A few problems with the Flintstones, et al.

July 30, 2006

Recently, I’ve wondered about certain coinages that are happening or have happened in the past. For example, last night on Fresh Prince, he offered his “black book” of beauties to a professor who was going through a divorce. Will called it his chicktionary (spelling is of course probably off, but who’s actually an authority on its spelling?). But the thought didn’t come to me last night, it’s actually been bugging me for quite some time. Another great reference for such occurrences is Flintstones. Without spending a lot of time searching online for references from the Flintstones, the one example I do remember is from their flick, Viva Rock Vegas. As I was walking downtown several weeks ago I saw a sign on a local store (the exact phrasing I don’t remember) and a word on it was Kidventure. Anyway, you see the point.

Now, I ask how these coinages came to existence? I’m not saying that when the average person walks down the street and hears or reads such words they won’t know what they are in reference to (which is another excellent topic to be discussed at a later date), but how are they put together the way they are? There’s no sense to them, really. Let’s take a closer look.

When we examine the morphology of dictionary we find three morphemes: dic(t) ‘to say’; -ion- ‘state of, result of’; -ary ‘pertaining to; connected with’. Dic(t), here, we can see has absolutely zero relation to gender (male, female, dude, chick, etc.). So all that aside, we can clearly see how you throw those three together to form a word like dictionary, fine. Two question come up for me, though: (i) how is it decided that dic- will be omitted and replaced with chick-, and (ii) what are the rules for such formations?

Well, what else could we try? [A * denotes not ungrammaticality, but rather awkwardness in sound]

*maletionary (this has a strange hint toward missionary)

At any rate, I think we can begin seeing a pattern of sound in relation to the real word. The prefix must end in a velar plosive [k], which would then be followed by a postalveolar fricative [∫]. But again, it goes beyond looking at what requirements are needed for this transformation to happen. What exactly are the constraints? Why doesn’t it go at the end, e.g. dictionchick? What is it about the two morphemes fused together, -tionary, that causes immediate thought and relation to dictionary? The same is true for the other words I’ve listed: Rock Vegas and kidventure. Where exactly in Las and the letter a do they decide that that would be a good place to replace it with words to fit some real-world description? The instance with the letter a could actually be the prefix ad- ‘to, toward’, but still, what does that seriously have to do with the word adult? I also don’t believe that the ad- in adventure has any reference to ‘adult’ or ‘kid’; it’s just there to form and complete and meaningful word without any “hidden meaning.”

I suppose what I will try is to just throw tionary into a conversation and see what people can construe of it. Language isn’t rocket science, but sometimes it seems like a close descendant of it.



July 28, 2006

Hey, I was wondering if anyone from the New Jersey area knows about the meaning of guntha. All I’ve seen it in was insults, as in yo motha and yo cuzin a guntha.

But if anyone can help out in terms of what exactly it means, I would be greatful.



UPDATE: No, I still haven’t found out the meaning, but if you’ve gotten here from a Google search of guntha, or the like, I’m still the same person who has posted this question in various places. People are probably getting sick over this guntha business. But at least it’s getting out there, and who knows, maybe even into the Urbandictionary!

Kal-El — superman

July 19, 2006

i don’t follow comic or the shows that depict certain comic themes, so it’s not a surprise that i’ve never heard of superman having the birthname kal-el (or kal-L). it didn’t take me long to question the origins of the name.

a brief search of the name on google proved nothing but other sites to superman. now, although i am still clueless, i know that the creator(s) could not have randomly created the name; there’s always a reason and a structure to these kinds of things (even of made up languages).

but here’s what i did find: there also exists jor-L (jor-el) and Lora (Lara). so we have three made-up names.

  1. Kal-El
  2. Jor-El
  3. Lora

the third one is obvious, but the other two are troubling. there is definitely something more in the morphology of that name than is apparent now. how it would be parsed i don’t know. what appears to be apparent is that el is a separate morpheme; no doubt about it. now, whether “Kal” would be k-al or ka-l, it’s hard to tell with only three (it’s really only two since lora doesn’t have the same qualities as the other two) names to go off of.

life 101

July 17, 2006

I found the following in an insert in the new yorker back in 2004, I believe. I can’t find that insert, but I had written all of these down. I know the insert must be in a box since there’s no way I’d throw it away, even on accident!

anyway, check ’em out. not too shabby.

Read the rest of this entry »

andy, andy, andy

July 17, 2006

Originally uploaded by Cogling.

Although this has nothing to do with lexical matters, it’s cute. Therefore, cute sometimes supercedes anything related to lexical matters.

Andy, sleeping in his usual awkward positions..


July 15, 2006

Here is an article worth reading, although the 73 pp. Might initially seem unworthy. It’s premise is that taboo language should be included in dictionaries, freely spoken and written in our schools and colleges, printed in our newspapers and magazines, and broadcast on radio and television. It makes a great argument for it. Many aspects of the word are also covered, e.g. etymology and the free speech amendment allowing one to even criticize the government (all aspects).

Worth giving a thought to.

could elmo be gay?

July 15, 2006

Once again, in an ADS-L message sent out today, someone could have discovered something that might revolutionize the way elmo is portrayed: as a homosexual. I’m not sure what i think about the whole matter since I haven’t yet had a chance to (i) wrap my brain around this idea, and (ii) I haven’t yet searched for any correlation between “are you a friend of dorothy” and elmo’s fish. Nevertheless, it’s very thought-provoking. currently, I’m leaning more towards the coincidental side of things, rather than jumping in and trying to make the claim that the writers wanted that implication there.

Last week I watched a Sesame Street episode in which Elmo refers to his goldfish by name (Dorothy). Now, when I was a child I had goldfish and tropical fish, and it never occurred to me to give any of them a name. So to me, Elmo’s referring to the goldfish by name indicates a special relationship between the two–a genuine friendship–at least from Elmo’s side. Whether Dorothy’s reciprocates the friendship, I can’t say; I just haven’t watched enough episodes.

Anyway, note the expression used at least in the 1950’s and 1960’s by gays: “Are you a friend of Dorothy?” to determine whether the person being addressed is likewise gay. (The reference is ultimately to the character Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz; both she and Judy Garland, who played Dorothy, were highly popular among gays).

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that Elmo’s goldfish friend is named Dorothy rather than, say, Roberta.
But maybe it’s not. Maybe the screenwriter who named the goldfish Dorothy had in mind the phrase “friend of Dorothy,” making Elmo by implication a closet homosexual on Sesame Street. The motivation of the screnwriter, of course, would have been to produce a sort of in-joke. For a possible parallel, cf. Popeye’s girlfriend Olive Oyl being so named because of the product Extra Virgin Olive Oil.