laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Feb 21 20:40:35 UTC 2010
At 3:09 PM -0500 2/21/10, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>On Sun, Feb 21, 2010 at 1:50 PM, George Thompson
><george.thompson at nyu.edu> wrote:
>> In an idle moment -- which I seem to have many of -- I was
>>looking at a recent issue
>> of the New England Biographical and Genealogical Register,
>>specifically at an article
>> attempting to sort out 3 guys named Isaac Phelps, who were all running about
>> Windsor, Conn. in the early 1700s. A part of the research
>>involved a DNA test, I
>> suppose of several living men descended from the original American Phelps.
>> Regrettably, the DNA tests were inconsistent, a fact presented
>>with the remark that
>> evidently "an early non-paternity event" had occurred.
>> This was a new term to me, but I supposed it to be a genealogist's
>> saying that somebody, sometime back when, had made that midnight creep while
>> somebody else was off to market to sell his pumpkins.
>Discussed by Mark Peters in his Visual Thesaurus euphemisms column
>_non-paternal event_: This bit of genealogical mischief is
>structurally similar to our friend the non-fatal event. The webpage of
>the Dawkins DNA Project defines the term, throwing in an extra bucket
>of euphemisms on the house: "False paternal event, false paternity
>non-paternal event, non-paternity event: all these terms refer to a
>break in the Y chromosome line due to adoption, name change,
>'extramarital event' (infidelity), child known by other surname
>(mother's maiden name, stepfather's name), etc." I especially like
>"break in the Y chromosome line" - Zagat's quality doubletalk for an
>appropriate time to speculate about the milkman, the patron
>professional of secret parentage.
>As the old proverb goes, "It's a wise child that knows its own father."
Indeed, and without non-paternity events, there never would have been
a need to develop those spitten images.
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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