[Ads-l] Kavanaugh yearbook

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 28 13:08:56 UTC 2018

On Fri, Sep 28, 2018 at 7:42 AM Amy West <medievalist at w-sts.com> wrote:

> On 9/28/18 00:00, ADS-L automatic digest system wrote:
> > Date:    Thu, 27 Sep 2018 18:36:24 -0400
> > From:    Jonathan Lighter<wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> > Subject: Re: Kavanaugh yearbook
> >
> > A quick but non-definitive check reveals no Google Books exx. of _*ski_,
> > 'glass, can, or bottle of beer.'
> >
> > JL
> So, is -ski a productive suffix that can get added to anything? Or does
> it appear only in "brewski"? I find it interesting that the meaningful
> root has been dropped, leaving only the suffix to carry the meaning by
> association/context.
> And while Jonathan Lighter has pointed out the cutback from "whiskey",
> coming from New Britain, CT, I've always interpreted it as a playful use
> of a common Polish surname ending (e.g. Pulaski). Would "diminutive"
> cover that playful aspect of the suffix? And, yes, I fully recognize
> that the "playfulness" plays into/on/enacts an ethnic stereotype.

The suffix "-ski" has been fairly productive over the years -- lots of
historical examples in Green's Dictionary of Slang, e.g. "darnfoolski" and
"dumbski" in a 1916 word-list from Nebraska in Dialect Notes. Some relevant

Connie Eble, _Slang and Sociability_ (UNC Press, 1996), p. 78
_Brewski_ has long been a slang term for "beer", but the Polish-sounding
_-ski_ is also a suffix added to the name of a person who does something
stupid: "Toddski, you went away for the weekend with my car keys in your
Tony Thorne, _Dictionary of Contemporary Slang_ (A&C Black, 2009), p. 394
_-ski_, _-sky_ suffix American
a humorous ending added, usually to slang terms, by teenagers and students.
Examples are _finski_ and _buttinsky_. The termination indicates
friendship, respect, acceptance into the group when attached to a proper
name, e.g. 'Normski' (a black UK TV presenter). When terminating the name
of an object, e.g. _brewski_, it denotes affectionate familiarity. The
suffix occurs in Slavonic languages and in many Yiddish names.
Adrian Akmajian, et al., _Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and
Communication_ (MIT Press, 2017), p. 287
Affixes can be used also, withthe slang suffix _-ski_ (or _-sky_), found on
such words as _brewski_ 'beer', _tootski_ 'a puff on a marijuana
cigarette', and _buttinski_ 'one who butts in'. It is interesting to note
that _brew_ and _toot_ (with the same meanings as _brewski_ and _tootski_)
were slang words that became stale or outmoded; the addition of the slang
suffix _ski_ 'rejuvenated' the words. The origin of this slang use of
_-ski_ is unknown, but it may be a linguistic parody on Polish or Russian
words that end in a similar phonetic sequence.

For East Coast high school kids in the early '80s, "brewski" would no doubt
have been the most prominent application of the suffix, and likely the only
one in common everyday use. It's entirely conceivable that "brewski" could
get clipped to the final syllable along the lines of "za" for "pizza" and
"rents" for "parents" -- especially in in-group slang of the type we see on
display in Kavanaugh's calendars and yearbook entry.


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

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