The Lumber Room

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From time to time, I encounter people on IRC saying “ta” in contexts that suggest they mean “thanks”. I had assumed “TA” was an acronym for “Thanks Again” or some such thing (some acronym site suggests “Thanks Awfully”), but I found out today that this is not the case: “ta” is not an acronym, it is a full word (interjection).

do people actually say “ta”?: It is apparently common in Northern England and parts of London, but it is colloquial, dial. etc. It is pronounced like “spa” or “tar” without the “r”.

Theories of etymology include Scandinavian origin (Viking remnant?) “The online The English-to-American Dictionary also suggests the possibility of Scandinavian origin.” Also, someone on Yahoo Answers (um…) says “The Danish word for “thanks” is “tak”. In Scotland and upper England it was common to drop the “k” at the end because of the way words were pronounced during the time of old English and Middle English.” The same on UrbanDictionary.

[Origin: 1765–75; by infantile shortening and alter.]

Online Etymology Dictionary:

1772, “natural infantile sound of gratitude” [Weekley]


An infantile form of ‘thank-you’, now also commonly in colloq. adult use.

So I guess that settles it, and the Scandinavian story is just a folk etymology.

Lynneguist says “The Urban Dictionary is a hive of folk etymology.” thus ending any credibility UrbanDictionary might have had :)

Written by S

Mon, 2008-04-28 at 20:53:11

Posted in language

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7 Responses

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  1. I had assumed its short for er tata :P


    Thu, 2008-05-08 at 12:06:09

  2. Had you actually encountered it somewhere? I hadn’t; I think I don’t watch enough British sitcoms (“Britcoms” as they are called in the US :P)


    Thu, 2008-05-08 at 19:52:25

  3. Tata is another curious word in it’s usage as the Indian replacement for b-bye. Wonder where that came from?


    Thu, 2008-05-08 at 20:05:57

  4. I wonder why WordPress keeps putting comments into the spam queue…
    Anyway, “tata” for goodbye is not Indian (you thought it has something to do with the Tata family? :D) says:

    “good-bye,” 1823, a word first recorded as infant’s speech. Abbreviation T.T.F.N., “ta-ta for now,” popularized 1941 by BBC radio program “ITMA,” where it was the characteristic parting of the cockney cleaning woman character Mrs. Mopp, voiced by Dorothy Summers.

    The dictionary that ships with my OS (“New Oxford American Dictionary”) says:

    ta-ta |taˈtɑː|
    exclamation informal, chiefly Brit.
    ORIGIN early 19th cent.: of unknown origin; compare with earlier da-da.

    The OED (wow, since when is it online?) says a lot too. It occurs in Dickens, T S Eliot, Bernard Shaw etc.; it’s definitely legit :)


    Fri, 2008-05-09 at 00:12:52

  5. Luckily you already knew the meaning.
    I blogged about the use of acronyms and abbreviation a while ago.


    Fri, 2008-05-09 at 06:46:56

  6. When you were over at my blog reading my take on Urban Dictionary, did you see the post on ‘cheers’, which has some discussion of ‘ta’ in the comments? Here’s the link, in case you’re interested. Tata!


    Tue, 2008-05-13 at 22:21:39

  7. Wow, I’m honoured!

    Thanks, I read that post now. I think I started reading your blog some time in early 2008, and I haven’t read all the older posts yet :)

    I find your blog fascinating, not only because I’m interested in British/American English differences (having grown up on the former but now being almost exclusively exposed to the latter), but also because your occasional comments on society (etc.) are highly insightful. Thanks!


    Wed, 2008-05-14 at 06:31:46

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