Thursday, 20 June 2013

Funny ha-ha or funny sheesh?

Neither, actually. I have often taught students who treated 'funny' as though it meant 'having the attributes of something characterized by fun'.

There is  a rule (in the sense of a 'TG rule', mentioned previously here) in English that lets you create an adjective by adding y to certain nouns: fog → foggy,  mirk →mirky,  rock →rocky... and so on; even, if you have a historical dictionary,  hap → happy . When someone is learning a language, this sort of rule can run amok, which is why my foreign students use 'funny' in this way.

<autobiographical_note topic="babes and sucklings">
Incidentally, the same applies to people acquiring their mother tongue. One of my children, who I won't identify to spare his blushes whoops, blown it, oh well did this with buzzer, coining a brilliant new metaphor that has entered the family sociolect†. Instead of 'I have pins-and-needles in my foot' he said 'I've got a buzzery foot'.
Frédéric Beigbeder, who relaunched LUI earlier this week (and that's a link for Real Men, the English papers caught up today – and that's what Google's for) was quoted in the English press (I saw it in The Times) as saying that it was time for a 'funny' magazine to relieve the macroeconomic gloom. He presumably meant a light-hearted one. But, given that it's soft-core porn, perhaps I'll go with funny (sheesh).


Update: 2013.06.20.23:00 – Added this note:

†This word has been bothering me. It ('sociolect') is a recognized term used by linguists to refer to a language shared by a number of people with social (e.g. work) links. But it isn't entirely satisfactory both intrinsically (it mixes Latin and Greek – which isn't a crucial flaw; many words do – television , for example) and in this case (the links are not just social). What I want is something that refers to the household – the όικος (which is where we get economics [think of 'home economics'], ecology, and so on). So there's the word: 'ecolect'.

Update 2015.07.07.12:30 – Added PS

PS Recently returned from holiday...
<crossword_clue theme="holiday_destination">
Use Germany, excepting nameless Man? Another island entirely. (8)
A  beach is rocky, or a path. This BNC search
provides lots more examples
... I have two things to add on the subject of this adjective-forming rule. Many of the people in this place have English as their mother tongue, but not the person who produced this sign on a flimsy piece of woodwork:

But coincidentally I heard a counter-example on the ferry home. A father said to his child: 'Hold my hand. It's a bit rocky.' I think this is exceptional (the sort of thing that native-speakers can get away with  –  the sort of licence unfairly denied to ESOL students.). Making allowances for the limited vocabulary of his child, the speaker was using the Add-a-y-to-a-known-word  rule in a way that a mature speaker probably wouldn't.

I think.


Update 2015.07.22.14:00 – Added PPS

And here's the answer, supplied by a charming coaster:

Update 2016.02.21.16:00 – Removed old footer. See my  other blog for the latest.

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