[Ads-l] "Old Sober"

Mark Mandel markamandel at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 31 00:06:35 UTC 2021

And me, way back when!


On Wed, Dec 29, 2021, 3:48 PM Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:

> Great detective work! The role of the hyper-rhoticism of "soba" > "sober"
> reminds me of the fact that children growing up rhotic (e.g. me) generally
> fail to recognize that Pooh's gloomy donkey friend Eeyore is so-named
> because his moniker sounds an awful lot like "hee-haw" in A. A. Milne's
> native English accent.  (No eggcorn in that loss of transparency though,
> unlike "O Soba" > "Old Sober".)
> LH
> On Wed, Dec 29, 2021 at 2:54 PM Z Sohna <zrice3714 at gmail.com> wrote:
> > I haven’t seen anyone post on the moniker for the noodles dish “Old
> Sober” among Native Black Americans. I tried searching online to see if
> anyone posted on its etymology but was unable to find anything.
> Nevertheless, I posit that “Old Sober” is (clearly) an anglicization of
> theJapanese  /osoba/
> > The “old” in the anglicization “Old Sober” is from the
> Japanese honorific/beautification prefix /o/, which is appended to nouns in
> Japanese to impart honor, respect, or “beauty” to a given noun.
> > The kanji character for this prefix is 御
> > The hiragana syllable for this prefix is お
> > The “sober” in the anglicization “Old Sober” is from the Japanese
> /soba/ “noodles” (specifically, buckwheat noodles).
> > To wit, “Old Sober” is a Japanese loanword, the spelling an
> anglicization of the Japanese /osoba/ or 御蕎麦
> > As a case in point, the Japanese restaurant linked just below lists an
> offering (see the brown menu buttons on said webpage) that includes
> /soba/ “noodles” (i.e., 蕎麦 ) coupled with the honorific/beautification
> prefix /o/ (i.e., 御 ) so that the soba or “noodle” dishes on the menu are
> referred to in kanji as /osoba/ (i.e., 御蕎麦 )
> > LINK:
> >
> >
> https://web.archive.org/web/20160130042748/http://www.yamabiko-chaya.com/menu
> >
> > This is just one case among many. There are numerous restaurants in
> Japan bearing the moniker /osoba/ and, unsurprisingly each specializes in
> Japanese noodles.

> > I should note that the anglicization is very well likely the result
> of hypercorrection of Native Black American speech. None of my
> informants pronounce a

word-final [ɝ] as indicated in the anglicization “Old Sober”; instead, each
> employs a schwa /ə/. Likewise, the first syllable of the word, as uttered
> by my informants, is more akin to a long /o/; I’ve yet to record it
> pronounced otherwise by any of my informants. The sobriety claims seem to
> be based primarily on folk etymology; the dish is eaten any time, it is not
> specifically a “fix” for drunkards, but a nourishing meal, period.
> > Most origin myths for the dish place it in New Orleans; however,
> Virginia has an identical dish that was introduced to the local Native
> Black American population by the late Tsujuru Miyazaki, a Japanese
> immigrant and the former owner of the then popular Horseshoe Café in
> Suffolk, Virginia.
> > Hoping that the Japanese characters/symbols go through correctly.
> > Best,
> > Zola Sohna

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

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