[Ads-l] Whoa, Nellie

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Sun Jan 14 17:12:43 UTC 2018

The obituary of Keith Jackson in today's (January 14) NYTimes refers to his
frequent use of the expression Whoa, Nellie:

Mr. Jackson once told The New York Times how the broadcaster Ted Husing
inspired his breezy style, advising him: “Never be afraid to turn a phrase.
If you can say something in such a way that’s explanatory, has flavor and
people can understand it, try it. If it means quoting Shakespeare or
Goethe, do it.’’

He was more partial to the lingo of his native rural South.

Mr. Jackson’s “Whoa, Nellie!” punctuating an exciting play was his
best-remembered good ol’ boy touch, though he maintained that he didn’t use
it all that often.
He said he had a mule named Pearl while growing up on a Georgia farm but
attributed the expression to his great-grandfather Jefferson Davis Robison,
who evidently plowed many a field holding the reins of a mule.
“He was a farmer and he was a whistler,” Mr. Jackson told The Los Angeles
Times in 2013. “He loved two phrases: ‘Dad gummit’ and the other was ‘Whoa

​I grew up in SW PA. I heard this expression from my father & my maternal
grandmother, neither of whom ever were farmers:​  Maggie Thompson

George A. Thompson
The Guy Who Still Looks Stuff Up in Books.
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998.

But when aroused at the Trump of Doom / Ye shall start, bold kings, from
your lowly tomb. . .
L. H. Sigourney, "Burial of Mazeen", Poems.  Boston, 1827, p. 112

The Trump of Doom -- also known as The Dunghill Toadstool.  (Here's a
picture of his great-grandfather.)

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

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