folks
Posted: 10 November 2016 11:36 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I have noticed that many notable Americans, most recently Trump, Obama and Stephen Colbert, often address their audiences as folks. This sounds like an attempt to sound down to earth and persons of the people though I realise Americans may have a different perception and not even notice it. Professors in lectures would never use folks. I remember Ross Perot repeatedly addressing a black crowd as ‘you people’ which didn’t go down at all well. Would ‘you folks’ have worked? It also means parents (family?) as in Ted Cruz’s ‘My folks brought me up a God-fearin’ Christian’.

I can’t remember hearing it in Britain. There is a Kingsley Amis novel called The Folks That Live on the Hill so it has clearly fallen out of use. In the 1959 novel Billy Liar, Billy’s mum refers to her husband and herself as ‘ordinary folk’ and I also recall hearing or reading ‘simple folk’ somewhere. I was a middle class boy and wouldn’t really know.

That’s all, you people!

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Posted: 10 November 2016 02:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Doing a search of the Corpus of Historical American English for “, folks” indicates that this form of address has been in fairly constant use throughout the twentieth century. It’s nothing new.

Just the word “folks” (all uses, not just those with a preceding comma), however, saw a jump in usage in the 1990s.

Professors in lectures would never use folks.

They do now. I’ve probably used it myself in lectures. It’s definitely used in more informal contexts, though. I recall people commenting on George W. Bush’s use of it. I haven’t run the numbers of presidential speeches, but it may be a relatively new term for presidents.

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Posted: 10 November 2016 03:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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When I grew up the family use was for it to mean the extended family.  My father was born in Scotland and the extended family included his parents and an aunt so it may have been a Scottish usage.

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Posted: 10 November 2016 08:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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the family use was for it to mean the extended family

I think the usage “my folks” is very common in this sense across many if not most ethnicities. Black Folks (sometimes Black folk, White folk). I don’t think I’ve ever heard Latino Folk(s) or Hispanic Folk(s) but that just may be me.

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Posted: 10 November 2016 11:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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There’s a well-known (in the UK) saying, ‘There’s nowt so queer as folk’, which is said with a shrug on hearing of someone’s weird behaviour, and means, roughly, ‘It takes all sorts’. It’s often ascribed to Yorkshire, but that may be because Yorkshire is the largest county in Northern England and tends to get credited with anything Northern-sounding. It’s so well known that a 1999 British TV series about the lives of gay men in Manchester (groundbreaking subject-matter for mainstream TV back them) was entitled simply Queer as Folk, and nobody needed that explained to them.

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Posted: 12 November 2016 07:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Dave Wilton - 10 November 2016 02:05 PM

. I recall people commenting on George W. Bush’s use of it. I haven’t run the numbers of presidential speeches, but it may be a relatively new term for presidents.

Yes, didn’t he refer to the terrorists as folks in a speech at the site of the Twin Towers? When he received a lot of flak for the usage I remember wondering if there was some regional difference in the US between the way the word is used.

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Posted: 12 November 2016 12:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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No regional difference. Folks carries a positive connotation. Using it to refer to terrorists is a bit odd.

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Posted: 15 November 2016 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I remember Dubya invoking ‘the American people’ in almost every statement he made, another populist device. Y’all voted me in despite the dimple chads and I’m just here by y’all’s good graces. Darn tootin’.

There is no mention of folks in this analysis of Trump’s language by a limey Guardian hack though the following were terms new to me

Presidential candidate language has declined in complexity, according to a common algorithm called the Flesch-Kincaid readability test. It crunches word choice and sentence structure then gives grade-level rankings.

Trump’s name became handy for punning purposes (“love trumps hate”) and also an aptronym, for being synonymous with a fart.

We discussed the latter and it is only known in parts of northern England. The wikipedia entry has the lame

American businessman and President-elect of the United States whose name Slate called an aptronym because “When Trump resorts to name-calling, holds raucous rallies that draw audiences in the thousands, and employs media savvy that makes him the subject of every conversation, he is playing the trump card.”

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Posted: 15 November 2016 02:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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The Flesch-Kincaid readability scale is a bogus test. I don’t know of any linguists who take it seriously. There are incomprehensible texts that score well on F-K and superbly written and easy-to-read ones that score poorly. It’s akin to the Myers-Briggs personality types, popular and facile, but lacking any basis in research whatsoever.

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Posted: 16 November 2016 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Professors in lectures would never use folks.

I do.

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Posted: 16 November 2016 08:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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No regional difference. Folks carries a positive connotation.

As in “folksy”. Very warm and inviting.

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