I guaran-god-damn-tee it

Damien Hall djh514 at YORK.AC.UK
Sat Jun 26 15:21:50 UTC 2010

Jon: 'Some may also enjoy _irregoddamnless_.'

Randy: 'Shouldn't that be "irre-goddamn-gardless"?'

Jon: 'Should be but ain't.'

By the usual phonological rules of 'fucking'-insertion (_pace_ the other
words which can also be inserted), Randy is of course right: insertion
usually happens before the main-stressed syllable, though I don't think
this is absolutely exceptionless. In any case, I think this case is
different because it's not straightforward insertion - obviously there's a
syllable missing from 'irregoddamnless'.

I think that what this is, is a play on the similarity of pronunciation
between 'god' and 'guard' in American English: essentially, they differ in
that 'guard', /gard/, is just 'god', /gad/, with an /r/ in it - so, in the
r-less dialects of some areas, they are pronounced the same, /gad/. (This
particular similarity was exploited by Labov as long ago as the 60s, when
he used the potential confusion of pairs like 'god'~'guard' and
'sauce'~'source' to see whether there was in fact any phonetic difference
between the pairs when they were pronounced with no /r/ - in other words,
when speakers hear the r-less versions of both, are they absolutely the
same or can speakers still tell the difference?)

But I digress.  So:

- if the 'gard' syllable of 'irregardless' is pronounced [gad] - and most
speakers of American English would be familiar with the pronunciation, even
if they did not use it themselves

- it could be interpreted not as 'gard' but as 'god'

- and, when used as an imprecation, one way to emphasise 'God' is to say

Thus we have irre-gard-less > irre-god-less > irre-godDAMN-less.


Damien Hall

University of York
Department of Language and Linguistic Science
YO10 5DD

Tel. (office) +44 (0)1904 432665
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