mailing list