LINGUIST List 5.860

Sun 31 Jul 1994

Disc: Ye Gods & Little Fishes, IE fable

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Directory

  1. Ted Harding, Ye Gods & Little Fishes
  2. "LUCINDA HART-GONZALEZ", RE: 5.856 Sum: Ye gods and little fishes!, Language Games #3
  3. , Re: 5.740 Sum: IE fable, Semantics texts

Message 1: Ye Gods & Little Fishes

Date: Sat, 30 Jul 1994 12:08:03 Ye Gods & Little Fishes
From: Ted Harding <Ted.Hardingnessie.mcc.ac.uk>
Subject: Ye Gods & Little Fishes


> LINGUIST List: Vol-5-856. Fri 29 Jul 1994. ISSN: 1068-4875. Lines: 189
>
> Subject: 5.856 Sum: Ye gods and little fishes!, Language Games #3
>
> Moderators: Anthony Rodrigues Aristar: Texas A&M U. <aristartam2000.tamu.edu>
> Helen Dry: Eastern Michigan U. <hdryemunix.emich.edu>
>
> Asst. Editors: Ron Reck <rreckemunix.emich.edu>

"Ye gods and little fishes!":
Eric Partridge (A DIctionary of Slang and Unconventional English,
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, vol 1, 5th Ed, 1960) gives:
 "A lower and lower-middle class catch-phrase indicative of contempt:
 ca. 1884-1912. It then became a general derisive or jocular exclamation.
 Ware, `mocking the theatrical appeal to the gods'."
[Ware = J. Redding Ware's "Passing English", 1909].

My experience is that is has maintained a steady but relatively low
frequency of usage in British English. I remember it from 40-45 years ago
at least; use it myself at times; still hear it occasionally. It does not
seem to be localised. Some might consider it affected now.

It was regularly used by one of my school-masters to indicate disapproval
plus sense-of-humour-wearing-thin. More generally, it has wide nuances:
depending on stress & intonation, can denote disgust, contempt, exasperation,
resignation, surprise (or lack of!), or even delight.

Sorry I can't help with origins: maybe a look at Oxford English Dictionary
(N-volume one) may give you early citations.

Ted Harding Ted.Hardingnessie.mcc.ac.uk
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Message 2: RE: 5.856 Sum: Ye gods and little fishes!, Language Games #3

Date: 30 Jul 94 21:18:00 EST
From: "LUCINDA HART-GONZALEZ" <LHARTgmuvax.gmu.edu>
Subject: RE: 5.856 Sum: Ye gods and little fishes!, Language Games #3

I don't know about little fishes, but 'ye gods' came up in Music Man precisely
because it was such a common expression. C'mon ye linguists, where do you think
'Egad!' came from?
 Cindy H-G
 lhartgmuvax.gmu.edu
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Message 3: Re: 5.740 Sum: IE fable, Semantics texts

Date: Sun, 31 Jul 94 07:03:51 EDRe: 5.740 Sum: IE fable, Semantics texts
From: <amrzeus.cs.wayne.edu>
Subject: Re: 5.740 Sum: IE fable, Semantics texts

In case no one has pointed this out (I am sorry but I have
been out of touch), there is a more recent version of the
IE tale in the Festschrift for OSwald Szemerenyi, this one
by Lehmann and Zgusta.
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