Jun 23 2009

Hugs, Twisty: Blamer lodges complaint

Today’s “Hugs, Twisty” letter comes from Adrienne, who endears herself by quoting me in an excellent essay in which she reports on a demonstration in Boston against Exodus Ministries. You remember those Exodus knobs? They’re the ones who think they can convert homos through “the power” of the ghost of a dead Nazarene on a stick.

In the essay to which I allude — which essay, she says, “turned up on every radical/anarchist/queer website on the planet” — Adrienne uses, probably for the first time anywhere, the phrase “gratuitous homoerotic canoodling.”

But Adrienne’s most recent email leaves all that fluffy shit behind to concentrate on matters much more dire. That’s right. Phonology.

Dear Jill [ Note: Adrienne didn’t actually begin with “Dear Jill,” but I know she felt it in her heart of hearts ]

Yay! I can never get over how awesome you are.

Meanwhile, I don’t read the comments on your blog, but the posts you’ve made about people trying to call you out all the time sound awful. So awful, in fact, that I kinda feel bad about bringing this up, but it has to do with phonology, rather than philosophical unsoundness!

You write ‘enbooben’ when it oughta be ’embooben.’ b is a bilabial phoneme and n is a velar nasal one and English affixes match the phonological traits of the roots, e.g. enact, embody, invariable, impatient, illogical, irrespective, ensure, embalm, enact, emulate, innocent, immature, irredeemable, illegitimate, envious, empathy, and so forth.

Please don’t hate me!

P.S. good luck with that well.
P.P.S. many a year ago, you caused me to reconsider my uses of ellipses. Thank you.

Dear Adrienne,

Oh, you! I could never hate anyone who knows what a bilabial phoneme is.

Of course I can feel but a pale twinge of the pain you must have experienced upon perceiving my coarse phonological gaffe, but if it’s anything like the tiny razor blades that slash my eyeballs whenever some commenter considers it a matter of personal style to eschew the shift key, I can sympathize and how.

But I must tell you: It is part of the daily programme here at Spinster HQ to destroy the institutionalized discrimination governing the deployment of certain affixes in our language. Furthermore, as a spinster aunt I am professionally and morally obligated, for the sake of the revolution, to misspell made-up words describing or denoting the dominant culture’s crimes against humanity. Into which category falls the made-up word currently under review.

Thank you for taking the time to ponder the human rights crisis that is enboobenationalism, as well as for giving ellipses a second thought. And for becoming a feminist in 2005, and most especially for calling me “awesome.”


P.S. We will soon have some crappy video of the ag well pump repair; a more sweeping epic will have rarely been seen on YouTube.


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  1. Sophie

    Adrienne, a hundred thank yous; not only because the patterns of the English language such as those you describe make me go all happy-wriggly in the toes, but because in your essay you introduce me to the word ‘snogular’.

  2. MLH

    The Exodus article is hilarious. Check this out, Twisty, the founders (both males) apparently left the “movement” and married each other in a commitment ceremony.
    From wikipedia: “Michael Bussee and Gary Cooper, who helped organize the 1976 conference that led to Exodus’ inception, left the group to be with each other in 1979. [20] In time, they divorced their wives and participated in a commitment ceremony in 1982, exchanging rings and vows.”

  3. PhysioProf

    English affixes match the phonological traits of the roots[.]

    Well, I’ll be emdamned! Who the befuck enknew?

  4. Pantsuit Sally

    Exodus Ministries will be dismayed to learn that, on account of her knowledge of phonetics, I love Adrienne.

  5. One Bad apple

    “Enboobenationalism”? I am SO in, sign me up.

  6. A Jennifer Original

    Dear Jill, your brilliant campaign against the ellipse also caused me to eliminate it from my writing in all but the proper context. Back then, I really liked my ellipses. Upon review of several emails though, I realized that I was using it like a disclaimer of my ideas or myself. I began to see it as code for “if you agree” or “but that’s just what I thought or did, whatever YOU think or do is probably better.” I then concluded that mis-using the ellipse like this is similar to beginning a sentence with “And,” (unnecessary and detrimental to the sentence). In a short amount of time, I was able to drop that particular tool of the patriarchy. So thank you Jill, for that, and for so much more.

  7. Samantha B

    I’m going to open a whole new can of grammatical worms by wondering aloud whether “will have rarely been seen” (located in Jill’s post script) is preferable to “rarely will have been seen”?

  8. Orange

    Samantha, the only people who cling to scootching that “rarely” to the front of the clause are unnaturally bound to the rules derived from Latin. Just because infinitives are unsplittable in Latin doesn’t mean English doesn’t flow a lot better sometimes with split infinitives.

    Enbooben? Twisty, will your phonological revolution be televised? Because I would set the DVR to record it if it is.

  9. Orange

    Uh, I meant Jill. Not Twisty. Habit.

  10. Chocolate Tort

    Orange – that’s so true, regarding Latin rules being smooshed atop English grammar. I learned some of those rules growing up, but as far as I can remember, they weren’t strictly enforced. Still, it was pretty refreshing to stumble upon Language Log, partly for their preference for a descriptive over prescriptive approach to language (including their refusal to bow to the altar of Strunk & White) and partly for their reliable deconstruction of “wimminz speak exactly 430.6x as much as strong, silent menz” studies.

    That was an awesome essay, full of excellent blamage and fantastic new words. On top of that, I got a lesson in phonology!

  11. givesgoodemail

    Dammit. Now I’ve got all sorts of new terms floating through my mind:


    Do I have those right, Adrienne?

  12. slownews

    God bless the child.

  13. the Omphaloskeptic

    I firmly believe that every kind of discourse can be enbiggened by a spot of linguistic controversy.

    Also, it warms the cockles of my heart to see common commenters between the ineluctable Language Log and IBTP. If that’s not appreciation for the fundamentals of truth and beauty, I don’t know what is.

  14. Comrade PhysioProf

    Dear Jill, your brilliant campaign against the ellipse also caused me to eliminate it from my writing in all but the proper context.

    Is there any proper use of an ellipse other than in a quote to indicate elided words?

  15. Comrade PhysioProf

    Holy fucknoly! I just looked up the ellipsis on Wikipedia, and you would not believe what I found!

    There is this fucking thing called “aposiopesis”, which is “a rhetorical device wherein a sentence is deliberately broken off and left unfinished, the ending to be supplied by the imagination, giving an impression of unwillingness or inability to continue”, and is indicated by an ellipsis. That’s a lotta fucking heavy shit to lay on three little dots.

  16. Jill

    Please, let us call it an “ellipsis” and never speak of it again.

  17. Orange

    I could argue but…

  18. Spiders

    That IS an excellent essay! Funny too.

  19. Comrade PhysioProf

    Please, let us call it an “ellipsis” and never speak of it again.

    Comrade PhysioProf hereby demands that you write a post entitled “aposiopesis”. DO IT!

  20. Dykonoclast

    Wow, I’m famous! This might be the first time I’ve been acknowledged on the blog since the summer of 2005 when I made a splash with my ‘I would so make out with you’ comment!

    Re: givesgoodemail, you got ‘entitify’ and ‘entheocraticization’ correct, but it should be ‘endongification.’ d is an alveolar phoneme and requires an alveolar affix. I’m not quite sure what you mean by ’emhipal,’ but it’s probably not correct.

    Aposiopesis might be my new favorite word.

  21. Sophie

    This very morning I’ll be running a two-hour training course on punctuation (it’s part of my job) which includes a section on the ellipsis (only to be used to indicate words missing from quoted text – and of course, to have a fourth dot when used at the end of a sentence because it does not replace the full stop). Fight on, sisters. We can destroy the dotriarchy.

  22. speedbudget

    I’m a court reporter, so I, too, am banned from elliptical writing. But I find it satisfying, when a lawyer is reading something into the record and obviously starts mid-sentence, to put the three dots in when editing. They magically move and fill up the space correctly and snugly.

    I think I just fell even more in love with this blog. Radical feminism, Savage Death Island, funky shit, and now grammar.

    *sob* I love you guys.

  23. Queenie

    Sophie, thank you so much for pointing out that the ellipses does not replace the period, and thus, should have a fourth dot when ending a sentence. I am loathe to admit how much it enrages me when professional writers leave out that poor, neglected fourth dot in publications.

  24. PhysioProf

    If you are terminating a quoted sentence prior to the end of that sentence, doesn’t a period inside square brackets serve exactly the same purpose as an ellipsis followed by a period, yet be more typographically pleasing? That’s what I always do.

  25. Spiders

    So emboobened, I’m down with that. Does that mean the surgical procedure would be refered to as embooberisation?

  26. Jill

    “If you are terminating a quoted sentence prior to the end of that sentence, doesn’t a period inside square brackets serve exactly the same purpose as an ellipsis followed by a period, yet be more typographically pleasing?”

    No! You can’t do that, because the ellipsis signifies absolutely that there is missing text, whereas a period in brackets is conceptually nebulous, and, frankly, sounds a little lazy to me.

  27. The Menstruator

    I’d take the brain. Eat some of it raw and some cooked, poached in vegetable and sea salt stock w/ shallots and herbs. I’d think during digestion. I’d wait for the moment. I’d put the shite all over the wall and frame it titled: “Her brain.”

  28. Robin

    Queenie, I should be loath to admit how much I loathe the usage of “loathe” in place of “loath”, since it’s more than a little snarky and exaggerated. But nothing loth, I am doing so anyway.

    On the other hand, the insistence that punctuation must go inside adjacent quotation marks, even when that punctuation is not part of the quoted material, is just silly. (Trying to break myself of the starting a sentence with “I” habit here.)

  29. Sophie

    The punctuation goes inside the quotation marks if the quote is a full sentence (e.g. Robin said: “It is silly.”) or if the quote is broken up and therefore commas are used to delineate clauses (e.g. “It is,” Robin said, “silly.”). The punctuation goes outside the quotation marks if the quote is not a full sentence (e.g. Robin said it was “silly”.). I hope it seems less silly now.

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