Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Archive for the ‘Kids' entertainment’ Category

What She Cooks Like

Posted by Neal on March 9, 2014

One day last month, Doug and his classmates watched part of a Disney movie during one of the many wasted class periods he’s had this year (thanks to the busiest, most pointless, and most disruptive standardized-test schedule I’ve ever seen). He liked it, he said, and he’d figured out that the person who voiced a dragon in the movie was that guy who had done Donkey in Shrek.

“Oh! Mulan!” I said. “That’s one of the last movies your mom and I saw before you were born.” I also clued him in on the name of “that guy who did the voice of Donkey,” as he and his classmates think of Eddie Murphy. He wanted to put it on our Netflix queue so he could see the rest, so we did.

Chien-Po

I didn’t tell Doug my secret reason for putting Mulan in the queue: a line in one of the songs that I’ve occasionally considered blogging about, but hadn’t wanted to go to the trouble of watching the movie again so I could get the exact wording. But if Doug wanted to watch the movie anyway, I could conveniently accomplish the goal.

So last weekend, I saw Mulan for the second time. Adam pointed out that the voice of Mulan herself was done by one of the stars of Agents of SHIELD. Doug noticed that the enemies that were clearly supposed to be Mongols were actually referred to as Huns, probably because Huns was easier to rhyme in a song than Mongols. (They rhymed it with sons.) The wife noticed an “American Gothic” reference she hadn’t remembered. And I got to hear the line in the song I’d been trying to remember. I had to pause and rewind a couple of times before I could write it all down, but luckily, nobody minded.

It comes in the song “A Girl Worth Fighting For,” as the members of the Chinese army who are prominent enough to have names sing about their dream women. About 40 seconds into the song, the baby-faced big fat one, named Chien Po, sings

I couldn’t care less what she’ll wear or what she looks like.
It all depends on what she cooks like.

Hah! Looks like … cooks like! Oh, and notice the standardly negated couldn’t care less, too. But still: You can say someone looks like a god, or cooks like a chef, so why is looks like … cooks like so funny?

In the question what she looks like, the what corresponds to the missing object of like. But the key, I think, is that what she looks like has essentially the same meaning as how she looks, where how could be standing in for an adjective (she looks good) or a prepositional phrase (she looks like a statue). With these two equivalent sentences available, we can set up an analogy:

how she looks : what she looks like :: how she cooks : X

What does X equal? what she cooks like, naturally! But why is it so funny?

How is the question word we use in order to ask about a predicate adjective. Questions like How do you feel?, How does it taste?, How did they sound?, and How does she look? are typically answered with adjectives: great, good, bad, swell, or maybe prepositional phrases such as like a million bucks. But how is also the question word we use to ask about the manner in which something was done. Questions like How did he do it? and How does she cook? are typically answered with an adverb, like well or poorly, or some other kind of phrase that tells how something was done: with a ball-peen hammer, for example. Only the how corresponding to an adjective means the same thing as what … like, and the analogy that gets us what she cooks like totally ignores this fact.

Posted in Kids' entertainment, Movies, Syntax | Leave a Comment »

Trick or Trunk or Treat

Posted by Neal on October 29, 2013

Creative Commons-licensed image by Tojosan

Creative Commons-licensed image by Tojosan

Two years ago, I wrote about the history of the phrase trick or treat. This year, I’ve become aware of a new variant on trick-or-treating. The online version of the Philadelphia Inquirer summed up the concept in an article last week:

Trunk-or-treat — the All Hallows’ Eve version of tailgating — appears to be increasing in popularity as a new holiday tradition. Adults fill their car trunks with sweets and treats, park en masse in a designated lot, and children trick-or-treat from car to car. (link)

You can find out more about it at Wikipedia, but as you can see, we’re talking about a sanitized and controlled version of trick-or-treating — even more sanitized and controlled than having official trick-or-treating hours determined by the city council. Actually, I guess it’s silly to have that complaint, because when I was writing about trick or treat, I learned that from the very beginning, trick-or-treating was an attempt to sanitize and control an uncomfortably rowdy and anti-authoritarian holiday, and a successful attempt at that. Anyway, on to the linguistics.

I learned about this kind of event a week or two ago from the marquees of two nearby churches. At the one where Adam’s Boy Scout troop meets, the sign announced that last Friday (not Halloween, you’ll note) there would be a “Trunk or Treat”. A few miles away, the other church had a similar announcement, but this one was for a “Trick or Trunk”. So which came first? And which one is more popular now? On the one hand, trunk is phonetically more like trick, with its lax vowel in the nucleus, and the final [k]. On the other hand, trunk is semantically more like treat, as refers to the source of the candy. It’s not a perfect match, of course, but still, it’s functioning to name the alternative to the trick.

Looking into the phrases’ history, I discovered that they’re not quite as recent as I thought. A ProQuest search turned up the earliest attestation I’ve found, from October 1993 in a photo caption in the Edmonton (Alberta) Journal. The event it described was held by a Mormon church, and was called a “trunk or treat”. As for trick or trunk, the earliest hit I’ve found is from 2000, via Google: “I found out about Trick or Trunk last year….” Although this quote hints at an earlier origin, it looks like the “trunk” variant of the phrase in the Wikipedia article probably is the older one. Phonetics wins!

Even so, don’t discount trick or trunk: In a Google web search, I found 388 hits for trunk or treat, and a respectable 290 for trick or trunk. (This is pared down from the original 3 million and 400,000 respective hits that Google claimed to have, before I clicked and clicked to get to the last page of hits, and Google came clean about what it actually found.)

We’ll know that trick-or-trunk-or-treating has truly arrived when stores start selling Halloween-themed trunk liners to cover up the dirt, grime, and grease spots in a typical trunk, and pre-packaged trunk-decorating kits. I wonder…

… well, there you have it. So in the words of author Lenore Skenazy:

Trunk or treat! Trunk or treat! Let’s avoid each house and street!

Posted in Halloween, Kids' entertainment, Phonetics and phonology | 3 Comments »

What’s Happening with Because?

Posted by Neal on July 12, 2013

My brother Glen send me a link to this article on the best Disney Pixar movies as rated by children. He’d noticed something about the kids’language, and was wondering if I would notice it, too. I did. It had to do with their use of because. Here are all the children’s comments that used because:

  1. “Because there’s bad guys, and Mater, and Lightning McQueen, and SPIES!” (Max, 5)
  2. Elliot, 4, disagreed, saying, “I didn’t like it, because it has rats, and I don’t like rats.”
  3. Max, 5, said it was one of his favorites, “Because Evil Emperor Zurg!”
  4. [T]hey liked it “because there’s a turtle that’s so funny, it swims away” (Lily, 6)
  5. Some younger viewers took the opposite view, giving high ratings because “race cars are funny” (Wilson, 4), and “because they race” (Gideon, 4).
  6. Gideon, age 4, gave it his highest rating “because I like Mike Wazowski,” while Franny, age 8, did the same “because I like Sully.”
  7. Others, like Madison, 4, liked it for different reasons: “Because the day care. I like the day care parts.”
  8. Alex, 5, listed Up as his favorite, “Because Russell throws his GPS out the window and he’s so funny and he can make birds with his hands.”
  9. Reasons included “Because Sully can really roar” (Max, 5), “Because Mike has braces in his teeth” (Alex, 5), and “Because it was funny and a monster fell off a bed” (Harry, 4).
  10. Liam, 6, agreed about the roaring, listing Monsters U as his favorite “because the part where Sully has the big roar and scares all the policemen.”
  11. Franny, 6, gave it a high rating “because I like the dad.”
  12. Elliot, 4, said, “I didn’t like it, because Sid is mean and he smashes all the toys.”

Did you notice it? Items 3, 7, and 10 had because followed by a noun phrase, and nothing else; in other words, used in the same way that Glen, I, and most other English speakers would use because of. Although I can use because to introduce just a noun phrase, for me it’s a metalinguistic use. For example, if I were fumbling for words, I might say something like

…because, you know, the thing you were talking about.

It seems to me that somewhere a few years ago, when a long-awaited new release of the video game Skyrim had just come out, I saw an xkcd comic, or a tweet from Ed Cormany, saying something about not doing what they should have been doing, “because Skyrim.” I was unable to find the comic or tweet or whatever it was, but again, the impression I got was that the speaker didn’t have available the working memory needed in order to construct a full clause to explain, because they are so engrossed in thinking about or playing their new game, and they figure that’s all the explanation their audience really needs anyway.

Glen brought up some other metalinguistic examples in which because introduces a single-word or single-phrase exclamation. He quoted one from a reviewer’s synopsis of the TV show he used to write for:

The Fringies arrive at a giant hanger on a military base where they are waved in by some soldiers after a meandering exchange between Bishop and one of the soldiers regarding grape bubble gum because MAD SCIENTIST!

Simply saying “Mad scientist!” all by itself is an acceptable utterance. Although it’s not a complete sentence, it tells the listener, “Look, a mad scientist!” As a complement to because, it seems to say, “…Bishop is a mad scientist, as we regular viewers well know, and has a powerful sweet tooth, for milkshakes, red licorice, and other hip and quirky candy, and by now I shouldn’t even have to tell you this.” The because plus just the noun phrase, uttered with excitement, conveys sarcasm or disdain, too, it seems. Glen says that this particular reviewer uses this particular phrasing a lot. From the same review:

Bishop just goes ahead and snorts one of the serums without knowing which it is, because MAD SCIENTIST! … There is also some chimpanzee-related wackiness on Bishop’s part. Because MAD SCIENTIST!

Here are a couple of examples with NPs other than mad scientist; namely, cocaine and science, both from the same blog post, and both conveying sarcasm or disdain:

He makes her nervous. But then he offers her cocaine, and hey, cocaine! She sets aside all her misgivings, and gets in the car with a guy she doesn’t know, who makes her nervous and who is “disconnected”.

Because cocaine? [NW: notice the parallel with the earlier hey, cocaine! standing in for an entire clause.]

Women don’t lie about rape because SCIENCE!

Glen speculated that the children in the article heard metalinguistic usages of because, and learned the syntax without the sarcasm. I don’t have enough data to know, but I wouldn’t be surprised. It reminds me a lot of how duh started out as an imitation of stereotyped inarticulate phonation from a mentally handicapped person, and didn’t really sound like a word, but now is uttered with the same intonation as any old interjection: Duh! It also parallels other, well-known linguistic processes: Stronger and more specific meanings become weaker and more general over time; and words that express content get “grammaticalized” until they have only functional meanings. The metalinguistic-to-ordinary progression is something that I haven’t read about in textbooks or the literature–though relevant sources are welcome in the comments! So are your own encounters with because+NP.

Posted in Diachronic, Kids' entertainment, Movies, Syntax, TV, Variation | 6 Comments »

Very Frightening

Posted by Neal on January 12, 2013

Life, as we know, is full of tough decisions.

Participles are often described as “verbal adjectives,” but recently I was called on to be more specific with a participle: was it a verb, or an adjective? (Sorry, I can’t tell you why I had to do that; it’s TOP SECRET.)

In high school, I was unconflicted: Participles were a kind of adjective, end of story. Even in a sentence like The kids are frightening the cats, I considered frightening to be an adjective, and frightening the cats to be an adjective phrase, just as proud of themselves is an adjective phrase in The kids are proud of themselves. I was annoyed to lose a couple of points over it in a quiz. However, I wasn’t looking at the bigger picture. I wasn’t considering the other properties of adjective phrases that frightening the cats didn’t have, such as these that I read about in CGEL.

First of all, you can’t make the head participle comparative or superlative, the way you can with typical adjectives. You can’t modify it with very, either:

  • The kids are prouder/proudest of themselves.
  • *The kids are more/most frightening the cats.
  • The kids are very proud of themselves.
  • *The kids are very frightening the cats.

It’s for reasons like these that frightening the cats is considered to be a participial phrase — i.e., more verby than adjectivey.

On the other hand, with frightening by itself, you can make comparatives and superlatives and use very:

  • The kids are more/most frightening.
  • The kids are very frightening.

So by itself, frightening can be considered simply an adjective.

In fact, frightening can even be an adjective inside an adjective phrase. The key is that you can’t just go putting a noun phrase complement (such as the cats) after it, the way you’d do with a verb. Instead, you give it a complement more suitable for an adjective; namely, a prepositional phrase. Here’s how it shakes out with the PP to the cats:

  • The kids are more/most frightening to the cats.
  • The kids are very frightening to the cats.

Frightening is actually an unusual case: It’s a participle that in one guise has completely crossed over to become an adjective, but in another still works as a verby participle in progressive tenses. Other participles like this are loving, (for)giving, disturbing, and amazing. In contrast, participles such as running never pass the comparative/superlative/very adjective tests: Sam is more/most/very running.

So with all that said, now we can talk about what the fictional kindergartner Junie B. Jones has in common with the glam rock group Queen. From Junie B. Jones and the Yucky Blucky Fruitcake, by Barbara Park:

The creamy filling was very squishing between my toes. (p. 25)

From Queen, of course, we have this line from “Bohemian Rhapsody”, with our much-discussed participle frightening:

Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening me! (~3:18 in the video)

In both examples, the very tells us to take the participle as an adjective, but other factors force us to take it as a non-adjectival participle. In the Junie B. Jones example, it’s the context of a progressive tense that does it; in the Queen example, the NP complement me.

I wonder why I’ve never heard anyone complain about this aspect of Junie B. Jones’s grammar, when these books have certainly been criticized for daring to have a six-year-old over-regularize her past tenses and use accusative pronouns where nominatives are called for. Probably it’s because the other grammar complaints are so easy to make, while this one requires some analysis in order to put your finger on the problem. (JBJ uses very with other non-adjectival participles, too, such as watering and practicing, also from JBJ:YBF.) As for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” that song is weird in too many other ways, I think, for people to have focused on the grammar of that one line that comes just between the “Scaramouche” and “Galileo” bits.

There’s more to come about participles, adjectives, and even gerunds, in my next post!

Posted in Books, Gerunds and participles, Kids' entertainment, Music | 3 Comments »

Overpowered!

Posted by Neal on December 8, 2012

The white-glove test

It’s been more than four years since Doug and Adam got the game Hyper Crush Bros. Knockdown-Dragout for the GameCube. (The GameCube!) But they still play it, as well as the sequel game that came out for the Wii a couple of years later. For all the first-person shooters that Doug plays (which he calls FPSs), with realistic weapons like submachine guns (SMGs), he has said more than once that the best party videogame is this one. Adam agrees. And just tonight, they were down in the basement playing Hyper Crush on the GameCube, because of a glitch that Adam read about today.

The most formidable opponent in the game, the final boss at the end of some mode of play or another, is nothing but a giant hand that can pound you, smack you, drill you into the fighting platform, or just flick you away into the vast reaches of space. Adam found out about a glitch that would let you actually play as this Master Hand, not just face it as a boss.

I hadn’t remembered that Master Hand was a non-playable character, so I asked, “Oh, you couldn’t play as Master Hand before?”

“Oh, no,” Doug answered;

Think about it; he’d be overpowered.

With the meaning of overpowered that I’ve used most of my life, this sentence is completely contrary to what I know Master Hand. It means that playing as Master Hand, you’d be quickly and easily defeated. But with the meaning that Doug standardly uses when talking about characters in his FPSs that have too many weapons and abilities, it means that nothing could defeat you.

The ambiguity comes down to the ambiguity of the -ed suffix. Its the past participle suffix, of course, so for a verb like overpower, the -ed suffix gives us the overpowered that means (in the words of the OED) “Subdued or overcome by a superior force or influence; overwhelmed.”

But -ed can also attach to nouns, to give us adjectives that mean “having [NOUN],” as in a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater. Attach it to the noun power, and you get powered with the meaning “having power”. Of course, power is also a verb, so you can get the homonym powered “having been supplied with power”, which means pretty much the same thing as noun-derived powered. But here’s where things get different. When you attach over to the noun-derived powered, you get Doug’s meaning of overpowered. As it turns out, this definition is in the OED, too: “Having a greater than usual or excessive degree of (mechanical) power.” They have attestations going back to 1971:

  • 1971 A. Diment Think Inc. iv. 56 Fast acceleration because Corvairs are overpowered if anything which is definitely the right way to be.
  • 1990 Good Housek. May 7/2 (advt.) And because it powers a more efficient vacuum cleaner, it doesn’t need to be overpowered.
  • 2000 J. Doyle Taken for Ride xxii. 440 The industry moved from four- to six-cylinder engines in the 1930s..to the overpowered Pontiac GTO and Dodge Charger muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s.

The OED even agrees with my morphological analysis. Look at its etymology for my meaning of overpowered and for Doug’s:

  • [verb-derived] Etymology: < overpower v. + -ed suffix1.
  • [noun-derived] Etymology: < over- prefix + powered adj.

Or in the presentation style that I prefer, here is the latest in a list of English contronyms, joining cleave, sanction, and all the rest:

I'm defeated!
I'm invincible!

Posted in Gerunds and participles, Kids' entertainment | 5 Comments »

Semi-Literally

Posted by Neal on April 10, 2010

Over on Language Log, there’s a new post about the usage of literally, inspired by an xkcd strip. So this seems as good a time as any to bring up a couple of interesting literally examples I’ve heard in the last couple of months. Before I do, though, let me say that I don’t care that very, really, and truly have gone through the same semantic weakening that literally has undergone; I don’t care that literally has been used non-literally for hundreds of years. I admit these facts, but darn it, I want there to be a word that signals you’re not speaking figuratively, and literally is the best word for the job.

First, there was the time my wife had a sinus infection. At the end of one day during the peak of the infection, she told me

I went through a whole box of Kleenex — literally.

I was just about to say, “Wow, how did you make yourself small enough to go through it?” when I realized that the literally part wasn’t about the going through idiom, but about the whole box part. She hadn’t just used half the box, not just three quarters of it, but literally the whole box. So I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to look like an idiot, did I?

Then there were the promos for a TV special for the Penguins of Madagascar–the team of commando penguins from the two Madagascar movies. The special featured their (newly introduced) nemesis, Dr. Blowhole, a bottlenosed dolphin with a Picard-as-Borg-like eyepiece fitted over his right eye socket. One of the promos was this one:

That’s right: Near the end, one of the penguins says

No matter where we go, he’s always got his eye on us! Literally — He’s only got the one eye.

When the penguin (I think it’s the one named Kowalski) said “Literally,” I got the same kind of mental image I did when Jim Croce sang, “She caught my eye, and I put it back.” But then Kowalski finished with “He’s only got the one eye,” and I realized that the literally applied not to the part about having an eye on someone, but more specifically about an eye.

So for all you speakers like me, who use literally to mean that you’re not speaking figuratively or exaggerating, what do you think? Are these examples legitimate? Does literally have to scope over the entire sentence that it’s part of, or are we cool as long as it’s highlighting some part of the sentence as the literal truth?

UPDATE, Apr. 12, 2010: In first paragraph, put in link to Word Routes column that I forgot.

Posted in Kids' entertainment, Semantics, TV, You're so literal! | 7 Comments »

Away to the Window I Flew, Tore, and Threw

Posted by Neal on December 23, 2009

I’ve written about “The Night Before Christmas” (the poem formerly known as “A Visit from St. Nicholas”) a couple of times before. Once it was to untangle the dense syntax of As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle mount to the sky, so up to the housetop his coursers they flew, with a sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas, too. The other time, it was on the nonparallel coordination (a multiple-level coordination, in fact, like the ones in my last post) He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle. Now I’ve noticed another nonparallel coordination in this poem, in a line that’s usually more noted for the ambiguity of throw up:

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Christmas songs, Inversion, Kids' entertainment, Other weird coordinations | 3 Comments »

Round On

Posted by Neal on December 20, 2009

My sister Ellen stayed with us last week, in between stops on her Midwest residency interview tour.

“Wait,” you’re saying. “You mean the same Ellen who graduated from UT Austin in 2004 has now completed medical school?”

You better believe it! Glen has been delighted to have a family member studying medicine. She’s gotten used to him calling her during the last couple of years in his capacity as a Fringe writer, asking her what the gruesome details would look like if such-and-such happened to someone. Usually her answer has been, “That couldn’t happen.” Glen’s next question is then, “OK, but if it could happen…?”

I’ve been learning some medical jargon from her, like scrub in, scrub out, and morbidity. I’ve also learned a phrase for the activity of visiting one’s hospital patients early in the morning: rounding on them.

“I thought they called that making the rounds,” I said.

“They call it that, too,” Ellen agreed, “but we also say ’rounding on.'”

The only meaning for round on I’d been aware of was to suddenly turn toward someone and say something confrontational. J. K. Rowling uses it a lot. For example:

“Don’t you want to know how Ginny got hold of that diary, Mr. Malfoy?” said Harry.
Lucius Malfoy rounded on him.
“How should I know how the stupid little girl got hold of it?” he said. (p. 336)

That meaning was just as strange to Ellen as hers was to me, so I wondered if it was a piece of British English. I couldn’t remember if I’d seen it in American-written stuff, or heard Americans say it. A quick check of the Corpus of Contemporary American English reveals that it’s definitely not just British:

  • Thor was feeling well pleased with himself when Lindsey rounded on him. “Don’t you ever do that again!”
  • SECOND SWAT OFFICER… What happened to right to life…? (he laughs) Starling rounds on him, hits him several times, and throws him to the ground. # STARLING # What happened to right to life? What happened to right to my life…?
  • He looked like a lump, and sometimes Molly told him that, rounding on him suddenly from the big stove and laying into him without mercy.

There are also medical uses in CoCA, though (understandably) not as many. I didn’t find an example with rounded on, but I found:

  • The ENIT responder, twice per day, rounds on the general care units.
  • Rounding on patients at five thirty in the morning usually turns up at least a handful of people who tell you they’d feel fine if only you assholes would stop waking them up every four hours to ask them how they’re feeling.

After Ellen learned the non-medical meaning for round on, she allowed as how attending physicians did a fair amount of that kind of rounding-on, too.

Posted in Kids' entertainment, Lexical semantics, Variation | 6 Comments »

Even More Wide-Scoping Operators

Posted by Neal on May 12, 2009

One of my regular readers is Deborah Lipp, who blogs at Property of a Lady, and has written several books on Wicca and paganism in addition to The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book (“One of these things is not like the others,” as she admits in Sesame Streetwise fashion). She also, as it turns out, is a big fan of AMC’s series Mad Men. I learned this when she wrote to me asking a language-related question about the show and mentioning her and her sister’s MM fan blog, A Basket of Kisses. That reminded me that I’ve had a Mad Men-related post sitting in my pile of drafts, so it seemed like a good time to pull it out and consolidate it with a number of other draft posts on the same topic.

The topic is “Wide-scoping operators”, and here’s the example, from the October 18, 2008 episode of Mad Men:

Jane Siegel (Peyton List)

Jane Siegel (Peyton List)


How do I know I’m not just going to eat another mushroom and this room will disappear and I’ll be back on the train to Trenton?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Kids' entertainment, Semantics, The darndest things, Wide-scoping operators | 4 Comments »

Rollercoasting

Posted by Neal on April 13, 2009

I like to rollercoast!One book that we recently finished reading aloud was Nim’s Island, by Wendy Orr (now a minor motion picture from Walden Media). Doug and Adam had to stand by for a minute while I made a note of this passage near the end of the book:

…thought Alex as she roller-coasted from one [wave] to the next.

Something sounded funny about rollercoasted. I would have said rollercoastered, converting the noun rollercoaster into a verb (“verbing a noun”, as it’s sometimes known). Why didn’t Wendy Orr take that option?

Then I realized: It was another backformation. The steps in the history:

  1. Long before rollercoasters existed, the nouns roller and coaster were formed by suffixing the agentive suffix -er to the verbs roll and coast.
  2. When the devices now known as rollercoasters were invented, the noun rollercoaster was created via compounding: roller + coaster, meaning something that coasted on rollers. The OED’s earliest known attestation is from 1888.
  3. Next, the reanalysis, illustrated with the original structure on the left, and the reanalyzed structure on the right:
    Original structure

    Original structure


    The reanalyzed structure

    The reanalyzed structure

  4. This is where the actual backformation occurs, but you can’t tell, because [roller][coaster] sounds just like [rollercoast] [er].

  5. The backformation comes to light when a speaker retrieves the verb form that logically must exist, given the noun consisting of Verb+-er. In this case, it’s rollercoast. The OED’s earliest attestation is from 1973, and others from the past few years can be found in reference to markets, emotions, hypermiling, and moving time slots for troubled TV shows.

So if rollercoast is such a typical backformation, like a lot of the ones I’ve written about before, why did it stop me in mid-page and send me looking for a napkin to write it down on? My guess is that it’s because the noun rollercoaster is not an animate agent. A bartender is a person who bartends; a babysitter is a person who babysits; a rollercoaster is an object. To falsify this hypothesis, I now open the floor for other Noun+Verber compounds that denote objects, and that have yielded Noun+Verb backformations, and which sound as normal as peoplewatch or speed-read to me.

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Posted in Backformation, Kids' entertainment | 8 Comments »

 
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