The Charlotte Observer relays a question

Chris F. Waigl chris at LASCRIBE.NET
Mon May 22 00:49:43 UTC 2006

Via my Google Alerts I stumbled upon an article in The Charlotte
Observer, which is headed by the remarkable title "Linguistics
researcher poses a question".

The title isn't the reason for this post, though. It's that the question
itself might be of interest: "Is 'line ditching' a common term in the
Union County area?"

Here's the beginning of the article:

Recent comments from Ken Young of Indian Trail about merging traffic
caught the attention of an unlikely reader: an assistant professor at
Marquette University.

The column Steve Hartman Keiser read online featured Ken's response to
the driving tactics used on Providence Road, where drivers in the right
lane must merge into the left lane to continue south past Interstate
485. In that column, Ken said he wonders why people think a driver is
"line ditching" when he attempts to merge into traffic at the end of the

It was Ken's terminology -- not his driving habits -- that caught the
good professor's attention. He stumbled upon the column "in the course
of doing some linguistic research on the term 'ditching in line,' " he
said. "Reader Ken Young, whom you quote in the article, talks about
'line ditching,' which sounds like the equivalent of 'cutting in line'
or 'moving in front of someone without asking permission.' "

He further explained his interest: "In my research to date, I have found
'ditching in line' to be common only to Columbus, Ohio and central Ohio
in general," he said. "So its use in North Carolina (or perhaps New
Jersey, in the case of Ken Young), would be a surprise!"

(I conclude that it's not only unusual -- even newsworthy -- for
linguists to pose questions, but also to be interested in driving; or in
the local paper; or so.)

Chris Waigl


The American Dialect Society -

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