11 October 2007

The Infuckingcredible infix

Nifty confluence of language posts this week. First, on Sunday Gaiman had this to say about infixing:

My favourite conversation about language and words was before we went on the air, when Ian told us not to swear (as Radio 3 is only allowed one serious swear word per show) and also not to answer any question with an enthusiastic "ABSOLUTELY!" (which is apparently what writers tend to do). And when I said that I thus presumed that "absofuckinglutely" was right out, Deborah Cameron (Rupert Murdoch Professor of Language and Communication at the University of Oxford) enthusiastically explained to me that swearing is the only example of infixing in the English language and I was happy, for I had learned something.
Then today on Mindhacks we get this aside in a post about Steven Pinker's new piece in TNR about the psychology/neuroscience of swearing:
As an aside, once, whilst drinking with a psycholinguist (say that after a few pints) I was taught a useful way of quickly working out the stressed syllable in any English word - something which is apparently called the 'fuck test'.

Simply insert the word 'fucking' into the word, as if you were using the swear word for emphasis, and the syllable that follows the 'fucking' is the stressed syllable.

For example, absolutely -> abso-fucking-lutely. The stressed syllable is the third: i.e. absolutely. It works for every multi-syllable word I've found so far.

Which just goes to show that psycholinguists are some of the coolest melonfarmers in the whole of cognitive science.
So not only is "fucking" the only word to be infixed in English, when it is we can determine the stressed syllable of the root word!

5 comments:

sme said...

fuckin' a

Beckylooo said...

I suspect this post over on ma blog was before your time. Tis relevant AND amusing.

R.A. Porter said...

Great post! I was going to leave a one word comment over there but thought it might not be well-received. So here's my one word response for Fiona Shaw (unfortunately, as a Brit, she wouldn't have found it as offensive):

Cunt!

Beckylooo said...

Yeah, cunt's a good one.

Anonymous said...

Fucking isn't the only word you can infix. I recall the line from an Austin Powers movie: "That's rigoddamndiculous!"

Naw meen?