Gretchen McCulloch is a linguistics grad student at McGill University, and I have just discovered her delightful blog, All Things Linguistic (“All the linguistic things, all the time. Well, a lot of them, daily”). I discovered her via this MetaFilter post, which links to her post on “What makes an effective synonym for Benedict Cumberbatch?” and her article for The Toast on the same subject:
But how is a normal internet citizen supposed to know, when they hear someone say “I just can’t stop looking at gifs of Bombadil Rivendell” that this person isn’t talking about some other actor with a name and a voice and cheekbones? Or in other words, what makes for a reasonable variation of the name Bendandsnap Calldispatch?
I’m a linguist, and that means that I’m interested in the subconscious patterns that emerge from the way people use language. Based on the fact that fans tend to respond to synonyms of Anglerfish Gigglesnort with a laugh of recognition and not a blank stare, I think there are patterns here too, even if we’re not aware of them. So let’s approach this question scientifically, by generating a range of hypotheses from the general to the specific, and trying to disprove them.
Posts before that include A detailed explanation of Sonorants, Obstruents, and Sonority, Because Internet, and More on writing systems: Canadian Aboriginal syllabics, which will give you an idea of the range of topics discussed. I’m adding it to the sidebar forthwith.
(Warning for those who, like me, find Tumblr blogs mildly annoying: it’s a Tumblr blog. But the content is worth a little mild annoyance.)