LINGUIST List 10.1221

Fri Aug 20 1999

Sum: "Druthers"

Editor for this issue: James Yuells <>


  1. Alex Monaghan CA, Druthers

Message 1: Druthers

Date: Fri, 20 Aug 1999 14:24:44 GMT
From: Alex Monaghan CA <>
Subject: Druthers

thanks to all who responded:

Rebecca Larche Moreton, Rob Pensalfini, Peter T. Daniels, Deborah
Milam Berkley, Larry Trask, Suzette Haden Elgin, Bethany K. Dumas,
Tara L. Narcross, Bill Ritchie, Susan Fischer, Nancy Frishberg most of
these didn't add anything to what i had worked out for myself - that
druthers was derived from a contraction of "I'd rather". the puzzling
bit was the next step - how does such a gapped clause become a noun?
suggestions included the analogy of "needs" and "wants", but nobody
says "If I had my needs" (do they?). nor does anybody asy "That's a
druther of many of our clients" along the lines of "That's a
need/requirement ..." (unless, of course, you know different). 
so, a link was still missing.

Bill Ritchie was the first to come up with a plausible explanation:
"My recollection is that "druthers" was a conscious, (quasi-)humorous
creation by a cartoonist of the 1930s through 1960s named Al Capp, who
draw a comic strip called "Li'l Abner." If so, it's not a natural
development at all; in fact, what humor there was in it may have come
from its perceived oddity as a development. Since the characters in
Li'l Abner were "hillbillies," whose speech was always represented as
nonstandard, their use of "druthers" may have been intended to be
interpreted as representing a general lack of linguistic ability."
This explanation was reiterated by Susan Fischer.

i'd love to see proof of this - as an explanation, it has a lot going
for it. druthers is odd because it's artificial, and possibly
deliberately clumsy, like many other fictional coinages such as
Brobdingnag, Slartibartfast, and the Klingon homeworld (humans are
from Earth, vulcans are from Vulcan, betazoids are from Betazed*,
bejorans are from Bejor (sp?), and klingons are from ... the Klingon

so, my next question is, "Is there a Li'l Abner website?"

thanks again,

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