Date: Wed, 9 Nov 1994 22:32:13 EST


Subject: swan/swanny

I have heard "swanny" all my life from my mother, who was born in

southern Alabama. "Swan" is what I heard from my fellow East Tennesseans,

however, when I was growing up. So there may be an Upper South/Lower South

disctinction here as with a number of other items.

The usual "etymology" of the term is from Scots "I's warrant (ye)" =

"I shall warrant you" or more loosely, "I'll guarantee you". Somewhere

in my youth I surmised or it was explained to me that the form in more

recent times is understood to be a euphemism for "swear". The latter

word was to be avoided because Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount called

for his followers not "to swear by any power in heaven or on earth"

(loose quotation from memory) and so the use of "swan/swanny" as an

expression of either disgust/anger or surprise at least avoided the letter

of this Scriptural injunction. If I'm not mistaken, this was also taken to

heart during colonial days, especially by Quakers, when people refused

to take oaths such as "I do solemnly swear ..." Our Presidential and other

oaths of office read, or used to read, as follows: "I do solemnly swear

(or affirm) ..." Anyone know for sure?

Michael Montgomery, Dept of English, U of South Carolina, Columbia SC 29208