welcome to *b-ling*

January 30, 2009 § 2 Comments

So the linguistics program got a blog.

And they called it *b-ling*.

Cheesy, right? Probably. It is an interesting word, clearly modelled on bling –  ‘ostentatious jewellery’. This word too has an interesting yet brief history,  emerging in the 1990s from African-American hip hop culture.  However, when it first appeared, it had a longer form – bling bling.  That doubling up of the same sound string is something we linguists call reduplication.  The form is intended to represent in speech the effect of light hitting the facets of cut stones, well at least according to the quote below from the Oxford English Dictionary

 2000 Daily News (Los Angeles) (Nexis) 13 Jan. (Sports section) You know what bling-bling is? Imagine a ring, hitting the light, the diamonds, ‘bling-bling’.

Already  by the time of that quote most usages  were in the shortened or clipped form, bling,  the current wordshapeNot only that, but it had also become an adjective (also from the Oxford English Dictionary Online): 

2004 Time Out 25 Aug. (Carnival Guide) 19/2 You felt safe, there were no guns, no bling culture, no heavy drugs, just good times.

But that is obvious not the meaning of bling here. Not many linguists are big on the bling bling … as far as I know. What we have here is a bit each of the two terms blog and ling mushed together.  Technically, this is known as a blend … which doesn’t look all that technical. Blends occur in language in two different ways, the deliberate way and the not so deliberate.  The accidental mixing up of two words usually with very similar meanings or very similar wordshapes is one of the pastimes of the psycholinguists, who investigate the real time processing of language in production and reception. Former US  President G. W. Bush’s use of misunderestimate, might qualify as a slip of  the tongue, a blend of miscalculate  and underestimate. Clearly the two terms are quite closely related semantically. That is, we could say that an underestimation is a type of miscalculation.

Deliberate blends have also been produced – motel  from motor + hotel, gues(s)timate,  chortle –  snort + chuckle,  paratrooper – parachute trooper (which spawned paraglider, parasail, paraski etc.

In fact, bling  in its sense ‘ linguistics blog’ has a blend pedigree,   as it is a clipped form of weblog creating the blend. Blog has then blended with the clipped form ling to create the title of the blog. Incidently, are the linguists who write on this blog blinguists?

So welcome to the new blog. We’ll be posting snippets about all facets of language in the weeks ahead. But if there is anything that you would be particularly interested in reading about, just leave a comment.

By the way, you can vist the Oxford Dictionary Online via the Massey Library Page. Under find information,  on the far right is the link, reference resources.


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