Is Cereal Soup?
Hey, Vsauce Michael here Take a look at this Simple enough, right? But watch what happens next Okay, what the heck is this thing? Mostly people eat it like a soup, out of a bowl with a spoon
But is it a soup? The word 'soup' comes from words that originally meant "to absorb liquid", which dry cereal left in milk too long will do But words change What if cereal is actually a type of salad? And milk is just a dressing?
Or maybe, dry cereal is the actual meal and milk is just a condiment or a coating Adding milk to dry cereal might be like adding ketchup to french fries, or icing a cake Honestly, there is no real answer The answer is whatever we agree the answer should be
We make up the words and we make up the categories If you ask me, cereal is soup, but it's not soup soup Cereal is also salad, but it's not salad salad What I just did there is called reduplication We do it all the time
But usually for emphasis For example, "I like you" but I also like like you Tomorrow's event is fancy, but it's not fancy fancy When I say "soup soup" or "salad salad", I am using reduplication in a way that is known as Contrastive focus reduplication I am reduplicating a word to express a focus on prototypical types of that word,
In contrast to French types A Caesar or vegetable are more prototypical types of salad than, say, potato, taco, fruit, or a bowl of cereal with milk The increasing progress of technology forces us to contrastively focus reduplicate more and more often For example, now when talking about a book,
You might need to clarify whether it is an e-book or a book book The original physical paper type The phrase paper book is a retronym A modification to an old word made necessary by the advent and popularisation of something new Before movies with sound came along,
Silent movies were just called movies Before voicemail and e-mail, snail mail was just mail And before mobile phones, your landline or home phone was simply a phone Or in many cases just the phone This is Morse code for a smiley face emoticon It's a happy beat
The eyes of the emoticon are a colon, which up until as recently as the middle of the 1900s was often used with a dash to represent a pause It was an especially helpful direction to people reading text out loud It was used all over the place
In personal letters and all over America's Declaration of Independence You may also notice that it looks a little bit anatomical The Oxford English Dictionary has a name for
This punctuation mark and that name is "the dog's bollocks" In other words, dog balls Although other emoticons were definitely used earlier, as far as official dictionary entries are concerned, the very first emoticon with
An official name was an emoticon for a willy This also means that America's Declaration of Independence is, punctuation-wise, covered in dog wieners Nine of them, to be exact
What I'm about to do is called drawing When I am finished, what I have created is called a drawing But it's finished Shouldn't it be called "a drawn"? A similar version of this problem is often attributed to Steven Wright
Why are they called buildings if they are finished? Shouldn't they be called "builds"? What's really going on here is a phenomenon known as 'verbal nouns' A noun formed from a verb It's often easier to "noun-ify" a verb than to just use lots of words
Why call this a structure resulting from the active of building, when you could just call it a building? Where does the word 'nickname' come from? Did a guy name Nicholas one day decided everyone could call him Nick and in doing so create a literal nickname? No
Nickname is a product of rebracketing A process in which speakers, often unknowingly, create new words by moving sounds from one word to another For instance, the English word alligator is a corruption of the Spanish "el lagarto" – the lizard El lagarto, el lagarto, el, alligator
Eke used to mean "also", as in you could have a name, and you could have another name that was also your name Your "eke name" Eke name Eke name Ni, ni, nickname
Here's another funny thing about language If you're noisy in class, you're disrupting class But if you sit around silently paying attention, are you rupting class? You can be disgruntled, but can you ever be gruntled?
Words that would seem to have a related word but actually do not are called unpaired words Maybe they were in a pair at one point in history, or maybe through a fluke of etymology they only seem to have one, but what you think it would be isn't in any dictionary Some definitions like "soup" and "salad" are so vague their borders are almost hilariously fuzzy Other words, well, they're just plain silly
For example, the sun does not rise every morning The Earth actually just turns you toward it, but yet our word for that phenomenon is sunrise Languages are full of expressions like that George Steiner wrote colourfully about this, saying "The accelerando of the sciences, and of technology, have beggared both the reach and veracity of natural language
In consequence, the commonplace relations of language to phenomenon to our daily context have become virtually infantile They are a bric-a-brac of inner metaphors, of whory fictions and handy falsifications From the perspective of the theoretical and exact sciences, we speak a kind of neanderthal babble"
Whether spoken or typed or tabbed or felt or signalled, language may be inevitably full of idiomatic expressions and expressions that are incomplete And categories that are fuzzy
But hey, at least it's our fuzz, and at least fuzz is entertaining It would be nice to just know everything and have absolutely nothing to explain or demonstrate to anyone else But then again,
As Emily Dickinson once said, "a letter is a joy of earth It is denied the Gods" If we were all omniscient, we'd have no reason to write letter to one another, there wouldn't be anything new you had to tell someone else We would have no reason to debate the soupiness or saladness of cereal No reason to wonder, no reason to read, or
To watch I'd have no reason to say and as always, thanks for watching