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"Man Alive"

Posted by Smokey Stover on April 18, 2006

In Reply to: "Man Alive" posted by Jerome on April 18, 2006

: What does a person mean when they say "Man Alive". If you can help, an origin would also be interesting. Thanks.

The best I can do is to quote the Oxford English Dictionary, with its supporting citations. "[Alivel]
2. a. Often used for emphasis: 'any man alive,' any living man whatever, any man in the world.
a1230 Hali Meid. 19 {Th}eo beon to alle men oliue iliche meane. c1400 Destr. Troy xII. 12814 Hir brother ho best louet of buernes olyue. c1420 Chron. Vilod. 793 Glad and blythe was everyche a lyff. c1449 PECOCK Repr. 535 Ouer hard to eny man on lyue. 1552 LYNDESAY Monarche 5062 To peirs the hartis Off euerilk Creature on lyue. 1711 STEELE Spect. No. 167 {page}3, I should be the most contented happy man alive. 1858 GEN. P. THOMPSON Audi Alt. Part. I. xxii. 81 There is no assignable cause; man alive cannot tell a reason why.

b. Hence, as intensive or expletive. colloq.
a1845 HOOD Agric. Distress vi, Says he, 'no matter man alive!' 1857 DICKENS Christmas Carol 43 Why, bless my heart alive, my dear, how late you are! a1860 in Bartlett Dict. Amer. s.v. Sakes, Why, sakes alive! do tell me if Enos is as mean as all that comes to."

Plainly "alive" had a life in expletives and interjections that has been reduced to a couple of well-known examples. The somewhat thin logic that linked "alive" to part of its former repertory of usages has become even thinner, to the point of invisibility--as often happens with once popular idioms. ♪ SS ♪