[Ads-l] verbal kudzu

Brian Hitchcock brianhi at SKECHERS.COM
Fri Jun 16 17:23:10 EDT 2017

The dictionary definitions, referring to "fodder crop" and "erosion control" barely hint at the most important characteristic of kudzu that is relevant to this metaphorical usage, namely its ability to entangle, entwine and choke.  "Invasive weed" does not begin to describe that aspect.  Once entrenched, kudzu can choke and kill other plant life as well as bringing down manmade stuff such as telephone wires.  

What seems even more interesting to me is the collocation of "kudzu" with "upchuck".  Upchucking carries the connotation that something has been ingested and partially digested before being egested.  Also that the body itself violently rejected that thing as a noxious, or at least as indigestible.  Kudzu, once chewed and partially digested, presumably would no longer have the characteristics of live kudzu.  I suspect, however, that McWhorter intended the metaphor to convey that Jones's words would carry the characteristics of live kudzu (specifically its ability to entwine, entangle and choke other plants, and to damage other objects). 

So the usage of "upchuck" is unusual, and it seems that that part of the metaphor is not intended to be taken as "vomiting" material that is disagreeable TO ONESELF, but  as something like "spewing" words voluminously, forcefully and perhaps indiscriminately. Otherwise it would be saying that Jones himself recognizes his spew as noxious, if not toxic, even to himself.  Which I doubt McWhorter meant to imply. 

IMHO a fine turn of phrase, by any interpretation.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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