Twanglish Lesson: Once’t (or however you spell it)

Today’s Twanglish Lesson yet again proves the sheer complexity of Twanglish as a distinct language. Every so often you come across a Twanglish word that you have no idea how to spell. You’ve never seen it written or printed anywhere, only heard it. But it’s not like it’s a rare Twanglish word, one possibly only used by a single member of on RSM’s family. (I’m looking at you, Quinny.) No, it’s something you’ve heard thousands of times if you’ve heard it at once’t … or onest … or wonst … or whatever:

Once’t -adverb 1. At one time in the past:

Once’t upon a time, I could bench press pert near six hunnert pound.

2. A single time:

I’m only gonna tell ya this once’t: the Walmarts over in Chelsea is near ’bout next to nothing.

3. One degree removed or set apart:

Now, I know I can marry my second cousin, but what about a first cousin once’t removed?

You get it. You’ve heard people talk about something happening once’t. But I guarantee you’ve never actually laid eyes on the word until now … and don’t call us experts on the spelling. We just made it up! Let’s look at some alternate spellings and figure out what’s best:

Oncet: This was our first instinct; just take the English root, “once” and add the Twanglish “t” at the end. Except when you read it, your first instinct is to say “onn-ket” or “onn-set,” which we’re pretty sure is a small Indonesian wild cat.

Wonst: Okay, this is a little more of a phonetic spelling. But it veers so far from the root as to not be clear in meaning. And there is a tendency to say it as “wahnst,” which sounds too Yankee-ish for our tastes.

Onest: Now we’ve started with the root of the root, literally going back to one. Pronunciation again becomes an issue as we would be tempted to say “ohn-est.” That’s a fine name for your next son, but it’s not right for this usage. (Onest Walmarts Franklin … I like it.)

That brings us to our choice for this entry, Once’t. Sure, the liberal use of apostrophes can make the written language start to look like something out of a fantasy novel, but in this case it works. We not only have once’t to think about; there’s also its sister term, “twice’t” … as in “Once’t, twice’t, three times a lady.”

Then again, it could be that the correct word is “quice’t,” but we’re not going there again.

4 Responses to “Twanglish Lesson: Once’t (or however you spell it)”

  1. If I was drinking a coke (which kind?), it would have come out my nose when I read “Once’t, twice’t, three times a lady”. Well done. I have to say, the examples are the best part of the Twanglish Lessons.

  2. “I know some Irish songs—and I could hammer brass once’t.” From Chapter VI of The Diamond as Big as the Ritz by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Being British I had absolutely no idea what it meant.

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