No really, what does umbers mean?
November 20, 2014 3:36 PM   Subscribe

Basically Nora Reed's unanswered question in this comment from two years ago: what is the etymology of 'umbers', in the New Mexican idiolect? Will also accept explanations of 'a la v[e|ay]'. At some point I was told it was a not super minced version of something really profane, and I've never been able to work out what.
posted by PMdixon to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
"A la ve..." sounds like a la verga, which roughly means "fuck it", or "go fuck [it][your]self". Verga is a very vulgar way to say penis in Spanish. You can hear it, uncensored, in the same video.
posted by clearlydemon at 4:14 PM on November 20, 2014


Growing up in Southern/Central New Mexico I heard both "a la vey" and "a la verga," so it's totally possible they are related.

"Umbers" was pronounced more like "ommmmberrrrssssss" but I'm afraid I don't know anything about the etymology. I feel like I mostly heard it from little kids watching other little kids getting in trouble or getting caught for something. Kind of a "she's gonna get it" thing.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 5:50 PM on November 20, 2014 [1 favorite]


So like 'oo-maaaaaah'? (Or do only Aussies say that?)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:09 PM on November 20, 2014


I don't know if it's only Aussies, but we don't say "oo-maaaaah" in the States. When kids get in trouble, their classmate/playmates go "awwwww" or "oooooo" on a steadily rising pitch, like a car engine accelerating.

The pronunciation given by pocketfullofrye makes me think of the word "hombre", meaning man, or in this case, more like "dude!" I remember saying it a bunch when I was in Spain, in exactly that drawn-out way when someone had done something ridiculous (also, the associated "chiquillo!!!!" in exactly that same intonation, for the kids in my elementary school who wouldn't stop acting up).

So maybe a corruption of "hombre"?
posted by chainsofreedom at 7:04 PM on November 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've never received a good answer for this either. I've only heard it in New Mexico, and only in families of long-time residents who have lived here for generations.

I think of it as a I've also heard "umbers" pronounced more like "Umbers" as "ommmmberrrrssssss," used in that "you're gonna be in trouble" way.
posted by answergrape at 7:35 PM on November 20, 2014


I think chainsoffreedom is probably right. I live in a spanish-speaking country and I hear "hoooooommmbre" in just that tone, for exactly that kind of situation, on a daily basis. (Also, "tiiiiiooooooooo".) I vote for corruption of "hombre".
posted by lollymccatburglar at 2:43 AM on November 21, 2014


"Umbers" was pronounced more like "ommmmberrrrssssss" but I'm afraid I don't know anything about the etymology. I feel like I mostly heard it from little kids watching other little kids getting in trouble or getting caught for something.

Kids said this to each other all the time in Wyoming when I was a kid there many years ago. So it's definitely not specific to New Mexico. It was always used to mean something like "You're gonna get in trouble!"
posted by Librarypt at 7:57 AM on November 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah it's definitely "ooOmmmMMMBERRRs" with a very definite sing songy intonation but that was the spelling in the jumping off comment. It probably is "hombre" + baby talk but it'd be cool if anyone had something more than folk linguistics to back that up.

Didn't even occur to me that "ve" = "v" as a straight up first letter abbreviation. "A la verga" totally makes sense as the profane original.
posted by PMdixon at 8:15 AM on November 21, 2014


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