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Author Topic: colloquialisms
Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Surprised my daughter recently by using "might could have" in a sentence. She thought it was a funny thing to say.

I've been thinking about it, though, and I think it makes perfect sense, when translated correctly.

"Could" is a form of "can" which means "to be able to."

So "might could have" means "might have been able to," at least to my understanding.

Anyone have any other such colloquialisms and their "translations" to share?

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KellyTharp
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I can see Could have . . . but the "might" throws me off. I would think "probably could have" works better. I cannot tell you why from a literary point of view. Maybe we have an english lit major who can explain it. Also, I think of "could" as being rather iffy, not very concrete, whereas "can" is more positive --- Yes, I can . . . Yes, I could (but I'm going to think about it before really committing). Just my opinion. Don't ya just love words! KT
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LDWriter2
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Actually, I understood your phrase.

But the only colloquialisms I can think of right now are my personal ones--don't think you meant that type though and I try to keep them out of my writing.

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hoptoad
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In Australia, for what it is worth, a lot of people say:
"yeah-no"
It is usually an answer to a question means something like "kind of but no" or "i understand what you're saying but no, that's not it..."

which is different to "no-yeah"

on another note i have always puzzled over (US of A) Americans' "could care less" when other english speakers say "couldn't care less"

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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That's why these things are colloquialisms.

I put this topic here because such things can add a little flavor to our writing, though whether you use them in the narration or the dialogue depends on what you are trying to convey to the reader about the narrator and/or character(s).

EDITED TO ADD:

It may help if you think of them as regional expressions.

Another example would be "you all" for second person plural as opposed to "you guys" (which is what I grew up saying, but which my daughters objected to--"We're not guys!"). So, since I lived in Texas for a couple of years, I decided that I have earned the right to say "y'all" or "you all" instead.

Haven't managed to get myself to use "y'all's" (yet another colloquialism) for second person plural possessive, however.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Perhaps if I were to ask for your version of a particular colloquialism.

Anyone not in Australia have something they say that is equivalent (or at least similar) to hoptoad's "yeah-no"? (And I don't mean the oxymoronic "yeah, right!")

Would "yes, but..." qualify, hoptoad?

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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And "could care less" as opposed to "couldn't care less" is more related to laziness (one less syllable from what it should be), or perhaps just not really thinking about what you're saying.

Another example of that might be "would of" as a written misinterpretation of what is actually being said: "would've" for "would have."

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MAP
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I've never heard anyone say "could care less." It has always been "Couldn't care less."

But the US is a big country, and these colloquilisms are different depending on the region.

People use funner a lot in my area, and it drives my husband who isn't around here nuts because it is wrong. He's been unsuccessfully trying to keep our kids from using it. [Smile]

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genevive42
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"a-whole-nother thing"

Technically probably it should be, 'a whole other thing', but the above is common in LA, though I'd bet its origins are closer to the South.

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tesknota
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This is probably not a colloquialism, but I had a professor in college who would use "irregardless" a couple of times per lecture. And he would use it emphatically, to illustrate important points he was making.

This really irked one of my friends, so now I make a point of using "irregardless" in the same manner.

Ir-regardless is like a double negative. I actually just looked it up again to confirm that it's not a real word, and found a debate about its validity instead. =/

Irregardless, here's my colloquialism.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Your "irregardless" professor reminds me of something else ("a whole nother thing") we could discuss, though it doesn't quite qualify as a colloquialism, so I should probably create a separate (or whole other) topic for it.

(Personally, I sort of like "a whole nother thing," but then I also use "co-inky-dink" to refer to coincidences that are a little crazy or far-fetched.)

Anyway, the other thing I thought we could discuss is something I call "word ticks" -- such as "ya know" among teenagers, and "what!" among gouty old English gentlemen. Words people say unconsciously over and over again, and I'm not entirely sure why they say them. Have to start a new topic to see if anyone else has any ideas.

Your professor, tesknota, may have been using irregardless as a word tick, except that you say you think he only used it for emphasis. Fine line?

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hoptoad
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Hi KDW, "yeah but" is something we use too, and it is similar but not as dismissive as "yeah-no".

With 'yeah-no' you are often signalling in a friendly way that you are about to stop talking about it, (whatever it is).

Very difficult to convey and I apologise that I can't be clearer.

I guess that is one reason why these colloquialisms exist, they are as much about the connotations as anything else.

One BIG one that I forgot to mention is the Australia use of the word 'mate'. It can mean almost anything depending on the inflection.

[ May 26, 2013, 09:52 PM: Message edited by: hoptoad ]

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Melanie Vera
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"What ever" is I hear you, but I'm not going to agree with you.
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extrinsic
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A colloquialism I'm particularly fond of and used only in several discrete regions is the Middle English term mammack. One region uses mummuck, another mammock, another mommick. Use of the term in written or spoken word clearly signals a person's regional identity to we who are in the know. The word may be used as a noun, adjective, adverb, or verb. In any case, mommick means tatters or shreds or ruins, tattered, or shredded, or ruined.

Driving on the rush-hour highway to the big city 'bout mommicked my last nerve.

The big cyclone of Ought Fourteen blew through the whaling village and mommicked up our skiffs and homes. We all moved our belongings over yonder here to the Promise Land after that.

The term comes from paper making. Mammack, the noun, is the word for old and worn out, torn, shedded, ruined cotton and linen clothing and table, bath, and bed linens. In jubilant Elizabethan England times, rag collectors collected mammack and sold it to paper makers to make linen and cotton bond paper.

Actually, rag collectors had a royal warrant authorizing them to forcibly enter homes and take mammack at will, compensating the owners with a pittance, often taking less than mommicked cloths if they needed to to fulfill a quota.

[ May 27, 2013, 10:17 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Denevius
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Living abroad, I've heard a lot of interesting phrases of speech. I don't take notes, though, so I tend to forget them. Where I'm originally from in New Orleans, I grew up saying 'beaucoup' instead of 'a lot'. I remember I was trying to teach a guy I met from Kuwait the correct usage of this French word spoken in an English manner and he could never quite get it right.

The only phrasing of speech I can remember right now that stuck with me was when a Korean guy I knew was talking about his life, and at one point he said, "Yeah, it felt like I was just breathing". You'd have to hear the conversation in context, but basically it's their way of saying they aren't doing anything special in life at the moment. Like, if you've just graduated from school, don't have a job or only a part-time job going no where, it feels like you're just breathing.

I have started using it though when I talk to foreigners because it gets a peculiar look. Next time someone asks you what you're up to, tell them you're just breathing.

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Reziac
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"..whupped upside the haid!"

A lot of colloquialisms are the efforts by native speakers of not-English to make English conform to their native tongue's grammar. Frex, I read somewhere that "youse guys" isn't an ignorant colloquialism; it's an attempt to make English behave like proper Irish.

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wetwilly
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MAP: the only reason "funner" is considered wrong is because "fun" used to be used only as a noun, not as an adjective. "We had fun" or "that was a lot of fun" but never "this is a fun game." In that case it makes sense that "funner" is not a word because, logically, you can't have a comparative form of a noun. In the same way that one truck is not "trucker" than another, one activity cannot be "funner" than another.

However, the usage of fun has changed. It is now in common use as an adjective, so there is no reason why the rules of adjectives should not apply to it. In that case, there is a comparative and superlative form, and "funner" and even "funnest" are perfectly acceptable.

Tell your husband THAT next time he tries to correct your kids.

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hoptoad
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Wetwilly may be overstating his/her case. Those words are clearly non-standard and so it depends in what cases you think non-standard english is acceptable...

In many places and in many applications they are not yet acceptable. They would be okay in an informal setting but not in a formal one.


I suspect it will change over time. As the meaning of 'fun' has changed/changes words like 'funny' 'funnier' and 'funniest' do not convey what we feel they should, leaving a gap that will be filled one way or another.

Anyway, 2¢ is all I have.

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Brendan
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I looked up some Australian colloquialisms online. Being Australian, there were some that I didn't know were colloquialisms until I looked them up. However, many on the lists were old, relics of the 70s or earlier, and not used now. I've handpicked a few I thought would interest you. These are all used sufficiently often in modern times, at least sufficiently enough to be in my passive (and occasionally active) vocabulary.

Gobsmacked - completely surprised.
sook - wimp, coward or someone that cries at the drop of a hat (is "at the drop of a hat" a colloquialism?)
white anted - undermined
first cab off the rank - first to realise and take an opportunity
top drawer - high quality
(like a) stunned mullet - dazed
chuck a sickie - take a day off work even though you aren't sick

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hoptoad
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I use gobsmacked and sook a lot.
Tasmania seems the only place where people still habitually use the word 'cobber' to mean friend.

[ June 10, 2013, 09:47 PM: Message edited by: hoptoad ]

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InarticulateBabbler
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Druthers: meaning "If I had my choice," and deriving from 'druther, and that in turn from "I'd rather."

In Maine:

  • "So is this/so do I," are replaced with So isn't this or So don't I.
  • Everything is wicked: Wicked cold, wicked hot, wicked sharp, wicked fast, wicked slow, wicked good (which always perplexed me).
  • Calling someone numb or soft means they are "wicked stupid," referring to them being numb in the brain or soft in the head.
  • Dink replaces a four letter word starting and ending with the same letters. Usually, calling someone this is preceded by f---ing, which also never made sense to me. When using the first, why avoid the second?
  • Someone rugged could either mean strong or tough, OR they carry a powerful stink.
  • Cookouts are more often called bakes or feeds: Having a clambake or lobster feed is fairly common.
  • If something is in the basement, to retrieve it, you'd go down-cellar.
  • There's the backyard (also called down back) and the dooryard. The latter could be a driveway or the front yard.
  • Lobstermen don't catch lobsters, they catch bugs. (Which is also a slang term for the opposite organ to the dink.)
  • At the grocery store, you would buy hamberg to put in your spaghetti or American Chop Suey (also called goulash).
  • Downeast really means up north (but you could gown down to Bangor from Rockland, in which you'd be traveling north, too).

There are more, but I've got to stop procrastinating and get my writing done for the night--I still have to work tomorrow.

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Robert Nowall
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I would have said "gobsmacked" and "top drawer" in those senses are known in the USA---maybe not current, but at least known.

For something more specialized...a lot of machines at the plant acquire nicknames, sometimes acronyms pronounced, sometimes a name. A large letter-processing-and-canceling machine acquired the name "Barney"---it's that exact color.

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Robert Nowall
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I got to thinking of the number of colloquialisms that come from baseball. A strange new idea is "out of left field." A job for an incompetent is called "deep roving right field." A crazy person is called a "screwball." Various stages of making out are called "getting to first base / second base / third base" or "scoring a home run."

I wonder if any of these have drifted farther afield---another baseball colloquialism, that---into countries where it's not played...

*****

Incidentally, the abovementioned "Barney"---shortly after posting that I saw a movie called Dear God, involving postal wokers. A very similar but not identical piece of equipment was seen and referred to as "Barney"---it's the same color. But we were doing it at least five years before the movie came out...

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hoptoad
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'Out of left field' but not really anything else.
Just about everyone would know what they mean though.
I wonder about "further afield" does not strike me as strictly baseball.
Of course, baseball originated in England, anyway. [Wink]

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legolasgalactica
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Does anyone understand how the phrase "pretty good" came about? I don't see what pretty has to do with good or why that would make it somewhat good or mostly good instead of really good or extraordinarily good...

[ June 24, 2013, 10:51 PM: Message edited by: legolasgalactica ]

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