Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Cueball wants to say ri-fucking-diculous, but he inserts the fucking too late in the word. Now, he has to say ridicu-fucking-lous, which sounds ridiculous.
This is an example of tmesis, the breaking up of a word to include another within it, and more specifically of expletive infixation. Normally, for rhythmic reasons the included word is inserted before the stressed syllable (ridiculous becoming ri-fucking-diculous) which is what Cueball messed up. However in some cases it is also possible to break the word after a prefix instead, so for some words there are two ways to do it e.g. unbe-fucking-lievable or un-fucking-believable; this is probably because unbelievable is pretty much pronounced flatly, even when said in a heated tone, unlike words like ridiculous, where the stressed syllable is quite evident when the word is said angrily.
The title text introduces a further example, with speaker inserting the fucking too late into the word absolutely—which would have resulted in absolute-fucking-ly—but leaving the word unfinished when they realize their mistake. The more usual tmesis here would be abso-fucking-lutely.
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- Cueball: Man, that is ridicu-fucking—... ...Hang on, I inserted "fucking" too late and now there's just one awkward syllable left. Can I back up?
- [Cueball is standing next to Megan.]
I remember my father telling me when I was a teenager about a scholarly paper that described this exact topic, namely the rules governing where 'fucking' can be injected into multi-syllable words. I still remember discussing the options for "fantastic" and "government". Decades later I had a dream about words like "uninstallable" (which can either mean something that can be uninstalled or something that can't be uninstalled), and discovering that someone had written a paper about that very subject (http://www.hum.au.dk/engelsk/engsv/papers/vikn08b.pdf). 184.108.40.206 06:00, 13 November 2013 (UTC) Toby Ovod-Everett
- Think you mean "... can be uninstalled or .... can't be installed". --220.127.116.11 06:42, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
Surely the question is which words benefit from the effing emphasis? Fan-effing-tastic is a natural, but with 'government' I wouldn't try...I'd just say 'effing government (what a bunch of wankers, bastards, mongrels, etc)'.Anff59 (talk) 07:37, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
This immediately made me think about "Legen -wait for it- dary", one of the key phrases that 'Barney' uses in How I Met Your Mother. Kaa-ching (talk) 08:31, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
In case you want to go hunting for papers, it's actually got a name in linguistics: "fucking insertion". Not a good Google word unfortunately. 18.104.22.168 08:42, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
- The correct linguistical term is tmesis. 22.214.171.124 09:58, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
- Darnit. Ninjaed. (With a note that this also includes phrasal infixings.) 126.96.36.199 10:04, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
http://home.uchicago.edu/~vfriedm/Articles/020Friedman79.pdf for some good insight on the differences between Russian and American swearing. Including inserting fucking in between syllables.
--188.8.131.52 08:59, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
I think the title text is referring to the word absolutely, which would mean he left only one syllable again. It just seems nonsensical to think that he was saying absolute and not absolutely. --184.108.40.206 11:01, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
- Agreed, don't think anyone would ever make a tmesis out of the word 'absolute' as opposed to 'absolutely'. I've changed the explanation accordingly.220.127.116.11 12:58, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
It's generally pointless to argue as to what a "standard" pronunciation is, but I question how flatly "unbelievable" is pronounced in the general American population, as opposed to the robotic-voiced-pronunciation-aid-audio-file population. Especially when pronounced heatedly, there tends to be distinct stress placed on either the first or the third syllable - a regional difference or subtle denotative difference, maybe. I think the existence of both un-fucking-believable and unbe-fucking-lievable is simply a matter of one following the "insert between prefix and root" rule and the other following the "insert before stressed (in this case third) syllable" rule, rather than being because 'unbelievable' is somehow an abnormally flattened word. --18.104.22.168 16:40, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
So, is it time to lift the Incomplete tag? 22.214.171.124 09:05, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
"This mistake, and realization of it, creates a humorous alternate meaning by saying "You absolute fucking shit!" - Uh, does it? Think that might be over-reaching for an interpretation there...126.96.36.199 13:34, 14 November 2013 (UTC)
- Wouldn't be explainxkcd without a few of those each comic. 188.8.131.52 20:07, 18 November 2013 (UTC)