Saturday, January 28, 2006

Dang. Oh.

My friend Le'a spotted a billboard for a Web site called jobdango.com. She says: "Is this -palooza, part deux? Apparently."

We rely primarily on speculation rather than research here at (to borrow from Geoff Pullum) Evolving English Plaza, so we'll speculate, encouraged by our field agent, that the novel jobdango is "inspired by" (as they say about movies) the heavily adverstised Web site Fandango.com.

Teasing out the semantics of the morphological reparsing is kind of interesting. Assuming for the moment that our speculation is correct, they're breaking -dango out of Fandango. To spell it out maybe more than needed, there is no basis for this (AFAIK); fandango was imported as a unit from Spanish. (The etymology suggests that in Spanish it's a borrowing from Portuguese.) So our assumption is that there is no etymologically valid way in English in which the -dango portion has a meaning of its own.

So that's the fun part. They've broken off -dango and used it to mean, I am guessing, something like "place where you get something":

Fandango = place where you get movie tickets
Jobdango = place where you get jobs

The flaw in this theory is that Fan- doesn't map cleanly to "movie tickets." But who says that the -logy part of etymology has to mean "logic"? Not I.

I did some searching on Google, but did not find too many more examples. The closest I could come in about 12 pages of search results was an eBay auction for a product named "flame-dango," an airbrush template with a flame pattern on it.

There are some instances of a kind of missing-link spelling fan-dango, but most of those just seem to be variations on fandango. One possible exception is what looks like an effort to pry apart fan- and -dango -- in this case a review of tourist destinations that uses the phrase "Plan a FAN-dango", which is about visiting a shop that sells ... fans.

So it's possible that Le'a has spotted a very early -- perhaps the earliest? -- example of the attempt to generalize -dango. Let's see what happens.

Update 30 Jan 06 Benjamin Zimmer expands in a Language Log entry on both -dango and on "cran-morphing," a name for breaking off these word chunks for later reuse. (He also shows that he's got way better Googlechops than me, oops.)

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Passed tenses

Some short follow-up notes to a previous entry about simplified verbal structures in English. First, I was reading an article in the New Yorker ("Liquid Assets: The Social Life of Beverages," Aug 1, 2005) where the article's author quoted Pepys. The author was interested in Pepys's views on beverages (interesting enough), but I was struck also by the use of verbs. Here's one:
... with Sir W. Batten and [Sir] J. Minnes to St. James's, and stopt at Temple Bar for Sir J. Minnes to go into the Devil's Taverne to shit, he having drunk whey, and his belly wrought. [May 15, 1667]
And here's another:
To the office, where Sir W Batten, Collonel Slingsby, and I sat a while; ... And afterwards did send for a Cupp of Tee (a China drink) of which I never had drank before) and went away. [September 25, 1660]
Two constructs requiring a past participle, and he uses two different forms. So clearly confusion about the "correct" participle for various verbs (I presume mostly irregular verbs -- i.e. "strong" verbs) goes back a long way.

Second, over on polyglot conspiracy today, he or she asks as an aside:
... past tense of shrink is shrank, right? Because I saw a NYT article two weeks ago where the headline used “shrank” (as in “Movie audiences shrank this year”), but the lead sentence said “shrunk” (as in “Audiences shrunk this year”). I’m not crazy to think that shrunk sounds bad, right? Despite Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
Note: this from a linguistics student. I tell you, verb forms are confusing to everyone, which means they're not set by any means.

Finally, Mr. Pepys reminds me of a somewhat delicate, but nonetheless legitimate question, namely what are the simple past and participle of to shit? The question is whether you know this without looking it up somewhere. FWIW, in German, our cousin language, it's a strong verb, hence ablauts in the past: schei├čen, schi├čen, geschissen.

Now, to quote Mr. Pepys, "And so to bed."