Monthly Archives: November 2014

Three Things You Didn’t Know Linguists Had a Name For

Linguists LOVE slang. Nothing gives them more glee than learning about what the kids are saying these days. That’s why the Word of the Year is such a highly-anticipated event in the field. Urban dictionary is considered a valuable research tool. Even linguists in their 70s are “with it” when it comes to slang.

So I thought I’d introduce to you three linguistic constructions that you (may) use everyday, that you didn’t know linguists have names for.

Dismissive schm-

Person A: I can’t go to that concert, I have an interview that day.

Person B: Interview schminterview.

“Dismissive schm-” is a form associated with Jewish speakers because it originated in Yiddish. However, it is a feature that has spread to include non-Jewish speakers, including (I suspect) many of the readers of this blog. The basic idea is to rhyme a word with itself, using schm- instead of whatever consonant begins the word (for example, “job schmob”) — or just add it to the beginning of a word if it starts with a vowel, as in the example above.

Expletive infixation

Three Things You Didn't Know Linguists Had a Name For

Example: Abso-fucking-lutely.

Infixes can happen in other languages, but in English they only occur in one situation – when we put swear words in other words. The swear word has to be added before the primary stress of the word. So you can’t say “wa-fucking-ter” for “water,” because the stress is on the first syllable. By contrast, we frequently do this with words with stress later in the word – “abso-fucking-lutely,” “in-fucking-credible,” “un-fucking-believable”, etc.

Three Things You Didn't Know Linguists Had a Name For

For the record, this would be “ri-fucking-diculous.”

-ass intensifier

Example: I’m really tired so I’m going to need a big-ass cup of coffee.

The -ass intensifier is added to adjectives to emphasize them. It’s not just a big cup of coffee, it’s a big-ass cup of coffee. It’s not just a boring meeting, it’s a boring-ass meeting, etc.

Three Things You Didn't Know Linguists Had a Name For

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