Query for database searchers/dictionary editors

David Bowie db.list at BYU.EDU
Fri Feb 25 19:31:40 UTC 2000

From: "Rudolph C Troike" <rtroike at U.ARIZONA.EDU>

: 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).

29yo raised in Southern Maryland; i've heard it but i've certainly never
used it--it may be on the way out, at least regionally.

For the "picayuny" pronunciation, try watching a few Bugs Bunny cartoons--i
think (though my memory may be playing tricks on me here) that "picayune" is
one of several long words ending with a silent e that Bugs mispronounced in
such a way.

David Bowie                                       Department of English
Assistant Professor                            Brigham Young University
db.list at pmpkn.net              http://humanities.byu.edu/faculty/bowied
   The opinions stated here are not necessarily those of my employer

More information about the Ads-l mailing list