Posts Tagged ‘origin’

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Damn Yankees

April 6, 2011

by Hugh Rawson

As the baseball season opens, I am reminded that the last time I visited Paris, I left my Boston Red Sox cap at home, not wanting to look too much like a tourist. Imagine my surprise, then, at seeing more baseball caps than berets along the Seine, most of them New York Yankee caps, and many of them on French heads.  The damned Yankees seemed to be winning everywhere!

As it happens,  the word Yankee is connected intimately with American history. Popularized initially as a term of disparagement for New Englanders, it was applied by Southerners to all Northerners during the Civil War, and finally became attached to Americans generally, as in “The Yanks are coming” and, less happily, “Yankee go home.”

The origin of Yankee has been much debated. Some have claimed that  it comes from the Cherokee eankke, meaning “slave” or “coward”; others that it derives from Yengees or Yenkees, supposed mispronunciations by Native Americans of  English or Anglais. And these are just a few of the guesses that have been made. Read the rest of this entry ?

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It’s All OK

February 11, 2011

by Hugh Rawson

It seems fitting to start a new blog on language with a look at the greatest contribution of American English to international discourse: the word O.K., also rendered as  OK, o.k., ok, okay, and sometimes even as okeh. In whatever form, this expression of assent,  approval, or correctness is understood nearly everywhere around the globe, from Afghanistan to Japan to Zimbabwe.

O.K. is remarkably versatile.  It can be employed as a noun (“Will you give this memo your O.K.?”), as an adjective (“It’s an O.K. memo.”), as an adverb (“It reads O.K.”), as a verb (“So I will O.K. it for you.”), or as an interjection (“O.K.! Forget about the memo.”). Depending on context, O.K. can denote positive endorsement (“Congress O.K.’d the treaty.”) or mere acceptance of the status quo (“I’m O.K. with that.”). The expression also is remarkably mutable, having evolved into such forms as oke, okey-dokey, okle-dokle, and A-OK (the last popularized in 1961 when American astronaut Alan Shepard reported the safe splashdown of his Mercury capsule in the Atlantic: “Everything’s A-OK – dye marker out.”) Read the rest of this entry ?

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