So says Robin J. Sowards in “Why Everyone Should Study Linguistics” (The Minnesota Review, Spring 2007); he’s specifically thinking of literary critics. And he’s absolutely right, of course; that’s the good news. The bad news is that he thinks structuralism “has been stone dead for nearly half a century in linguistics departments” (he means, of course, MIT) and “the kind of linguistics that [everyone should be studying] (and that is presently the dominant model in linguistics) is what is sometimes known as ‘theoretical linguistics’ or ‘generative linguistics.'” Sigh. Will no one rid us of this wretched albatross? Marxism and Freudianism are relics of the past century; Chomskyism needs to join them on the dustheap ASAP, so linguists can get back to what they do best, studying actual languages instead of their theoretical constructs. (Via Mark Liberman at the Log, who of course is not implicated in my rants against the Dark Lord of Linguistics.)

Unrelated: Anyone interested in my book should go read bulbul‘s essay on Slovak cursing, most of which, inevitably, got cut from the book. A small excerpt to whet your appetite:

Imagine you are a Slovak hockey fan watching your beloved national team score in an Ice Hockey World Cup semifinal, but the referee declares the goal invalid. In a situation like this, exclamations like Sviňa! or Kus vola! are simply insufficient to express one’s feelings for the idiot with the whistle. The only word that will do is Kokot! („dick, prick”). That is because unlike in Czech, the most and most frequent terms of abuse and insults employed in Slovak are derived from terminology associated with sexual organs and sexual behavior.

He broke his “regularly scheduled radio silence” to bring us the essay, and I for one am touched (and hope that the experience will remind him of how much fun blogging is and how much he wants to get back to it).


  1. Siganus Sutor says

    The only word that will do is Kokot! („dick, prick”).
    It may be fairly surprising for some to hear that kokot is such a type of lonely member since in Creole the (swearing, needless to say) word for the prick is gogot, which is sometimes spelt “gogote” to make sure that it is pronounced with a final -t sound and not like gogo or Godot.
    I wonder who borrowed it from whom. Any clue Bulbul?

  2. The Swiss newspaper Le Temps, via Google, claims gogote originates on Mauitius. See : http://www.letemps.ch/dossiers/dossiersarticle.asp?ID=162024
    La Bibliothèque en ligne de l’Agence universitaire de la Francophonie comes up with the following, from Michel Beniamino’s “Le Francais de la Réunion” :
    GOGOTE n. m. (et f.) Insult. || Idiot, imbécile. Un gogote inconscient des valeurs sportives, de la morale du sport, a agi comme un gamin irresponsable [_]. (TEM 17.12.91) ÉTYMOL.: Du fr. dial. gogotte: “membre viril”, passé en créole. Le t., qui est peut-être en rapport avec gogue: “andouille, boudin” explique la métaphore (CHA: 774).
    thus suggesting a French dialect origin which slipped into Indian Ocean Creole.
    With the double t spelling, it is in current usage in France as meaning a sort of fossil formed of compacted sand – not a swearword.

  3. Sounds like one of those pesky coincidences!

  4. Siganus Sutor says

    > Paul
    Funny article from Le Temps. (I have never imagined that Swiss people could spend time discussing on gogotes.) One thing doesn’t look quite right though: Grands illustrateurs, les Mauriciens parlent aussi du «coq» ou du «cabot».
    I’ve never heard cabot being used in place of gogote, bibite, ploque, coq… (It has more to do with a kind of amphibian little fish, or with dogs to some extent.) Cabot for penis is used in Reunion instead — an island where, if I’m not mistaken, “cabot tête rose” could be a derogatory way to refer to a White man as well as, guess it, part of a broader insult.
    To shed more light on the origin of gogote (not to be con-fused with L’Origine du monde), there is a book similar to the one you are referring to (Contribution à un inventaire des particularités lexicales de l’île Maurice), in which we have, at the entry for gogote (feminine in Mauritius), the following etymology: “fonds français ancien, avec cependant un changement de sens, puisque ce terme signifiait: “membre viril sans force, membre d’enfant” [Chaudenson, 1974: 774].” Could the Slovak kokot have a French origin, or vice versa? It sounds doubtful but who knows…
    Le t., qui est peut-être en rapport avec gogue: “andouille, boudin” explique la métaphore
    It looks as if the author didn’t think about another possibility: “les gogues”, the toilets.
    With the double t spelling, it is in current usage in France as meaning a sort of fossil formed of compacted sand – not a swearword.
    That’s another funny one. I’ve never heard about it (and neither has the Trésor de la Langue Française) but someone is actually selling a “belle gogotte” on eBay, for just 40 euros. Might be worth the money.

  5. Christophe Strobbe says

    Did you know that Chomky’s thesis draft for “The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory” (mentioned in Robin J. Sowards’s article) is now available from http://alpha-leonis.lids.mit.edu/chomsky/ ? It’s a PDF generated from TIFF images based on a microfilm version.

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