Ofaginzy redux

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed Mar 28 01:47:01 UTC 2007

>     Here are two relevant articles from Studies in Slang, vol. VI (by
> Gerald Leonard Cohen and Barry A. Popik), Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1999:
>1) Gerald Cohen: 'Black slang _ofay_ "white person" derives from _auf
>fait_ "socially proper; genteel",' pp. 48-51.
>2) Gerald Cohen: 'Black slang _ofaginzy_ "white person," pp.52-53.

Last time I looked this book was not available at my local libraries.

One point arises which may or may not have been addressed in these articles.

It seems to me that "au fait" = "proper"/"fashionable" does not exist in
French, but *only in English* (where it probably originated as an error for
"comme il faut", maybe reinforced by some semantic proximity to "au fait" =
something like "in the know"). In French there is "au fait de/en ..." =
"knowledgeable/expert on/in ...", and there are some other usages which are
not germane AFAIK.

[Of course I can barely distinguish "coupe d'etat" from "coupe de ville"
myself, but I have some books, and even a French friend or two.]

Are any of the savants able to find evidence of "au fait" used as a naked
adjective equivalent to "comme il faut" *in any variety of French*?

-- Doug Wilson

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