Levin, NBC, Wayne State University discussed on A Way with Words: language, linguistics, and callers from all over


So this robin this is just music to my ears to hear your version. And you know both fifty seven and as you say fifty seven and forty seven have been around for close to one hundred years. They have a long history and often when you hear levin now it's in our nbc or hip hop there's that usher song burn. That goes been you know. you know. it's got that line in there you've been gone for too long. It's been fifty days on teen hours. There's a fancy term for these kinds of words you want to know what it is. What is it indefinite hyperbolic numerals. Okay that makes sense that actually make sense because as you suggested It's a large number not exactly in a particular amount You know it's a really big number. So the the fancy term for these words is indefinite hyperbolic numerals. What's really interesting. Is that forty levin. I think was the earlier one in fifty levin is a variant of that but forty eleven was originally in the northeast and it seems to have migrated down some into the south. Because that's that's where. I hear it more often in so I'm very interested to hear that That you heard fifty levin up in chicago. There's some fascinating work. That's been done on these kinds of numbers by a linguistic anthropologist named stephen and malice who's at wayne state university in detroit and he's done a lot of work on words like fifty seven forty seven and other indefinite hyperbolic numerals like teen and empty. The most common. One of all of these is zillion. And he's done some fascinating research. That shows that zillion was almost exclusively used. The african american community before world war. Two there was about three quarters of the instances. Of the words zillion in print are in african american newspapers magazines and it was used by a lot of this central figures of the harlem renaissance. And it was only later that this term zillion migrated into more general usage. How cool is that. It's not as awesome. So i'm just fifty levin kinds of happy that you called with this question i gotta say rather than you sound like. You've made martha's day. Thank you take it again sometime all right absolutely absolutely you take care of yourself right be well bye bye. Thanks robin five. I if there's another language that you speak where. They use a specific number to mean an indeterminate amount. Let us know. Eight seven seven nine hundred nine nine. Six seven three are tell us about an email words at wavered radio dot org or on twitter at w. a. y. w. o. r. d. thanks to senior producer. Stephanie levin editor. Tim felton and production assistant. Rachel elizabeth wessler. You can send us messages. Subscribe to the podcast and newsletter and catch up on hundreds of past episodes at wayward radio dot. Org our toll. Free line is always open in the us and canada. Eight seven seven nine two nine nine six seven three or email us words at wayward radio dot. Org a way with words is an independent production of labored inc a nonprofit supported by listeners and organizations who are changing the way the world talks about language many thanks to wayward board member and our friend bruce rogo for his help and expertise. Thanks for listening. I'm grant ferret. And i'm martha barnett until next time goodbye by..

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