Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 10:57:13 -0500
From: "Donald M. Lance"
Subject: Re: P.S. on banshees

>Correction: I just altered the search command on Nexis and came up with
>two additional cites (besides the Pell-Safire one), one from the Orlando
>Sentinel in 1991 (quoting an environmental sculptor) and one from the
>Chicago Tribune in 1990 (quoting the village manager of Bolingbrook, Ill.).
>It's possible, of course, that these four instances are all isolated ones,
>with each speaker performing his (they're all male) own reanalysis of "Xing
>like banshees", but it's also conceivable that the expression has in fact
>shifted in langue rather than parole for some variety of English. Any

IMHO, The transfer of 'banshee' from one kind of "frenzy-verb" to another
is a normal linguistic process that doesn't have to be "learned" from
someone else and doesn't have to be dialectal (regional, social, ...). I'm
sure I've heard "working like a banshee" and have a picture of a carpenter,
hoe-hand, cotton-picker, or some other physical laborer working so fast
that his/her movememnts appear to be frantic. "Screaming like a banshee"
is accompanied ny ph/frenetic or frantic movement as well. I think I might
even use "banshee" with a variety of verbs to evoke such an image -- maybe
because of the Celtic (mostly Welsh) blood that roils along with the
Teutonic plasma in my arteries and veins.