25 May 2006

a fpoonful of mɪ:

Here's two tidbits of phonological curiosity heard recently on TV airwaves:

Wendy's has advertised its Frosty as a soquid, and one of the actors in the ad suggests it would taste better with a fpoon; i.e. "frosted spoon". Both words illustrate a love affair between would-be word coiners and blending, but fpoon is also notable for its initial [fp-] cluster, not otherwise seen in English. Google searches on "soquid and fpoon" hit about 10,000 pages; on many of them the words are already used as pseudonyms in MySpace and the like, while on others, bloggers and posters either celebrate or denounce them. Fpoon alone yields 20,000 ghits, and seems to predate the Wendy's commercial. In fact, it appears to also be a blend of fork + spoon, an inversion of the known blend spork (spoon + fork). Whatever its composition, it stands out because of its odd cluster (which you could call phonologically impossible, but given the ease with which the actor produced it, and its pre-commercial diffusion, you could also call it an accidental gap).

The second oddity is from Stephen Colbert's rendering of MI III, the abbreviated title of the recently released Mission Impossible 3. Colbert calls it [mɪ:], with a lax vowel in an open monosyllable (i.e. like mid but with no d). Like the initial [fp-] cluster, this is something English phonology doesn't normally allow, and thus stands out in a similar way. The audience laughter that followed supports this, but it's difficult to tease out whether what they found funny was (a) Colbert playing dumb and pretending not to know that MI III is an abbreviation (b) the violation of their own intuitions regarding lax vowels in open monosyllables or (c) both.


Post a Comment

<< Home