Thursday, May 24, 2007

Nouning isn't always bad

Last night, Jon Stewart talked about the empussification of the Democrats, of course on the issue of funding for the ongoing slaughter in Iraq. He set the stage with a couple of references to the Dems as pussies; otherwise it probably wouldn't have been clear to a lot of people.

I know pussified 'lame, weak, effeminate', whatever the historical connection to pusillanimous may be. But the participle makes a verb to pussify a necessary step from point A to point B. To make it mean 'somebody who has had this done to them', you need the em-, I guess. From there, I guess, it must be just one step to his noun.

What a tangled derivational web we weave:
pussy (fig.) > pussify > empussify > empussified, empussification.


dancas said...

Dear Mr. Verb, some (Irish) thoughts on the words puss and pussy. Thanks, I enjoy your site and often have a smile on my "puss" while reading it.

Puss, n., a mouth, a face, a sour, pouting face; an ugly puss.

Pus, (Irish) n., a lip, the mouth (generally only in contempt), a sulky expression, a pouty mouth. (Dineen, 867, Ó Dónaill, 976.)

A few Anglo-American dictionaries derive the slang word "puss" from the Irish word "pus" (a lip; a mouth; a pouty mouth); but they are clueless about "pussy."

Pussy (1), n., (slang) vagina.

Pusa,(Irish) n., pl., lips; (Latin) labia.

Pussy (pusa, lips) and labia are synonymous.

Most dictionaries derive the slang term pussy (pusa, lips) from the English word "puss" for a cat, which is of unknown origin. (OED; Merriam-Webster dictionary online,; Barnhart, 867.)

Pussy (pusa, lips) is a wicked word because it is from the “bad language” of the Irish colony and slum.

“I liked the Irish worst of all; it sounded so horrid, especially as I did not understand it. It’s a bad language.” (George Borrow, Lavengro, 1851, Everyman edn. [1961].)

Then there is the whining crybaby called a "pussy."

Pussy (2), n. adj., an effeminate male; a wimp; a whiner; a crybaby.

Pusaire (pron. pusərə),(Irish) n., a whimperer, a blubberer, a whiner, a whinger, a crybaby.

Pusach (pron. pusəċ, pusə), adj., pouting, whimpering, sulking; ready to cry.

Pusachán, n., a pouter, a sulky person; a blubberer, whimperer.

Perhaps, the puss (pus, pouty mouth) of the pussy-cat also explains its name?

Go raibh maith agat...

Anonymous said...

Mr. V: I would beg to differ: pussy (fig.) > pussify > empussify > empussified OR > empussification. But then I like to hold to my cherished beliefs in things like derivation inside inflection. Signed, A Student of Morphology

Mr. Verb said...

Oh my god, I can't believe I did that ... it's been fixed.