Posted by R. Berg on March 04, 2002
In Reply to: Whereabouts? posted by ESC on March 04, 2002
: : : : Why is it that no matter what a person's background, or what side of the pond they hail from, when confronted by someone from the same region, they ask "Where abouts?". As far as I can work out, this is either an archaic way of asking where, or an affectation of a pseudo down-home-in-the-Bayou way of speaking. Any thoughts?
: : : Whereabouts... one word in my way of thinking. Adverbially it definitely has a different connotation when compared to "where". It asks for an approximation of location, and is less preremptory than a short sharp "where". It is of course also a noun, meaning again "approximate location".
: : : As to "whereabouts" being archaic, it's happily in current usage as far as I am concerned, though its origination looks like it might stem from the same timeframe as those other "where" adverbial and conjunctival constructs still favoured in German - whither, whence, whereat, wherein and so on.
: : I suppose I was thinking it might be archaic because it's hardly ever used except in the instance I described.
: I used the term "whereabouts" recently. I titled an e-mail "My Whereabouts," informing my coworkers where I would be on a particular morning. When we meet someone new in West Virginia/Kentucky, we say, "Where are you from?" "Where do you call home?" Old folks ask, "Whose boy are you?" or "Whose girl are you?" Meaning, who are your parents, who are your people.
For me, "whereabouts" has an official or legal flavor, from its use by (real or fictional) detectives and prosecuting attorneys. "Now, Dr. Burblestein, what can you tell me of the suspect's whereabouts on March 5th?" Ordinary people are simply someplace or other. Suspects have whereabouts.