Pronoun [was Finally!]

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 27 21:38:35 UTC 2007

Well, we would say, "Get your _nuts_ some help." but it could have
only its literal slang meaning, i.e. the guy has a medical problem
involving his testes. Using "balls" instead of "nuts" would be like
using "cock" to mean "penis."


On 9/27/07, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Pronoun [was Finally!]
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 9:01 AM -0400 9/27/07, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
> >On 9/26/07, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> >>
> >>  At 6:04 PM -0700 9/26/07, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> >>  >Am disappointed to see that the authors of that article did not find
> >>  >the historical perspective in HDAS of any use or interest.
> >>
> >>  ...and a very rich entry, or set of entries, it is.  I was just
> >>  thinking of "Don't let your mouth write a check your ass can't cash",
> >>  and that's in there with a couple of hits, under the 'ability and
> >>  determination' entry.  Wilson's friend's greeting ("How's your ass?")
> >>  makes an appearance too, from 1960 ("usu. considered vulgar"--like
> >>  virtually every other entry for _ass_, curiously enough!).
> >
> >HDAS also has excellent coverage of a related usage, "(one's) balls":
> >
> >-----
> >ball, n.
> >6. pl. [cf. identical use of ASS] one's body, person, or self --
> >sometimes functions as an intensifier of pronouns; one's life or
> >wel-being, "hide," "skin," "neck," -- usu. considred vulgar. [Used
> >only by men.]
> >-----
> >
> >In some parts of the country, at least, "How's your balls?" or "How's
> >your nuts?" would be the equivalent of the "How's your ass?" greeting
> >Wilson mentioned. But I gather that "X's balls/nuts" isn't nearly as
> >pronominally flexible as "X's ass".
> >
> Right, even controlling for the role of sex of referent.  I don't
> think "Get your balls some help" would be construed as a suggestion
> to seek out a therapist--at least not a psychotherapist.
> The metonymic use of "X's ass" and similar body parts in Creole
> languages, as mentioned by dInIs, does appear to be relevant to the
> English construction.
> LH
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