Monday, June 25, 2007

The Origins of Language

Yikes. What have I done?

In a comment to my post on Mommy Boats, Edward from EVK4 Bloglet said that he hoped that the phrase Mommy Boats would get into the everyday lexicon as it should shame a few dads and coaches from driving Mommy Boats. While agreeing with his sentiment I laughed at the idea that it would catch on.

Then today on M Squared in a post entitled Little League Sailing, the author writes: "When kids race solo ... they're sometimes followed around the course... by a parent. Such support boats are often referred to as Mommy Boats." My emphasis.

Often? What's going on here? I don't remember hearing the phrase "Mommy Boats" before I invented it in a burst of sarcastic indignation a few days ago. Can it be that it has been used before? Let's see what Google can find.

Hmmm only a handful of hits for the exact phrase.

One is for the use of the phrase, "Look Mommy, boats!" Not at all the same thing.

One is for a forum where someone asked the question, "Where do boats come from?" and got the answer, "Mommy boats get together with Daddy boats, then baby boats come out." Ha ha.

Pursuing that theme further, one is for a site that if I linked to it or just repeated some of the words on it, my coveted PG rating would be downgraded immediately. I don't even want to know exactly what Mommy and a boat were doing to each other in this context.

One is the original post on Proper Course.

One is the M Squared post linking to Proper Course that says the phrase is "often" used.

And all the others seem to be sailing news sites, or social bookmarking sites, or blog scrapers, that link to or copied the material from Proper Course. So if a phrase falls in the forest and Google's not around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes.

So is this is how new language usage starts? Someone uses a phrase. A dozen people repeat it. Someone assumes that the phrase is in current usage. Somehow the myth that it's in common use gets on to the web. And the rest is history.

What have I done? Someone please tell me it ain't so.


merrifie said...

Poor choice of words on my part. I have not heard the phrase "Mommy Boat" before but find it so apropos that I assumed its use was more common. I've amended my post to read, "Such support boats shall now be referred to as "Mommy Boats"". Please excuse my faux pas!

EVK4 said...

Tillerman, get out of your mommy boat and just ride the wave of language creation. sheesh, I'm going to report you to DAMB.

Tillerman said...

I wasn't getting at you m squared. I was flattered that my concoction had been assumed to be common usage so soon.

Carol Anne said...

Weird things happen to the English language all the time. One interesting phenomenon is the verbification of nouns.

One example recently was a school board member who was talking about administrative malfeasance. He said the district had no good way "to consequence" offenders.

I believe your contribution to the language is far superior to his.

Tillerman said...

Is "verbification" an example of nounification of the verb "verbify" which is itself a verbification of the noun "verb"?

Mal Kiely [Lancelots Pram] said...

Brilliant! Congratulations to your adding of the vocab of sailing! Yay! heh heh. Thankfully we don't have Mommy Boats where I sail... they'd just get plain laughed at, and wamped for the hell of it :)
Mal :)

Carol Anne said...


EVK4 said...

verbify is in the dictionary. That, to me at least, is a license to verbify the hell out of words.

Anyone who says differently is Mommyboating.

Tillerman said...

Your verbification is showing.

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