Thursday, September 9, 2010

woulda coulda shoulda with cigarettes and booze

David Crystal recently debunked the claim by a Mad Men cast member that There was no ‘gonna’ or ‘shoulda’ back then [in the 1960's] by citing examples going back as far as 1602.

I decided to plug in four relevant strings* into COHA and see what's what:

gonna
nada. zip. zilch. bupkiss.

woulda

coulda

shoulda

With the exception of gonna, they show the same pattern of a rise in frequency throughout the 20th Century, and all were in use in the 1960s for sure. Now I suspect this rise in frequency has more to do with editing than language use. I suspect it has gradually become more and more acceptable to print these forms in publications. The mystery remains why gonna did not come along for the ride.

*note that I literally mean strings, not words. There are potentially other spellings of these forms.

4 comments:

Jason M. Adams said...

fwiw, Wordnik shows gonna was in its heyday in the 60's: http://www.wordnik.com/words/gonna

Chris said...

Nice. I need to use Wordnik more.

Peter said...

The reason you couldn't find gonna in COHA is probably tokenization. You get a picture similar to the others if you type in gon na.

Chris said...

doh! Peter, this makes sense. Shoulda coulda woulda thunk it myself too. Brain fart, hehe.

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