7 July 2013

What Your Name?

What is your name? must be one of the 1st sentences that is formally taught in school either to children or learners of English as L2.

It's quite a complex sentence but, nonetheless, useful and easy to  remember.

It'd be less complex perhaps if it had no verb to be - as in, What Your Name?

What Your Name is actually a variant form of saying What is your name? Such form doesn't obey the grammatical norms  of Standard English.

What your name, however, occurs in English perhaps more often  than we suppose.

What you name omits the verb be - am, is, are. In such position be assumes the grammatical function of 'copula'.

Copula, as defined in the
Concise OED, is a connecting word, in particular a form of the verb be connecting a subject and complement. So, in My name is Earl, 'is' assumes the function of copula, linking 'My name' (subject) and 'Earl' (complement).

A fact that some may ignore is that omitting the copula be in English is considerably common.

The omission of copula be was documented as a common feature of the African American Vernacular English - aka, Black English or Ebonics - in the work Language In The Inner City by William Labov (1972). 

In Language... Labov presents examples of actual speech like:

Means he a faggot. vis-à-vis Means he is a faggot.
You out the game. vis-à-vis You are out of the game.
But everybody not black. vis-à-vis But everybody is not black.

But the omission of copula be is not a feature of an isolated dialect of English. It can be noticed in other varieties, including British English.

A simple example can be observed in the Big Brother UK (Series 14). When the presenter Emma Willis says 'the vote lines (...) are now closed', in the 3D captions on screen the copula - are - is omitted.

Walking through the streets of Leeds, I could observe other examples.

All Welcome, instead of All are Welcome, is written in  a notice board at the side of Wrangthorn Church in Hyde Park Corner.

Walking down Cardigan Road (Headingley), we can equally read Everyone Welcome, instead of Everyone Is Welcome in a sign outside Milford Builders Merchants.

Towards the district of Sheepscar, in the sign outside Geoff's Upholstery one reads No Job Too Smallinstead of a more standard form No Job is Too Small.

At the city center, entering in a Pound Shop , I spotted Everything 99p or Less

The form Everything is 99p or Less would be more in accord to the standard norms of English.

The examples above show that the omission of be is indeed common in English and, apparently, such feature doesn't affect intelligibility of the message. Particularly, I can't avoid the sense of strangeness when I encounter sentences of English that omits the copula be. 

In the pictured examples, it seems, the omission of be - is, are - obeys a principle of economy in writing. And since we living a time in which the new generation are using English to exchange messages through written media, particularly via text messaging and social networking, I wouldn't find strange the omission of am, is, are will perhaps become more and more common in actual speech across all varieties of English.

All Comments Welcome.

15 June 2013

Who puts the Cheddar in Cheddar Cheese?

Gorge Cheese Co
only producer of 'cheddar' actually based in Cheddar
In the Consice OED, Cheddar is defined as a kind of cheese, firm and smooth, yellow, white, or orange, and originally made in Cheddar in South-Western England.

Cheddar cheese gets its name from the village of Cheddar in Somerset - where it was originally produced around the 12th century.

The comercial use of the word Cheddar is not restricted by any commercial law. That's why we may easily come across some cheese tagged "Cheddar" in a supermarket even if it's not genuinely produced in Cheddar.

The same isn't truth about the word Cornish, as used in Cornish pasty.

Pasty Shop outside London Victoria Station
Cornish is an adjective relating to Cornwall; Cornish pasty designates “a pasty containing seasoned meat and vegetables, especially potato” (Concise OED). Despite the name, Cornish pasty doesn’t have to be produced in Cornwall. But if a Cornish Pasty is stamped with a PGI or a PDO badge of honour, it means that the Cornish pasty really comes from Cornwall.

PGI and PDO are labels legally created by the bureaucrats in Brussels to protect heritage food across Europe. PDO, protected designation of origin, means that the food was produced and processed and in a particular area – Cornwall, for example. PGI, protected geographical indication, means only that the food was assembled there (Rip Off Food, BBC ONE, aired in 29 Oct 2012).

That's when the strangeness starts, as I see. We call cheddar a cheese that actually mayn't come from Cheddar, and we call cornish a pasty that actually mayn't come from Cornwal. So, the words we use to name things doesn't really obey a strict logic, unless one advocates that cheddar and cornish means 'in the style of'. Then, we are actually bending the meaning the words according to our convenience.

Traditional Yorkshire Pudding: from BBC Food Recipes
And don't get me started with Yorkshire Pudding!

6 June 2013

Don't mention the privates.

Basil Tower: funny Hitler walk

 The title makes a reference to the expression "Don't mention the war"
said by John Cleese/ Basil Fawlty in the episode
The Germans from Fawlty Towers.

No subject is more fertile for linguistic strangeness than when speakers talk about their privates.

A certain embarrassment or rudeness about uttering the words penis or vagina compels speakers to be linguistically creative - and weird - to disguise the subject.

Once I challenged a lad from Doncaster to guess the meaning of a few ‘gay’ words I’d learnt watching Will & Grace. In return he challenged me to guess the meaning of a few words he knew.

“One eyed bed fairy. ’umpton. Tally wacker. Bald Avenger. Widgy. Todger. Doofer. Shaft.”

“What?” I said confused.

“’ow ’bout…” He continued, “Sixpence. Fluzie. Minge. Muff. Fanny. Beaver. Snatch.”

He explained that such terms referred to the male and female genitalia.

I thought I’d learned all, but then I realised that such list of words are infinite. Probably because, with time, people become familiarised with terms as such, and so to keep subject disguised, speakers tend to create new terms.

Recently, I learned a few new terms as I watched The Wright Way on BBC 1.

The terms were uttered by the character Victoria who, in her words, “took an embarrassing rudy selfie.”

Selfie is already a brand new word. Rudy selfie, as I understand, is an euphemistic way of saying ‘picture of your lower body’.

Victoria clarifies ‘how rude’ her rudy selfie is: "I took a pic of my... Fanwa.”

Victoria is a DJ and, after having gained a Facebook fan page for her anwa, she becomes known as ‘DJ Vee-Jay-Jay’.

Vee-Jay-Jay seems to have been popularised in Greys Anatomy, and is a common word nowadays.

The linguistic creativity doesn’t stop at the level of the common noun. It’s common for people to name their lower parts with proper nouns.

This week’s Sweat the Small Stuff (series 1, ep. 6) on BBC 3 presented examples of how people nickname their ‘downstairs pal’.

Some names borrow from the owner's name. A guest suggested, for instance, that Tulisa should call hers Tulipsa. A particular man, whose name is Yasin, called his Yas. Unlike Yas, other nicknames mentioned - Carlito, Hercules, Minky - are unrelated to the owners’. A lady - name Claire - called hers Minnie Moo, a lad - name Brad - called his Bobby. This also seems to be the case of Jerry - nickname given by fans to Justin Bieber’s.

Whatever the reason - be it for jocosity, politeness, or intimacy – the varied terms with which people refer to privates make of the subject an everlasting spring of words for English.

6 May 2013

The Count Dragula* - Part Two

* Countdown of the odd linguistic expressions
of this 5th season of RuPaul's Drag Race (ep. 10 - 13).

4 Super Troopers.
Former U.S.A. soldiers
This episode didn't bring any great original language oddities. The Shemail segment presents the usual non-sense message with queer phrases.

"Sometimes a drag queen's got to do what a drag queen's got to do. Whether is laying a foundation or painting the house down." The house down is a phrase used by queens just to emphasise meaning.

"Remember the golden shower rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto Ru." Needless to say the the golden shower rule is a deviation of the phrase golden rule.

Nothing more proper to show how this sentence sounds weird than the reaction of Alaska, who not only looks puzzled but let out a "What?!"

The runway presentation was a bit more rewarding. 

"Hunty for Red October" being a quite funny allusion to the title The Hunt for Red October.

"America the bootifull." Bootiful is a blend of booty and beautiful; a word that is certainly not a new, but, not common.

Coco & Horchata Montrese

"Red sky at night. Sailor's delight." RuPaul says this out of the blue. This rhyme is a common wheather lore familiar to mariners.

"Is that your boa? Or you're just ready to flock me?" This is a deviation of the common sentence that ends in ...Or are you just happy to see me? This sentence is an example of a knob joke that makes reference to an erection and that was made popular by Mae West.

3 Sugar Ball: this is the episode in which the queens have to make a costume our of something - in this one, candies. So the Shemail segment delivered a message full of references to choc bars; this couldn't turn the English in the message more strange.
"Hey Kit-Kats! Don't
Sneaker. Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you feel like A Hundred Thousand Dollar Bar - non. Here's Whatchamacallit." All words in italics are names of choc bars. Nut - I suppose - is short for Nutty Bar.

The puppet show presentation was a highlight of the entire season. The language used during this segment is also remarkable. RuPaul, as usual, abuses of double entendre refering to the hole where the puppets are. 

Alaska reaching for a puppet in the hole.

He couldn't also miss the opportunity to dig a film title to make fun of when Alaska had his arm into the hole: "A Fist Called Wanda." This is a reference to A Fish Called Wanda.

The runway
A few language pearls also ocurred during the runway presentation.

"Where my Peeps at?" 
RuPual makes reference to the catchphrase Where my people at? that Roxxy used in the song Can I Get an Amen. She replaces the word people for Peeps - marshmallow candies shaped like small animals.

"She's sixteen going on sickening." This sentence from the song Sixteen going on seventeen is frequently used in the show in a modified manner. Later in this episode Ms Visage refers to Jinkx look as "Sixteen going on forty-seven."

"Very Splenda in the Grass." RuPaul makes a reference to the film title Splendor in the Grass changing the word splendor for Splenda - name of an artificial sweetner.

The best double-entendre of the programme was perhaps this one from RuPaul: "Welcome ladies. Thanks to your candy couture... I've got a cavity. And it's throbbing."

2 The Final Three, Hunty
While this episode wasn't great on language oddities,
at least it presented two neologisms:
Chiffonography and Hairography 
blends of words chiffon and hair, respectively, and coreography.

1 Countdown to the Crown
In this last episode before the new drag superstar is revealed, RuPaul didn't spear the public of his encrypted double-entendre. So, that's how she opens the show: "Even I can't quite put my finger on the charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent, it will take to win the title of America's next drag superstar. " Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent, as already mentioned in previous posts, form an acronym to c.u.n.t. - vulgar word for vagina.

The English used in the review of this season's contestants would take a whole new post to be properly analysed. It's a very complex language full of references, allusions, and witticisms. But there's no time for that because the Reunion episode is about to air on tv. So I leave you with RuPaul's words which reveals how conscious he is of the strangeness of the Drag Queen's English.

"She bring it to you every ball. Why y'all gagging so? Did you understand that? If not, you could use a refresher course in Drag Linguistics; hashtag shitmygirlsays."

I'm sure this blog gives its contribution to native and non-native English users everywhere.
I hope you learned and enjoyed.

5 May 2013

The Count Dragula* - Part One

* Countdown of the odd linguistic expressions 
of this 5fth season of RuPaul's Drag Race.
Whilst we're on the countdown to learn 
which queen will be crowned next America's drag superstar, 
I present here a countdown of the remarkable idiosyncratic expressions that occurred through this 5th season of RPDRace (ep. 4 - 13).

10 Black Swan: Why It Gotta Be Black?
Coco Montrese & Alyssa Edwards
This is quite a disappointing episode in terms of linguistic strangeness (check post 1). The most noteworthy occurrences of strangeness occurr in the speech of Detox. Detox use of abnormal voices and intonation is quite characteristic of her English – like when she speaks imitating the cackling of a chicken in episode 3.

One of Detox's odd linguistic behaviour occurrs when he complains about Mahogany's dance performance. "Honey kind of sucks. Watching her was so uncomfortable." Then, Detox alter his voice to an unusual high pitched intonation, and let out a...
"F*ck my life."

9 Snatch Game: This episode didn't feature many remarkable oddities.
One in particular drew my attention:
“She put the wubba in wubba wubba wubba.”

Downtown Julie Brown: MTV Veejay

RuPaul uses this nonsense expression to introduce the snatch game guess Downtown Julie Brown. Wubba wubba wubba is an expression that became Downtown Julie’s catchphrase on MTV.

Wubba wubba wubba also appears in the
Monster in the Mirror song from Sesame Street.

An interesting expression occurred in the workroom, right after Jade Jolie jokes, “You know what’s ugly? Poverty.” Jinkx then replies: “The Jade… the Jade of it all.” This expression refers back to the phrase The shadethe shade of it all that was introduced in RPDRace season 4 by Latrice Royal.

Can I Get an Amen? In this episode, among the few new language oddities that occurrs, one interesting one came from RuPaul: "Waiter, can you wrap that ass to go?" It's a normal sentence that has an unusual word collocation - ass.

Alaska - one of the three finalist
Another interesting use of language occurs when RuPaul addresses Alaska during the runway. Ru asks, "Alright, who is gonna ask 'er." Then, he himself answers it: "I'll ask 'er!" I'll ask her is homophone to Alaska. 

To close, Ru don't miss the opportunity to change the words of the song Can I Get an Amen? and instead sings: "Can I get a gay man?"

7 RuPaul Roast: This episode has more linguistic oddities.
To start with, they begin with The Library challenge
and the queens have to read each other to filth.
The Library is Open challenge
As usual, they play with the words top and bottom. "Coco Montrese, For someone who call himself a top, you sure like being on the bottom." Roxxxy allundes the fact that Coco has been in the bottom two already twice.

"Long story short: the season of the fish smells like trout." Alaska plays juxtaposing the words fish and trout - fish meaning feminine sexy and trout meaning manly and somehow decadent.

When the queens are challenged to participate in a roast, it's time for the queens show off their linguistic wittiness.

Jinkx plays with the word top. "It's gonna be hard to top Coco. But look at her. Who would wanna top Coco?"

6 Scent of a Drag Queen: the title of the episode is an allusion to the film Scent of a Woman. Here, the queens had to create a perfume and film a commercial for their signature fragrance.

Alaska created a memorable commercial and, by far, the most memorable expressions which played with the word Red and read (past of read). Her commercial went…

Alaska's Signature Fragrance

“Whether you getting read the house down. Or just ready to go down. The exciting new fragrance: RED For Filth… Are you Red-y for me?”

5 Drama Queens: in this episode the most marked aspect of linguistic strangeness was the exaggerated use of Spanish replacing English words and expressions.

Ella No Es Dama, or, She's No Lady

Spanish words – and expression perhaps – are actually very frequent in the American English as a result of the flow of immigrants from Latin America into the U.S.A.

Here, the queen had to enact a Mexican telenovela – the Latin America equivalent of soap opera.

That’s why most of RuPaul’s utterances in this episode evoked some Spanish or some aspect of the culture of Latin America (especially Mexico.)

“Shake the dice and steal the rice… and beans” RuPaul refers to rice and beans, which is a staple food largely associated with Latin America.
“I can see her cuchi cuchi.” Cuchi cuchi apparently is a slang term for the lower parts of a woman; the phrase “cuchi cuchi is a trademark of Charo – Spanish-American actress and comedienne who appeared frequently in American television shows.
“Serving Tex-Mex…” Tex-Mex is defined in the OED as an adjective that denote Mexican and Southern American features of something (especially food or music); it also refers to a variety of Mexican Spanish spoken in Texas.
Queens on the Runway: dressed with Latin Glamour
The most representative expression of this episode, however, was “Caballeros, start your engines. And may the best mujer… win.” Caballeros and mujer, naturally, being the Spanish for gentlemen and woman.
The countdown continues in the next post.

12 February 2013

XuPaul's Drag Race*

The queens connect with their inner child when they star in a fun-filled kids TV show.

After the Elimination
With all the hullabaloo caused by
Chacha’s criticism on the drag queen’s way of speaking (Untucked! past week) – the Drag Queen’s English, as I labelled it –, it’s when Coco explains the issue between her and Alyssa that the audience have a glimpse that Coco is perfectly able to speak a very clear Standard English, without the usual oddness from their drag moments.

“I want to know the t on what happened between you and Alyssa.” Mahogani asks Coco. T, as everyone must know by now, means ‘true’.

Coco explains: “They crowned her that night, and things happened, and… obligations weren’t fulfilled. And it put us in a situation where our friendship was on the line. (…) Legally I had to do that. (…) With all the controversy at Miss Gay America, this is a personal vendetta for myself.

“…And America’s next drag superstar needs to really embrace her inner child, if she’s gonna become one fierce mother-tucker.” Mother-tucker is used instead of the usual ‘mother-f*cker’; the allusion made here regards the act of tucking, or disguising the males privates for drag performance.


You need to turn these boy toys into cutey patooties.” RuPaul explains as the pit crew men enter carrying small dummies. Boy toy is an allusion to the pit crew since they basically pose as hot dummy men in RPDRace. Cutey pattoties, is a kind sound repetition, similar to echo –  something like Frisky McBrisky.

“Ready, set, drag the children.” RuPaul joins the meaning of drag ‘dress up in drag’, and drag ‘get the dummies by dragging.’

You know, we’re all considered kai kai. Now we have daughters with another queen.” Roxxxy says. ‘kai kai’ sex between two queens.

“… because it’s never too young to start upholding the Amurrican ideal of femininititity.” Jynx exaggerates the pronunciation of American and adds an odd syllable to the long word ‘femininity’ tuning it even longer; he highlights the formality of his speech by making it over the top.

“Now that’s a modern family…” RuPaul says, making allusion to the sitcom Modern Family which is about a gay couple and an adopted daughter.

“So your programme should be both entertaining and edumacational.” RuPaul says, using a word that he used in season 3, ‘edumacate’, used to mock the meaning of educate.

The Workroom
“Our challenge today is to put together a children’s television show, which is full of sneaky little dirty double-entendre.” There’s nothing odd here. Alaska’s explanation of the challenge is highlighted here, because it incidentally highlights a remarking feature of the Drag Queen's English.

“The word of the day is box.” Alaska says. Box is a word for ‘vagina’.

“You could be just Uncle Dick the cross-dresser.” Alaska says. Dick is vulgar slang for ‘penis’.

“…Of course. It’s just now coming to me.” RuPaul says when he hears about the word of the day BOX. Then, Detox replies, “A lot of things come in my box.” Obvious double-entendre with the other sense of the word come ‘ejaculate’.

The Show

“Look everybody. It’s Clucky the cock.” Cock is a vulgar term for ‘penis’.

So many things fit inside my box. This is a petite box. I don’t think it Michelle’s.” Box is used often along double-entendres.

“I’m ready to toss your salad, Anita.” Toss alludes do the vulgar sense of toss off ‘masturbate’.

“It’s real sunny up in here. But I’d really like a bit of shade.” Shade is an allusion to throwing shade.

“The word of the day is blow.” Blow is an allusion to blow job, which is vulgar slang for ‘fellatio’.

“She’s a sex pistol.” Ru makes a reference to English punk rock band Sex Pistols.
“She’s very Singapore Airlines.” Santino says to Bervely Hillz, alluding to the flight attendants - Singapore Girls - who became an icon of the airline.

“Hold me closer, tiny dancer.” Santino makes a reference to the words of Elton John’s song Tiny Dancer.

She is a hot mesh.” Ru says hot mesh, when we’d normally hear hot mess, referring to the fabric that Detox is wearing.

“Pink panther on the runway.” Ru makes a reference to the words of his song Glamazon, adding the word ‘pink’.

“It’s a mullet dress.” Guess judge Coco Austine says. Mullet dress is a dress that reminds a mullet hairdo: short and clean cut in the front, and long in the back.

“Oh, dangerous liaisons.” Ru makes a reference to the 1988 film Dangerous Liaisons because Jynx’s costume design reminds the style used in the film.

“Very bed, bath, and Beyoncé.” Ru plays with the name of the retail store BedBath& Beyond.

“I didn’t know she was into bears.” Ru says during the presentation of Coco, who is holding a teddy bear. Ru evokes the meaning of bear as a ‘strong hairy top man’

“Life in plastic, it’s fantastic.” They make reference to the words of the song by Aqua.

A few more play on words and double-entendre can be noticed in the kids’ show. The name Anita Bum, reminds “I need a bum”. Anita use of the words cut and uncut with carrots is an allusion to male circumcision.

The Magic Bush, name of the 2o kid’s programme, plays with the vulgar meaning of the word bush ‘woman’s pubic hair’. Lola the exploda is a reference to animated character Dora the Explorer. And when Lineysha says, “Miss Lola favourite part is the cream,” she alludes to vulgar slang cream.

The queens of RPDRace didn’t put together a children’s show; they actually created show of language subversion, something like English Freak Show.

*XuPaul: a blend name which mixes RuPaul and XuXa - most successful and enterprising children's tv show host in Latin America.