Friday, February 17, 2017

It is big and it is clever

Ever wondered why the insults "cockwomble", "fucktrumpet", "bunglecunt" and "shitgibbon" (the latter memorably used recently by Pennsylvania state senator Daylin Leach in reference to you-know-who) are inherently amusing? Linguists like Taylor Jones are on hand to explain: it's all to do with the combination of a monosyllabic expletive with a trochee (a word with two syllables, with the emphasis falling on the first), and the repetition of the vowel sound.

It's not a failsafe formula, and there are a few exceptions ("wankpuffin" doesn't have a repeated vowel sound, for instance), but generally speaking the principle holds. Which is very helpful, given the currently daily need to invent new ways of referring to certain prominent individuals.

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