[Ads-l] _viaduct_ "overpass"

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Sat Jun 18 14:40:37 UTC 2016

Now that W. Brewer has introduced the wonderful "Why a Duck?" piece from the Marx Brothers' _Cocoanuts_ (1929), with its play on _viaduct_  -- 

> On Jun 18, 2016, at 6:45 AM, W Brewer <brewerwa at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> http://www.marx-brothers.org/whyaduck/sounds/cocoanuts/duck.wav

(you can catch the clip here: http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4493024/the_cocoanuts_why_a_duck/ ), this would be a good time to point out that this use, and the one Geoff Nathan cited about the Prince Edward Viaduct, completed in 1918 (the link was messed up; the right one is https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Edward_Viaduct ), are NOT of _viaduct_ 'highway overpass', but of a much older usage (in English, going back to the early 19th century) and a very much older referent (Roman, at least):

'a long bridgelike structure, typically a series of arches, carrying a road or railroad across a valley or other low ground' (NOAD2)

Historically, we're dealing with bridges over low-lying ground (rather than water), but the semantic extension to elevated highways -- highway overpasses -- is an entirely natural one. Unfortunately not documented in the unrevised OED2, whose cites don't make it into the 20th century.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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