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Re: MR: Oyez

Poster: edh@ascc01.ascc.lucent.com (Ed Hopkins)

Bryn y Pobydd and Sayyid Falcone al Rasool both reported
on the use of "Oy!" to attract attention in modern England,
and speculated that it's a survival of the medieval "oye",
the singular form of "oyez".

I must report that this theory is not supported by the
slang mavin Eric Partridge, who has this entry in his
"Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English":

   _oy!_  A call for attention, as in "Oy! Come (h)ere, you!",
   "Oy! Mind your backs!", or of remonstrance, "Oy! You can't
   do that there 'ere!"; in fact a most useful, all-purpose,
   noise of protest: mostly low: C.20, prob. earlier.  A
   slovening of the (?)much older _hoy!_, influenced perhaps by
   the East End Jewry's Yiddish.  Rees, 1980, notes that the
   famous 'Crazy Gang' comedian Bud Flanagan used it to round
   out his jokes or routines with his partner Chesney Allen.

The OED defines "hoy" as "A cry used to call attention; also to
incite or drive beasts, esp. hogs."  It gives the etymology as
simply "A natural exclamation".  It has citation going back as
far as 1393 ; I will omit them here to avoid prolixity.

That being said, I think that Falcone and Bryn are closer to
the truth than Partridge was.  For one thing, Leo Rosten, in
"The Joys of Yiddish", gives 29 different uses for the Yiddish
word "oy", and a call for attention is not one of them.  And
Partridge, for all of his authority, was not infallible.
Consider this entry from "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases":

   _hey,_Abbott!_ is recorded in W&F's list of seven 'Synthetic
   Fad Expressions' -- without explanation or date.  One can
   only deduce that it was ephemeral and apparently belongs
   to the late 1940s and early 1950s.  They do, however, state
   that it was coined and popularized by a comedian. Cf _hi_ho_

-- Alfredo
Alfredo el Bufon
Elvegast, Windmaster's Hill, Atlantia

Him tha ellenrof  andswarode,         |Him, the strength-famed   answered,
wlanc Wedera leod,  word aefter spraec|wlonk Geat leader,  word after spoke
heard under helme:  "We synt Higelaces|hard under helm:  "We are Hygelac's
beodgeneatas;  Beowulf is min nama.   |table-companions;  Beowulf is my name.
Wille ic asecgan  sunu Healfdenes,    |I wish to tell  Healfdene's son,
maerum theodne  min aerende,          |the famous prince,  my errand,
aldre thinum,  gif he us geunnan wile |thy lord,  if he will not begrudge us,
thaet we hine swa godne  gretan moton.|that we, with his good self,  may speak."

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