Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Beyond beyond beyond beyond "Beyond embiggens and cromulent"

Aaaand -- here it is, the fifth annual Simpson's linguistic joke collection. Here's links to the previous four years' posts:


And here's this year's! Can't believe I'm still doing this. But those guys are still puttin' out the funny... My personal favorite this year: Homer's coordination contortion in "Mona leaves-a". Close second: Bart and Lisa's fun with quantifiers in Any Given Sundance.

:) hh

How the Test Was Won. 2009. 0:04

Possessor-possessee relationship, phrasal compounds, clipping and compounding.

Principal Skinner: At the end of the month we'll be participating in the Vice President's Assessment Test.
Nelson (standing up in audience): He stinks!
Principal Skinner: We're assessing you, not him!
Nelson: Withdrawn.
Principal Skinner: The VPAT is part of the federal government's "No Child Left Alone" Act. It will be a rewarding day of pencil-sharpening and eyes-on-your-own-paper-keeping.
Superintendent Chalmers: Cut the horse-bull, Seymour. Your scores on this test will determine how much money this suck-shack gets for years to come.

Quantifier denotations

Superintendent Chalmers has just told Bart he received 100% on the practice federal VPAT test by writing SLURP MY SNOT on the bubble sheet.

Lisa: How did I do?
Chalmers: 96.
Lisa: What did I get wrong?
Chalmers: Several answers.
Lisa: Several? That's more than a few! Almost a bunch!

Derivational morphology, contrastive focus.

All the supposedly perfect scorers on the VPAT (Bart, Nelson et al.) find themselves on a bus that they think is headed for a special treat…

Principal Skinner: Let me explain this to you in terms even the simplest will understand. We're hiding you in Capital City for the day so your numbskullery won't drag down the test scores of the children who ARE our future.

Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words (2008)

Language change

The emcee is onstage introducing the final competition in the crossword contest, between Lisa and Gil.

MC: (Brightly) We're down to our final two constestants. (Soberly) But before they compete, we would like to pay tribute to all the words that have been removed from the dictionary in the past year.

(Lights dim, mournful Oscar-style strings swell, as words begin to flash on the screen, with pauses between them for applause in tribute for all these words have contributed):

(scattered applause)
(stronger applause)
(scattered applause)
(scattered applause; strings swell to resolution and…)
(strongest applause)

VP ellipsis, negation

Lisa, upset with Homer for betting against her in the crossword competition, has found a message, "Dumb dad sorry for bet" embedded in the NY Times crossword.

Lisa: Wow. It's almost as if Dad planted that nessage. No, it just must be a weird coincidence. But what if it's not? Oh, it must be! Or musn't it not?

Sex, Pies and Idiot-Scrapes. 2008.

Semantic bleaching, compound headedness, oxymorons

Mayor Quimby is opening the Springfield St. Patrick's Day Parade

Mayor Quimby: Greetings fellow Irishmen and lady Irishmen!

Ellipsis, event structure of negation

Marge's St. Patrick's Day cupcakes have been rescued from a crowd of ravening urchins by a kindly Irish passerby, Patrick Farrelly.

Marge: Well, Mr. Farrelly, the least I could do is offer you a cupcake!
Farrelly (tasting cupcake): Light, moist, and such a marvellous shape retention! Marge, I own a small bakery. Will you bake for me?
Marge: Me? A professional baker's employee? Imagine how different my life would be! (She imagines dropping Bart and Lisa off at school. The back of the car is filled with cakes in boxes.) I'll do it!
Farrelly: Bless your heart, you won't regret it!
Marge: I already don't!

Derivational morphology, portmanteau morphemes, cran-morphs

The arrested rioters from the non-drinking St. Patrick's Day parade are being brought before Judge Snyder to have their bail set.

Judge Snyder: Homer Simpson! You're a repeat offender!
Homer: Three-peat!

Flanderism variation, contradiction.

Flanders has protected bounty-hunting Homer from getting shot when he's attempting to bring Snake in for jumping bail. Homer sees an opportunity.

Homer: We should be bounty hunters together! You're kind and smart, I'm cruel and strong! Together, we're nothing. But together, we're the perfect bounty hunter!
Flanders: Well, I could use the money. But you have to promise me something, Homer!
Homer: Sure, what is it?
Flanders: We have to do everything by the book!
Homer: And you have to promise no diddleys or doodleys!
Flanders: My friend, you have a dealarooney!

Mona leaves-a. 2008.


The Simpsons are at the mall, where they've bought sweaters for Bart and Lisa at Itchy 'n Scratchy's Sweaters, Not the Fun Cartoon. They're mad, scratching themselves furiously, as the family leaves the store.

Lisa: Mom, you tricked us!
Bart: We thought this was gonna be a fun trip to the mall!
Marge (trying to emphasize the good side): We listened to music radio in the car!

Coordination & constituent structure

Homer is lying in bed depressed after his mother's funeral.

Marge: C'mon, Homie! Your mom wouldn't have wanted you to stay in bed forever!
Homer: I'll tell you what she didn't want! Me to be a jerk to her and then she dies!

Impersonal 'you', generic sentences

Homer: Apu, what do you think happens after you die?
Apu: Manjula will sell the store, dye her hair blonde, and marry my cousin Jangular.
Manjula (in background): Yes! I will!

Dial N for Nerder. 2008.


Nelson is investigating Martin Prince's untimely death, and has identified Bart and Lisa as possible suspects. He innocently runs into them in the Kwik-e-mart, and starts rambling, Columbo-style:

Nelson: Afternoon!
Bart and Lisa (nervous babble): Taaa
Nelson: Doing a little shopping, eh? Shop-pin' at the Kwik-e-mart. I like how 'quick' is spelled with a 'k'. It's a quicker way of spelling "quick"!

Presupposition, reference

Kent Brockman is interviewing Chief Wiggum at the scene of Martin Prince's supposed death at the foot of a cliff in Springfield National Forest.

Chief Wiggum: According to this pocket protector, the victim's name is Martin Prince. Sadly, his pocket was protected, but nothing else. And we know exACtly who is to blame! [Bart and Lisa, watching on the couch at home, cringe in fear]. Noone! The boy clearly fell by accident!


A cougar coughs up Martin Prince's torn and tattered shirt. Chief Wiggum picks it up with a stick.

Chief Wiggum (to Lou): Do you think this would fit little Ralphie?
Lou: Chief, that's evidence!
Chief Wiggum: I know. But after it's evidence, it's a shirt again, innit? (Tucks shirt in pocket)

All about Lisa. 2008.

Idioms, quantifiers

Bart is auditioning to be a Krusketeer, and his act is going over very well. The crowd is applauding and cheering.

Lisa: Yay, Bart!
Marge: My son's a good-for-something!

Irregular plurals, proper nouns as common nouns

Sideshow Mel's narrative voiceover: Over the years, show business has been home to scoundrels and saints, thespians and harlequins, abbotts and costelli.

Any Given Sundance. 2008.

Bahuvrihi participles, adjectival -ed, be-prefixation.

The Simpsons are going tailgating at the game between Springfield U and Springfield A&M.

Homer: What childbirth is to women, eating trunk meats is to the bewangèd.

Quantification, free choice any:

Homer (dreamily): What could be greater than eating and drinking for hours in a drizzly parking lot?
Lisa: Anything.
Bart: No, everything is better!
Lisa: Anything!
Bart: Everything!
Lisa: Anything!
Bart: Everything!
Lisa: Anything!
Bart: Everything!
… etc. Camera pans away.

Varieties of anything.

A roving brand of movie mucky-mucks have seen Lisa's Sundance movie (Capturing the Simpsons) and want to distribute it. They approach Superintendent Chalmers and Principal Skinner, whose company 'Chalmskinn productions' got production credit:

Movie mucky-mucks: There they are -- the producers if Capturing the Simpsons! Your movie's great! We wanna be in the Chalmskinn business.
Chalmers (aside): This is it Seymour, the big deal. Just play it cool.
Movie mucky-mucks: Look, we wanna buy this movie and we're prepared to offer you anything!
Skinner: We're prepared to accept anything!

Apocalypse Cow. 2008.


Homer has dressed up in a cow suit to save Bart's 4-H steer Lou from being taken to the feed lot. They've loaded him into the truck instead of Lou and are driving him away. But, through the eyeholes in his cowsuit, Homer sees the FEED LOT sign going by — they're not stopping! Next he sees LAUGHTER HOUSE.

Homer: Oooh, Laughter House! With the world in the shape it's in, we could all use some comedy!

The camera pulls back to reveal the initial S — SLAUGHTER HOUSE.

Love, Springfieldian Style. 2008.

(Even the title of the episode has fancy derivational morphology)

Conversion of proper noun into common noun.

Homer is narrating a romantic story for Marge:

Homer (voiceover): They were the Bonnie and Clyde of their time. Their names were Bonnie and Clyde.

Taboo, pejoration, insults

Marge is telling the story of Shady and the Vamp, a story of canine love that breaks class barriers. Shady has taken the Vamp out for spaghetti at Luigi's, and she's stolen some spaghetti from him.

Shady: You're pretty feisty for an upper-class bitch!
The Vamp: I like that you used the technical term for a female dog!

Garden Path, literal vs. idiomatic interpretation

Willie the dogcatcher has captured Shady and the Vamp's two puppies.

Willie: You strays are going straight to the pound, where you'll be put to sleep….by my boring stories! And then you'll be killed.

Papa Don't Leech. 2008.


Lisa's bringing Mayor Quimby his pre-ordered Girl Scout cookies.

Lisa: That'll be thirty dollars.
Mayor Quimby: For three boxes?!
Lisa: The money helps us serve the community…(counts off on fingers, list intonation) plant trees, pick up litter, cut up milk bones for old dogs…
Mayor Quimby: It was a rhetorical question!
Lisa: And I used rhetoric in my answer!

Four-letter words:

The family's watching Sesame Street on TV, and a beautiful country singer is singing to Kermit (to a tune roughly like Goodnight Irene): "Bunk with me tonight, Kermit, bunk with me tonight."

Lisa: Hey dad! That's that singer you used to manage!
Bart: Oh right! Dad was Colonel Homer and he wore that awesome suit and Lurleen wanted to bunk his brains out!

More rhetorical questions, constructional meaning of 'how could'

Homer and Marge have just learned that Lurleen's dad walked out on his family when she was a child.

Marge: So that's it! She's been burned by the most important man in her life — her father!
Homer: [disgusted intonation] How could a man just abandon his family? By which I mean, what is the method he would use, and could anyone do it?

Locative denominal verbs with telic particle 'up'

Marge is confronting Lurleen's father, who answers the door wearing a weathered t-shirt reading 'No Child Support' and holding a bowl of cereal:

Marge: Hello, are you Royce Lumkin?
Royce: That's right.
Marge: Father of Lurleen Lumkin?
Royce: Lurleen?! (Lip trembles) I ain't seen my little girl in thirty years! She must be what, twelve, thirteen by now?
Marge: She's thirty-four! And she's having a rough time!
Royce: Oh, man. I better whiskey up these corn flakes. (Pulls out a hip flask, pours into his cereal).
Marge: She needs to see you right away!
Royce: Oh, man. I better heroin up this orange juice! (Stoops to pick up a glass of juice and a syringe.

Flapping, r-insertion:

Lurleen has written a song for her father, and in the chorus she rhymes as follows:

Lurleen (singing): Daddy's back and I'm feeling like a daughter!
Bart: Daddy's back and she's feeling like she oughter!
Royce: Daddy's back, and I'm drinking bottled water!
Lisa: Keep it down! I'm reading Harry Potter.
Marge (in shower): My body wash is Es-tée Lauder.

Smoke on the Daughter. 2008.

Reversative un-, constituency and modification.

Marge is showing Lisa her box of Shattered Dreams (which she keeps in her Disappointment Closet).

Lisa: Mom, it's not too late to unshatter your dreams! Martha Graham danced well into her 70s!
Marge: You mean she danced well, into her seventies, or danced, well into her seventies?
Lisa: Well, she danced into her seventies!

Taboo words

Homer: This can only mean one thing! Flanders, you ate my jerky!
Flanders: As the oak said to the beagle, you're barking up the wrong tree! I spent the whole morning blacking out the goshes and darns in these Hardy Boys books!
Homer: I know you ate my jerky! Just like I ate your earthquake supplies!
Bart: Dad, look, raccoons!
Homer (menacingly, to Flanders): You stay right there!
Flanders: Okeley dokeley! (Sits and opens The mystery of the odd-shaped rock. Reading to himself:) "Aw!" "Heck!" "Darn!" I don't think so! (Deploys black marker).

Lisa's been taking ballet lessons, and has gotten hooked on secondhand smoke during breaks. It's a windy day, though, and she can't catch enough of her classmate's exhales to get a hit.

Lisa: Oh, what am I thinking? I don't need secondhand smoke to do ballet! (Sees smouldering butt on ground, picks it up.) I need first-hand smoke!

Other people making Marge's signature noise

Double, Double Boy in Trouble. 2008. Towards very end of episode, Bart is reunited with his family.

Bart: I never thought I'd say this, but – I missed you guys. Even what's-her-name. Lisa.
Lisa: Rmmmrm (Makes marge's annoyed pharyngeal nasal noise).

Monday, March 17, 2008

Beyond beyond beyond "Beyond embiggens and cromulent"

Well, Google's logo has shamrocks on it again, which means it's time for my fourth annual Simpsons linguistic joke collection posting. I can hardly believe it myself. These guys just never run out!

Here's links to the previous three years' collections:

And here's this year's! Enjoy!

Episode: Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind (2007)

Category: Haplology

Homer has drunk Moe's 'forget-me-not' drink, and has 24-hour amnesia. He's visiting the Memory Recovery Institute ("We do not do MRIs"), where Professor Frink is welcoming him.

Professor Frink: Mr. Simpson, I have built a device that will enable you to explore your memories. The science was easy, but now I've got the hard part -- coming up with the name!
Homer: How about the "Dejà-ViewMaster"?
Frink: Ahh…
Homer: "Remembrance of Things Fast"?
Frink: Umm..
Homer: "The Rememberererer"?
Frink: We don't need to come up with the name now.

Category: Pronouns as common nouns

Homer's riding in Frink's 'Memory Bubble'. He looks down to see himself sledding with Bart and Lisa.

Homer: Awww -- I landed in a pleasant memory! Look at happy me and playful them!

Category: Bound roots, compounding, pronouns and proper nouns as common nounss. Also 'teach you to P' = "teach you to not P"

Homer's agreed to take Bart back to confront his own ten-year-old self in an evenly-matched playground fight…

10-year-old Homer (taking repeated blows from Bart): You're superior to me in every way!
39-year-old Homer: D'oh! Well let's see how you do against 20-year old Homer!
20-year-old Homer (taking repeated blows from Bart): Uh! Oh! D'oh! What is it you want from me? Money? Weed? [Collapses under a final blow].
39-year-old Homer: I'll teach you to beat up yesterme!

Episode: Funeral for a Fiend (2007)

Category:Idiom chunks, degree phrase

Sideshow Bob's psychiatic expert witness is giving evidence that SB was insane during his most recent attempt on the Simpsons' lives:

Psychiatrist: Robert was a peaceful boy, sickly and weak from a congenital heart defect. [He shows a picture of SB going to his prom in bed. The jury goes "Awwww!"] But then that Simpson boy started tormenting him, and he crossed over into dementia!
Sideshow Bob (defending himself): To what degree was this dementia blown?
Psychiatrist: Full! [Jury gasps.]

Category:Suppletive comparatives:

Marge has been watching her TiVo, and has fallen asleep on the couch. She dreams that the TV is talking to her…

Talking head (ominously): Marge Simpson!
Marge: Keith Oberman!?
Keith Oberman: That's right, content burglar Marge Simpson! You've been watching TV shows but skipping the commercials that pay for them! That makes you the worst person in the world!

A video graphic of photos of the world's worst people appears. First the devil, labelled, 'worse', then Mr. Burns, labelled 'worser', and finally Marge, labelled 'worst'.

Episode:The Wettest Stories Ever Told (2006)

Category:'Target state' participles, compound verbs

In a terrible storm, Captain Flandish of the Mayflower falls and strikes his head against a bulkhead.

(Puritan) Reverend Lovejoy: Our captain's beheadbumped!

Category: Identity construction through linguistic cues

Lisa is explaining about how the passengers on the Neptune are a cross-section of society. (Cf. Poseidon Adventure)

Lisa: And you've got the elderly Jewish couple making their first trip to Israel…
Jewish mother (heavy emphasis on the non-English consonants and consonant clusters): Our son Shlomo is working on a kibbutz in Haifa. We're schlepping him some kreplach!
Jewish father: We're Jewish all right!

Episode: All's Fair in Oven War (2004)

Category: Recursivity in synthetic compounds

Marge and Homer are snooping around their neighbor's open house. They have an incredibly fancy kitchen with a sub-zero fridge and other amazing appliances.

Marge: This is the kitchen I've always wanted! Oooh! A bread-maker maker! [She presses a button and the machine opens up to eject a smaller version of itself, which opens to eject a fresh loaf of bread.]

Episode: Little Orphan Millie (2007)

Category: Re-prefixation (cf. Keyser and Roeper 1987)

Kirk and LouAnn Van Houten, Milhouse's parents, are getting remarried.

Reverend Lovejoy: Do you Kirk, take LouAnn to rehave and rehold?

Category: Flapping resulting in homophony

Bart's lines: "There's no such thing as an iPoddy."

Episode: Treehouse of Horror XVII (2006)

Category: Object pronoun cliticization and particle shift

Homer has eaten a glowing green blob from outer space. It's trying to crawl out his orifices, but he determinedly and repeatedly sucks it back in.

Homer: If I can keep down Arby's, I can keep down you!

Category: Recursion, parsing.

Dr. Phil has come to try and talk blob Homer out of his eating-people rampage.

Dr. Phil: Homer, you're family's here. And you've got to help me help them help you help me help you.

Category: Literal interpretation

Homer and Marge have made a play-doh girl golem for the lonely golem that Bart has stolen from Krusty. Marge writes 'LIVE' on a piece of paper and inserts it into her mouth. She blinks and wakes up.

Girl golem (in the incredibly nasal voice of Fran Dresher): Hello everybody, ãh hã hãã. What's with this outfit? It looks like a lion ate a parrot and then threw up!
hãã hãã
Homer: Well, back to the drawing board! (Begins to attack her with an axe).
Golem: No! What are you, nuts? She was made for me!

Episode: Treehouse of Horror XVIII (2007)

Category: Borrowing

Homer chants as Marge takes some ramekins out of the oven.

Homer: Crème-bru-lée!! Crème-bru-lée!! Or in English, burnt…cream! Burnt…cream!

Category: Speech acts (threats and contracts), reduction, compound verbs

Bart, Lisa, Nelson and Milhouse are trick-or-treating at the Skinners. Agnes opens the door.

BLNM (in chorus): [ˈtɹɪkɚˈtɹijt]
Agnes: Beat it, weirdos! I don't do Halloween!
Milhouse: Y-you're supposed to give us candy!
Agnes: I got your candy right here! (She hocks up a loogie and spits it right into Milhouse's candy basket, then slams the door, muttering.) Weirdos.
Nelson (outraged): She empty-bagged us!
Lisa: What do we do now?
Bart: Hear me out. Seems to me she gave a choice. Trick OR treat. She didn't give us a treat, so…
Milhouse: Bart. Where are you heading with this?
Bart: "[ˈtɹɪkɚˈtɹijt]" isn't just some phrase you chant mindlessly like the Lord's Prayer! It's an oral contract!
Nelson: You're right. We've forgotten the old ways, the ways of rotten eggs and soaped-up windows. I say we trick'er! Trick her good!

Episode: Homer of Seville (2007)

Category: phrasal compounding, the shortest English words.

The Simpsons are driving home from church:

Homer: Oh, man, that church service was boring! I did a whole book of Find-A-Words.
Lisa (exasperated): Dad, all you circled were the is and as!
Homer (defensively): Those are words.

Category: Idiom chunk

Homer and Marge are eating in a fancy restaurant.

Homer: Happy anniversary, sweetie!
Marge: You know it might be a little more romantic without your entourage.
Homer: But I need my childhood friends to help me keep it real! Would you have me keep it fake?

Episode: He Loves to Fly and He D'ohs. (2007)

Category: Pronouns and deixis, use/mention

Burns: You saved my life! There must be something I can do for you.
Homer (thinking): A cookie! No, a car! No, a cookie!
Burns: You're getting a free dinner!
Homer: (Gasps in pleasure)
Burns: With…
Homer (eagerly): Yes?
Burns: Me!
Homer (disappointed): "Me"? But that's you!

Category: Vocatives, use/mention. Also innuendo intonation, contextual domain restriction.

Flight Attendant: My name is Svetlana. But you can call me, Hey baby!
Burns: And, just so you know, she'll do anything for you. (Brightly) Anything except sex! (Innuendo voice) And I do mean anything...
Homer: (drooling noise). I'm aroused. And confused!

Episode: Bart vs. Thanksgiving (1990)

Category: Pluralizing phrasal compounds, headedness

Bart is in line for a free meal at the homeless shelter after running out on the Simpsons' family Thanksgiving dinner.

Bart: Hey, it's that anchordude from Channel 6!
Bum: Oh yeah, he's doing one of those "be thankful for whatcha got" stories.
Kent Brockman: Oh, we have lots of names for these people. Bums, deadbeats, losers, scums of the earth.

Episode: Diatribe of a Mad Housewife (2004)

Category: Quoting out of context, use/mention

The publisher's agent has called Tom Clancy to ask for a blurb for the back of Marge's new novel, The Harpooned Heart:

Tom Clancy (speaking into phone): Would I say "If you're hunting for a good read this October, Marge Simson's book is a 'clear and present danger' to your free time?" Hell no, I wouldn't! Whatdya mean, I just said it? That doesn’t count! Hello? Hello?

Episode: Bart vs. Lisa vs. 3rd Grade (2002)

Category: Syllabification

The Simpsons have gotten a satellite TV. Bart has been watching for several days straight. After a commercial break…

Growly Voiceover: We now return to [ˈɹowbow ˈtɹʌmbəl]! Oh, I'm sorry, I mean, [ˈɹowbɔtʰ ˈɹʌmbəl]! (Screen reads, "Robot Rumble")

Episode: The Italian Bob (2005)

Category: Borrowing, nativization

The Simpsons have inadvertently ruined Sideshow Bob's new life in Italy:

Sideshow Bob (enraged): Simpson family! I hereby swear a [venˈdetta]!
Marge (flipping through English/Italian dictionary): [venˈdetta] means…(alarmed) [vɛnˈdɛɾə]!

Episode: Dude, Where's My Ranch? (2003)

Category: Acquiring a second dialect

Marge: Shucks, Lisa, you sure have taken a shine to that cowpoke! (winks)
Lisa: Mom, why are you talking like that?
Marge: Don't rightly know! I just soaked up the lingo like a biscuit in a bucket full of gopher gravy! I'll stop now.

Category: Wh-in-situ echo question, sub-word level.

Lisa: Well, I like it here too. Luke has showed me the gentle side of the Old West. He's really sophisticated for a thirteen year old.
Marge: Thir-what year old?!

Category: Proper noun as common noun

Ned Flanders and Rev. Lovejoy have forced the teaching of creationism as an alternative to evolution at Springfield Elementary. Lisa's getting all the answers wrong (the correct answer is now "God did it!"):

Ralph: Are oceans God's tears?
Principal Skinner (looking at Lovejoy and Flanders): …They sure are! A+!
Lisa (rolls her eyes): Ugh!
Ralph: Now Lisa's the ralph!

Category: Recursive possesives

Barney (speaking up after Lisa's impassioned speech at the trial): Homer's son's sister is right!

Episode: Thank God It's Doomsday (2005)

Category: Clipping

Skinner has taken the Springfiend Elementary Phototography Club to the mall for a field shoot. He addresses the group:

Skinner: Children, the mall will provide you a wide range a subjects, while I return some sock that appeared to be black but were in reality a very dark blue. The best photographs, or "pho-tos" [he fingerquotes agressively] will be prominently displayed in the school lobby all year long!

Category: Retronym, collocation

Marge comes into the kitchen to find Homer up to his ears in "Rapture for Dummies", with ten other books on the table around him.

Marge: Homie, you didn't touch your second dinenr tonight! And, you're reading books! Word books! What's going on!
Homer: Marge, the Rapture is nigh. These books will help me figure out how nigh.

Episode: Smart and Smarter (2004)

Category: Compositionality in compounds, metalinguistic comment

Lisa's trying out a new 'comedian' image at school, and is delivering a few stand-up type jokes in the cafeteria.

Lisa: Hey, why do they call them fieldtrips! We never go to a field!
Skinner (in passing): Untrue! Last thursday we went to a battlefield.
Lisa: Um, er…
Ralph: I'm bembarrassed for you!
Nelson: The following 'haha' is not from amusement but is an expression of contempt. Ha ha!

Category: Hooked on phonics

Maggie's school for the gifted has sent home Phonic Frog to help her learn to read. It's a plastic frog with a keyboard on its belly and a microphone; it articulates letters (mostly as onset+schwa) when the keyboard is pressed. Homer presses buttons on frog.

Phonic Frog: ah, buh, cuh. Huh o muh eh er.
Homer: That's me! Huh o muh eh er!

Episode: The Seven-Beer Snitch (2007)

Category: Derivational morphology

The Simpsons and the slack-jawed-yokels are visiting Shelbyville and attending a performance of "Song of Shelbyville," in which a character called Springfield Billy, dressed in a barrel, acts like an idiot for the amusement of Shelbyvillians.

Brandine: It's like lookin' in a mirror!
Cletus: What's a mir-ror?
Brandine: It's a big-city word for reversifyin' glass.

Category: DP as common noun, unique reference and demonstratives

Homer's been imprisoned for can-kicking in the Frank-Gehry designed Springfield Prison. He's turned informer. Lenny and Carl are prison guards. They deliver a large rectangular box to his cell:

Lenny: Here ya go! 42-inch plasma TV, as a thank-you from your…. [He notices the other prisoners looking at them all suspiciously and hesitates]
Carl: From your mother!
Homer: Ohhhh, THAT my mother!

Category: Synonyms, slang, metalinguistic comment

Fat Tony: Gentlemen, we must determine which of our fellow inmates has become the rodentus incarcererium.
Gangster #1: You heard the boss! Find the rat!
Gangster #2: I found the rat, and he's right here! [Points to gangster #3]
Gangster #3: I ain't the rat, I'm the pigeon!
Gangster #4: I thought you was the mole!
Gangster #2: No, you're thinkin' of that guy who was the canary, but we can all agree, we work in a business with a very rich lexicon!
All the gangsters nod, mutter in agreement: "Rich lexicon" "Very rich!" "Oh yes."

Episode: Marge Gamer (2007)

Category: Conversion, inferring meanings

Marge, experiencing the Internet for the first type, has the idea of typing her own name into Google.

Marge: Six hundred twenty nine thousand results! Wow! And all this time I thought "googling yourself" meant the other thing!

Category: Faux-archaisms

Marge has created an avatar in "Earthland Realms", and is getting her first instructions from the help wizard:

Wizard: Greetings, cleric! Will you undertake a quest on my behalf?
Cleric Marge: Mrmm, maybe I better run this by my husband first.
Wizard: Things are more fun if you just answer 'yes'.
Cleric Marge: Then yes! Hither me forth on mine arduous quest!
Wizard: Once again, just 'yes'.

Category: Compounding and lexicalization, and a side dish of slack-jawed yokel dialect features (nonstandard subject-verb agreement, what introducing object relative clause, plus the usual collection of phonological characteristics)

Homer is refereeing Lisa's little league soccer games, unfairly. Lisa's moaning and rolling on the ground after having been passed by an offensive player headed for goal.

Homer (whistle): Foul on the other girl! Lisa gets a penalty kick and every other kid has to pay her a dollar.
Brandine (standing up in bleachers): That is an outrage! Your daughter's been flopping all day!
Homer: She has not! Your daughter's a dirty player.
Cletus (also standing): Sir, I have sired a dumdum, a mushhead, a whatsit, a dogboy, and something with a human face and fish body what we calls Kevin. But my younguns is not dirty players!
Homer: I don't need a soccer lecture from a hillbilly!
Cletus: That's hill-William to you, sir!

Category: Tag questions (and British place names):

To make Lisa feel better about throwing her out of a game, Homer has bought Lisa a DVD documentary from the BBC ("in cooperation with [kænæl plus]").

Voiceover: Brighton, England. Nineteen eighty-five. Manchester United plays Sussextonhamptonshire-on-Leith, when a deadly riot breaks out in the stands.
Football fan #1: Oi! Your boy's a flopper, 'e is!
Fan #2: No 'e isn't, 'e isn't!

Novel derivational morphology

Homer builds a rollercoaster and names it the "Zoominator".

Episode: You Kent Always Say What you Want (2007)

The whole episode is about Kent Brockman uttering a taboo word on the air, losing his reputation and job. It's ALL a meta-linguistic comment on taboo in the media.

Category: Taboo words

Grandpa: I can't believe Kent Brockman got away with it! Back in my day, TV stars couldn't say 'booby', 'tushy', 'burp', 'fannyburp', 'water closet', 'underpants', 'dingle dangle', 'Boston marriage', 'LBJ', 'Titicaca', 'hot dog' or 'front lumps'.

Category: Derivational morphology, euphemisms

Homer is surprised to find Kent Brockman on the Simpsons' couch.

Marge: I invited him to stay with us for a few days. His career was ruined, and I was afraid he might commit you-know-what-icide!

Category: Back-formed compound verbs, headedness

The usual suspects are gathered at Republican Party Headquarters, watching Kent's streaming truth-telling webcast (from Lisa's webcam)

Burns: Look at that rabble-rouser! He's threatening our ill-gotten gains!
Rich Texan: Goldarnit! I worked hard to ill-get those gains!

Category: Degree phrases, lexical integrity:

Kent has been webcasting from the Simpson's basement since losing his job, and has reached a wide audience.

Lisa: Mr. Brockman! You're a huge hit!
Kent: Really! How wide is the web?
Lisa: World.

Episode: 24 Minutes (2007)

Category: Derivational morphology, bound roots, cran-morphs

Lisa (as 24's Chloe, monitoring a surveilance camera): I've got something! The sixth grade security camera shows three empty desks!
Skinner: Enhance!
(Lisa types furiously, camera zooms in on desks to reveal 'Skinner Stinks' carved on the center desk.)
Skinner: Dehance! Dehance!

Category: Compound nouns, pronoun as common noun, homophony

Bart has used ketchup and Grey Poupon mustard to paint a portrait of Skinner on the cafeteria wall (word balloon: "Put me on your wiener"). Skinner enters while the room is still cracking up:

Skinner: Simpson! I'll teach you to make a Poupon me!

Category: Contrast, one-replacement, establishing reference sets:

The three bullies (Kearny, Dolph and Jimbo) are plotting to do something terroristic with a deceased yogurt. Milhouse, an undercover agent for the Counter Truancy Unit, is lurking outside the Kwik-E-Mart, surveilling them from behind a newspaper. Homer strolls by.

Homer: Hey Millhouse! Who ya spyin' on? Those bullies?
Kearny: What about the fat guy?
Homer: Hey, lay off! You're the fat one of you guys!

Category: Zero-derivation, category change

Skinner: Okay, you have a deal, you conniving little [whispers in Bart's ear].
Bart (eyes go wide): Wow! That's a swear?
Skinner: Used as a noun, it is.

Episode: Stop or My Dog Will Shoot! (2007)

Category: Slang, register

Santa's Little Helper has successfully detected some stashed cocaine (he sniffed out a suitcase with a bust of Beethoven in it that had a locker key embedded in it; SLH opened the suitcase, broke the statue, and opened the locker. It was full of cocaine).

Lou: Shall I get this blow back to the cage, chief?
Chief Wiggum: Whoa, whoa, whoa. "Blow"? "Cage"? You're in uniform, Lou! Don't slang it up!

Category: Slang

Lou and Santa's Little Helper are staking out the park, where drug deals go down. Snake is meeting with the bullies.

Jimbo (shiftily): Soo, ah, you got any steroids?
Snake: You know it. I can make you huge! (Shows bag full of pills)
Jimbo (enthusiastically): I wanna pump my guns!
Kearny: I wanna rip my pecs!
Dolf: I wanna shriv my nards!
Lou (leaping out from behind bush): Nards! That's what we needed to hear!

Episode: On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister (2005)

Category: Type vs token, underspecified nouns

Marge and Homer visit Sprawl-mart:

Homer: Oh, I just love it here! So many things, and so many things of each thing!

Category: Neologisms, bound roots

The students have all met at the school at 3am for a field trip to Springfield Glacier. Skinner is massing them for exodus.

Nelson: Check out my t-shirt! It's wicked relevant -- it's part of my 'Things Suck' line of clothing! (opens vest to reveal t-shirt with 'Glaciers suck! on it).
Skinner: While I disagree with your t-shirt's assertion, I do encourage anything that raises glacier awareness. Busward to adventure!

Category: Speech errors (phonologically motivated nucleus substitution), senility

(They go in the front door)

Grampa (in Sprawl-mart vest): Welcome to Sprawl-mart! Can I get you a cart or basket?
Marge: Grampa! You're a greet grater, I mean, tsk, a great greeter! Now look who's senile!

Episode: Please Homer, Don't Hammer 'Em (2006)

Category: Back-formation.

Lisa finds Bart bowling at school trophies in the hall (left-handed!) Unbeknownst to her, he has learned of Skinner's fatal weakness and fears nothing.

Lisa: Bart! Skinner's gonna be really mad at you!
Bart: Yes! You might say he'll… (finger quotes) "blow up"! Mwahahaha
Lisa: Whatever. I've got some paper to maché.

Category: Derivational suffix meanings

Skinner: I'm supposed to stand in your store window and breast-feed Bilbo Baggins.
Comic Book Guy: Your cowering suggests that Bart has found your Kryptonite.
Skinner: Kryptonite? What's that? The -ite suffix suggests a mineral.

Episode: Homerazzi (2007)

Category: Rhetorical questions

Homer has nearly set the house on fire with his birthday cake candles. The smoke alarm went off, and the fire department came. A fireman returns Santa's Little Helper to Simpsons sitting on curb:

Fireman: You know how many fires are started by birthday candles? If you do, tell me. It would settle a bet down at the station house. I say five, Gus says a million.

Episode: Yokel Chords (2007)

Category: count-mass conversion for foodstuffs (the "Universal Grinder")

Bart is telling a scary story about the "Dark Stanley Murders". Stanley was a cook at the school. The kids made fun of him ("Stanley, Stanley, no de-gree! Two credits short at M.I.T.!") and he killed and cooked them into Kids Head Soup!

Stanley (tasting soup): Needs more girl!

Category: Denominal verbs, derivational verbal morphology

Following Bart's scary story, the rumors are flying:

Nelson: And just when you think he's done, Dark Stanley takes your skin and makes footie pajamas!
Dolf: Nobody pajaminates my skin!

Category: Archaism

Two scenes later: Bart has terrified the kids into stampeding from the school in panic.

Milhouse (stampeding): Murther!!

Category: Evasive speech ('phumphering')

Principal Skinner explains to Superintendent Chalmers that they can't provide education for the Yokel children for fear of lowered test scores and lost federal funding. Lisa overhears.

Lisa (flipping open notebook): Excuse me! Lisa Simpson with the school paper. Am I to understand you're purposely denying education to these children?

Principal Skinner and Superintendent Chalmers (simultaneously and smoothly talking over each other): (S)That's a totally, er,..(C)Well, I wouldn't, ah, (S) Ah, y'know, (C)Y'see the thing is, (S) A, ah, boon!
Chalmers (pauses to complete a sentence): I warn you, young lady, we can phumpher all day!
PS and SC, smoothly continuing: (C) We um, you see Stop it, we have, um, ah (S) You're um not grasping the, the, the…
Lisa: You haven't heard the last of this!

Category: Back-formation

Lisa has taken the Spuckler (Slack-jawed Yokel) kids to downtown Springfield, where juggling mimes wheel by on unicycles.

Witney Spuckler (eldest Yokel daughter): These colorful bums is funny!
Lisa: And guess what? Ben and Ken The Street-Magic Men are only the beginning! The city is a treasure-trove of culture and multi-culture!

Category: Entailments of superlatives

Krusty: You kids finished signing those 8x10s?
Dubya Spuckler: I told five different dry-cleaners they's the best. Ain't that lyin', Mr. Krusty?

Category: Right-node raising

Dubya Spuckler: Miz Lisa, we just want to thank you for introducing us to, then saving us from, the big wide world around us.
Lisa: 'Twern't nothin'. (Group hug.)

Episode: The Fat and The Furriest (2003)

Category: Puralization of titles/honorifics:

Homer, Bart and Lisa have run into Patty and Selma in Sprawl-Mart:

Lisa: Aunts Patty and Selma, can you help us pick out a Mother's Day gift?

Episode: "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes" (2000)

Category: Scope of negation, presupposition

Homer, in his first excursion on the Internets, has reached the Springfield Police Department home page, where an animated Chief Wiggum talks to him:

Wiggum head: If you've committed a crime and you want to confess, click "yes". Otherwise, click "no". [Homer clicks "no"] You have chosen "no", meaning you've committed a crime but don't want to confess. A paddywagon is now speeding to your home.

Category: German word order

Homer has been replaced with a lookalike by secret overlords who are holding the real Homer on an island. The lookalike is German.

Bart: There's something really different about you, Dad!
German Homer: I am a new tie wearing.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Innateness hypothesis in 1000 AD (Crosspost from LL)

Following my report last Friday of finding the standard innateness argument in a 18th-century text by an amateur philologist, I expected my inbox to be overflowing with passages about language acquisition from Aristotle, Descartes and (in contrast) Locke. I had prepared for the onslaught by performing extensive finger-limbering exercises.

Amazingly, the number of people interested in quoting extensively from the work of ancient philologists out there is considerably smaller than the number of rabid Cupertino effect fans, who cannot be beaten off with sticks or Geoff P.'s pointy, pointy words. Perhaps understandable. But I did get an interesting email from Lameen Souag, of Jabal al-Lughat. An 11th-century Arabic scholar, Ibn Hazm, considered and dismissed the innateness hypothesis before 1064 A.D. As a kind of bonus, in the same passage, he offhandedly alludes to the observation that Saussure laid such stress on: Linguistic signs are arbitrary.

Lameen writes:
If you're looking for earlier discussion of the language instinct idea, you could try Ibn Hazm, d. 1064 - coincidentally, he was also the very unorthodox medieval theologian that the Pope rather misleadingly quoted on Islam's notion of the relationship between God and ethics in his Regensburg address. In his book al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam (Judgement on the Principles of Rulings), Ibn Hazm briefly considers and rejects the idea, essentially saying that language can't be an instinct because if it were surely we would all speak the same language. I'm afraid the translation below is far from perfect - I'm not too accustomed to reading early medieval Arabic - but the idea is pretty clear:

ولم يبق إلا أن يقول قائل إن الكلام فعل الطبيعة قال علي وهذا يبطل ببرهان ضروري وهو أن الطبيعة لا تفعل إلا فعلا واحدا لا أفعالا مختلفة وتأليف الكلام فعل اختياري متصرف في وجوه شتى. وقد لجأ بعضهم إلى نوع من الاختلاط وهو أن قال إن الأماكن أوجبت بالطبع على ساكنيها النطق بكل لغة نطقوا بها قال علي وهذا محال ممتنع لأنه لو كانت اللغات على ما توجبه طبائع الأمكنة لما أمكن وجود كل مكان إلا بلغته التي يوجبها طبعه وهذا يرى بالعيان بطلانه لأن كل مكان في الأغلب قد دخلت فيه لغات شتى على قدر تداخل أهل اللغات ومجاورتهم فبطل ما قالوا. وأيضا فليس في طبع المكان أن يوجب تسمية الماء ماء دون أن يسمى باسم آخر مركب من حروف الهجاء

"There remains only the case of someone suggesting that speech is a natural action. This is falsified by a necessary proof: that nature would do only a single action, not many actions, and putting together speech is a voluntary action, coming in many different forms. Some might take refuge in a kind of combination [of the arguments], saying that different places naturally impose on their inhabitants the language that they speak. This is entirely impossible, because if languages were imposed by the natures of places, then each place would have to have only the language imposed by its nature; but the falsehood of this is plain to the eye, because almost every place has had many languages enter it due to their speakers' involvement and proximity; so this hypothesis is falsified. Also there is nothing in the nature of a place to require that water be called "water" rather than some other combination of letters."

Elsewhere in the same chapter, he discusses the common origin of Arabic, Aramaic, and Hebrew.

Actually, I don't really want to get a ton of philological email, so if you have additional thoughts on this, you could contribute to the comments section below. If enough accumulate, I'll update with another post on Language Log.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

You say feminine, I say masculine, let's call the whole thing off (Crosspost from LL)

Last week, Dalila Ayoun of the Department of French and Italian here at the University of Arizona, gave a talk in our linguistics colloquium series in which she dropped a bombshell: native French speakers don't know the genders of French nouns!

Ok, that's not quite right. It would be more appropriate to say that native French speakers don't agree on the genders of French nouns. They really don't agree. Fifty-six native French speakers, asked to assign the gender of 93 masculine words, uniformly agreed on only 17 of them. Asked to assign the gender of 50 feminine words, they uniformly agreed only 1 of them. Some of the words had been anecdotally identified as tricky cases, but others were plain old common nouns.

Ayoun didn't set out to test whether native French speakers can accurately identify French nominal gender. Her primary research interest is in second-language learning of French. Like nearly everyone in the field, and with good reason, she had assumed that native speakers behave fairly uniformly with respect to the grammar of their native language.

Second language acquisition studies often have a common structure. The experimenter tests people learning the language on a particular linguistic task. Usually there are different groups of second language learners — advanced vs. beginning, etc. They all do the task, and the experimenter looks at how many mistakes they make, how long they take to do the task, etc., and draws conclusions about the course of language learning, the efficacy of the teaching technique, or whatever.

The experimenter always also gives the task to native speakers, as a kind of control group, to show that when the language has been fully, correctly acquired, speakers perform at or near ceiling — close to 100% right.

Just to give a typical example, I have student who is looking at second-language acquisition of Chinese. She is having her subject perform a task in which they form a sentence containing a relative clause from two independent sentences. (Input: John saw a man. The man was tall. Correct response: John saw the man who was tall.) In my student's pilot study, she discovered that she might have to reduce the number of sentences in her study, since even fairly advanced second language learners were taking up to an hour and a half to complete the test. In contrast, her native speaker subjects were taking ten minutes to do the same test, with of course 100 per cent accuracy. This kind of disparity between native speakers and second-language speakers is the norm, rather than the exception.

Ayoun was investigating second-language learning of grammatical gender in French -- a major difficulty for learners from non-gender languages like English. She had constructed a couple of tasks: grammaticality judgments of sentences where there was a gender agreement mismatch, and a gender-assignment task, where subjects were given a noun and had to choose among "masculine", "feminine", "both", or "I don't know".

In both tasks, to her great surprise, she found a great deal of disagreement among her native-speaker controls! In these tasks, there is always a normatively 'correct' answer—French dictionaries and textbooks all agree on what the genders of nouns are, and how gender agreement in sentences should turn out—in the same way they agree on how to form relative clauses, and how to form passives, and where to put clitic pronouns, and so on. Native speakers would be expected to perform close to ceiling on this grammatical task, as on others. But, surprisingly, they don't.

There's an even more interesting twist in Ayoun's native-speaker results. Her native speakers fell into two groups: 14 adult speakers and 42 teenage speakers. On most grammatical tasks, for all intents and purposes, teenagers' native-language abilities are identical to adults' abilities. But when she broke down the gender-assignment task results by age, she found that teenagers showed considerably more variation than the adults. On the 50 feminine nouns, for example, the 14 adults all agreed on 21 of them, while the 42 teenagers agreed on only one: cible, 'target'. Of the 93 masculine nouns, the adults agreed on 51 of them, while all adults and teenagers agreed on only 17 (of 93!!)

Below I reproduce one of Ayoun's tables illustrating significant differences in the rates at which adults and teenagers agreed on the gender of 10 feminine nouns.

There are many questions one would like to ask about this, of course, and since Ayoun's study was not designed to answer questions about native-speaker variation in gender assignment, answers to most of them will have to await further experimentation. But the result itself seems really remarkable to me. According to Ayoun, the last study in which anyone systematically tested native speakers' deployment of grammatical gender in French was Tucker et al. (1977)—more than thirty years ago! Work to be done.

For the interested, some of the second-language speakers' results have already appeared in Ayoun (2007). And second language speakers of French, take heart! Make your grammatical gender agreement mistakes with confidence. There's a chance that your native-speaker interlocutor will agree with your version!

Ayoun, D. (2007). The acquisition of grammatical gender in L2 French. In D. Ayoun (ed.), French Applied Linguistics, pp. 130-170. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Tucker, G. R., W.E. Lambert, and A. Rigault. 1977. The French speaker's skill with grammatical gender: An example of rule-governed behavior. The Hague: Mouton

Friday, February 08, 2008

Album meme...

...from tahnan. This is not what I should be doing in the middle of the night, but I just couldn't resist. My band name didn't wow me at first but then I thought it'd likely be abbreviated JT(CP) in a hip texting kind of way... and the cover and title are xcllnt... and what's that torpedo down at the corner of the cover? prob real fans of JT(CP) study the liner notes to find out these things.

and then the second one turned out even better --

:) hh

Friday, January 18, 2008

A broad range of data

Jerry Sadock is here at AZ giving a short series of talks introducing autolexical syntax to us. He gave an interesting presentation today outlining the structure of the theory. In the q&a, though, he hit one of my sore spots hard enough that I just can't stop myself from a public cry of anger and frustration.

He was saying that Autolexical Syntax (AS) has been called a more 'descriptive' framework, but that he finds merit in that compared to more 'theoretical' frameworks such as oh, I don't know, Principles and Parameters-style work -- us P&P people might have some elegant theory but it's much better to be able to cope with a 'broad range of data', rather than the same tired old 5 examples again and again and again and again.

I've been working in a P&P framework for about 18 years now and I've heard that charge levelled at P&P again and again and again and again. Perhaps it had some teeth once. It DOES NOT anymore.

In the course of my still-short career, I have read valuable, often beautiful, P&P dissertations and papers on Navajo, Ewe, Inuktitut, Mohawk, Warlpiri, Bahasa Indonesian, Malagasy, Hindu, Kannada, Tagalog, Zapotec, Itelmen, Niuean, Chichewa, St'at'imcets, Passamaquoddy, Tsez, Kiowa, Malay, and Nuu-chal-nulth. And if your particular language isn't mentioned in this list, it's not because I necessarily haven't read it or didn't think it was valuable or beautiful; these are just the first twenty less-studied languages that popped into my head as I typed on this particular tired Friday night. There's LOTS more.

And of course that's not even touching on the vigorous, thriving research communities that devote serious P&P effort to the major European, Middle-Eastern and Asian languages.

And by 'valuable' I don't mean just 'valuable within the context of P&P theory'. Essentially *all* of these works described new data, or new patterns in old data, that constitute important contributions to the field in themselves, regardless of framework (though of course they're even more valuable within the context of P&P theory, since they're datasets designed to discover a good P&P account). Future analyses of these languages, and of human linguistic ability, will build on these data, generalizations, and analyses, whatever framework they are conducted in.

How many kinds of data does a theory have to have worked with in order to qualify as being applicable to a 'broad range of data'?? P&P's track record in this regard is at least as good as any other syntactic approach out there.

There may be good arguments to adopt a different framework; I always like to participate in a good argument. But the discussion should not involve assertions to the effect that the only sentence that P&P theory or Minimalists is interested in is "There seems to be a man in the room."

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Antedated eggnog (Crosspost from LL)

Like Arnold Zwicky, I'm not the kind of linguist who is heavy into antedating and sourcing, but a student and I just recently verified our very own antedation, of eggnog, and it's so seasonal I thought I should share it.
The OED's oldest quote for eggnog is from 1825:

Sara Kraft, an Arizona undergraduate taking a independent study course with me this fall, was reporting to me on a chapter in an anthology of Alan Walker Read's articles on ok.1 Read had occasion to quote from a 'pastoral' poem written around 1774 by 18th-century clergyman and philologist Jonathan Boucher, which quote I happened to notice contained the words 'egg-nogg':


Fog-drams i' th’ morn, or (better still) egg-nogg,
At night hot-suppings, and at mid-day, grogg,
My palate can regale:

I don't know why it occurred to me to check in the OED to see what the earliest source they provided was, but I did, and since it was so much later, and from a British source to boot, I got interested. We requested an Inter-Library Loan of Boucher's "A Glossary of Obsolete and Provincial Words; forming a supplement to the dictionaries of the English Language."2 After a false start with an incomplete microfiche from Yale, Harvard obligingly sent us the actual volume. Amazing...

The pastoral poem, quite a long one, is a footnote in the 60-page Introduction to the glossary. The full title of the poem, in the verbose convention of the day is "Absence: A Pastoral: drawn from the life, from the manners, customs and phraseology of planters (or, to speak more pastorally, of the rural swains) inhabiting the Banks of the Potomac, in Maryland".

In the introduction to his Glossary, (p. xlix), Boucher writes the following:

"A List of some of the most remarkable and common [words], collected during my residence in Virginia and Maryland nearly thirty years ago, is here set down at the foot of the page. To this list I will subjoin a copy of verse, which I have ventured to call a Pastoral, written during my residence in America; written solely with the view of introducing as many of such words and idioms of speech, then prevalent and common in Maryland, as I conceived to be dialectical and peculiar to those parts of America."

The italicized terms in the quoted lines above (lines 69-71) are italicized in the original, and are the 'words and idioms of speech' that Boucher considered to be "dialectal and peculiar to those parts of America", including egg-nogg. As Read notes, from his reference to ‘nearly thirty years ago’, we can be sure that the pastoral was written around or before 1774, since Boucher died in 1804. Read notes that he left his Maryland parish in 1775, being a loyalist.

We wrote of our finding to the OED, and received a nice note back from Margot Charlton, saying in part:
I see that the Dictionary of American Regional English has some interesting eighteenth-century evidence for EGG POP, which seems to be similar....The entry goes back to the first edition, and was originally published in 1891; as we revise the text we are finding that we can antedate most entries with the help of the large historical databases now available to us, but it is always
helpful to receive such precise information.

Boucher is a fairly well-documented fellow, having been rector in George Washington's parish, tutor to GW's stepson, and personal friend of GW. A bit of quick googling on eggnog revealed a startling connection between Boucher, Washington, and eggnog: apparently a recipe for eggnog was found among George Washington's "kitchen papers" at Mount Vernon. It doesn't say whether the recipe was titled with the word "egg nog(g)' or not -- the term "egg flip" and (according to DARE) "egg pop" were also in use, or maybe it wasn't titled -- but given that Boucher noticed Marylanders in Washington's parish using it, presumably it's likely that Washington called it that too. Perhaps Boucher even sampled some of Washington's concoction at a holiday party around this time of year in the early 1770s.

1Read was the kind of linguist who is heavy into a/s; I learned a lot from that independent study! If you think the recent rash of abbreviationism is purely technology-driven -- email, texting, all these newfangled electronics driving the kidz of today crrrazy -- you should check out his discussion of the mania for abbreviations in 19th-century New England. Larry Horn describes some of the amazing parallels in detail in this 2002 post to the ADS-L listsev.

2The volume we consulted was indeed titled as above, with "Obsolete" instead of "Archaic", and was from the first (1807) publication of part of Boucher's overall Glossary. It had been bound together by Harvard with another dictionary by Nares, dated 1822. The same piece of Boucher's glossary, up until 'Blade', was published again in 1832, as described in the following excerpt from the "Works of the Camden Society," published by Camden Society (Great Britain), Royal Historical Society (Great Britain) in 1868 (image below from GoogleBooks):


Update: The far more sophisticated antedaters and sourcers over at ADS-L have been hot on the trail of 'eggnog' since this post went up! You can follow the discussion by going here and entering 'eggnog' as a search term. The upshot is that a) Sara and I were far from the first to spot that Boucher used 'eggnog' very early on, and b) there are several other instances of the word in published sources from the late 1700s (i.e. whose actual date of publication is earlier than that Boucher publication date of 1807).

So, apologies for wasting everyone's time! but at least it was seasonal. And, as in my independent study, I learned a lot. Happy new year everyone --