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Old 07-22-2007, 08:30 PM
Little Nemo is offline
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Boy (or man), as an interjection


What's the origin of using "boy" or "man" as an interjection? When someone says "boy, am I tired" or "man, is it hot outside" is the boy or man supposed to be the person the statement is addressed to? You never hear anyone say "girl, the traffic on the interstate was murder" unless they're actually addressing somebody they are calling girl but boy and man seemed to be used more indirectly. Or is it a euphemism, using "boy" and "man" instead of a religious interjection like "Jesus" or "God"?
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Old 07-22-2007, 09:10 PM
chaoticbear is offline
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No real answer, but I like the word "ejaculation" better.
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Old 07-22-2007, 09:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chaoticbear
No real answer, but I like the word "ejaculation" better.
How do people react when you use it as an interjection to complain about the weather?
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Old 07-22-2007, 09:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by groman
How do people react when you use it as an interjection to complain about the weather?

"Boy (or man), is that nasty!"
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Old 07-22-2007, 10:27 PM
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Quote:
No real answer, but I like the word "ejaculation" better.
I was raised on Schoolhouse Rock and as far as I'm concerned interjections show excitement or emotion. Hallelujah yeah.
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Old 07-22-2007, 10:32 PM
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"Boy, oh, boy" goes back in print to at least the teens in the US.
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Old 07-22-2007, 10:58 PM
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No cite, but I've always been under the impression that it's a hep, generic short-form address that can be extended as, "My man [or my boy], that was just nasty," which itself was probably a short-form of "My good man..." and/or "My boy." I imagine that it's the sort of thing one could expect to come out of the early 1900s and popularized in the Roaring 20s.

Last edited by Mindfield; 07-22-2007 at 10:59 PM.
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Old 07-23-2007, 12:03 AM
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Quote:
No cite, but I've always been under the impression that it's a hep, generic short-form address that can be extended as, "My man [or my boy], that was just nasty," which itself was probably a short-form of "My good man..." and/or "My boy." I imagine that it's the sort of thing one could expect to come out of the early 1900s and popularized in the Roaring 20s.
I agree this is one likely explanation. But the other one I mentioned seems equally probable - that it evolved from people saying "Jesus, it's hot out" or "God, it's hot out". There are examples of expressions like this (gosh, jeepers, gee whiz, blimey, egads, gol darnit, the deuce, etc).
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Old 07-23-2007, 02:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Little Nemo
I agree this is one likely explanation. But the other one I mentioned seems equally probable - that it evolved from people saying "Jesus, it's hot out" or "God, it's hot out". There are examples of expressions like this (gosh, jeepers, gee whiz, blimey, egads, gol darnit, the deuce, etc).
Of course, those examples all have some etymological relation to the names they replaced. I think calling "man" or "boy" the same thing is a bit of a stretch. (Granted, everyone is just speculating idly right now anyway.)
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Old 07-23-2007, 05:54 AM
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One more example -- "Brother!"
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Old 07-23-2007, 08:11 AM
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According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the exclamation "Oh, Boy!" dates back to 1917.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Amer. Mag. Mar. 13/1
‘I told that dame I was Kid Hanlon.’..‘Oh, boy!’ I yells.
I don't think that's exactly what you're talking about, but later (1934) in the list of examples is this:
Quote:
Originally Posted by M. HODGE Wind & Rain I. i. 18
Boy! They don't wear a damned thing!
As for man, that seems more complicated. Calling somebody "man," be it man, woman, or child, dates way back to Old English, with a quote from 1225, that I can't copy and paste because of the eths and thorns and such. However, a quote I can copy is from 1530:
Quote:
Originally Posted by J. PALSGRAVE Lesclarcissement 661/2
Plucke up thy herte, man, for Goddes sake.
Around 1823, it was taken up as an exclamation of surprise:
Quote:
Originally Posted by J. NEAL Errata I. i. 37
Man! -- Man! -- I had a heart like a well -- into it, every living creature might have dipped.
I realize after all this I haven't really given any sort of explanation as to why it's used. I would hazard to guess it has something to do with the use of the masculine as the gender neutral in English. We were, according to the OED, calling all people "man" for awhile, so using it as an exclamation just sort of fit, and that's why we can't say "girl!" or "woman!" unless we're actually talking to a woman. As far as "boy" goes, I say it has something to do with how awesome the diphthong "oy" is.
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Old 07-23-2007, 09:10 AM
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Follow-up question: Do they do the same thing in other languages? I don't think I have ever heard a Frenchman say, "Homme, il fait chaud aujourd'hui!" But you never know.
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Old 07-23-2007, 11:41 AM
Sal Ammoniac is offline
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Closest I can come up with in French is the interjection Dame! It's a bit old-fashioned, and a bit closer to God than man, I suppose you may say, in its origin, but it's the best I've got.
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