Let’s dive right in, with two disparate items: an old One Big Happy cartoon recently reprised in my comics feed; and Ta-Da!, a 2018 hardcover picture book by Kathy Ellen Davis (author) and Kaylani Juanita (illustrator):

The OBH:

(#1) (note the spelling variant)

Ruthie announces her latest invention, with a fanfare.

The children’s book

(#2) The book cover

From the publisher’s (somewhat overwrought) blurb:

What makes a good story? One little girl thinks it’s a princess with magic powers that can (ta-da!) overcome any obstacle. Her friend thinks it’s (dun dun duh!) a host of dragons, pirates, and volcanos that cause total chaos. But as each of their stories intertwine and interact, these two young storytellers soon learn that a good story needs both destruction and triumph, conflict and resolution. Ta-Da! is an irresistible celebration of imagination, storytelling, and the joys of collaboration.

Lexicographic notes. First, the quick shot from NOAD:

exclamation ta-da (also ta-dah): an imitation of a fanfare, used typically to call attention to an impressive entrance or a dramatic announcement.

Then, the longer story from OED3 (March 2007) on the interjection ta-da:

Chiefly humorous and hyperbolical. Used to accompany or draw attention to a dramatic entrance, announcement, etc.: ‘Here I am!’ ‘Here it is!’ [1st cite 1926 J. M. March Wild Part ‘Come in!’ .. And there stood Kate .. ‘Ta-da!’ sang Kate]

(Try not to worry overmuch about the labels exclamation vs. interjection; for the moment, be assured that both have some justification in this case. The larger terminological issue is exceedingly complex; I’ll try to add a few notes on it in a follow-up posting to this one.)

verbing. The basic facts about ta-da! are fairly straightforward, but I was then moved to wonder whether this exclamatve had been verbed — converted to a verb meaning ‘to utter ta-da!’. And indeed it has, quite a lot. I assumed that I’d find both transitive and intransitive examples. But in fact almost all the examples I collected were clearly transitive; well, the verb would mean, roughly, ‘make an announcement’ — so it would be natural for it to occur with a direct object referring to that announcement.

Intransitive uses wouldn’t be impossible, but they’d be very rare. What I didn’t collect was any examples like the cite from OED3 above, but with a verbing, something like:

And there stood Kate .. Kate ta-da-ed.

Three transitive cites:

We have a new Rotary Banner, which Pres. Wes “ta-da-ed.” (link)

A litany of heart-string pulling tricks are ‘ta-da-ed’ from the romance genre magic hat (link)

Glenn, the man I eventually married, had never been with an underwear enthusiast before, and boy was he glad to meet me. Early on, I planned stealth missions. He would go to the bathroom, and come back to find me fully costumed on the couch. ”Ta da!” I’d say, and he would clap. As the years passed, I continued to surprise him, but we also shopped together. In fact we could chart our major life events by acquisitions: the black lace slip I ta-da’ed on our first anniversary … (link)

The last example is especially nice, because it has both the exclamative and the verb.

A contrast. The interjection ta-da! might be fairly said to be “understood transitively”, as it is sometimes put: it’s understood as implicating the existence of something that is being announced or exclaimed about. But similar interjections — in particular, the disapproving or critical tut and tsk — lack such an implicature — so when verbed, they will by default be intransitive.

However, like manner-of-speaking verbs (shout, yell, whisper, etc.), they can also be used transitively, to report what sort of thing is uttered (shouted or tutted):

They shouted (loudly). They shouted their disapproval / that the idea was worthless.

They tutted (loudly). They tutted their disapproval / that the idea was worthless.

(On manner-of-speaking verbs, see my 1971 Linguistic Inquiry squib, viewable here.)

From OED2 on the verbed interjections tut and tsk:

on tut [AZ: frequently duplicated as tut-tut]: 1. intransitive. To utter the exclamation ‘tut’. [1st cite 1832; … 1873 M. E. Braddon Strangers & Pilgrims The doctors had simpered at her, and tut-tuted, and patted her gently on the head.]  2. transitive. To express disapproval of by the exclamation ‘tut’; to say disapprovingly. [1st cite 1972; … 1972 Times 10 He [sc. President Nixon] felt sure some of his ideas would be ‘tut-tutted’ by ‘the Georgetown cocktail set’]

on tsk-tsk: (intransitive) to make this sound or utter this exclamation; also transitive, to say disapprovingly. [examples: 1968 Punch No amount of tsk-tsking indignation and bitter wit will turn a buy into a bargain. … 1976 New Yorker She tsk-tsks over Momma.]

Historically, tut is a variant of tsk, with the English-anomalous pronunciation of tsk (an alveolar click) normalized to the phonemic system of the language, but it now has a life of its own.

AHD5 on the pronunciation of tsk:

a t-like sound made by suction rather than plosion; conventional spelling pronunciation, tĭsk

The spelling pronunciation /tɪsk/ is regularly used for the verbed interjection (as in the OED examples of the verb tsk-tsk above) — which then leads to occasional spellings tisk-tisk, as here:

[head] Tisk-Tisk: Lamster Lambasts Dallas Architects; [story] Mark Lamster, Dallas Morning News architecture critic and responsible citizen, chastised the Dallas community…  (link)


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