..or no?

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..or no?

Post by gdwdwrkr » Thu May 15, 2008 2:45 pm

This may be an old question or topic, but it is about something I just can't take anymore:
Is this a Polish-Catholic old-lady idiom or am I imagining it?:
Asking any question, to which the possible answers are basically "yes" or "no", and quickly adding "or no?"
This seems to have been around forever, but in my experience has resurged from the Buffalo, NY area.
Is it a relic from Central-Europe?
Another term I remember from the 50s and 60s, which seems to have similar origins: "lookit".
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Re: ..or no?

Post by Phil White » Thu May 15, 2008 3:08 pm

There's very a similar structure in German:
"Das ist doch Peter oder nicht?"
Which would be idiomatically rendered "isn't that Peter?" with strongly rising intonation indicating surprise. Possibly "surely that's Peter(, isn't it?)"

I'm pretty certain that there are plenty of other similar tags in other languages where a negative tag question follows a statement of a strong conviction, inviting agreement rather than disagreement.

"... or no?" doesn't strike me as being standard English, though. It's almost certainly interference from another language.
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Re: ..or no?

Post by gdwdwrkr » Thu May 15, 2008 4:38 pm

Yes, reminds me of "Does that sound Central-European, or what?"
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Re: ..or no?

Post by trolley » Thu May 15, 2008 7:22 pm

It makes even less sense when you turn it around
"Do you want to not go to the movies, or yes?"
Sounds crazy, yeah?
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Re: ..or no?

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu May 15, 2008 8:06 pm

Slavic languages such as Polish and Russian use 'or no' instead of 'or not' in this kind of construction (PL = 'czy nie'; RU = 'или нет' [ili nyet]). So it seems quite plausible that the English spoken in areas of the USA that were heavily settled by Slavic immigrants has been influenced in this way.
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Re: ..or no?

Post by Tony Farg » Fri May 16, 2008 7:46 am

In my part of Wales, one frequently hears thigs like: "we have to get the silage in, isn't it" (although the last bit often sounds more like "iznit"). Tidy.
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Re: ..or no?

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri May 16, 2008 11:00 am

Throughout my life I have made a point of not associating with people who are likely to ask for help with silage.

So far, this has worked.
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Re: ..or no?

Post by Phil White » Fri May 16, 2008 11:11 am

Erik_Kowal wrote:Throughout my life I have made a point of not associating with people who are likely to ask for help with silage.

So far, this has worked.
And you're still a longstanding member of Wordwizard?
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Re: ..or no?

Post by dalehileman » Fri May 16, 2008 4:27 pm

I am an American and so can you
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Re: ..or no?

Post by p. g. cox » Fri May 16, 2008 6:40 pm

When I first came to the US an acquaintance asked me. "Why do the English close a statement with a question?"
e.g. "I went to the park, didn't I?" etc.
I hadn't thought about it until it was pointed out to me. Had I?

Tony, when I worked on a farm it seemed to me that it was fresh green stuff that went in the silage pit and many moons later it became silage. Dinnit? Then you had to get it out. Dincher?
By then it was rather ripe. Wannit?
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Re: ..or no?

Post by gdwdwrkr » Fri May 16, 2008 6:46 pm

I put toast in the toaster, so I do.
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Re: ..or no?

Post by Phil White » Fri May 16, 2008 6:54 pm

My colleague (the one with the fridge) loves to tell the tale of when I was debugging a program I'd written and finally discovered the problem:
"It's got an extra 'init' in it innit." (Now add the London glottal stop I still had in those days to get the real flavour of that one.)
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Re: ..or no?

Post by gdwdwrkr » Fri May 16, 2008 7:26 pm

Would that be id'nit? That's how we say it, still.
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Re: ..or no?

Post by Phil White » Fri May 16, 2008 7:41 pm

gdwdwrkr wrote:Would that be id'nit? That's how we say it, still.
/ɪnɪʔ/
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Re: ..or no?

Post by Bobinwales » Sun May 18, 2008 5:45 pm

Tony Farg wrote:In my part of Wales, one frequently hears things like: "we have to get the silage in, isn't it".
I'm guessing the spelling here Tony, but there is a Welsh idiom "na fe", which in Wenglish would be, "we have to get the silage in, na fe?" I am led to believe that 'na fe' equates roughly to 'isn't it'. So what you are hearing is a direct translation from the Welsh.
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