[Ads-l] dead fucking boring - infix diagnostic

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Feb 23 15:57:32 EST 2017


> On Feb 23, 2017, at 3:38 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 
> There's some useful discussion in Michael Adams's 2012 book _Slang: The
> People's Poetry_ in the section "Lexicofabricography and the Lexically
> Meaningful Infix" (pp. 127ff). I believe "dead fucking boring" would fall
> under what Michael calls "syntactic interposings" of "fucking" or its
> euphemisms -- he mentions "no fucking way," "where in the effin hell," and
> "so friggin what" as examples. Distinguishing "interposing" from "infixing"
> (as Michael does) is helpful here, I think.
> 
> —Ben

Agreed.  I hadn’t known there was a term proposed for the not-quite-infix behavior of “fuckin(g)” and friends interposed between rather than within words, but “interposing” sounds like a winner to me.

LH
> 
> 
> On Thu, Feb 23, 2017 at 3:13 PM, Barretts Mail <mail.barretts at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> 
>> Thank you. Although I’m not 100% convinced, LH’s explanation makes more
>> sense to me than mine. But if so, it seems that either the definition of
>> “infix” has to be expanded, or else infixes have a wider range of function
>> than simply insertion within a word.
>> 
>> One particularly odd issue is “dead/right fucking ahead” which violates
>> the infixing rule that the syllable after the point of insertion has to
>> have primary stress. (That might be strong evidence that “right ahead” and
>> “dead ahead” are each indeed two words and that “fucking” is not an infix.)
>> 
>> As to the order of adjectives, I don’t think it comes into play as these
>> are (conventionally) adverb + adjective expressions. See, for example,
>> “dead” as an adverb at https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dead#Adverb <
>> https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/dead#Adverb>.
>> 
>> Benjamin Barrett
>> Formerly of Seattle, WA
>> 
>> 
>>> On 23 Feb 2017, at 09:36, Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
>>> 
>>> I am trying to figure out how it relates to this:
>>> http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-
>> grammar/about-adjectives-and-adverbs/adjectives-order
>>> 
>>> DanG
>>> 
>>> On Thu, Feb 23, 2017 at 11:40 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
>>> wrote:
>>> 
>>>> Interesting issues here.  I think a couple of things are going on.  I
>>>> don’t think we want to say “dead boring” is a single word.  For one
>> thing,
>>>> it’s not a compound and it doesn’t have the phonology of a single word.
>>>> Rather, it’s one of many, or at several, cases in which an intensifying
>>>> adverb must immediately precede the adjective it modifies.  Often
>> there’s a
>>>> collocation effect.  Other examples include:
>>>> 
>>>> Dead ahead
>>>> Stark naked
>>>> Plumb crazy
>>>> Real dumb (vs. “really dumb”, which doesn’t have the immediate adjacency
>>>> constraint)
>>>> Right ahead
>>>> Pitch black (originally a compound, but reanalyzed for those who don’t
>>>> know what “pitch” refers to; cf. the attested “pitch white”)
>>>> 
>>>> These are different from “ice cold”, which is still, I think, a
>> compound.
>>>> 
>>>> Not unrelated are collocations of intensifier + noun, again not counting
>>>> as a single word despite the difficulty of interruption:
>>>> Rank stranger
>>>> Sworn enemy
>>>> Bosom buddy
>>>> Flaming asshole
>>>> 
>>>> For both classes, a diagnostic is ability to interrupt the sequence by a
>>>> conjoined modifier or other material.  For me at least there’s a
>> difference
>>>> in pairs like
>>>> 
>>>> He’s really, if I may say, certifiable/dumb/...
>>>> #He’s real, if I may say, certifiable/dumb/…
>>>> 
>>>> He’s really and totally dangerous
>>>> #He’s real and totally dangerous
>>>> 
>>>> But what *can* interrupt the sequence (at least in most of these cases)
>> is
>>>> the same material that works as an infix interrupting a word:
>> “fuckin(g)”,
>>>> “bloody”, “damn”, etc.:
>>>> 
>>>> He’s real fucking certifiable/dangerous
>>>> You’re a rank fucking stranger
>>>> Plumb fucking crazy
>>>> 
>>>> and of course
>>>> Dead fucking boring/ahead
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>> LH
>>>> 
>>>> 
>>>>> On Feb 23, 2017, at 1:12 AM, Barretts Mail <mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>> 
>>>>> Sorry, I think you’re saying that “dead boring” is two words.
>>>>> 
>>>>> What I’m wondering is whether “fucking” can be used as a diagnostic to
>>>> determine whether two elements such as these are a single word.
>>>>> 
>>>>> Benjamin Barrett
>>>>> Formerly of Seattle, WA
>>>>> 
>>>>>> On 22 Feb 2017, at 17:54, Barretts Mail <mail.barretts at gmail.com>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>>> 
>>>>>> It’s not clear to me, either, but it certainly feels and seems that
>>>> way. Are there non-infixes that can go there? BB
>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> On 22 Feb 2017, at 17:37, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> I think the occurrence of “bloody”, “fuckin(g)”, “damn”, etc. within
>> a
>>>> phonological/morphological word, as in “Massa[fuckin]chusetts”,
>>>> “fan[damn]tastic” or “abso[bloody]lutely” are better candidates for
>> infix
>>>> status than “dead fucking boring”, since it’s not clear to me that
>>>> “fucking” is an affix at all in the latter case.
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>> LH
>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>> On Feb 22, 2017, at 6:05 PM, Barretts Mail <mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
>>> 
>>>> wrote:
>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>> “Fucking” and variations (blooming, bloody) are the few options for
>>>> infixing in English.
>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>> (Comic: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=8463 <
>>>> http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=8463>)
>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>> Although it’s possible to parse “dead fucking boring” as “dead
>> boring
>>>> and fucking boring”, I’m inclined to parse “fucking” as an infix between
>>>> the two. It, as well as “dead bloody boring”, comes up on Google.
>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>> Here are some tests that don’t come up on Google:
>>>>>>>> 
>>>>>>>> dead terribly boring (dead, terribly boring meaning dead and
>> terribly
>>>> boring is on Google)
>>>>>>>> dead frighteningly boring
>>>>>>>> dead jacked boring =? dead-jacked boring
>>>>>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
> 
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