"hur": the new 3rd (and 2nd) person neutral pronoun!

Paul Johnston paul.johnston at WMICH.EDU
Wed Jan 23 21:49:09 UTC 2008

What you got here in the first case is something that you not only
find in Wales, but in the adjoining West Midlands also--the direct
descendant of OE  heo "she", which became /ho// (that's o-slash) in
West Central Britain and got conflated with "her", both in rhotic and
non-rhotic dialects in the region, and restructuredd accordingly.  In
the Northwest Midlands, heo became ho: and developed to "(h)
oo"  [u:~Iu] or the like.  Both these forms are in SED, and I've
heard Birmingham "hur" (and Lancashire "hoo")  from native speakers.
Never heard it in Wales myself, though it is in the SED Gwent
material.  If you have "hur" = "they" at any point, this too could be
a descendant of a putative OE hie or heo, but I can't explain the 2nd
person forms.

Paul Johnston
On Jan 23, 2008, at 1:05 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: "hur": the new 3rd (and 2nd) person neutral pronoun!
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------
> There is a feminine use of "hur" in the first "hur" of the
> following (1784):
> A Welshman, lying in an ale-house, had run up a great deal for
> cheese; his hostess therefore demanded a shilling. "How the devil,
> cuds splutter-a-nails, can that be?" said he. "Why, look here," said
> she, pointing to the score behind the door. "Ah! that's brave indeed,
> said he, what doth hur think, hur doth not know chalk from cheese?"
> [That is, "what does *she* think, I do not know chalk from cheese".]
> And a second person singular use in (also 1784):
> A Welsh drover, coming through Oxford, asked his companion, what
> out-landish people they were, which he saw walking on the parade
> before St. Mary's Church? The other, who was a sage in his own
> country, said, "Cot's hart! cannot hur see, they are parsons
> 'prentices."
> [That is, "cannot you see".]
> Joel
> At 1/23/2008 12:23 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>> If the Welsh "hur" turns out to have been also used to refer to
>> females, we have another candidate.  :-)
>> Joel
>> At 1/23/2008 11:07 AM, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>>> On Dennis Barron's comprehensive list of suggested epicene pronouns,
>>> "e" or "E" is listed as being proposed in 1890, 1977, 1978, 1982,
>>> 1988, and 1989:
>>> http://www.english.uiuc.edu/-people-/faculty/debaron/essays/
>>> epicene.htm
>>> Perhaps it just needs to be reintroduced a few more times before it
>>> catches on!
>>> --Ben
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