Posted by Neal on March 2, 2008
I was flipping through the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly today, and came across an ad for a show on the Travel Channel called Bizarre Foods. I’d paste it in here if I could find it online, but the best I can get is this page on the Travel Channel website. In the middle (at least as of this writing) there is a looping video that begins with the caption “What is Andrew putting in his mouth?” A couple of pictures later you’ll see the ad that I saw in the magazine. The host of the show, Andrew Zimmern, is standing in front of a vending machine stocked with:
- Lamb’s Head
- Heart, All Beef
- Fish Head, Complete With Eyeballs
- Baby Mice
- Curried Cockroaches
- Bull Teste
- Sour Cream and Onion flavored crickets
- Cheddar Cheese flavored mealworms
- Mexican Spice flavored mealworms
- Bugs N Things
- Worms & Flies
- Eye Balls
- Crispy Fish Head
Did you spot the backformation in the list? Yes, that’s right, it was teste, formed by naively removing the -s from the plural testes to get the putative singular.
Often I have to remind myself that just because I can understand how some piece of the language has changed, it doesn’t mean I have to like it. The singular of testes is not teste. It’s testis, just like the singulars of crises, hypotheses, parentheses, and feces are crisis, hypothesis, parenthesis, and fecis.
Whoops. Scratch that last one. Back when the plural was still faeces in Latin, the singular was faex, but that form didn’t make it into English. If you just have to have a singular form of feces and don’t want to resort to suppletion by saying turd, backformation is your best bet: fece. According to Urban Dictionary, this singular form already exists.
Anyway, back to the Latin third-declension nouns ending in -is. I never hear people talking about one crise(e), or one hypothese(e), but I have heard some people refer to one parenthese(e), and now of course, one teste. I guess it’s to be expected, since parentheses, like testes, tend to come in twos, so that speakers are less likely to have heard the singular form and stored it in their memory when they need to use it.
This entry was posted on March 2, 2008 at 12:01 am and is filed under Backformation, Food-related, Potty on, dudes!. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.