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September 02, 2007

When Languages Collide

We're all familiar with the old phrase, knock me down with a feather, or blow me down?

Some of us will also be familiar with the more American "blow me"?

A little odd of a British newspaper to use the Americanism, don't you think?

Blow me - wind farms don't work

September 2, 2007 in Language | Permalink


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"Blow me" is often deployed by Americans in a rather more earthy context - not as a sarcastic expression of faux surprise, but as a crude retort, eg

"When is your team going to finally win a game?"

"Blow me".

I doubt that's quite what the Observer had in mind.

Posted by: Mr Eugenides | Sep 2, 2007 12:08:07 PM

I fink yer wrong, Mr Tim. "Blow me" is ancient British usage as an expression of astonishment. Even St Tony of Hancock used it, IMS.

Tim adds: Hmmm. Maybe I've been exposed to too many Americans then?

Posted by: dearieme | Sep 2, 2007 12:38:43 PM

Hmmmm, I have always assumed the lovely but crude American expression "Blow me" to mean "Suck my dick" which seems consistent with its use IMHO .... very rude indeed.

Tim adds: Rather the meaning I was ascribing to it.

Posted by: johnnybonk | Sep 2, 2007 12:57:22 PM


It's just a bit more involved than you seem to realize. "Blow me" is as British as it gets (with same meaning--surprise--as "blow me down," "blow me away," "blow me over") and contracts to the almost sterotypically English, "Blimey!"

Except for the very last, which a Murican would only use to actually mock or ridicule British expression, the others mean the very same over here, including the "blow me" and have for quite some time, though they're all at least partially recognizable--historically, at least--as British "loan words" (where recognition of the debt tends to fade into ignorance over time). Compare that current Murican youf use the term "Walla!" without (most) the slightest cognizance that they're saying something actually French ("Voila!"). Many words and expressions go through similar transformance: our (Brit and U.S.) word "cash" is originally a loan word (from Pidgin) that's achieved about as much respectability as exists.

As time went on, the expression "Blow me." may have become more common because its sexual connotation encouraged frequent use (in the manner of an ambiguously-meant double entendre). But, as public language has coarsened so quickly, there's seemingly no point to it's meaning, in very many instances, exactly what it's meant to similarly-inclined users as long as I can remember. Nothing, seemingly, is rude any more: "fuck you," "up yours,"
"eat me," "suck on this," beginning to take their rightful place in public discourse--probably soon to be regularly featured even in scholarly debate.

The presently-rising generations have no idea what they've lost. Gone is the appeal of some of the best "dirty" jokes in existence; ribald doggerel has utterly lost its charm, sunk to the status of ordinary doggerel or "hip-hop" versifying. And, if that ain't the last word, I don't know what is.

Just think about the famous line from Baron von Richtofen: Nein!, Nein!, ladies, dose fokkers vas Messerschmidts!

Or the one where the mom (that's mum to you) explains her genitalia to her young son as the result of a mis-swing of an axe while cutting wood with his Dad: Wow--gotcha right in the cunt, huh, Mom? Where has all the humor gone?

Posted by: gene berman | Sep 3, 2007 3:56:08 AM