Archive for the ‘Formulaic expressions’ Category

Only YOU

February 1, 2016

Passed around on Facebook, this entertaining combination of image and text:

(#1)

Non-Americans might not get the joke here, since the figure of Smokey might not be familiar to them: he’s very much an American thing. Even if you don’t recognize Smokey the Bear (and his signature quotation, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires”), you might recognize the central figure in the composition as a monk, or a (religious) brother, that is, a friar (NOAD2: ‘a member of any of certain religious orders of men, especially the four mendicant orders (Augustinians, Carmelites, Dominicans, and Franciscans)’), and you might notice the vase of flowers (such as you would get from a florist shop) and suspect that they weren’t in the original painting of the friar, so that you could appreciate the composition (with its “florist friars”) as playful nonsense. But the monitory Smokey is crucial for real understanding.

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More Black Friday etymythology

November 28, 2014

On the 26th I posted an etymythology for the expression to pass for/as, as in a black person passing for white. And from Bonnie Taylor-Blake on ADS-L the same day:

I see that a recently offered explanation for where the “Black” in “Black Friday” comes from has become quite popular, at least on Twitter and Facebook.

This version holds that “Black Friday” stems from the selling of (black) slaves the day after Thanksgiving.

David Mikkelson, of snopes.com, addressed this last year when it first arrived to his inbox.

This piece of etymythology seems to have gained considerable traction this year (at least on Twitter and Facebook), its credibility perhaps aided by outrage toward recent grand-jury findings in Ferguson, Missouri.

It’s been interesting to read conversations on Twitter where someone repeats this particular explanation and is corrected, so to speak, by someone offering the (also false) “red ink to black ink” accounting origin story.

Bonnie is the go-to person on the formula Black Friday; she did the meticulous research discounting the “red ink to black ink” story — retold in detail by Ben Zimmer in his Word Routes column on 11/25/11. I’m going to reproduce Ben’s column in full here, because so many readers have found Bonnie’s story unconvincing: people love stories — this is narratophilia — but they like etymological stories (like the black-ink story) that give a sense of deep explanation, while Bonnie’s account, despite the considerable, detailed evidence for it, seems too pedestrian and, well, fortuitous, having its roots in a local phrasing (in Philadelphia) used by a small number of people (police officers) at one moment in time (the early 1960s).

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