LINGUIST List 4.736

Tue 21 Sep 1993

Disc: Etymologies: Ok, Yo, Uhuh

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  1. Leslie Barrett, Re: 4.694 Etymology of OK
  2. , yo!
  3. J. Arthurs, Re: 4.723 Qs: re:UHHUH, etc.

Message 1: Re: 4.694 Etymology of OK

Date: Thu, 16 Sep 93 11:32:01 -0Re: 4.694 Etymology of OK
From: Leslie Barrett <barrettZELIG.CS.NYU.EDU>
Subject: Re: 4.694 Etymology of OK

All this talk about the Etymology of OK has gotten me curious about
the syntax. For an adjective, OK takes an unusually wide range of
complements, much like its semantic counterpart "all right":

It's OK/all right to like television.
John is OK/all right to hang around with.
It's OK/all right if John hates girls.
It's OK/all right for Mary to talk to John.
It's OK/all right that Mary eats Devil Dogs.

What has me curious is that, in my dialect at least (NYC-east side)
"all right" can take a subjunctive but "OK" can't:

It's all right that Billy be enrolled in school before he turns 5.
It's all right that Mary go to the party without her husband.

but

*It's OK that Reema show me her new dress.
*It's OK that Billy be enrolled in school before he turns 5.

For those of you that agree with my grammaticality judgements, why do
you suppose this is the case? Does OK belong to a different semantic
class than "all right"? If so, how is it defined?

According to Linguist tradition, send replies to me (barrettcs.nyu.edu)
and I will post them later if there is sufficient interest.

Thanks!

Leslie Barrett
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Message 2: yo!

Date: Tue, 21 Sep 93 08:22:17 -0yo!
From: <bnevinBBN.COM>
Subject: yo!

This was the jock response to roll call when I was in high school in
central Florida in 1960-62. It seemed to have some association to
experience of older relations in the military, perhaps specifically
the Marines.

I have heard speculation that it derives from the Spanish 1psn pronoun.
Would one respond "I" ("Yo!") to a roll call in Spanish?

 Bruce Nevin
 bnbbn.com
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Message 3: Re: 4.723 Qs: re:UHHUH, etc.

Date: Mon, 20 Sep 93 12:40:40 PDRe: 4.723 Qs: re:UHHUH, etc.
From: J. Arthurs <jarthurssol.UVic.CA>
Subject: Re: 4.723 Qs: re:UHHUH, etc.

robert-wachaluiowa.edu recently wrote:

> Gunnel Tottie recently wrote: "It has been suggested (by Peter Trudgill,
> personal communication) that the peculiarly American signals UHUH,
> UNHHUNH, etc might have their origins in African languages."
> Can anyone shed any light on this claim?
 ----------------

 JAMBO, one and all!

 As an Ancient Brit, I'd like to know what is
"peculiarly American" about the signals referred to above.

 I grew up in the U.K. speaking the dialect of NW Durham
(Consett/Leadgate, to be precise) and am fully accustomed in that
dialect to hearing people say AHAH or UHUH, to mark their assent or
to encourage someone (esp. the speaker) to continue.

 Similarly, the use of AH'AH' or UH'UH' (i.e with syllable
final glottal stop), to mark dissent, negation or interdiction
(esp. with children) is equally widespread in that dialect.

 Of course, none of what I've just said entitles me
unconditionally to deny a putative "origin in African languages"
but, Peter Trudgill notwithstanding, GIVE ME A BLOODY BREAK!

James Arthurs,
Dept. of Linguistics
University of Victoria,
VICTORIA, B.C. jarthurssol.UVic.ca
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