"Y'all" in today's New York Times; "Jazz" in today's NY Sun

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Sat Nov 29 04:22:15 UTC 2003

   Eleven hours of parking tickets on the day after Thanksgiving.  It's great 
to be back in New York City and feel worthless again.
   Nobody saw this "page one" story today?
Scholars of Twang Track All the 'Y'Alls' in Texas

Published: November 28, 2003
COLLEGE STATION, Tex. — "Are yew jus' tryin' to git me to talk, is that the 
ah-deah?"That was the idea. John O. Greer, an architecture teacher at Texas A&M 
University, sat at his dining table between two interrogators and their tape 
recorder. They had precisely 258 questions for him. But it waddn what he said 
that interested them most. It was how he said it.Those responses, part of an 
ambitious National Geographic Society survey of Texas speech, with its 
"y'alls," "might-coulds" and "fixin' to's," are helping language investigators throw a 
scientific light on a mythologized and sometimes ridiculed mainstay of 
Americana: the Texas twang.Among the unexpected findings, said Guy Bailey, a 
linguistics professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio and a leading scholar 
in the studies with his wife, Jan Tillery, is that in Texas more than 
elsewhere, how you talk says a lot about how you feel about your home state."Those 
who think Texas is a good place to live adopt the flat `I' — it's like the badge 
of Texas," said Dr. Bailey, 53, provost and executive vice president of the 
university and a transplanted Alabamian married to a Lubbock native, also 53.So 
if you love Texas, they say, be fixin' to say "naht" for "night," "rahd" for 
"ride" and "raht" for "right." And by all means say "all" for "oil."In 
addition to quickly becoming enamored of Western garb like cowboy boots and hats, 
big-buckled belts, western shirts and vests, newcomers to the state — and there 
are a lot of them — are especially likely to adopt the lingo pronto.At the same 
time, the speech of rural and urban Texans is diverging, Dr. Bailey said. 
Texans in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio are sounding more like 
other Americans and less like their fellow Texans in Iraan, Red Lick or Old 
Glory.Indeed, Dr. Tillery and Dr. Bailey wrote in a recent paper called "Texas 
English," a new dialect of Southern American English may be emerging on the West 
Texas plains. It is not what a linguist might expect, they wrote, "but this is 
Texas, and things are just different here."The changes are being tracked by 
researchers for the two San Antonio linguists, who are working with scholars from 
Oklahoma State University and West Texas A&M in Canyon, outside Amarillo, 
under the sponsorship of the National Geographic Society. They divided Texas into 
116 squares and are interviewing four native Texans spanning four age groups— 
from the 20's to the 80's, in each.
   I especially liked the photo of some of the questions asked, shown on page 
A40.  In tiny print is a "food words" question:  "What word would you use for 
the beans that you...to cook?"   
   Overall, though, the story is a bit puzzling and poorly written.  What is 
it doing on page one?  It's a scientific study.  Maybe in the Science section, 
but "page one" of News?  Does the TIMES mean to imply that certain people 
from Texas talk funny and are stupid?
   It's not made clear what is from where.  There's not even a web site 
address given.  What about that National Geographic study?  What is the funding?  
When will it be finished?  How can we know more?  Where can we find it on the 
   What about the 1996 Southern Focus Poll?  What about Dr. Jan Tillery's 
2000 article in the JOURNAL OF ENGLISH LINGUISTICS?  Is this "page one" news 
story three years or seven years old?
   Why wasn't someone else interviewed to provide perspective?  Was the 
entire DARE staff not receiving phone calls from the TIMES?
   A must, but curious, read.
   While at the TIMES site, check out William Safire's "On Language" column 
in Sunday's magazine:
   Paul Ignatius of The Washington Post, who writes a serious column about 
foreign affairs, departed from his usual style this month to describe Britain's 
Prince Charles in a recent photo as ''wearing a carnation, carrying a furled 
umbrella and looking particularly like a twit.'' 
   He concluded his critical commentary about ''poor Prince Charles'' by 
noting unforgivingly that ''he blew off one of the world's most beautiful women 
for fellow upper-class twit Camilla Parker-Bowles.'' 
   The word is not familiar to most Americans and is sometimes misused.
("Twit" is not familiar to most Americans?  Was I the only person to watch 
MONTY PYTHON in the 1970s?--ed.)
   Y'all know the drill.  "Jazz" is wrong in today's NEW YORK SUN.  I write a 
letter to the editor to correct it.  It's not printed and no one responds.  
No correction appears.
   Editor at nysun.com.  Try to tell the truth.  Gerald Cohen, George Thompson, 
maybe Jonathon Green or Jesse Sheidlower--give it a shot.  Beat your head 
against the wall.  It's fun.
   Anyway, here it is:
   November 28-30, 2003, NEW YORK SUN, pg. 14, cols. 4-6:
_Notes From the Underworld_
  by David Wondrich
  Chicago Review Press
  258 pages, $17.95
(Col. 6--ed.)
   At least two other scholars have been doing equally compelling work in the 
history of this music, however, and might have aided the project.
   The first is Lewis Porter of Rutgers University, who has established 
conclusively that the term "jazz" was common American slang before the civil 
war--back then, it meant energy, enthusiasm, and pep, in the sense of "jazzing" 
something up--and only later developed both a musical and sexual connotation.
   Yes, a word that only recently was found by George Thompson to date to 
1912 in the LOS ANGELES TIMES was common American slang before the Civil War!  
Established conclusively!  Silly us!
   Porter's work was on "jism," not "jazz."  Perhaps it's time that Will 
Friedwald and Lewis Porter know about our work.
   Becky Mercuri ("the sandwich lady") sent me an article recently on 
"booya."  I re-checked it on Ancestry and found a year earlier than my 1920 post.

   15 October 1919, STEVENS POINT DAILY JOURNAL (Stevens Point, Wisconsin), 
pg. 1, col. 2:
   The families of all emplyes residing at Whiting were invited to 
participate in the day's events, which included a "booya" early in the afternoon and a 
supper in the evening.
   Interesting "page one" sandwich news from THE ONION (America's finest news 
FT. LAUDERDALE, FL—With moderate fanfare, Arby's apologetically unveiled its 
new Beef 'N' Bacon sandwich Monday, calling the uninspired menu addition 
"pretty so-so" and "more of the same."  
   "America, Arby's is cooking up something brand new," said Donald Forst, 
president of the fast-food chain. "Just don't hold a parade or anything. This, 
regrettably, is just another sandwich."The Beef 'N' Bacon, which makes its 
debut Dec. 15 at Arby's restaurants nationwide, features thinly sliced roast beef 
topped with crispy strips of bacon—a combination Forst described as "somehow 
lacking a truly special element."
The Arby's marketing team eventually settled on a billboard campaign 
centering on a pair of slogans, "Same Shit, Different Bun" and "Beef. Bacon. There Ya 

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