LINGUIST List 7.743

Fri May 24 1996

Disc: Un?bom?er, -y in English

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <dseelyemunix.emich.edu>


Directory

  1. David J. Kathman, Re: 7.739, Qs: Phoneme, Thai, Spelling, Address, References
  2. Peter Daniels, Re: 7.739, Qs: Phoneme, Thai, Spelling, Address, References
  3. Charles Rowe, Re: sum: disc: -y in English

Message 1: Re: 7.739, Qs: Phoneme, Thai, Spelling, Address, References

Date: Thu, 23 May 1996 21:05:41 BST
From: David J. Kathman <djk1midway.uchicago.edu>
Subject: Re: 7.739, Qs: Phoneme, Thai, Spelling, Address, References
Regarding Alan Harris' query about the correct spelling of "un?bom?er":

The official FBI code name for the case is UNABOM (with an 'a' and no 'b').
As I understand it, they came up with this name back in 1979 or so, once
they determined that these bombings were the work of one person. The
"UN-" stands for universities and the "-A-" stands for airlines, since
those had been the bomber's two types of targets to that point. I'm not
sure why they left the "B" off the end; my guess is it has something to
do with FBI code names being only six letters long, but I'm not sure.

There are a couple of ways in which the spelling of this name gets changed.
First, people interpret the "UNA-" as a prefix, naturally enough. But since
"UNA-" is not a productive prefix in English, they tend to spell it "UNI-"
(pronounced the same, with a schwa), which is a productive English prefix.
Then, people naturally want to put that "B" back on the end of "BOM". This
is especially true when you add the suffix "-ER"; people would want to
pronounce "unabomer" with a long 'o'. (I suppose "unabommer" is a
theoretical possibility, but it's much less satisfactory than "unabomber").
So you get "unabomber", "unibomber", "unabomer", and probably some other
possibilities. As to which one is "correct", I suppose it depends on how
pedantic you are; I don't see anything wrong with "unabomber", which was
by far the most common in the press reports I've seen. I noticed that the
New York Times consistently uses "UNABOM", as in "UNABOM suspect Theodore
Kaczynski", but I'm not sure what they do when adding the "-ER" suffix.

Dave Kathman
djk1midway.uchicago.edu
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Message 2: Re: 7.739, Qs: Phoneme, Thai, Spelling, Address, References

Date: Thu, 23 May 1996 23:32:42 CDT
From: Peter Daniels <pdanielspress-gopher.uchicago.edu>
Subject: Re: 7.739, Qs: Phoneme, Thai, Spelling, Address, References
Over the past few weeks, Newsweek has had two editorial notes on the spelling
of Unabomber (what they ended up with). It's una-
for "university, airline"; it was originally -bomer becasue that was apparently
also some sort of acronym, but it got folk etymologized to -bomber with the
current plethora of citations. The name originated as an FBI code name.
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Message 3: Re: sum: disc: -y in English

Date: Thu, 23 May 1996 20:13:12 EDT
From: Charles Rowe <roweemail.unc.edu>
Subject: Re: sum: disc: -y in English


As a footnote to the sum. on -y:

to D. Houston's observation on PA German:

I'm not sure whether the claim is that PA Germanis [I] is an influence fo
other (non-PA G.) rural groups. Another possibility for the *PA German*
[I] might be that it is transferred from the German morpheme -ig
(pronounced [Ic,]), which is the correlate of the Eng. *morpheme* -y.
This could have then spread to other -y environments. (Final /i/ is in
German pronounced [i:]).

to J.Dempsey's observation on rural Southern:

Regardless of the origin of [I] in English varieties in the US, I am
fairly certain that Mick Jagger's lax+long [I]/[E] is based on the
diction of "honky tonk", which is, I'm sure, African-American in origin,
as is the same phenomenon in Blues diction (also African-American in
origin), which continues to pervade early rock and later "pop"music.
While I recognize that it is not certain how precisely the [I] in -y in
AAVE developed (ie, whether by African?, British, Irish or
creole-universal linguistic forces), Mick Jagger's [I] is bound to have
its basis there.

Charlie Rowe
roweemail.unc.edu
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