Wednesday, May 10, 2006

My New Favorite Expression

In the latest volume of the Flashman chronicles (not as good as previous installments, but still entertaining enough), a drunken Abyssinian despot utters the phrase, “Man abat?” The accompanying footnote helpfully explains:
Man abat?” lit. “Who’s your father?” seems to have been an Abyssinian catchphrase used as a facetious greeting, not unlike “What’s up?” or “What’s cooking?”
Well, that’s it then. “Who’s your father?” is now my new standard greeting – or at least it will be, once I’ve gotten accustomed to saying it in a casual tone.

On a related note, I’ve wondered occasionally about the English words for children born out of wedlock. ‘Illegitimate’ is deemed the polite, politically correct substitute for the insulting ‘bastard.’ But considering the words’ origins, maybe it should be the other way around. ‘Illegimate,’ from the Latin, means ‘not legal’ or ‘not right’ or ‘not appropriate.’ On the other hand, ‘bastard’ apparently comes from the Old French for ‘packsaddle,’ a reference to travelers’ use of packsaddles as makeshift beds. So ‘illegitimate’ indicates a derogatory judgment, whereas ‘bastard’ merely describes a mode of conception. Doesn't it seem like the more descriptive, less judgmental term would be preferred?


Matt McIntosh said...

I dunno Glen, "who's your daddy?" already has connotations that might confuse people.

Dylan said...

Matt, you are so white. That's "who's yo' daddy?"

Joel Bernstein said...

And here I always attributed that phrase to The Zombies.