Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Down town

I never give too much thought to pedestrian words. I just use 'em as I need 'em. Well, that's a lie. I do think about these things, but the time spent thinking about versus using is skewed toward using.

One of those words is downtown. I use it frequently as the nearest one is but three blocks away. Ah, the train to the city.

Anyway. I digress like Herodotus, no?

Since we were talking about compounding words last night, I remembered that I knew someone who pronounced it as two separate words. For example:
If you're going down town, pick up some eggs.
The way this person said it, down town didn't sound like one word. It was definitely more like a direction of travel than a destination. If so, what does that indicate about downtown to this person? I can definitely say that this speaker is a rural New Englander one generation older than I am. In a point of contrast, my mother always said downtown as if it were one word and a destination rather than direction. Is this showing that there are different stages of assimilation to a compound?

Maybe I'll look into the origin of downtown as a word. It must predate the song Downtown (1964), but by how much I couldn't say.