Talking out me neck, again

Re this post by Eric Bakovic, I reckon that when Chuck D of Public Enemy sings

Ain’t how that God planned it?

he is using “how that” where standard English speakers would use “how”, and that the pronoun “that” is assumed in the “ain’t” or what precedes it. The “how that”/”how” swap turns up in a variety of sources, including in 1513 in Douglas’s Æneis (OED), where the “that” clearly does not refer to one particular (manifestation of) Aeneas:

How that Eneas socht ansueir at Apollyne

This idiom is, I believe, more common in Dutch than English. Here’s an example from the 1462 Reis van Jan van Mandeville (my emphasis):

Jtem alsmen hem spreect vander gheboorte ons heren, hoe dat god doort twoort des ynghels seynde sine wijsheit in die werelt ende hem woude bescaduwen ende bedecken inder maghet maria ende dat mitten woorden des ynghels die doodde sullen werden verwect ten doemsdaghe, si segghen dat wair is ende dat dat woort heeft grote cracht.

Here’s a contemporary Afrikaans example taken from a sermon by Ds Jaco Kruger of the Gereformeerde Kerk Wapadrant:

Romeine 8 bou voort op ‘n hele argument wat vir ons vertel hoe dat God ons skeefgetrekte verhouding met Hom, deur Jesus Christus heelmaak.

Another interesting idiom that turns up in hiphop and in African American English is to be found in Doo Wop (That Thing) by Lauryn Hill:

Talking out your neck, saying you’re a Christian.

Here, too, are the Beastie Boys in Time to Build:

How they get their information and their facts are checked
Another press conference someone’s talking out their neck

The standard English usage is noted first by the OED in EW Hoffnung’s story, The Return Match (1899):

‘Don’t talk through yer neck,’ snarled the convict. ‘Talk out straight, curse you!’

The fact that (quasi-)black American artists use “out” instead of “through” or even “out of” suggests to me that for them the phrase comes from the Dutch equivalent, uit je nek praten/lullen/kletsen. It would be interesting to know (a) how the expression arose, and (b) whether it was already in circulation in the period when (I am told) Dutch traders used to try to add value to slaves intended for households in New York and other parts by giving them elementary English lessons.

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Comments

  1. That’s not how that … is it?
    Mark narrowly beat me to the punch in commenting on Trevor at Kaleboel’s response to my post yesterday about the “Ain’t how that God planned it?” lyric. I have to disagree with Mark; I’m not so sure about the sensibility…

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