Sod and Bugger

Saturday, September 27th, 2008 02:44 am
robinturner: First lesson: stick them with the pointy end (pointyend)
No, I'm not having a swearing fit; I'm thinking about how culture-specific many swear words are, and whether I was right to use the word "sod" in the novel. It's in tune with our narrator's character to say "sod" or "bugger", but "sod" comes from "Sodomite" and "bugger" from "Bogomil", and I'm not sure I want characters in this world to be dropping references to religious history. On the other hand, SF swear words tend to sound comic or strained, or at least not quite natural. There are some notable exceptions, such as Ursula LeGuin's wonderful "Meshe's tits!" but in that case, it's the tits that provide the profanity, not Meshe, so it doesn't count.
robinturner: Giving a tutorial, c. 2000 (tutorial)
Today I received another hard-to-parse spam header. It started “Bisexual nude man ...” and I won’t print the rest since this is a public post; suffice it to say that it consisted of the predicate of which “bisexual nude man” was the subject. Now this is not a case of ambiguity like the “huge enlargement patches sale” mentioned earlier. Rather, it relates to the tricky question of adjective order. “Bisexual nude man” simply seems wrong: it should be “nude bisexual man”, or even “nude, bisexual man”. Helpful sites for people learning English give the standard order of adjectives as opinion, size, age, shape, colour, nationality, material, purpose, but there is nothing there for sexuality or state of (un)dress. We could, however, test this by inserting adjectives from this list. For example, let’s take a colour. Would we say “green, nude, bisexual man,” “nude, green, bisexual man,” or “nude, bisexual, green man”? And is it “bisexual Singaporean man” or “Singaporean bisexual man”?

Well, there's something for you to think about if you can’t get to sleep tonight.

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Robin Turner

June 2014

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