Friday, April 11, 2008

What is genital flip flop?

You may well ask. Is it when you drink one too many pints of Stella and can't perform up to the usual standard? Or could it be some kind of Max Mosley-esque nazi spanking ritual involving beachwear? Actually it's a form of semantic change in which a word associated with "naughty body parts" (ie the genitals) changes meaning in different English-speaking cultures so that no one's really sure what the word means anymore. A good example is the word fanny which means one thing in American English and quite another in British English. I mean who, in the UK, would say "I tripped and fell on my fanny"? Exactly...

My usual obsession with rude things apart, why cover this on the blog? Well, it's all about euphemisms isn't it? We often avoid saying rude (or otherwise taboo words) by using euphemisms: sugar, oh my days, oh gord, little girls' room, a number two, Mr. Winkie will see you now, partying hard, jesus h price...and many more.

This week's edition of Michael Rosen's Word of Mouth programme on Radio 4 has a really interesting interview with Australian linguist Kate Burridge on the ways in which euphemisms develop and change over time. You can listen again to the whole programme here or hear just the Kate Burridge clip from here.

For those of you revising ENA6 and thinking about scripting radio shows, it's a good example again of how these things work, plus the content is suited to either ENA6 topics on Language Change or Language & Representation.

It's a good listen too for some silly euphemisms, and a prize of the usual Haribo goes to the first person to add the real meanings of these 3 euphemisms discussed on the show:
  1. "A patient who failed to fulfil his living potential"
  2. "Chronologically gifted"
  3. "To go to bed"

Useful for:
ENA1 - Language & Representation
ENA5 - Language Change
ENA6 - Language Debates

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