betwixt and betweenst

And now, back to some linguistic observations! (for those of you interested in reading our continued debate on truth and language, which will be ongoing but is currently on hiatus, refer to the comments of the immediately previous post)

While reading a transcript of a hearing, i encountered two neologisms (dare i say invented usages?): 'scalvaging,' which appeared twice in the speech of the same speaker, and, based on the context, seemed to cross the word 'salvage' with the word 'scavenge'. and another speaker used the word 'betweenst,' as in the sentence, 'they talked about it betweenst themselves.' the suffix 'st' is often an archaic form, as in 'whilst' and 'amongst,' and the speaker may have been using it to make his speech seem more formal or appropriate for a legal setting. as of this posting, a google search for 'betweenst' returned 708 hits, some of which seem serious, though some are clearly parodic. 'scalvage' returned 52 hits.

another 'made up' word that's gotten a lot of press on the internet is 'nother' or ''nother,' which is formed from detaching the article 'a' from the original word 'another.' it most commonly occurs when an adjective separates 'a' and 'nother' as in, "that's a whole nother story." Here are some sites that provide some different perspectives on the 'nother' usage: words at random, professor brians' list of common errors (also note that, at the bottom of the page, the professor lists words and usages commonly considered erroneous that are actually 'correct.' this is probably a whole nother post on its own.), inflections (which also contains a post called 'what has clueless, like, done to language?' that may remind some of you of our previous discussions of like usage.)

how about one more example before i get to the BIG POINT of this post? a friend recently sent me this link to a wikipedia article about the new word 'teh,' which apparently originated from countless mis-typings of the word 'the.' but 'teh' has come into its own, thanks to the internet and a generation of l33t hackers. it's got a whole grammar, much like a real word.

so, the common thread among all these usages is their inventedness. but, even if they're made up, unintentional, or uneducated, they already function as words. they convey meaning, are googleable, are recognizable to people who have never encountered them before, including court reporters. these seemingly aberrant usages, with their varied levels of social acceptability, cannot be excluded by linguists who want to study the general movement of a language.

keep in mind, all these words are 'corruptions' of previous words. they are formed arbitrarily based on ease of typing or articulation, or from 'mistaken' cominglings of other words. but these 'mistakes' are the very process of linguistic change. it is through those who do not know the rules (or choose not to follow them), or who use language quickly, that language changes itself most dramatically.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What about betwungst? We love that word?

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