Date: Wed, 9 Nov 1994 22:32:13 EST
From: Michael Montgomery N270053[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UNIVSCVM.CSD.SCAROLINA.EDU
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