I wouldn't want to separate this question so I ask. Where do such words come from? Is there a story of how they appear in speech.

I know that "gimme" means "give me", "gotcha" means "got you", and "goeth" means "goes". There are quite many words of the kind, like gotta and of course gonna.

Are they still in use and in what dialect are they popular?

  • 3
    "Goeth" is a different kettle of fish from the others you've cited. "Goeth" is simply an archaic variant; there is nothing colloquial about it (although it is occasionally used jocularly by modern speakers).
    – rjpond
    Oct 24 '17 at 7:42
  • These are simply colloquial pronunciations. "Gimme it" is attested over 100 years ago. google.com/… Oct 24 '17 at 13:17
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo I sometimes hear it in PDE. Oct 24 '17 at 16:43
  • @SovereignSun: Sorry, I meant it has been around for well over 100 years. I hear it every day. Oct 24 '17 at 16:59
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo You live among English speaking folk while I don't. Surely you'll hear it more often. Oct 24 '17 at 17:01

As far as I know, from the media and movies, that is, these are words that were popularised by the African-American culture, in the time when music was believed to be the universal language.

This Google Ngram shows that these words, or should I say 'slang' words were popularized by movies, music and lifestyle, heavily influenced by Jazz, Blues and Reggae music scenes, which was widely popular in the 1960's and 70's. Soon these terms started being used in television and movies.

Notably, the outbreak of these terms came when the media exposed these words to the public, and then people started adopting them in their day-to-day conversations. This gave way to a completely new vocabulary of slang terms, often formed by fusing words to make it sound shorter and possibly 'cooler'.

If you really think about it, shortening and modifying words came as a result of artists trying to make musical lyrics by altering words to match the rhythm of the song, or to even rhyme.

With the evolution of Hip-hop Culture and the Hip-hop music, notably rap music, these terms were made mainstream and gave way to a completely new way of talking, with shorter words, new words and a pleasing rhythm to the way people spoke.

So if you dig really deeper into this, these words, although seemed to exist before the 70's, were made popular post the 70's era. With many notable artists and actors, primarily from African-American origins being popular, people started using these modern terms and we cannot deny the fact that they made it sound so cool!

  • 1
    Hip-hop did take some phrases into "mainstream" culture, with some white suburban teens talking as if they had grown up in Compton. But gimme and gonna and gotcha are not among them. These have been with us since the 19th century at least. Oct 24 '17 at 13:24
  • That's true. But the frequency of it's usage had increased significantly towards the turn of the millennium.
    – Varun Nair
    Oct 24 '17 at 13:25
  • That's not true. Oct 24 '17 at 13:26
  • This is an Ngram on the frequency of usage of these three words from 1800 to 2000. But I don't have any other reference to back my claim.
    – Varun Nair
    Oct 24 '17 at 13:28
  • 1
    At best it's a representation over time of the frequency of appearance of these spellings in print. From that we can conclude little about the use of these pronunciations in everyday speech. These pronunciations have been a part of vernacular AmE for a very long time. Oct 24 '17 at 13:37

With the exception of "goeth" (which was standard English in the past: "go" with the old third person singular ending "-th", now employed to sound archaic), these words are informal spellings of words/phrases that represent how these words are actually pronounced. You only see them written this way in informal writing, but I think the pronunciations themselves are pretty widespread and are used in a number of dialects. All of the words you mentioned (other than "goeth") are used in my dialect, for example.

All of these words have their own etymologies.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, apparently "gimme" started out as a Philly thing:

We wish somebody would compile a Philadelphia ‘idioticon’. We have many local oddities: ‘Gi'me’, for ‘give me’.
The American: a national journal, 1883

According to StoneyB, this is what happening with "you" in "gotcha":

[T]he vowel in unstressed you will usually be reduced to /ə/; and in rapid speech the dental stops /d/ and /t/ followed by palatal /j/ (orthographic ‹y›) will usually "assimilate" to an affricate: /dʒ/ (=‹j›) and /tʃ/ (=‹ch›).

The earliest examples are of "got cher". The earliest example spelled with an "a" given in the OED is from New York, 1912:

Another witness testifies to the words of the man whose pistol had done the work. ‘I got cha,’ this efficient agent remarked with something of the craftsman's pride in a task well performed.
The Nation

As for "gotta", it looks like the "ta" for "to" is a bit earlier than "gotta" itself, since it's sometimes spelled that way in Middle English. According to the OED:

But while tó adverb, retaining its stress, came at last to be written too /tuː/, the preposition, being usually stressless, remained at to /tʊ/, /tə/, and in dialectal specimens is now often written ta, tae, teh, ti, tu (meaning /ta/, /te/, /tə/), some of which forms are occasional also in earlier writing.

The earliest attestation given in the OED of "gotta" that ends with "a" (the spelling "gotter"* is older) is from New York, 1881:

I gotta talk to a reporter

As for "gonna", the OED says this:

Representing a regional and colloquial pronunciation of going to, with reduction of the unstressed vowel and assimilatory loss of the initial consonant of the second element.

Their earliest example is this:

Now, Willie lad, I'm ganna gie
You twa or three directions.
Poems, chiefly in the Scottish dialect, 1806

* This adding of an r is known as rhoticity. In a previous answer of mine about what dialect Hagrid (from Harry Potter) uses, I quoted the following:

A clue to Hagrid’s regional background may come from the rhotocity implied by the post-vocalic ‘r’ in syllables where in the standard pronunciation variant the schwa should be present: ter, inter, tergether, etc. This rhotocity survived only in areas west of London, south of Birmingham and in Lancashire.

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