November 2011 Archives

Emotive conjugations

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In 1948, Bertrand Russell, on a radio program called The Brains Trust, gave a joke example of an irregular verb conjugation:

I am firm; you are obstinate; he is a pig-headed fool.

Apparently Russell referred to this construction as an emotive conjugation.

Here are a few more examples; I believe these are from a New Statesman competition to come up with other emotive conjugations, but Wikipedia (incorrectly, I think) attributes the first two of them to Russell:

I am righteously indignant; you are annoyed; he is making a fuss over nothing.

I have reconsidered the matter; you have changed your mind; he has gone back on his word.

I am sparkling; you are unusually talkative; he is drunk.

An about.com article from 2008 lists more entries from that competition.

I was thinking about this kind of thing the other day when a friend said something about me (to me) that put a positive spin on two less-flattering things others have said about (and to) me this year. So I combined the three into a conjugation:

I know my own mind; you like things to be just so; they have to have everything their way.

A few more pages with examples:

  • Ben Schott ran a Weekend Competition about emotive conjugations in 2010.
  • Time published some of the New Statesman winners in 1948, but the article (in their online archive) is available only to subscribers.
  • Craig Brown ran a couple of lists in a Telegraph column in 2004: 1, 2
  • Richard Lederer ran a contest in the Telegraph in 1969; he received 2000 entries, and published a few of his favorites.

I invite y'all to post conjugations of your own (or your favorites from other people's lists) in comments here. (They don't have to actually be about you, of course.)

time gun

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Sadly, a time gun isn't what I, as a science fiction fan, initially thought it was.

However, it is nonetheless kinda cool. A time gun is apparently a cannon or other piece of artillery that's fired every day at a specific time, to allow people nearby (including passing ships) to set their clocks accurately. An early form of network time server, I suppose.

A time ball is a related concept, using a visual instead of an auditory signal. The Times Square Ball is a variant.

One problem with using sound as a time signal is that sound is relatively slow. The niftiest thing I found when I looked up “time gun” is an 1861 Edinburgh time gun map, showing “the time taken for the sound of the one o'clock gun to travel from Edinburgh Castle to different parts of Edinburgh and Leith” (as the website puts it).

scrummy

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Apparently “scrummy” is a portmanteau of scrumptious and yummy. I had initially assumed it must mean something like “scummy.”

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