4

So I have looked for the origin of this expression but I want native speakers or people with English studies to answer or give their answers and thoughts on what might be the origin of this expression.

1 Answer 1

6

Alas comes from Middle English but is still used today. It expresses sorrow or regret, for example "alas, I cannot accept your invitation".

Alack means exactly the same thing, but comes from Old French.

So, saying "alas and alack" is just a way of expressing sorrow but in an exaggerated or over-the-top manner. In modern English, it can sound quite flippant or insincere. As to its origin - a quick Google indicates that the whole phrase appears in writing as far back as the 18th century, but there doesn't seem to be a definite explanation of how the saying came about. However, deliberate tautologies are not uncommon in English - for example, "cease and desist", "stuff and nonsense", "null and void", "safe and sound", "one and only". Many of these are purely for emphasis.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .