LINGUIST List 3.108

Tue 04 Feb 1992

Disc: Intensifiers, not, ok, but

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Monica Macaulay, way again
  2. Malcolm Ross, Re: 3-83 Australian postposed "but"
  3. Marnie Jo Petray, Re: 3.95 Intensifiers
  4. Pamela Munro, OK

Message 1: way again

Date: Mon, 3 Feb 92 13:35:49 -05way again
From: Monica Macaulay <>
Subject: way again

Tom Payne's comments reminded me that I forgot to point out the
most interesting thing about the two examples I posted earlier
("way toast" and "way Indiana") - note that both modify nouns,
not adjectives. Until I heard these, I'd only ever heard it
modifying adjectives - e.g. "way cool."

Also heard a weird "NOT" today - I said to a freshman something
along the lines of: "Oh, [deleted], I think I forgot the disk
with the file we need on it," and she said: "NOT. Oh, Monica,
NOT!" - meaning she hoped I wasn't right, and that I hadn't
forgotten it.

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Message 2: Re: 3-83 Australian postposed "but"

Date: Mon, 3 Feb 92 11:49:22 +11Re: 3-83 Australian postposed "but"
From: Malcolm Ross <>
Subject: Re: 3-83 Australian postposed "but"

In a recent posting the use of Australian postposed "but" was described,
as illustrated in the movie "Fringe Dwellers". I haven't seen the movie.
However, the observations made in that posting seem basically correct to
me. Postposed "but" does form an intonation unit with the preceding
material. It seems to be true that it does not occur on clauses that are
intonationally part of longer sentences, largely because the clause with
"but" is usually a response to another speaker's statement, or an
afterthought following something the speaker has said: the "but" response
normally adds some kind of qualification to that statement. Its usage
corresponds quite closely, I think, to postposed "though" in British

The posting observed use of postposed "but" over a large age range of
Aboriginal Australians. Here in Canberra I hear it most often among
whites under the age of thirty.

Malcolm Ross
Linguistics RSPacS
Australian National University
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Message 3: Re: 3.95 Intensifiers

Date: Mon, 3 Feb 92 13:10:57 -05Re: 3.95 Intensifiers
From: Marnie Jo Petray <>
Subject: Re: 3.95 Intensifiers

Relative to the intensifier "big time" is "big dog," for example "I'm
big dog tired" or "That's a big dog mistake." Its usage is common to
many parts of the South, although I have no idea of its origin.

Marnie Petray
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Message 4: OK

Date: Fri, 31 Jan 92 16:31 PST
From: Pamela Munro <IBENAJYUCLAMVS.bitnet>
Subject: OK

Re the suggested Wolof origin of OK

I bet I'm the only LINGUIST subscriber who knows quite a bit about both
Wolof and Choctaw (I'd love to hear from others). This is relevant because
Choctaw has also been suggested as the source of English OK, as Wolof was
in 3.084. I am VERY dubious about the suggested Wolof source, which I'd
rewrite as waaw kay.(Waaw means 'yes' and kay is an emphatic particle.) It
seems to me that if Wolof or some African language were in fact the source
of OK, this would be a familiar fact from the days of slavery.
In fairness, I should say I'm also dubious about the supposed Choctaw
etymology, which is actually given in some (mainstream) English dictionaries.
Choctaw has a sentence ending ookay (written oke in traditional missionary
orthography) which can be added emphatically to almost any declarative.
If you're not very familiar with the language and you listen to spoken
Choctaw, you'll hear a lot of OK's. But it doesn't seem to me that Choctaw
was really ever that widely spoken to have been the source for this word.
It would be very interesting to hear if anyone has any historical evidence
on this subject. There are certainly many English-internal suggested ety-
mologies, as I imagine we'll be hearing.
Pam Munro
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