Sunday, May 31, 2009

Slang and infixation

A while ago, I mentioned that Oxford had sent, via a minion, Michael Adams' new book, Slang: The people's poetry. Well, I've read it. It's a great read, something you can give to non-linguists, and I'm going to do a string of posts on it over the coming week or so.

For now, to kick things off, let's return to this recent post about flam-bam-bouyant. I made a casual joke about how maybe we were developing or could develop a new pattern of infixation. Adams has set me straight: He lays out a remarkably broad set of infixing patterns, enough that this bam is sadly unremarkable. These are virtually all very familiar, like Ned Flanders' -diddly- and the -iz- made famous by Snoop Dog where the bomb can become the bizzomb. (He suggests that readers see for plenty more.) Bam's got plenty of company.

By the way, he devotes a fair bit of time to phrasal insertions (the typical Flanders pattern, I bet), including a beautiful treatment of the middle initial inserted in Jesus H. Christ. It's presumably historical, maybe from Greek spellings of the first three letters of the first name, rendered in Medieval Latin with IHC. That is, the eta gets written as 'H'. Others get it via Jesus Hominum Salvator. But I had completely forgotten the Belushi line in the Blues Brothers, where he gets religion and responds to James Brown (as a preacher) with "Yes, yes, Jesus H. Tap-dancing Christ, I have seen the light!"

Anyway, infixing of various sorts is more present and more complex than I realized when I dashed off that little post.


John Cowan said...

... But biologists know that the H stands for Haploid.

Mr. Verb said...


Jane Hudson said...
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