We’ve had yet another month of record-breaking temperatures—and a corresponding spike in Google searches for hot as balls,
a phrase that’s gotten popular as balls (mostly in the U.S.) in the last ten years or so. Although Urban Dictionary has an entry for the phrase from 2001, it became undeniably mainstream five years later during the heatwave of 2006. Lin-Manuel Miranda and Chris “Shockwave” Sullivan created this video in response to the scorching weather that year: Continue reading
Many extol King Lear as Shakespeare’s greatest play. Some even vaunt it as the very height of the Western canon. For their claims, they point, inter alia, to the strength of the tragedy’s language.
Take the mad monarch as he roves the wild heath: “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!…Singe my white head!” (3.2.1-6). Or the broken father when he cradles his deceased daughter: “Thou’lt come no more,/ Never, never, never, never, never!” (5.3.306-07). The Bard’s language plunges us into the depths of Lear’s despair.
But King Lear doesn’t just feature some of Shakespeare’s strongest language. It also showcases some of his, well, strongest language. And when we give it a closer look, much of it is truly below the belt.
Last year, in my post on the line from The Martian, “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this,” I took a look at the more general pattern of “VERB the TABOO TERM out of (something).” I noted the difficulty of using that construction with an intransitive verb that takes a prepositional phrase:
Things get a little tricky when you want to intensify the act of listening to or looking at something, as noted recently on Twitter by Stacy Dickerman. An intransitive verb that requires a preposition complicates the construction — can you “listen to the fuck out of” something? For more on this, see Laura Bailey’s “Another Sweary Blog Post” from last year. See also Florent Perek’s “Using distributional semantics to study syntactic productivity in diachrony: A case study” (forthcoming in Linguistics), which discusses an example mined from the Corpus of Contemporary American English: “I’ve been listening the hell out of your tape.” (Yes, the problematic to is simply deleted, treating listen as a transitive verb.)
I just came across another example along the lines of “I’ve been listening the hell out of your tape,” from the British standup comedian Stewart Lee.
What the fuck has become so commonplace that, as our own Nancy Friedman pointed out, marketers are no longer shy about alluding to it. But its ubiquity has meant a loss of its former power, and we’ve had to find ways to intensify it when our amusement or bewilderment graduates to incredulity.
According to the Corpus of Global Web-based English (GloWbE), these are our favourite ways to spice up this popular dish: Continue reading
Back in June, when the first trailer was released for The Martian, one line in particular jumped out. Matt Damon, as marooned astronaut Mark Watney, says:
So, in the face of overwhelming odds, I’m left with only one option:
I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.
The line even got the seal of approval from astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson (the current one, not the future Tyson who explains the movie’s NASA mission in the year 2035):
But one place the line can’t be repeated verbatim is in the pages of The New York Times. The Grey Lady, as we have seen, only takes shit from the president. A recent article about the film expurgates the line, calling it “a more profane equivalent of, ‘I am going to have to science the heck out of this.'” (The online article does, at least, link to Tyson’s tweet for those who want the unvarnished truth.)