August 01, 2004

Not on planet earth

Ian Urbina has a feature in the 7/31 NYT on New York City trash collector slang. Despite quotes from notables such as Grant Barrett, there's not a great deal of lexicographical juice in the article, once you get past disco rice (maggots) and urban whitefish (used condoms). The high point for me was the progression from nimby ("not in my backyard") to banana ("build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone") to nope ("not on planet earth").

However, I'm not sure whether the second and third terms are more than in-jokes in the "City Council's sanitation and solid waste committee", whose general counsel is quoted as the source.

[Update 8/2/2004: Barry Popik emails to point out that Word Spy has NOPE with a citation from 1990, entered in Sept. 2002, and BANANA with a citation from 1991, entered in Feb. 1999. Word Spy also has another NIMBY-extension, NOTE ("not over there either"), with a citation from 1994, entered Sept. 2002.

So clearly these other jokey terms for resistance to development have been around for a while, and have nothing special to do with the NY Sanitation department -- though unlike NIMBY, I don't think they've spread very widely in the population at large.]

[Update #2: Linda Seebach emailed to observe that

Our real-estate columnist wrote about "banana" in 1995 (the only hit on "nimby and banana" but banana by itself would give a lot of false hits)


[Update #3: Jesse Sheidlower emailed to observe that the OED has citation slips for both BANANA and NOPE from "the earlier 1990s or earlier", as well as a variety of variants on the whitefish="used condom", including Coney Island whitefish 'condom washed up on the beach'. ]

Posted by Mark Liberman at August 1, 2004 08:30 PM