Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Archive for the ‘Taboo’ Category

I Fruck Out

Posted by Neal on August 13, 2010

If you’ve clicked over here after reading my guest script for Grammar Girl on swearing, thanks for visiting! You might enjoy browsing the categories Taboo and Potty On, Dudes!

It’s funny that that episode should have gone out today, in light of a turn the conversation took at lunch today. Doug was telling Adam about making his way past some guards in a videogame, and mentioned how he “snuck” past them. That reminded me of various discussions I’ve read about the word snuck, like this one at Language Log, and this one from Sentence First (which I linked to a few months ago). The interesting thing about it, I told Doug and Adam, is that it’s a verb that started out with a regular past tense, sneaked, and recently developed an irregular one, instead of the more usual opposite direction.

“The subject came up on Twitter,” I said, “and one guy said something like…”

Turns out ‘snuck’ is a relatively recent Americanism. When I learned that, I totally fruck out.
(From dbarefoot)

“That sounds too much like the F-word,” Adam said.

“You’re right. Maybe that’s why it hasn’t caught on,” I said. In writing the Grammar Girl episode, I wanted to say something about this phenomenon of taboo words contaminating phonetically similar but semantically and etymologically unrelated words, such as feck, niggardly, or Uranus, but had to cut the material for length considerations. It’s interesting that taboo can have such an effect, but it doesn’t always take, as attested by the continued use of words such as ship, sheet, puck, fact, fax, flack, flak, and fleck. (Although the phonetic resemblances have certainly served as the basis for taboo-related puns, like “Let’s make like a hockey player, and get the puck out of here!”) As far as I know, no one has a good explanation for the occasional absence of this taboo effect.

In the same vein, if a word’s multiple meanings include a taboo meaning, that meaning can come to drive out the non-taboo meanings. This can happen whether the word in its taboo sense is actually considered vulgar (for example beaver), or socially acceptable (for example, arouse). Linguistics textbooks will sometimes point out the case of cock and ass, whose jobs had to be taken over by rooster and donkey. But on the other hand, hello, dam, damage and damp haven’t suffered.

The ironic thing is that even people who have no problem with using actual cuss words will often avoid taboo-contaminated words. Are there words you won’t use because they sound too close to an obscenity, a profanity, or even an acceptable word for a taboo topic?

Posted in Adam, Doug, Irregular verbs, Taboo | 10 Comments »

Dickheads, Buttheads, and Assholes

Posted by Neal on July 23, 2010

In his “On Language” column this Sunday (available online already) Ben Zimmer talks about the language used in Mad Men, and at one point has to use the circumlocution “a scatological slur for a person’s head”. In a companion post at Language Log, where he can write more candidly, he reveals that the actual word was shithead. He adds:

On further reflection, I’m not terribly fond of the phrase “a scatological slur for a person’s head.” After all, shithead is a slur for a person, through a metonymic reference to that person’s head (or the contents thereof).

OK, that’s it. It’s time for me to dust off my post from Sept. 17, 2004, the post that my brother was kind enough to call “Best. Linguistics. Post. Ever.” At the time I called it “Endocentric and Exocentric Insults,” and gave only a disclaimer followed by a link (which I later removed) to the actual post elsewhere. The post stored elsewhere had the title you see here, with a handful of images illustrating possible interpretations of the insult dickhead. It was primarily the pictures that persuaded me to keep the main post off the blog, but now I’m putting it on, minus the pictures, and slightly edited for clarity.

*************************************************************************

Years ago, someone called a close friend of mine a dickhead. It just so happened I was there when he did it, and I was reminded of a question I’d had about this word. So I asked the guy, did he mean to say that this good friend of mine was:

    someone whose entire being consisted of the head of a dick?
    someone who had a dick for a head?

I received the pitifully uninsightful (and patently false) answer: “It doesn’t mean either! It’s just an insult!”

It doesn’t mean either? Of course it does! The fact that it has one of the above meanings, figuratively applied to a person, is what gives the insult its sting. That’s why it’s more cutting than, say, nerd. When you call someone a dickhead, you’re saying that you find this person as offensive as a walking, talking head of a penis! Well, either that or a creature that looks like a human being from the neck down, and like a penis from the neck up.

Perhaps comparing dickhead to a few other model insults would shed some light on its meaning. If dickhead the insult means “head of a dick”, then it is an example of an endocentric compound noun — that is, a noun made up of words X and Y, where Y is a noun, and XY denotes a kind of Y. Y is said to be, no pun intended, the head of the compound. For example, in doghouse, X = dog, Y = house, and a doghouse is a kind of house. Similarly, in dickhead, X = dick, Y = head, and a dickhead is a kind of head, specifically the kind you find at the end of a dick. (The end without a man attached, that is.)

Are there other insults that are endocentric compound nouns? Asshole comes to mind. In its literal sense, asshole is a compound noun, with hole as its head: An asshole is a kind of hole. Figuratively, an asshole is someone offensive and obstinate enough to be compared to an anal sphincter. (And just to reiterate that asshole is not “just an insult,” the expression tear [someone] a new asshole is proof that the literal meaning is still there, to be enjoyed by those who take the time to experience the word as if for the first time. I’ll never forget hearing Igor Iskhakov burst out laughing when he first heard this strange new English word and parsed it out.)

On the other hand, if dickhead the insult means “having a dick for a head,” it is an example of an exocentric, or headless, compound noun. In this kind of compound, it is not true that X is a kind of Y (or for that matter, that Y is a kind of X). In other words, neither X nor Y is the head of the compound. So if dickhead means “having a dick for a head,” then a dickhead is not a kind of head. It’s a kind of person.

Are there other insults that are exocentric compound nouns? Yes again: butthead. Since butts, unlike dicks, don’t have heads, the ambiguity seen in dickhead doesn’t arise here. A butthead is not a kind of head; it’s a kind of person: someone who (figuratively) has a butt for a head.

Since both readings of dickhead have precedents, the analysis so far hasn’t given a definitive answer. It’s time for some empirical evidence. Now I could have surveyed 100 people on what dickhead means to them, but I imagine most would have said it’s an insult, just like the guy who put the label on that good friend of mine. So instead, I did a Google image search, and got 400-some hits for the word. Many of them were just pictures of ordinary people who evidently were dickheads in someone’s opinion. But 18 of them provided clear evidence. For the endocentric reading (parallel to asshole), I found no images at all. For the exocentric meaning (parallel to butthead), I found six images of people whose heads consisted of a penis or penises.

So the exocentric meaning clearly more prevalent than the endocentric one. But wait, there’s more! The other 12 images I collected illustrated meanings for dickhead that I hadn’t thought about.

Four of them were pictures of people with penises on top of their heads. This meaning looks to be almost as prevalent as the “dick for a head” meaning, but I was surprised by it. It really had never occurred to me. It’s a little tricky deciding if this is an endocentric or an exocentric meaning. It’s true that dickhead as an endocentric compound doesn’t have to mean “head of a dick”; it just has to denote a head that has something or other to do with a dick, and a head with a dick on top of it would certainly qualify. But referring to an entire person as a dickhead because they have a dick on their head seemed a bit strange to me at first. However, that’s starting with the word and imagining a referent. If you start off with a referent, the word comes naturally. If you want to talk about someone standing right there with a dick on their head, what other word would you use? There is precedent for this meaning, too: Google image searches for butthead, shithead, and meathead all returned more images of heads with butts, shit, or meat on them than of heads consisting of a butt, shit, or meat. And of course there are also cheeseheads. I’m calling this as an exocentric meaning, since these dickheads are still a kind of people, not a kind of head. To capture both meanings — someone who has a dick (or dicks) for a head and someone who has a dick (or dicks) on their head — we have to think of the exocentric compound as having a more general meaning: “someone whose head has something to do with a dick,” whether by being one or possessing one. (Or more.)

This “for a head” vs. “on a head” dichotomy appears in the last eight of the images I found. Two of them pictured people with dickheads for a head, and one of these two went further in having not only the person’s head as the head of a penis, but also the body as the shaft of the penis. The other six images pictured people with dickheads on their (regular) head. I have to tell you, I don’t think dickhead should have this “someone whose head has something to do with a dickHEAD” meaning. I think the word that is called for here would be dickhead-head, but probably nobody who hits upon that word likes having the two heads in a row.

So to conclude, dickheads are more like buttheads than assholes, and there are more kinds of dickhead than you’d probably care to imagine.

Posted in Compound words, Lexical semantics, Potty on, dudes!, Taboo | 4 Comments »

At the Zoo

Posted by Neal on August 19, 2009

Cyclone at Zoombezi BayDoug has been spending his days this week in a day camp at the Columbus Zoological Garden, and while he’s been there, Adam and I have been entertaining ourselves at the zoo and its adjacent waterpark. Here are some linguistic items that have caught my attention in the course of doing that.

First, here’s something Adam and I heard while we were waiting in line for the Cyclone, a waterslide that uses inner tubes that will seat four people. (Digression: Funny we still call them inner tubes. Of course, water parks have never used actual inner tubes for their slides, but when the tube is like two or four inner tubes fused together, the name seems especially inapt.) In front of us were four girls in their early teens. As they contemplated the 55-foot drop in the slide, and wondered which of them would end up sliding down backwards, one girl said that she thought she might “hurl.” They discussed how this might bear on where she sat in the tube; Hurl Girl asked one of the others:

Do you want hurl on you?

Well, why not? The verbs vomit, throw(-)up, and barf all work as nouns, so why shouldn’t the more recent verb of regurgitation hurl be allowed to do it, too? All the same, it was new to me, and sounded funny. Are there other synonyms for the verbs vomit that can’t be used as nouns? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that there was a puddle of ralph on the floor. And of course, verb phrase idioms don’t lend themselves well to turning into nouns — I don’t think English speakers would say He got {toss-his-cookies, worship-the-porcelain-urn, lose-his-lunch} all over his shirt. Do you?

redtailed hawkA while back, I wrote about how as a child I was confused by my mom’s two-syllable pronunciation of striped, and one day decided I would henceforth use the one-syllable pronunciation /straIpt/ (to rhyme with griped and sniped) because I just couldn’t see any reason why striped shouldn’t pattern with other words that added an -ed suffix to a word. I never made similar adjustments for words like wicked, naked, or crooked, maybe because I didn’t perceive wick, nake, or crook as words unto themselves. (Or maybe not, since I certainly knew the word rag, but still pronounce the adjective ragged with two syllables.) I was suddenly reminded of these words as Adam and I attended “Raptorama,” a lecture on various birds of prey. As the docent pointed out the red-tailed hawk’s hunting adaptations, he referred several times to its “crooked beak”, pronouncing crooked as /krʊkt/, to rhyme with booked and cooked. Or, now that I think about it, hooked. It could be that he was saying hooked beak, which would make more sense, but it sure sounded like crooked. I pronounce the past tense of the verb crook that way, as in “He crooked a finger at me,” but not the adjective crooked. What about you?

I also noticed that he consistently pronounced talon as /’tælɘn/ to rhyme with gallon, with the second syllable unstressed and the vowel accordingly reduced to schwa. So did Adam, when the docent called on him. I, however, pronounce talon with two stressed syllables, so that the second vowel is not reduced: /’tælɐn/. Who’s with me?

langurIn the Asia Quest section of the zoo, Adam and I saw langurs. A sign said that langur was Hindi for “sacred monkey”. “I’ll bet it’s not,” I thought. “I’ll bet that langur is Hindi for langur, and that it so happens that langurs are considered sacred in India.” I was right. The Hindi word for sacred is dharmika or any of several other words, none of them forming any part of langur. Monkey in Hindi is kapi or bandara. Meanwhile, as far as I’ve been able to tell, langur in Hindi just means “langur”, and that the word is related to the Sanskrit word for “tailed”.

Their etymology for panda is a bit more accurate: The sign said it came from a Tibetan word meaning “bamboo eater”. The OED backs this up, saying it’s “probably an alteration of the second element of nigálya-pónya“. However, it’s the nigálya part that means “cane-eating” (in Nepali, actually); the Tibetan word pónya, which actually evolved into the current name, just means “animal”. But it’s still true that panda came from a word meaning “bamboo eater”.

In the Australia section, the koala exhibit had a sign saying that koala meant “no water” in the Aborigine language. Their reference to “the” Aborigine language didn’t inspire confidence. Which one did they mean? Aside from that, though, I haven’t found anything to contradict this claim. Do you know anything about it, Claire?

Posted in Lexical semantics, Phonetics and phonology, Taboo | 13 Comments »

That’s So Disabled!

Posted by Neal on May 28, 2009

The good news: Adam has picked up some more of the language of his peers. The bad news: It’s the adjective retarded. The good news: He’s not using the word to insult people. The bad news: He’s using it to describe things that only someone with mental retardation could appreciate, as in That’s retarded! This usage makes sense only with the support of a presupposition that mentally retarded people like things that other people find stupid, but that kind of argument is going to be hard to explain to a kid. This is the same kind of semantic shift as happened with gay — from describing a person to describing something that only that kind of person would like, with the hearer implicitly asked to agree that gay people like things that other people find stupid. There are kids for whom this connection is so attenuated that they refuse to believe it, saying, “It’s not insulting to say something is gay! You’re not insulting a person, you’re just saying the thing is stupid”, and I’m sure I’ll hear the same kind of defense of retarded as a thing-describing adjective.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Diachronic, Quantity and Relevance, Taboo, The darndest things | 19 Comments »

The Put-Down From Which There’s No Pick-Up

Posted by Neal on December 15, 2007

Today was a sad day for us. After two years of steady weight loss (and one month of precipitous weight loss), and having more or less constant kidney problems, our 18-year-old cat Barney finally reached the point where his prognosis was a matter of days. We decided earlier in the week that we would kill him today. Or to be more accurate, have the vet kill him.

Ugh. All I’m doing is avoiding the euphemisms for this kind of thing — put him down/to sleep/out of his misery, euthanize him — and all of a sudden it sounds so heartless. It was a tough decision, since Barney hadn’t reached the point yet where we could say, “He’s obviously in constant pain, and we need to end it”; but he had clearly declined enough that we didn’t want to wait for him to die during a frightening, painful crisis, the way his brother did a few years ago. And in the midst of questioning ourselves about our decision, we had to explain it confidently to Doug and Adam. They cried about it off and on for the past three days as they got in their last Barney-petting, and Doug continually pointed out how he thought Barney had gained a little bit of weight (his spine didn’t stick out quite as much as before), that he seemed like he was feeling OK today, and if we somehow got up to, say, eight pounds, would they put him to sleep then?

During one of these discussions, Doug told me about the time a couple of years back when he learned what it meant to put someone to sleep. His neighborhood friend’s dog had had to be euthanized, and his friend tearfully told him, “They had to put Rocky to sleep.”

Trying to cheer up his friend, Doug offered, “It’s OK, I’m sure he’ll wake up soon.” It didn’t work, and Doug said it a few more times, figuring his friend just hadn’t heard him clearly. Finally another friend who was there couldn’t stand it anymore, and clued Doug in.

Ah, Doug, you have so many euphemisms yet to learn!

Posted in Taboo, The darndest things | 2 Comments »

Don’t Mention It

Posted by Neal on January 26, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, when I read that a member of the cast of Grey’s Anatomy named Isaiah Washington told a reporter at the Golden Globe awards,

No, I did not call [co-star] T. R. [Knight] a faggot. Never happened.

I had two reactions. One: Someone must have said he called T. R. Knight a faggot. Two: That was kind of an awkward denial. Oh, well.

Over the next week, I became aware that not only his alleged name-calling, but also the denial was getting him into trouble. I was puzzled at first. People were talking about his gaffe at the Golden Globes and I didn’t know what they meant. It was only when I read in one story, “Mr. Washington moved to the microphone and denied that he had ever used the slur to describe Mr. Knight, at the same time repeating the word” that I realized they really were talking about the denial, not the actual insult. Arnold Zwicky has written a cogent linguistic perspective on the whole incident, starting off with the point that was the source of my confusion: Washington did not use the word faggot, he mentioned it. I particularly like this sentence from his conclusion:

Believing that some words are so intrinsically offensive that they should never be uttered, even to describe their offensiveness or to report on offensive uses, is believing in verbal magic.

But now that I’ve thought about the matter some more, I think I can understand at least a little bit the discomfort/offense/outrage at Washington’s mention of the word in his denial. First of all, I’m not so sure anymore that call [someone] a faggot is a mention of faggot rather than a use. Faggot has two syllables is a mention; I never said he was a faggot is a use; I never called him a faggot I’d say is a use, too. It’s not saying anything about the word faggot; it’s a sentence about whether the individual denoted by him is in the set denoted by faggot. But let me call it a mention, for the sake of argument. It reminded me of something that happened with Doug and Adam not too long ago… yes, I’m remembering it now… screen.. getting.. wavy.. harp music.. playing…

“What’s so funny?” my wife was asking Doug and Adam. They were laughing hysterically in the next room.

Adam told her. Apparently, Doug had been telling Adam something funny that had happened that day, something that involved somebody farting. As Adam relayed the story to his mom, he used Doug’s words, including the word fart.

My wife hates the word fart. For her, it’s not a funny word that you just have to laugh when you hear (like booger), but a disgusting word that’s just as bad as that other f-word (aside from finesse). Adam, of course, knows this, so he thoughtfully apologized before his mom could say anything:

I’m sorry I said “fart,” Mom. I only said “fart” because Doug said “fart” and I was telling you that he said “fart.”

I don’t remember whether Adam used or mentioned fart the first time, but the last four times were definitely mentions, not uses, and yet it was those mentions, not the original use, that irritated my wife the most. Clearly, Adam was hiding behind the use/mention distinction in order to launch a few penalty-free farts. It would have been easy enough to say that word instead of fart if his apology had been pure, but he chose to repeat fart four times, which transformed his mention into, I guess you’d call it a meta-use.

Now Isaiah Washington said faggot only once during his denial, so why the uproar? I think it probably would have been OK if he’d said something like, “Faggot is a demeaning and inappropriate label to put on anyone, and I never used it to refer to T. R. or anyone else.” I think his castmates’ unease, and other people’s outrage, arose from reasoning along the following lines:

  1. You have already been accused of using the word faggot with malicious intent.
  2. Therefore, one would expect you to exercise greater-than-normal caution in using or mentioning this word when discussing the incident, to avoid giving the impression that you habitually use this word.

  3. You chose not to do so.
  4. Therefore, it seems you think the accusation is not to be taken seriously.
  5. Therefore, it seems you are the kind of person who thinks it’s OK to call people faggot.

That, plus the re-assertion by fellow castmembers that he really did call T. R. Knight a faggot, was enough to require the now-standard celebrity public-contrition routine.

Posted in Potty on, dudes!, Pragmatics, Taboo, The darndest things | Leave a Comment »

Starts With B, Rhymes With Custard

Posted by Neal on November 25, 2006

Cal Thomas wrote in yesterday’s column about declining standards of decency on television:

Certain words are supposed to cross the line, but apparently only if they begin with f…. Words that begin with b apparently do not cross the line. One rhymes with custard and the other rhymes with witch. One frequently hears those words on network TV.

Starts with b and rhymes with custard, eh? OK, I can figure this one out. That would be … bustard? A long-legged Old World and Australian game bird in the family Otitidae? I’m with Thomas on a lot of his points about what gets shown on TV, but I have to disagree with him here. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this word on TV (though maybe I would if I watched more Discovery channel), and wouldn’t be offended if I did.

However, this word does remind me of a b word that rhymes with mastered and plastered, which I’m surprised Thomas didn’t mention. I don’t know why bastard should be considered such a nasty word, since it isn’t scatological, sexual, racial, or religious, and it appears often enough in historical discussions of royal families. Still, I do know a kid could get sent to the principal’s office for saying it in school. But I wonder what would happen if they called someone a niggardly bustard?

Posted in Rhymes, Taboo | 4 Comments »

Forbidden Words

Posted by Neal on October 2, 2006

In books on historical linguistics, a lot of attention is paid to kinds of phonetic change, processes of analogy and grammaticalization, and language contact. One topic that gets significantly less attention is taboo-induced change. For example, in the second edition of Hock’s Principles of Historical Linguistics (1991), taboo is discussed on nine out of 679 pages of text, whereas phonetic and phonological issues take up six chapters; analogy, three chapters; linguistic contact, three chapters; and the comparative method, two chapters. The five remaining chapters cover various other topics; most of the discussion of taboo occurs in the chapter on semantic change. But what Hock does write leaves the reader (OK, me) wanting more:

[T]aboo can lead to a constant turnover in vocabulary, such as in the English expression for ‘toilet’…. In some societies, the effect may be much more far reaching. For instance, it has been argued that the difficulties in tracing Tahitian vocabulary to its Proto-Polynesian sources are in large measure a consequence of massive taboo: Upon the death of a member of the royal family, every word which was a constituent part of that person’s name, or even any word sounding like it became taboo and had to be replaced by new words. (p. 294-295)

Remembering passages like that one, and having written about taboo language here, here, here, and here, and having read too many Language Log postings on taboo language to try to provide links to (but which are now indexed here), I was eager to read a piece of blog swag called Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language by Keith Allan and Kate Burridge. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Reviews, Taboo | 3 Comments »

2 Funny

Posted by Neal on February 17, 2005

Today was parent-teacher conference day. When we met with Adam’s preschool teacher, she told us that Adam will sometimes make funny observations or suggestions in class, and that he seems to enjoy wordplay. Like his dad, she added. I wondered what she was remembering that prompted her to make that last comment. Could it be that she reads this very blog, and has been impressed by the refined linguistic humor regularly found herein? Or have my literal-minded sensibilities come through in my conversations with her? Or maybe it was something that happened on one of the days when I was in the classroom, observing Adam? You know, come to think of it, I seem to recall an incident now… I remember it like it was a couple of months ago…

A couple of months ago, I was sitting at a table near the handwashing station, cutting capital and lowercase C’s out of construction paper for their coming letter-of-the-week art project. As I sat there, I watched Adam and his classmates do their various free-choice and mandatory-assignment activities. At the writing station, their task was to trace a number 2.

Just before snacktime, Adam’s teacher was sitting at a table about five feet away, recording what each kid had done that day. One by one, she’d call them over, and ask, “Did you cut out the kite picture? Did you play with the snow? Did you make a number two?”

I sat there cutting out C’s, silently grinning every time I heard her ask, “Did you make a number two?” Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I shared my amusement with the teacher’s aide, who was passing by. Adam’s teacher saw us laughing, so the aide let her in on the joke.

After that, I continued cutting out the C’s and listening to Adam’s teacher conduct her interviews: “Did you cut out the kite picture? Did you play with the snow? Did you write a number two?”

Posted in Lexical semantics, Potty on, dudes!, Taboo | 7 Comments »

Silent Pee

Posted by Neal on December 15, 2004

I could tell something was on Adam’s mind last night as I got ready to brush his teeth. He was staring into space as I put the toothpaste on the brush, and said, almost to himself, “Silent P.”

“Silent P? Where?” I asked. I looked all around the bathroom, but didn’t see any obvious text anywhere that he might be noticing, much less one with a silent P in it. I mean, he’s familiar with the concept of silent letters (and likes to listen to this song in the car), but I didn’t think he’d ever seen any words with a silent P. Psychologist, pneumonia, he’s never seen those written. Pteranodon, maybe, but he’s really not into dinosaurs* as much as Doug was, so we hardly ever read him books with that word in them. So what word was he seeing that had a silent P in it?

As I was thinking about all this, Adam said, “Tinkle.”

Ohhh, now I got it. He was thinking about the library book we’d read the night before. The book was I Have to Go, in which the phrase, “I have to go pee!” appeared in several places, in large print. Out of consideration for Doug and Adam’s mom, when I read the book I’d systematically replaced pee with tinkle, using the terminology that Doug and Adam learned from her and their grandma and their aunt. Little did I know that for 24 hours, Adam had been silently struggling, trying to reconcile the phonetic string tinkle with the orthographic string P-E-E that he saw on the page. And now he’d finally arrived at his conclusion: It must be a silent P. I had to admire his reasoning–I do believe he’s gonna turn out to be a real whiz kid!

BTW, I personally don’t care for the word tinkle, and much prefer pee. But standardly using tinkle from the time Doug and Adam were in diapers has honed my appreciation for the strange semantic journey it’s undergone. First there’s its onomatopoetic meaning, which I assume is the basis for its use as a euphemism for “urinate.” From there, the verb tinkle can be used to refer to the bodily waste itself, reproducing the verb-noun polysemy seen in pee, piss, poop, and shit. Tinkle the noun can be turned into the adjective tinkly, as in, He has a tinkly diaper. And at this point the irony kicks in when you try to get back to the original meaning of the word. It’d seem that tinkly ought to refer to things like windchimes or ice cubes in a glass, but instead, we find it describing something that goes squish when you poke it and plop when you drop it on the floor.

*Yes, I know, Pteranodon is not a dinosaur.

Posted in Kids' entertainment, Polysemy, Potty on, dudes!, Taboo, The darndest things | 6 Comments »