Date: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 23:23:42 -0500

From: Gregory {Greg} Downing downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]IS2.NYU.EDU

Subject: well and why

At 10:55 PM 11/21/97 -0500, you wrote:

I had a lot of trouble getting my students to focus on the meaning

differences between WELL and WHY in these environments. Though they

understood the differences, they kept saying, "But nobody under age 50 would

ever use WHY in that way--only old people talk that way!" This was not the

answer I expected. Has anybody else had this reaction from students about WHY

in this usage? What are the reactions of y'all? Is there a change in progress


Well, I am near 40, grew up in southern Michigan, have lived in New York

City for 15+ years, have a certain amt. of education, and would consider

"well" in the usages you cited almost like breathing. But "why" in that slot

sounds to me like "Driving Miss Daisy," and I would never say it in a

million years without trying to sound like an old codger or a character from

a western or something like that. My 90-y.o. grandmothers would maybe say

it. My mother (age 60) hasn't ever used it, if memory serves.... So if you

want a collection of subjective usage-senses, there's one for you to add???

All best,

Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]