The Many Meanings of Too
S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership. The following podcast contains explicit language.
S2: From New York City, this is Lexicon Valley, a podcast about language. I’m John McWhorter. I am in my closet in Queens again. And because this is also a very special episode for a reason, I’ll let you know later.
S3: I’m going do something I’ve been holding off on for three years. There used to be this syndicated show back in the 70s. I think it went into the early 80s called Matinee at the Bijou. Some of you probably remember it. And what it was, was this afternoon show where they would show an old be picture some real throw away, you know, cheapy Western or sci fi picture or something like that. And the idea was supposed to be to recreate what an afternoon at the cinema would have been like in the 30s and 40s. And so before the actual movie, they would actually show a newsreel and an ancient cartoon and often a short. I used to love this show and I used to record it. I used to record the sound from, you know, where the volume came out on my box tape recorder. And one old short that I recorded and I used to play and play and play. I played this about 4000 times, was from about nineteen forty three. This is the Jimmy Dorsey band and the singer is Helen O’Connell. The song is called Rubber Dolly. And I’ve always thought this was one of the catchiest things ever written. This is quite evanescent, but still it’s a wonderful little tune and I think a lot of you will like it. And what happens is she sings and then the band members stand up and interject singing behind her. So that’s who all those guys are that you hear in the background. Here is the first part of the wonderful rubber dolly, which for me is just a warm and ancient memory. It’s like, you know, the smell of the this or the sound of that. Well, how about the sound of the rubber, Dolly?
S4: My mom told me that she would make a world would live, so don’t you. I do that. She will. That will booed. No.
S5: I’ve been up to dream.
S6: Do want you to.
S7: For eons now, I mean, goodness gracious. It’s 40 plus years, eons.
S8: It’s been bouncing around in my head that as dumb as that little thing is, even the words of something passing like that are full of stories. I’ve always thought that as mundane as it is, you could take practically every word that’s just been a random thought that just happens to have been something. I’ve always thought about that song. Linguistics is about just language. It’s about just saying stuff, just silly songs. It’s not only about prose and oratory, and it really usually isn’t about prose and oratory. I’ve always worried that sharing my little obsession with rubber dolly wouldn’t feel like a real episode doesn’t really constitute any kind of theme. Can’t use it as a classroom lesson. As I know, some people are using these shows as it’s just too much from my head. But you know, for posterity’s sake, I’m just gonna spew it. This that this will be fun. I think so. Here with an etymological exegesis on Robert Dolly. Mike, please play the first few lines of rubber Dolly again.
S4: Not that she would back down.
S9: Let’s just start with Dolly. Where does the word doll come from? How’d that happen? And you know, it’s related to something I’ve mentioned on this show before. Ellen is Nelly. Annie becomes Nan. That’s because of people in earlier English saying mine.
S10: Ellen, that meant my. Ellen mine. Ellen. Well, after mine becomes my then mine. Ellen starts sounding like my. No. And my nelly.
S3: And next thing you know, you have these nicknames that start with N.. Otherwise, what would the explanation be if somebody is named Maria? You don’t call them no. Maria. Well, Ellen. Nelly. And then they’re all sorts of reasons that you get these nicknames. There’s no one thing these sounds, which is sometimes can just be what the ancients thought of as funny. So Robert, Rob, Bob PERAB, Bob heehee. Well, you know, there you go. Richard, Rick, if your name is Rick, then maybe it’s Dick. You can imagine that it’s kids who came up with these things. Ricky Dickey. Dickey. Ricky. And so that’s where you got Dick Margaret. Goes to Meg. And then somebody says, we’ll make you Peggy. Peggy made pig. And so you have the pig. Well, you know what doll is? Dolly is from Dorothy and you have this R L switch. So DA Reed, Dolly, just like Sarah, Sally, Molly. Like what’s the actual name for Molly. Molly. Ethan or something. No, it’s Mary. Molly or back in the old days more than today. How? For Harold there was a character actor in the mid 20th century. How March? And you know his actual name was Harold or actually my favorite old radio character, the great Gildersleeve. His name. The guy who played. His name was Harold Perry. He was known as how Perry said, Oh, you, Roy. That’s how he laughed. How Perry? Well, nowadays we don’t call Harold Talj if we call anybody Harold at all, but in the same way. Dorothy and then Dolly. So it starts out as a play on a name. And it meant, sweetheart, it was just based on Dorothy when Dorothy was a more common name. And then it was extended in two directions. One. It’s so sad the way names for females go. First it went from sweetheart to, frankly, slut. But then in another direction, it went from sweetheart to a little dolly. And next thing you know, you shorten it and you’ve got something called a doll. It’s funny. One of my daughter’s name is Dolly, and I remember getting Dolly in a different way. The name was Dahlia. And the first time I picked her up, I don’t know where this came from. I just said, hey, Dolly, it’s just kind of felt right. And so now her family name is Dolly. And of course, I took her to see Hello, Dolly when it came through New York a few years ago. You know, that musical reminded me that musicals for me are like church. It makes no sense. But when they did the title song, my dolly was practically standing up. She got it. It’s just really something. And so, yeah, you can feel what’s coming, but I’m not going to play you. Carol Channing singing Hello, Dolly. I mean, that would be kind of tired. You know, I’m going to play. I’m going to play. Hello, Dolly in German because I’ve always liked the translation. God, that sounds pretentious, but I actually mean it. And so here is a bit of the title song of Hello Dolly. You might already know the words, but here’s how it comes out in German and you can tell it says good to them and for them as it is for us. So German. Hello, Dolly. Hello, Dolly. They call it is right among my stuff. Okay.
S11: Lettermen. Danny. You see Manny. By now. House Financial Millhaven. Oh, hi, sin. Yes. Oh, he’s blind to how he’s doing it. This is Stein.
S9: I mean, this Jesus guy is nice guys stab rubber, so it’s a rubber, dollie, it’s a dolly made out of rubber. Well, rubber means what it means. It’s just that we don’t tend to think about it. It’s a rubber being thing. Rubber is called that because it can be used as an eraser. And so you can grab things out with it. We don’t think about rubbing when we say the word rubber anymore, but that’s where it came from. So much of language is full of things like that. So something like fancy fancy starts with the word fantasy as in. You think of something. And then what you think of is probably something you don’t have. And that means it might be more precious or more interesting or more expensive than what you have. And so next thing you know, you have this word that starts as fantasy as in some mental image. And then you have this word fancy that an American refers to de Antinous. It’s just the weirdest thing.
S3: That is how language goes. So that’s where 1br comes from in. Helen O’Connell’s Elmer Fudd E’s.
S4: And then don’t you?
S12: What’s this telling? You know what? Tell comes from telling is counting. You’d never think of it, but the kind of pointy headed way of thinking of it is in German. The cognate of Kelle is, say, Dahlan, and Dahlan means to count. Now Ε is about telling. It’s about explaining. But Salen is to count.
S8: Now that means that the word probably starts there. And it did. And we know it in English because of something like, for example, to tell time. You’re not announcing the time. What you’re doing is counting the time. That’s what that originally meant or something like a bank teller. But what are they telling you? You’re out of money. That’s was that. I guess that was a combination of Gail Gordon and Frank Nelson. Anyway, you’re out of money, Mrs. Carmichael. That’s not what Teller means, Teller as a counter. You’re counting the money. So after a while, an extended meaning was that you don’t only count as in being numerate, but you’re just explaining something in general, because very often when you’re counting, you’re doing it for the purposes of making something clear, laying out some kind of case. So next thing you know, tell means to narrate a story or to tell on someone. And you have Helen O’Connell up there using the word.
S6: I want him to.
S13: Just where to? There is so much into what is to mean. Well, the first thing you might think of is access. And so something is too hot. No, I’m not going to play anything from Kiss Me, Kate, but to hot excess. Right. That’s true. But then if you think about it, it’s also about addition. And so I want him to. Or me, too. Unfortunately. So it’s about excess and it’s about addition. But there’s also another usage of, too, that we don’t usually think about consciously. Something like you didn’t do it. I did, too. Now, that’s not that you did it too much. And that’s. I also did it. That’s a different to that’s this, too, of refutation of an assertion. And so some of us are familiar with that from other languages. French, for example, has we as. Yes, but they do actually have to see that Spanish has. Except they use it in a very special way.
S8: So you didn’t pay. Do you know about it? Yes, I did pay. See GPA. Not we. JP CGP. Yes, I did pay well in English. Just like German has done in French. Has see we used to for that reason. But that means that too as a.. Oh. Is a matter of excessiveness, a matter of addition and a matter of refutation. Imagine having to learn that little splotch. If you’re new to English you can imagine in some wordlist it’ll say that to mean successively. But then you have to learn that it really is this strange little amoeba that spreads its little amoeba called what they’re called over those three different meanings. And this makes you think about a magic thing that we often hear about language where you’ve got to be really careful. And I refer to wharfie an ism. The language is thought hypothesis, the idea that the way your language is built, your language is grammar and the way your language happens to divide words up among components of experience shapes the way you process reality. It’s a gorgeous, seductive Chanel number 5 perfumed kind of idea. But you’ve got to be really careful because it makes less and less sense as anything major, anything significant. The closer you look at it. So, for example, in a language like Spanish, Sioban and Gwynneth that are both to know how bad is to know a fact, Gwynneth, that is to know a person. And you’ve got that in a lot of European languages and you can read it said that that means that somebody who speaks a language like that is more sensitive to the contours of knowing than we anglophone boobs who just have our stupid little verb now. And that’s it. That covers both. OK. And you kind of want to believe that, but you have to be careful because here’s a particularity of our language. We have this word, T-O, too. And it refers to all three of these things, distin, access and refutation. Now, based on that, wouldn’t you think that that makes us kind of crude? We’ve got this one word that covers all those things. So for one thing, we’re crude in that we’re less sensitive to the difference between knowing your spouse and knowing what two plus two is. So we’re already we’re barbarians there. But isn’t it even worse that we have this one word that allows us to not think about the difference between all three of those things? Clearly, that doesn’t quite work. And yet we might look at some other language that combines all those things and we either think that it makes them less sensitive to it or I can imagine this many people would say that that means that these people are uniquely sensitive to the resonances between the additive and the refutations oil and the excessive. And once again, do we feel that way? Do we feel like this any exquisite sensitivity? I don’t feel terribly sensitive. I just feel like we have this one kind of odd train wreck of a word and life goes on and you’re doing your pockets from a closet. So be very careful of your Warfield ism. It’s always interesting to see what languages combine, what things, but things like arrival and its message that you can learn what people are like through the way their grammar is put together. No, I loved arrival. There’s something about eight hem’s also anything she’s in. I like great movie, entertaining movie. But as I often tell people who have not gone to the trouble of listening to every episode of this weird podcast, I did do one on arrival. You cannot take a rival as science. It was exquisite entertainment. Is it the fat low or the dollar or the dollar or the fella? And it’s funny if you watch this and you can go right online and see it. You can look at poor Jimmy Dorsey. This band was so good. This was one of the crack EST ensembles ever assembled in the history of humankind. Poor Jimmy has no rhythm. He’s back there during this part kind of shuffling back and forth. A mannequin could do it with more grace. It’s interesting how people are. But is it the fella?
S12: It what? It is worth it? Part of what I mean by thinking that every word of this silly little song has meaning is that it has an interesting history. You know, it used to be hit and it makes sense that it used to be here. It used to be. For example, him, her and hit. Wouldn’t that be a better line? Which things are supposed to make sense? Get the ducks in a row. It alone is like this headless duck. It’s like it’s hanging in the window of a Chinese restaurant that never met anyway.
S8: So him her hit or to go back to old English, the paradigm for he she and it was old English voice. He was. Hey, she was. Hey, it really was. And then it was hit and so hey, hit. That’s how it went. And it made sense. You can see remnants of this all the way up into the 20th century. So Zora Neale Hurston. Black woman writer pops up with hits all the time in her work in Jonah’s Gourd Vine. One of her novels, just one of many examples is somebody who says not it’ll turn back on you, but hit, hit, turned back on you. Hindle, turn back on. You can confuse you sometimes. All of a sudden there’s hit and then you realize, oh, this makes sense if it’s it or there was one work, Bradford and he was neither black nor female, but he had grown up among black people in Tennessee around the turn of the 20th century. And he has a story called John Henry where their sentences he has black people lovingly quoted saying things like hits just the way hit is just like that. This was not something made up. This was because the hood held on longer in some varieties of English than others. And that means that even the little word, it is actually shortened. It’s something that many people would have heard as a contraction, just like you say, love them and leave them for love them and leave them. Well, it really, quote unquote, should be hit. So kind of like last time we talked about how the word that can go to as. And so them as hold them well in the same way hit went to it. And now nobody is the wiser. I’m not sure why, but when they showed this wonderful shore on matinee at the Bijou, they before it had a little bit of on the soundtrack. The Dorsey band playing one of their former minor hits. It was instrumental. It was called Contrasts. And so in my head, Robert Darlie is preceded by this lovely saxophone solo with Jimmy Dorsey was playing. I have since learned that this was a cut called Contrasts. And I want you to hear this because it’s something that’s always playing in my head randomly just because of me making that tape recording during the Carter administration. But here, listen to this. This is a bit of contrasts. Boy, that takes me back to hormonal adolescence, I remember.
S3: To me, that feels like animal crackers for a reason I won’t discuss. And also being just about to pop. In any case, she says, our Helen O’Connell, she says.
S5: I’ve been up to.
S14: Fixed teach us a lesson. Yes, it does. Yes, it does. Here’s the lesson. Old English has a word, Fisk.
S13: Now something’s gonna happen to Fisk. It’s not just going to stay there because language always changes. Well, there are two things that happened to Fisk. One is that the consonants at the end switch positions and you got fix.
S14: And so they’re places where people said fix for Fisk. But then Fisk could also become fish, just like the word for ship used to be skipped. So Fisk becomes fish. So originally you had a Fisk meaning fish.
S13: Some places people were calling them Fix’s. Other places people call them fish that won out. And so now we fish talk about what we now do to potatoes. If you get tired potatoes, you’re going to mash that thing. Well, that word used to be mask. Now something’s gonna happen to mascot’s not just gonna stay that way. It could become Macs. And so you could max your potatoes. And that is exactly what happened in some places. Or you might mash the potatoes that happened to win out. Okay. Now, here’s where this is going. Old English has a word and that word is ask. Now they’re two things that can happen to ask. In some places it’s going to become X. You just know it happened in a lot of places, it’s still there. And that is where black and actually many white speakers in America get it because people who were saying X, which was a natural development from ask because it had happened with words ending in Scurr all over the vocabulary. That’s the people who came here. So that’s X. Then in other places it became ash. And believe it or not, there were places where the word for ass was pronounced ash, but that didn’t win out. You never know how these things are gonna go x 1 and that’s why that’s so common in non standard Englishes. So the word fix can teach you that because I always hear the word fix and I think you know there but for the grace of chance is the way I might be referring to tilapia or mackerel.
S9: By the way, hello, Slate listeners, we have an important message for you. By now, you probably know about Slate’s membership program Slate, plus its subscription that gives you ad free versions of every Slate podcast. You can get this show and others like Dear Prudence and The Political Gabfest. All without any ad breaks. But if you’re a reader of Slate as well as a listener, you might have noticed that Slate.com recently in stone of. So we want to get to know that Slate Plus membership will also give you access to everything on our website from our recent coverage of the Corona virus to who counts our ongoing investigation into whose voices will be left out of the 2020 election. We’re committed to keeping you informed about everything this year has in store, and your support is extremely important to helping us continue this important work. You can sign up for Slate Plus now at Slate.com. Last plus or your show’s usual slate plus u._r._l. And if you’re already a member, just log in at slate.com. Slash log in.
S15: Way I think it’s time for the kids to go to bed. That’s the end of the show for today. Here’s John. That’s our play out. Hope you had some nice peach Jell-O at some point before your day ended.
S8: So the kids in bed, OK, if you want to know the skinny on the new announcement about the word fuck, then you need to listen to my slate. Plus this time and I guarantee you it’s actually kind of a fun one. Here is more Robert Dollie.
S6: I nothing seems more basic than want a homily, if that’s going to be.
S9: Nothing seems more basic than the word want. You figure that if English has a lot of words that it’s borrowed from other languages, what is not going to be one of them? That seems like one of the basic Wonderbread meat and potatoes sorts of words. But no, it’s not want it’s a Viking word. Our English word for want is will. That’s how it really used to go. And it’s still kind of is. We talk about our will and you talk about he would do as he would and we mean he would do as he wanted. So it’s still there under the surface. But mainly we use what? That was a Norse word. And so many of our basic words are Norse. It’s ominous. How many? So it’s one thing for people to come in to lend their words like what? Meal and putts and things like that. That’s the Yiddish loans into English. But, you know, time passes and the people basically are learning English. And so it’s only so many Yiddish words. And usually we have to work to think about which words those are, especially beyond roughly Schlemiel Puts and Hotspur. But with Norse, it’s frankly so many things that you would think would be native. You’ve got sister skill skins guy ugly window.. wing die get give hit scene take both though till all of those words. And by the hit I mean the hit as I’m not the hit as the pronoun. All of those words are foreign. And it just goes on and on and on. It is at least many hundred and certainly much more than that, depending on how you count it. And it’s funny. There are so many of those words that you really have to imagine a special situation where these Vikings aren’t only not learning English well, but they are infiltrating the language with their own stuff. It’s clear that Norse ended up being much more than just a dusting into Old English. And it’s interesting, there’s an article right now that is arguing that actually what I’m speaking right now is n that it’s not that English has this unusual volume of words from this once foreign language. These guys, the guys are named Joseph Emons and John farland have actually argued. And these are these are linguistics people that really Old English became Norse. It stopped being English at all. And so all these N words are because what people were speaking was Norse, which was affected somewhat by English rather than the other way around. And it’s funny. It’s one of those arguments, frankly, I don’t believe it for a minute, but I respect the argument because it’s very clever. And not only are there so many words, but all sorts of other peculiar things about English actually come from Norse, for example. Think about how we use prepositions. You’re told not to put prepositions at the end of a sentence, but frankly, that rule is utter bullshit. It’s just the way English works. And so this is what I’m thinking of. This is the woman I came with and so on. Notice, though, that if you’re learning almost any other language, you’ve got to get past that.
S7: There’s no such thing in Spanish as the woman I was BOQ with the male head can yo a blubber. Cohen No, that just doesn’t work. Even if you’re not good at it, you can feel that doesn’t work. It’s one of those things you feel like this is only English. It’s kind of like the sound. And usually when you learn another language, you gradually learn that there’s no sound like cat had banana.
S9: You’ve got to get rid of the same thing with stranding prepositions. But you know where you do get stranded prepositions in varieties that descended from Old Norse today, such as Norwegian’s Swedish and Danish. Not all of them, but in some of the varieties there you can strand just like you can strand in English and English can only have gotten it from them. So you never know how these things are going to work. And frankly, it would be tidier if the North speaking Vikings came here and imposed their language because that’s what the Anglo-Saxons and dupes did. They come over here? There are Celtic languages here. Notice that I’m pretending that I’m British when I’m in a closet in Queens. So they end up in England and they’re these Celtic languages like Welsh spoken. And somehow nobody knows exactly how this worked. They end up imposing English pretty much all over the island. Well, if they did that, then if these Danes and Norwegians come and overpower these Anglo-Saxons and Jews and it’s clear they weren’t very good at learning English, why wouldn’t they simply just have imposed their Norse given that they ran the whole outfit for a very long time? King Canute was a Dane. England had been taken over. So wouldn’t they have brought their Nourse over and imposed it? The whole argument doesn’t work for reasons that would bring us too far into the weeds. But. So it’s fascinating and it’s a word like what that gets me thinking about it these days. By the time fela! is that the fellow that Ali fellow is also from Nourse that start says WFI Lay somebody who’s laying down money is a fellow. And then that gradually extended to referring to somebody who you’re friends with. But at first it was a fee laywer. And that’s where we get fellow and feller and fela!.
S7: Heck, you know what she really wants to say? She wanted to say hell, but you don’t say that in the media. In the early 1940s. But it’s interesting how HEK works and so not hell, but heck, what’s the process? So it’s not like L-E and Nelli. It’s not proper. Bogert And it’s not Dorothy. Dollie, what is it that gets us from hell to heck? And it’s funny the stories that heck attracts. For some reason people are very fertile about HEK. Apparently there’s an Icelandic volcano with the name Hek or something like it, and it was proposed in one place that we say heck because we’re shouting off the name of this volcano. Upset. Then apparently one of the small parts of Al-Youm is called a heck. And so one person is actually more than one person suggested that we say heck based on the name of that little part. But that would be like saying, oh, crankshaft, you know, why would you use that little part? Then some people say, well, it’s short for by sector by sector. But who’s actor and why would that spread? Really? What heck is is this one of these nonsense formations that actually is kind of like Robert Bobber. It’s like, you know. Oh, gosh. Instead of oh god. It’s why some people say shite instead of shit. The word was never pronounced that way. It’s just that here we are or like 0 4 0. You know what? Because you need these little words. And it’s funny. You find hecan all sorts of places. And these old comics I talked about, Nocco, the monk, you find people saying, oh, that person can go to heck. I don’t know if people have actually said go to heck. But they said it in those comics. And I’m presuming that that was because you couldn’t have somebody say hell in a comic or there was also, hey, people used to be able to say what the hey. So burlesque comedians had to keep their language clean, even if they’ve got, you know, kind of a certain amount of discreet striptease and a certain general air of the gutter. You have to keep the language clean.
S16: And so they would say cheese and crackers for Jesus Christ. So I. Cheese and crackers. What are you doing here? That sort of thing.
S3: And then there was also what the hay for? What the hell? And you can hear, for example, Daffy Duck say it in rabbit season, a cartoon many of us have probably seen. But notice how he says what the hell? A Looney Tunes character can’t say hell ever. I’m not aware of the word ever being used in any of a thousand of which I’ve seen as, you know, way too many. But rabbit seasoning does open with this line.
S17: Sweating on me, I know, but you’re gonna have some fun.
S9: Or here we can listen to it being used by actual burlesque comedians. In One More Time, this 1951 musical with Phil Silvers Top Banana. I know I used it last time, but I had to use it for this. They’re actually explaining the origin of the term top banana and listen to what they say instead of what the hell.
S18: Hey, Mr. Biffle, what’s a top banana? When I’m up against Moe Johnny come lately. A top banana is the face comedian in a band I spent joke about. And Pinky do it for him. Watch this kid. I just came back. I have three bananas and I’m gonna give you one in just a minute. You only have two bananas that you have. That’s right. That’s true. One man honor. Tell bananas by. You’re out of your mind in your own words. I’m sure you’re wrong. I had one banana, have two bananas, do one banana and two bananas mixed. I got it. He’s right. Same. Oh, would you join me in a banana? I’d be delighted. One banana for you. Banana. Well, how about you eat the food? Banana. What?
S19: See what I mean? Get paid banana. Sacher mañana top banana.
S20: You know there’s more. Whoop, whoop, whoop. John saw a crow flying low food bubble that John saw. Crow flying low. Several miles beneath the snow.
S7: Well, John, that’s my Burl Ives imitation. Anyway, yeah, you’re thinking how’s this about linguistics? And even before this, he’s talking about some damn doll. Well, let’s go out on some other 40s boogie woogie. This is 1942. This is one of my favorite three minutes ever. And I know I’d say that a lot. But I mean it here. I learned this when I burrowed into my father’s stack of 78s and luckily we had something that could play them. I used to listen through them. And this one was my favorite by far. I listened to it endlessly when I was 14. I thought the voice was sexy then, but I only had the aural image in my head. But now you can see this online. And to use the form of appreciation of 1942. This was Ella Mae Morse LMA Morse. And see her on time. She was a closet black person. Actually, she really was. She was doing what used to be called passing as one sometimes chose to that. Then you can look her up. NPR did a really neat segment on her, but she is utterly charming doing this song when you can actually see the short folks. Technically, it’s a Saudi for those of you care about these things. But anyway, this is cow cow boogie. I love this to pieces.
S21: You know Ray Rondae. I heard I’m playing a mom or dad with a daddy. You’re not in a city.
S22: Black folks, this is my one hundredth episode.
S2: I never dreamed when I started that I would ever reach this point. When Mike asked me to do this, my first thought was even as late as 2016. Why would I want to talk instead of right? I like to write. But somebody near and dear to me said that podcasting was the new thing, and that I should do this. And so many of you remember that Mike and Bob were doing their version, and all of a sudden there was this stranger subbing for the summer and doing interviews. And after about eight of those, I told Mike that if I was going to stay on, I wanted to do shows where I’d just spew. And Mike allowed it. Thanks so much to him for allowing me to defile what he and Bob had so lovingly created. I started folding show tunes in and after a while I stopped even pretending that they pertained to the topic. And here we are. And for some reason, you listen. I must say thank you to you fans of this weird thing for following me for all these shows. Thank you for all of your emails and tweets. I am hugely flattered. This podcast and fans changed my life in many ways and I never expected that this thing that I come up with blindly bit by bit would make sense to so many people. I tried so hard to answer as many of your messages as I can and I apologize for how backed up I’m getting. But please know that this show is quite simply the me who wakes up in the morning, not the cranky or stuff I do on race that I know a lot of you also catch here and there that I never mentioned on this show until now.
S3: But it’s this that is me when I wake up. I really am about eight years old. And thank you for letting me share my toys with you for one hundred episodes. All of you remind me why I I’m alive. Thank you.
S2: You can reach us at Lexicon Valley at Slate.com. That’s Lexicon Valley at Slate.com. To listen to past shows and subscribe or just to reach out, go to slate.com. Slash Lexicon Valley. No little joke here the way I usually do. Instead, just thank you all again. And a special thanks, especially to Mike volo, my editor and the originator of this podcast who has so graciously allow me to make this show my own. If we have to do more than another two shows from the closet, by the way, I promise to get a better mike, not a better Mike volo, of course. That actually was kind of a joke in a bed. Anyway, for now I am.
S23: That’s all there is. There isn’t any more.
S9: You know, we’ve heard some new news that the earliest written attestation of fuck has been discovered from the late 15 hundred’s in Scotland. And I should say that that does not hold water. The earliest written attestation of the word fuck is in the early fifteen hundreds and it was Scottish again. But this later one is no big news, especially because in the fourteen hundreds. Fuck, it’s written in code. And as far back as the late eleven hundreds fuck is used in last names. And I did a whole episode about this word where you’ll see that the idea that the first written F-U S.K. is in the late 15 hundred’s is a great news story, but not true. But you know, profanity has a way of attracting apocrypha and one of my favorites is about frankly the word shit.
S24: There’s this idea that shit started as this acronym ship High in Transit. And supposedly this was marked on bags of manure when they were being transported in a ship. And it’s never quite clear when this was. But apparently these places that needed to have all of this dung imported, there wasn’t enough shit, you know, because apparently the animals were running dry or something. So he ships bringing these bags. And so the idea was that you had to keep the manure dry. And if you packed it down deep in the hull, it might get wet because that’s where water might seep in and then it would decompose and that would create methane gas. And then if a watchman came down with a lantern, because for some reason they’re trying to get a peek at these sacks of shit, then it might ignite the bags and it would blow the boat to pieces. Speakers, books to ship the fire in transit. That is the silliest story, for one thing. Words go back too far for that to make sense. And so the word shit goes back to old English. Skip. And that’s before 1000 A.D.. And that’s long before there could have even been a sentence like ship high in transit because there wouldn’t have been a word like transit because that came into the language from Latin. Many centuries later. And then also shit is one kitten in a litter. There are equivalent words like that in the Germanic languages that have emerged from some proto Germanic ancestor, just like a bunch of kittens come from one cat or catus. And so there’s some one word in the proto Germanic language, probably about twenty five hundred years ago, and it births all these kind of shit. Kittens. These kinds of shit. And so if shit comes from some nautical acronym in just this one kitten, then why is it that the other branches have words like shade in Dutch and skits in Swedish? Sisa in German. How come they’re all so close to it?
S20: If shit is this written acronym that was on these these bags and among other things, you might want to know why was there this lusty demand for manure?
S7: Isn’t the challenge of the farmer usually to figure out what to do with the manure that didn’t get plowed under? Why was anybody searching out and buying eggs? It makes no sense. Imagine something like a dozen tomatoes, a dozen eggs, a couple of onions. Hanka. Throw in a couple of bags of poop. Well yeah, that makes no sense at all. What would they be doing with it? And I know some of you are thinking about those guano boats and that’s the 19th century. And so there’s this bird and bat shit from South America and that was of use in Western Europe and the United States as fertilizer. But that’s the 19th century. Not everybody lives on a farm at that point. And more to the point, it’s long, long, long after the word shit existed. What were these ship boats at? Really just, you know. There are so many things speaking against it. It would be nice if the word ship came from ship high in transit and exploding bags of poop, but it just doesn’t go through. So that’s what you get for your slate. Plus a nominal fee this week.