a whole nother

language and thoughts about it

Thursday, March 23, 2006


A Neologism and 'The Man [sic]'

I read the following blurb on this website promoting this book by Shane Hipps.
Like the magician’s sleight-of-hand, we are distracted and enamored by the entertainment and efficiency of our technologies. But most of us stand oblivious to trick played on our mind. Despite our best intentions, and regardless of what information our media convey, all media have a hidden bias with the power to shape nearly every aspect of life without our ever knowing it.
I haven't even read the book (and frankly, I stopped reading the review after this paragraph, mostly because I was walking around in a state of euphoria exclaiming "Oh man!"), but I think Mr. Hipps has a word on the tip of his tongue here. And I think that word is presticogitation.

Presticogitation, according to linguist James VandenBosch is defined as "rapid mental processing that commands compliance because of its speed and beauty." Nathan Bierma devoted his Chicago Tribune column to the the word here, and has a nice collection of related links on his website.

But is presticogitation the right word here? After all, presticogitation presumably presupposes a certain individual with a motive and a means. But there's not a person (or even a group of people) behind technology. It's like this big abstract being out there controlling it. (This abstract being is probably also the antecedent of they, as in they should lower taxes.) Maybe it's God. Maybe it's 'The Man' (or its more gender-inclusive variant, 'The Person'). Whatever it is, I have a hunch that there are at least moderate levels of presticogitation involved.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


New Word Creates Kerfuffle

I've been wanting to revive this blog for awhile now to include posts that cover broader topics in linguistics and words (not just whole nother - which, by the way, I've already heard twice today and it's barely 12:30). Every time I think of a potential post, I usually talk myself out of posting it on the grounds that it's insignificant or unimportant.

But that all changed yesterday when I came across an Associated Press story that appeared in the Seattle Times: President Bush talks "kerfuffle". The article begins:
President Bush is known as a plainspoken man, a straight-talker. So how did a word like "kerfuffle" come out of his mouth?
He dropped the K-bomb during an open question and answer session in Cleveland yesterday. According to the transcript found on whitehouse.gov, President Bush responded thus to a question about wiretapping:
No, I appreciate the question. He's talking about the terrorist surveillance program that was -- created quite a kerfuffle in the press, and I owe an explanation to.
The Associated Press story also says that
An aide said he has heard Bush use the word privately before, but not in public.
According to the OED, kerfuffle is as young as the 1940s, but its Scottish variant curfuffle dates back to the early nineteenth century. The shift from curfuffle to kerfuffle probably happened by way of analogy with other words that begin with ker. According to the OED, ker- is
"the first element in numerous onomatopoeic or echoic formations intended to imitate the sound or the effect of the fall of some heavy body, as kerchunk, -flop, -plunk, -slam, -slap, -slash, -souse, -swash, -swosh, -thump, -whop, etc."
It seems as though President Bush has taken very large, heavy object - the wiretapping controversy, in this case - positioning it above a body of water or an unassuming small insect and then dropping said object. Kerplunk. Kerchunk. Kerfuffle.


April 2005   May 2005   June 2005   July 2005   August 2005   October 2005   November 2005   March 2006  

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?