Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Bookkeepers Unite!

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?

One Response to “Bookkeepers Unite!”

  1. Stacie said

    what word has three sets of double letters in a row??

    Thanks!

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