6.16.2006

usage of the walla

getting a head-start on planning my fourth-of-july menu, i looked up 'deviled eggs' (or is it 'devilled'?) on Cooks.com today, and i found a recipe that ended with this gem of an invented usage:
Walla - deviled eggs!
recipes on cooks.com are submitted by individual cooks, and 'walla' is certainly an easy leap from the american pronunciation of the french-loaned 'voila' - a pretty good phonetic transcription. of course, the problem with this kind of linguistic research is that it's impossible to know whether the writer was using the utterance jokingly or believed there was a word spelled 'walla.' an email client known as 'walla!mail' may be playing on exactly this confusion.

the linguistic purists over at urban dictionary have added their fiddy cent as well, listing it as slang from Arabic, Australia, and as a word meaning a stupid person. they've also already hit on the cooks.com usage:
""Walla" is a word used by ignorant people (particularly Americans) who simply don't know any better."
and from a particularly intolerant poster:
"Being stupid Americans though, they can't pronounce anything which doesn't sound 100% English (not that they can pronounce English either) so in their incredibly lazy way, they don't even try to pronounce it correctly."
they don't mention anything about the creative (and phonetically accurate!) orthography except to note that it's the result of a 'lazy' pronunciation... because writing is necessarily parasitic on spoken language, and old language is best language, and france is better than america in every way, and people who change language without realizing it are clearly inferior, and.....

but you invented users know that almost everything IS already a word. a cooks.com search for 'walla' revealed that there is a type of onion known as 'Walla Walla' or 'Walla Walla Sweets,' (assumedly named for the town) but didn't yield any more instances of the emphatic 'Walla!' (this search may also only hit the ingredients list now that i think of it.)

a google of 'walla' produces 26.1 million hits, overwhelmingly in favor of Walla Walla, Washington (a great name to begin with) and associated universities, onions, vintners...

filmsound.org also tells us that 'walla' is a standard term in the sound effects industry for crowd chatter.
"The word walla was created in the old radio days when they needed the sound of a crowd in the background. They found if several people simply repeated "walla, walla, walla, walla" it sounded like people talking."
and of course, it's now an adjective too:
"Today the walla group use real words and real conversations. The walla actors come prepared. They ... have researched the local jargon and geography so that the background dialogue will be authentic. Group walla has to be cut very skillfully like sound effects so that it does not sound artificially placed."

if there's one thing i can't stand, it's improper walla.

3 comments:

Marc André Bélanger said...

I'm guessing those purists want to change the name of the Elephant and Castle neighbourhood of London back to "À l'Infant de Castille" and apron to "napron". Or is there a statute of limitation?

Cristi said...

i think the statute of limitations lasts from the nightly news to internet-surfing time a few hours later. or maybe it goes back a few years to whenever they were in grade school and learned their 'proper' english....

deltron blonde said...

This is the kind of useless information you get from drinking snapples, but ill mention it anyway coz you'll only know this from an arabic speaker. In Arabic "walla" means dude, but you need to highten the pitch of your voice when you say it, as to give it a slightly offensive tone. ;)

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