Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Zilbergleyz Effect

When you find a frozen lemon, make frozen lemonade: my nomination for linguist of the week goes to Grigoriy Zilbergleyz, 64, who spent Sunday night on the N at the New Utrecht Avenue station in New York City, part of his 15-hour trip from Manhattan's upper west side to his home in Bensonhurst.  Zilberegleyz finally had to walk the last leg of his journey--or trudge, rather, in recognition of the paralyzing East Coast storm which, inter alia, stalled subways all over town.  Zilberegleyz took it all in commendable good spirits:
“Every time when I see the situation like this, I’m very proud of the American people,” said Mr. Zilbergleyz, who immigrated to New York 11 years ago from Belarus. “No panic, no yelling. Just understanding.”

What would have happened back home? He laughed. “I don’t know, a lot of not very good words,” he said. “And they will complain about government, about driver, about his mother, and ...
And what?  I know: you expect him to say "and so forth and so on."  Close.   But what Zilbergleyz  actually said (per the NYT) was "and so what and so on.”  Does this count as a conscious coinage?  Probably not. Zilbergleyz is, after all, a newcomer, and it's hardly a surprise if his English is a bit improvisational (don't try me on Belarus).  But that is perhaps the way a lot of language comes into being: by accident.  "So what and so on," captures an important, if hitherto unnoticed nuance in the language, fully justifying the recognition of Zilbergleyz with an honorable footnote in the annals of his adopted tongue.

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