"friends-and-relations" who disrespect linguistics professors

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 21 16:46:23 UTC 2012

When I was teaching freshman comp, about 1983, the phrase "so-and-so's
relations" appeared in one of the readings, possibly _Heart of Darkness_.
 (Never teach it to freshmen, BTW!)   When I repeated the phrase (in all
innocence, of course), the class broke into a
what-you-used-to-be-able-to-call  a "titter."

When I asked what was so funny ("Ah, youth!" - Conrad), they explained that
"relations means sex."

I observed calmly that it also means "relatives."  There was much
eye-rolling and disbelief in consequence, including the always unanswerable
loaded folk-question, "If he meant relatives, why didn't he say relatives?"

I learned much in those days.


On Wed, Nov 21, 2012 at 11:30 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: "friends-and-relations" who disrespect linguistics
> professors
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 11/21/2012 09:19 AM, Amy West wrote:
> >On 11/21/12 12:00 AM, Automatic digest processor wrote:
> >>I'm not sure.  I confess that until recently I thought it was "no
> >>holes barred", until I was disabused of this by incredulous
> >>relatives.  And I even used to watch wrestling on TV, so I have no
> excuse.
> >>
> >>LH
> >And the relations get to lord it about that a *Yale* *linguistics*
> >*professor* made such an error. Tsk! Bonus for them! (We language geeks
> >get 0 slack from friends and relations . . . )
> To put them back in their assigned place, picture Rabbitt's
> friends-and-relations, minor animals near the Hundred Acre
> Wood.  "Rabbit also has good relationships with the minor animals in
> the forest, known as his "Friends-and-Relations". Several are
> mentioned by name, including beetles called Small, Alexander Beetle
> and Henry Rush, and three unspecified creatures called
> Smallest-of-All, Late, and Early. According to the illustrations of
> the book, his Friends-and-Relations include other rabbits, a
> squirrel, a hedgehog, mice, and insects. At one point, Rabbit
> estimates that he would need "seventeen pockets" if he were going to
> carry all his family about with him. Whether that number refers just
> to his relatives or to the friends-and-relations as a group is
> unknown, if it had any basis at all."  [Wikipedia.]
> Perhaps someone can come up with a non-Disney illustration, and then
> Larry can decide whether any of his look like or can be called small,
> beetle, rush, smallest-of-all, late, or early.
> Joel
> >---Amy West
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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