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no fair
Posted: 15 September 2012 07:58 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve heard this phrase in North American English. It is either used as an interjection, “No fair!”, or in such sentences as “No fair hitting the ball twice.”

A more conventional English phrase would be “not fair”. Was “no fair” orignally associated with some particular sport? Was it associated with children’s games? About how old is this phrase?

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Posted: 15 September 2012 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Just guessing, but could it have originated in communities of Scots origin? No is good Scots for not (e.g. “We’re no awa’ to bide awa’").

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Posted: 15 September 2012 09:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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That seems like a good guess.  The first OED cite is from Scottish-born John Muir:
1913 J. Muir Boyhood & Youth i. 23 But that’s no fair, for naebody counts craw’s nests and fox holes.

The second cite also appears to be a British source:
1959 I. Opie & P. Opie Lore & Lang. Schoolchildren ix. 161 Juvenile repugnance continues to be expressed by the old standbys..no fair, no good, orrid (usual spelling).

The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren was published by the Clarendon Press at Oxford.

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Posted: 15 September 2012 09:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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My thoughts went straight to Scots too. It puts me in mind of one of my father’s phrases. Ye mek me laugh and me no weel. (He was a Glaswegian.)

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Posted: 15 September 2012 05:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Nice. Thanks, all.

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Posted: 15 September 2012 07:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 15 September 2012 08:43 AM

Just guessing, but could it have originated in communities of Scots origin? No is good Scots for not (e.g. “We’re no awa’ to bide awa’").

But thought of as children’s speech but now used by us all. OED:

Chiefly in representations of children’s speech.

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Posted: 15 September 2012 11:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Is it unique? isn’t “no good” (these matches are no good; it’s no good crying over spilt milk) a similar usage?

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Posted: 16 September 2012 06:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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"Is it unique? isn’t “no good” (these matches are no good; it’s no good crying over spilt milk) a similar usage? “

Kind of, maybe: good, after all, can be a noun.

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Posted: 16 September 2012 11:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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No good is precisely equivalent to no use. How exactly you’de define that construction grammatically, I have no idea.

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Posted: 18 September 2012 09:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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FWIW, the OED lists no good (along with any good, some good) under good as a noun.  The construction of no fair does seem rather different.

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Posted: 18 September 2012 10:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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But isn’t Scottish “no” as in “no fair” simply a contraction of “not” as in Scottish “willna” for “will not”, “cannae” etc, in other words copying an accent rather than borrowing from a dialect, as this thread implies?

edited for clarity

[ Edited: 18 September 2012 10:38 AM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 18 September 2012 11:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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But isn’t Scottish “no” as in “no fair” simply a contraction of “not” as in Scottish “willna” for “will not”, “cannae” etc, in other words copying an accent rather than borrowing from a dialect, as this thread implies?

That’s moot. Dedicated adherents of Scots as an independent language (which throughout the Middle Ages it certainly was, and which, if the crowns hadn’t been united, it would certainly have remained) write words such as no and o without an apostrophe, on the grounds that they are the correct and native Scots equivalents of English not and of, and that there is no ‘missing’ consonant whose absence needs to be signalled. And they do have a point. If Scotland had remained a wholly separate country there’s no doubt that today the status of Scots as an independent language would be as unquestioned as that of Dutch.

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Posted: 18 September 2012 09:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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But that still doesn’t answer the question - is Scottish “no” is simply a contraction of “not”, or derived from another source?

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Posted: 18 September 2012 10:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I took it to simply be a contraction of not. Often enough, I see it with an apostrophe.

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Posted: 19 September 2012 03:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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One does often see them with an apostrophe, yes - because for several hundred years Scots was despised, or at least patronised, as a ‘vulgar dialect’ of Standard English, and the assumption was that a terminal consonant was ‘missing’. The choice for modern writers and publishers of the Scots tongue of whether to use one or not is as much ideological as stylistic. 

The argument of those who don’t use it is quite simply that there is no elision to be marked with an apostrophe, because in the Scots language these words just don’t have a terminal consonant, and that their English cognates do have one is irrelevant; you might as well insist that English swan and Dutch zwaan should be spelt s’wan and z’waan because they are ‘missing’ a guttural which is present in modern German.

FWIW, in Early Scots not was written and presumably pronounced nocht , and of was of . But they both lost their terminal sounds a couple of centuries ago, and the Scots speakers reckon that their language is as entitled to update itself as any other.

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Posted: 19 September 2012 08:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Thanks for that.  I found this in the Dictionary of the Scots Language which I should have though to look at before attempting to plough through OED:

DSL - DOST Not, adv. and n. Also: nott.  [ME. (14th c.) and e.m.E., reduced f. noght, noʒt (see Nocht n. and adv.). Cf. also Nat adv.
Less common before c 1560 when, appar. by influence from English, it becomes more common, though in most texts much less so than Nocht. Some of the earlier instances may possibly be due to editorial misreading of not, the abbreviated form of nocht, and others perh. to scribal miswriting of the same abbreviation; but it also seems possible that some of these early instances may correspond to a genuine spoken variant without the spirant consonant.]
1. adv. Not, in uses of Nocht adv. (1) That thai distroble not the sayd Patrik in [etc.]; 1431 Reg. Great S. 45/1.  And ʒit thai wate not forquhy; Hay I. 172/6.  For he did not Goddis bidding; Ib. 295/2.  I dreid not the pereill [etc.]; Gol. & Gaw. 1088.  In cace I faill, haue me not at disdenʒe … my leill hart can nocht fenʒe; Doug. i. Prol. 475.  We call hir nott a hoore; Knox II. 319. Ib. I. 147.  Bann. MS. 258 a/2; etc.  Gaif thow not … Sa mekle as [etc.]; G. Ball. 38.  Thay had it be kynd and coft it not; Ferg. Serm. iii Malachi Sig. B i b.  Maitland Maitl. F. xxv. 22; etc.  Glore not of that quhilk is to cum; Hamilton Cath. Tr. 153.  Gif he comme not haym againne; 1584 Coll. Aberd. & B. 629.  James VI Lusus Reg. 25.

So it seems that Scots “not” and “nocht” co-existed in some degree at least, before c.1560.  English “nought” is first recorded in Old English, and English “not” from 1299.

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