Home Grammar The Grammarphobia Weblog: What’s up, man?

The Grammarphobia Weblog: What’s up, man?

The Grammarphobia Weblog: What’s up, man?


Q: We’ve learn that the usage of “man” by dudes referring to one another comes from the Jazz Period, when Black musicians referred to as one another “man” as a response to the belittling “boy.” Nonetheless, we’re pondering that “hey, man” and such should come from approach  earlier than the twentieth century.

A: You’re proper in pondering that this use of “man” to deal with somebody appeared in English lengthy earlier than the Jazz Age of the Nineteen Twenties and ’30s. The truth is, the utilization dates again to Anglo-Saxon days, although its sense has advanced through the years.

When the utilization first appeared in Outdated English, it was “used to deal with an individual (normally a person, however typically a lady or youngster) emphatically to point contempt, impatience, exhortation, and so on.,” in accordance with the Oxford English Dictionary.

The dictionary’s earliest instance, which we’ve expanded, is from the “Vercelli Homilies,” 23 prose homilies within the Vercelli Guide, an anthology of prose and poetry in all probability collected within the late tenth century however originating earlier:

“cwæð sanctus ysodorus, geþence nu ðu, man, & ongyt gif ðu sylf þe nelt alysan þa hwile þe ðu miht” (“Saint Isidore mentioned, ‘Now suppose, man, and contemplate if you happen to don’t need to launch your self [from a sinful life] whilst you can”).

Though that authentic contemptuous, impatient, or exhorting sense of “man” remains to be round (“Hurry up, man,” “Knock it off, man,” and so forth), the OED describes it as “considerably archaic.”

Within the sixteenth century, the dictionary says, “man” took on the sense you’re asking about: “Used to deal with an individual (in many types of English, no matter intercourse) parenthetically with out emphasis to point familiarity, amicability, or equality between the speaker and the individual addressed.”

Within the first Oxford instance, a countrywoman makes use of the time period in talking of her lover: “ ‘Fow wo’, quod scho, ‘Quhair will ȝe, man?’ ” (“ ‘Oh, woe,’ quoth she, ‘The place will ye, man?’ ”). From “In Secreit Place,” a poem written within the early 1500s by the Scottish creator William Dunbar.

Within the subsequent OED quotation, a Puritan critic of the Anglican hierarchy makes use of the time period to deal with Thomas Cooper, Bishop of Winchester, a defender of the hierarchy, throughout a battle of pamphlets often called the Marprelate Controversy:

“Heere be non however frends man.” From “Hay Any Work for Cooper” (1588), by Martin Marprelate, the nameless creator or authors of seven tracts satirizing Anglican leaders. (The title of this tract, a pun on Bishop Cooper’s title, is an outdated London road cry by coopers, craftsmen who restore wood casks manufactured from staves and hoops.)

And right here’s an instance we present in Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, believed written within the early to mid-1590s: “Why, man, what’s the matter?”

Within the early nineteenth century, the OED says, English audio system started utilizing “man” as a colloquial interjection “to precise shock, delight, disbelief, amazement, and so on. (freq. in oh man!), or to present pressure to the assertion which it introduces. man alive!

The primary OED quotation for this use is from the New England author John Neal’s 1823 novel Errata: “Man!—Man!—I had a coronary heart like a effectively—into it, each dwelling creature might need dipped.”

The dictionary notes that the usage of “man” to deal with somebody with familiarity was additionally heard, “esp. in twentieth cent., in Caribbean English and amongst African People.” It provides that the usage of “man” as an interjection was as soon as heard “mainly amongst African People and [in] South African [English].”

Within the Random Home Historic Dictionary of American Slang, Jonathan E. Lighter says the up to date use of “man” to deal with somebody is perceived as US slang due to its “affiliation with the speech of jazz and swing musicians” and later “rock and roll fanatics,” nevertheless it’s a “semantically weakened offshoot” of the unique Anglo-Saxon utilization.

Clarence Main, editor of Juba to Jive: A Dictionary of African-American Slang (1994), features a associated sense: the usage of “man” by African-People as “a type of deal with carrying respect and authority” and utilized by “black males to counteract the degrading results of being addressed by whites as ‘boy.’ ”

In A Jazz Lexicon (1964), Robert S. Gold contains the identical sense of “man,” describing it as “present esp. amongst Negro jazzmen since c. 1920, amongst white jazzmen as effectively since c. 1940.”

The earliest instance Gold cites is from the August 1933 subject of the music journal Metronome: “Trum’s greeting was within the Negro dialect he normally employed: ‘Man! How is you?’ ” (“Trum” is outwardly the saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer, who was of white and Cherokee ancestry.)

And that’s the story, man.

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