Tuesday, January 16, 2007

But whatevs

The brutally satirical website WhiteHouse.org – don't visit if you're easily offended by almost kind of language – often plays with language as part of its general spoof of George W. Bush (if you can call something that harsh a spoof). They do the expected stuff: incoherent syntax, pseudo-Texas dialect, tons of obscenity and offensive vocabulary, etc.

But they also put bits of youth language in Bush's mouth. In a January 10 post on "President's Address to Convince Flip-Flopping Nation of Urgent Need to Escalate "Operation Baghdad 911", they use whatevs, which I've never heard used, but have heard reported. The term doesn't show up in the obvious places I checked (ads-l, LanguageLog, doubletongued.org, Wordlustitude, etc.), but gets about 756,000 g-hits. The cropping seems unremarkable, but I notice that adverbial -s showing up pretty often. It's got a long history in American English (cf. anyways, somewheres, etc. – see the Dictionary of American Regional English), but seems like it's remained marginally productive, now bubbling up especially among Kids These Days (unless that's a Recency Illusion I'm suffering). In fact, that very piece at WhiteHouse.org includes this: Fer reelz, yo?

Has this one just been flying under the lexicographical radar or something?

4 comments:

Ben Zimmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben Zimmer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben Zimmer said...

This comment has been removed because it linked to malicious content. Learn more.

Joe said...

Wow, learn something everyday (*evers?). If the commenter on the t-shirt site is right, that'd be nice, since it would add another dialect into the mix. These forms seem, namely, to trickle in from various quarters. Mr. Verb didn't mention it earlier, but I think he knows that the -s adverbials have in the past regarded (wrongly, I'm pretty sure) as German influence when they cropped up in eastern Pennsylvania. (Rob Howell talked about this a little in a paper in a 1992 book called The German Language in America.)