*Abso-hallelujah-lutely: Infixes can’t be interjections (but what are they?)

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about why you can’t say *abso-jesus-lutely, pointing out that you can only infix certain kinds of swears.

In response, Ed Cormany asked on Twitter whether I thought swears were in the same category as interjections. I said no, but this got me started on interjection infixation, which turns out to be abso-hallelujah-lutely interesting.

Continue reading

Abso-jesus-lutely not: Why can you infix “fucking” and “bloody” but not other swears?

Here’s a puzzle: why can’t you say “abso-jesus-lutely”? (Recently brought to my attention by Leland Paul Kusmer.)

Let’s back up for a sec. The classic case of expletive infixation involves “fucking” or “bloody” as in abso-fucking-lutely, abso-bloody-lutely. And one syllable swears can’t infix: there’s no abso-fuck-lutely or abso-shit-lutely. But “Jesus” is two syllables, people swear with it, and it even has the same stress as the other two. Why doesn’t it sound right as an infix?

Continue reading

New voice transcription feature in Google Docs censors (some!) swearwords

Google Docs announced today that you can now create documents using your voice.  And of course, like any good linguist, I immediately went to try to stump it. It’s pretty good, actually — it recognized both pronunciations of “gif” and “aunt” in the contexts “animated ___” and “uncle and ___” although it tended to assume that I might have the bit/bet merger, which I most emphatically do not, and thus presented me with a few transcriptions that felt like odd candidates to me.

But then I tried swearwords and hit the fucking jackpot. Continue reading

Sweary audio roundup

Several recent sweary episodes of assorted podcasts and audio shows, for those who like listening to things:

The Allusionist is a relatively new podcast about language, and this is its only sweary episode so far.


No Such Thing As A Fish is a popular podcast of generally interesting facts from the creators of QI. It never shies away from a sex or swearing related fact, although this is the sweariest of its episodes that I’ve encountered.

The Ethics of Swearing: Lecture by Rebecca Roache at Oxford, which was pointed out to me by Stan Carey. Here’s a short description from Oxford’s blog, and the full audio (32 min) is below:

Last Thursday’s Special Ethics Seminar at St Cross College was booked out very quickly, and the audience’s high expectations were fully justified. Rebecca Roache returned from Royal Holloway to Oxford to give a fascinating lecture on the nature and ethics of swearing. Roache has two initial questions: ‘Is there anything wrong with this fucking question?’, and ‘Is this one any f***ing better?’. (Her answers turn out to be, essentially, ‘No’ to both.)

Anyone have other sweary audio links to add, either recent or classic favourites?

Faire smashy-smash or fucking shit up? The complications of bilingual profanity

Il est interdit de faire smashy smash. It is forbidden to fuck shit up.
Il est interdit de faire smashy-smash.
It is forbidden to fuck shit up.

In the summer of 2013, long before Strong Language was even a glimmer in anyone’s fucking eye, I snapped the picture above on a street in Montreal. I encountered it near Concordia, but I’m not sure where the sticker itself came from: google suggests that it’s been stuck in at least two other places which also look like they could be Montréalais. And when this blog finally came around, I finally remembered it and knew I had a fucking opportunity.

First of all, there’s the sociolinguistic context of Montreal bilingualism, where even unofficial signs are often in both official languages: I’ve spotted homemade bilingual signs looking for lost cats, requesting that bikes not be chained to private railings, and declining flyers in mailboxes. In a city where over half of people are bilingual, one language might suffice, but if you speak both and you’re used to seeing both around, why not make your own signs bilingual too?  Continue reading