1290: Syllable Planning

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
(Redirected from 1290)
Jump to: navigation, search
Syllable Planning
You absolute-fucking-... shit.
Title text: You absolute-fucking-... shit.


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, well, ridicu-fucking... wait.

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 (before the stressed syllable) or un-fucking-believable; this is because unbelievable is a combination of un and believable to negate believable which is an actual English word[citation needed] and therefore it still sounds good.

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. Furthermore, the speaker could be also accidentally insulting the person they're speaking to, calling them an "absolute fucking shit."


[Cueball is standing next to Megan.]
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?

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


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). 06:00, 13 November 2013 (UTC) Toby Ovod-Everett

Think you mean "... can be uninstalled or .... can't be installed". -- 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)

'Government' sounds like it has the stress on the first syllable ('go'), so adding the expletive as the previous word instead seems like the correct option either way — [rand0m_anon] (note: my name is Rand0m) 09:48, 10 January 2022 (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. 08:42, 13 November 2013 (UTC)

The correct linguistical term is tmesis. 09:58, 13 November 2013 (UTC)
Darnit. Ninjaed. (With a note that this also includes phrasal infixings.) 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. -- 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. -- 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. 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. -- 16:40, 13 November 2013 (UTC)

So, is it time to lift the Incomplete tag? 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... 13:34, 14 November 2013 (UTC)

Wouldn't be explainxkcd without a few of those each comic. 20:07, 18 November 2013 (UTC)

ri-fucking-dickulous Just some random derp

I wasn't aware that people had an issue with saying it as "ridicu-fucking-lous". I've been using that as my go to for years. Weird. -Pennpenn 03:05, 28 August 2015 (UTC)

Ridicu-fucking-lotus! (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)