Posted by Neal on September 30, 2004
More from the June issue of Language: An article by Benjamin K. Bergen regarding phonaesthemes says at one point: “We know that language users are able to access all sorts of facts about their language upon reflection. People can come up with a word of their language that is spelled with all five vowel letters and ‘y’ in order, or a word that has three sets of double letters in a row” (295). For readers who would otherwise get sidetracked trying to think of what these words might be, Bergen gives a footnote, giving facetiously and bookkeeper as the answers.
Then his footnote takes a turn for the bizarre, as he goes on to say “Brian Joseph … notes that if one is willing to adopt a flexible definition of word, then a word with five double sets of letters in sequence is boobbookkeeper (a bookkeeper who is a boob).” Well, gosh, if he’s going to go on this much of a tangent, why not go all the way? The meaning he gives is only for this analysis of the compound:
[ boob [ book keeper ]]
But Bergen completely overlooks the meaning associated with this analysis:
[[ boob book ] keeper ]
What does Bergen have against keepers of books about boobs? Or for that matter, keepers of books made of boobs, intended for boobs, or belonging to boobs?