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Nells and Dolls



Louie Armstong sang "Hello, Dolly Gray":

Seeing an obituary for Nellie Gray, who was identified as a leader of the anti-abortion movement, I thought "This would be an appropriate time to use the old saying, 'Goodbye, Nellie Gray,' " and I started wondering where the expression came from, as it obviously predated the lady who had just died. Close research revealed that it didn't come from anywhere, that there was no such expression, that my head was inappropriately positioned.

There was a "Darling Nelly Gray," yes, a popular 19th century song. I had apparently confused that with "Goodbye, Dolly Gray," another 19th century song. According to Wikipedia, "Goodbye, Dolly Gray" was heard in a number of 20th century movies, including "Lawrence of Arabia," "Alfie" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

"Nelly" was a more popular name in the 19th century than it is now. I'm certain there was a Nelly who was beseeched to wait till the sun shines, and another who was urged to stop, as in "Whoa, Nelly!" The latter Nelly was almost certainly a horse, the expression dating from horse-and-buggy days. The football announcer Keith Jackson popularized it in modern times.

The subject of immigration, legal and illegal, will be chewed on vigorously during the presidential campaign. As with abortion, immigration is hard to talk about without using terminology that's weighted one way or the other. The Associated Press has taken note. The AP Stylebook instructs its writers not to use either "illegal" or "illegals" as a noun. The proper term for a person who has entered the country illegally or who lives in the country illegally is "illegal immigrant," the stylebook says, and it should not be shortened by leaving off "immigrant." The stylebook says to avoid "illegal alien." AP staffers may do so; I expect that many other people won't.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists has asked the news media not to use "illegal" and "illegals" as nouns, saying that such usage "is grammatically incorrect and crosses the line by criminalizing the person, not the action they are purported to have committed."

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