folks (American usage)

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by mathman, Mar 30, 2008.

  1. mathman Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,164
    In the US folks has a peculiar way of being used.

    1. folks - noun: Used frequently by politicians, seldom in ordinary conversation.
    2. folk - noun: Seldom if ever used - too reminiscent of Nazi Germany (volk).
    3. folk - adjective: Commonly used - folk song, folk dance, etc.

    How about other English speakers?
     
  2. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    22,737
    "Folks" is more commonly used in American dialect speech, particularly the South. Walk into a Cracker Barrel south of the Mason-Dixon and the hostess will probably say, "How you folks doin' tonight?" Bush uses it a lot, not because he's a politician but because he's from Texas. He once referred to the "folks" in Al Qaeda!

    But even in Standard American, the word pops up often enough that it's not remarkable. A lot of people, perhaps more so in the older generations like mine, refer to our parents as "my folks." Or if two groups show up to use a park or picnic ground at the same time, the spokesman for one group will say, "Why don't you take your folks over there because it's shady and you're going to want to use the barbecue pits anyway, and I'll take my folks over here because we need the open space to fly kites."

    "Folk," the proper singular form, does not have such a bad cachet. It means exactly the same as Volk in German: a people. (All German nouns are capitalized.) The Amish are a thrifty folk. Californians are a tolerant folk. The British are a fast-talking folk while the Texans are a slow-talking folk.

    I don't know when the strange plural form "folks" arose but by the turn of 19th century folk/folks was regarded as too colloquial and fell out of use in standard discourse. It was reintroduced half a century later in academia with its new meaning of "the common people," with "folklore" meaning the traditions of people who pass their traditions down orally. "Folk music," "folk art," etc. followed naturally. I'm not sure when "folks" began creeping back into colloquial speech. My grandparents grew up in the 1880s and they taught it to my father. (My mother's parents didn't speak English.)

    Oddly, it's in German where the word volk has a bad cachet because of its overuse by Hitler and the National Socialist Party: "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer!" They've had to coin the awkward mouthful die Bevölkerung to mean "the people."
     
  3. skaught The field its covered in blood Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,094
    Yeah!!! Well folk you!!
     
  4. Avatar smoking revolver Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    19,084
    Well, the Germans have gone a bit nuts about these things, irrational really.
     
  5. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,136
    There is also the phrase 'good folk' similar to 'good people' in reference even to one person, though often a family or group.
     
  6. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    25,822
    My parents are my folks. "Last month I went to my folks house for Easter"

    And a nursing home is called the 'old folks home'
     
  7. sowhatifit'sdark Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,136
    and when we are talking about folk art, folk dance
    we tend not to be talking about 'fine' arts and dance as an art medium.
     

Share This Page