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May 3 5 tweets 1 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter

It’s time we had a little talk about your use of expletive infixation.

‘Expletive infixation’ is the linguistic term for profanity inserted into a word for emphasis.

(For this thread, we’ll use 'BLEEPING,' but feel free to substitute another word.)
Why do we say ‘fan-BLEEPING-tastic’ but not ‘fantas-BLEEPING-tic’?

The main reason, linguists believe, is that the curse word comes before the syllable that bears the primary stress. (The ‘tas’ is stressed in ‘fantastic.’)
Okay, but what about ‘unbelievable,’ where ‘liev’ is stressed?

If you say ‘unbe-BLEEPING-lievable,’ that follows the normal pattern.

But the equally familiar ‘un-BLEEPING-believable’ is an exception.

Either works. So listen to your heart.
These rules were never taught to you!

In fact, expletives were probably WITHHELD from you when you learned the language...

You innately acquired rules that govern the structure and pronunciation of words.

Your sub-BLEEPING-conscious is a powerful thing!
Try inserting an expletive in the following words.

(No need to respond with your answers, we’re a family-friendly dictionary.)


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More from @MerriamWebster

Apr 27
Something interesting you might not have realized: a number of words in English are nouns when you stress the first syllable but verbs when you stress the second.

"Your CONduct is better when you conDUCT yourself appropriately.”
“Always thank someone for a PREsent they preSENT to you.”

“With that INsult, you inSULT my intelligence.”

"You play a REcord but reCORD the music."

DEmi Moore/deMI Moore (jk)
Read 5 tweets
Apr 19
Here is an interesting adjective quirk that you probably aren’t even aware you are doing.

In English, adjectives seem to follow a specific order:

opinion - size - age - shape - color - origin - material - purpose - noun
“Lovely little old rectangular red American leather-bound Collegiate Dictionary “

“Collegiate rectangular little leather-bound American old little lovely Dictionary”
Here’s a mnemonic device to help you remember "opinion - size - age - shape - color - origin - material - purpose - noun."

(Just imagine you’re talking to a film icon & salad dressing mogul.)

"One Simple Adjective Sequence Code: Order Matters, Paul Newman."
Read 6 tweets
Apr 18
So it looks like Cypher is probably the superhero that has the largest vocabulary but who is 1B?
Mary is Poppin off
Read 4 tweets
Mar 29
"Why? Because she’s brought a ludicrously capacious bag. What’s even in there, huh? Flat shoes for the subway? Her lunch pail? I mean, Greg, it’s monstrous. It’s gargantuan. You could take it camping. You could slide it across the floor after a bank job." A Merriam-Webster tote bag
Read 5 tweets
Aug 23, 2022
It appears that someone used the word ‘irregardless’ on television last night, and as a result many people are feeling all sorts of rumbustious today.

We’d like to take this opportunity to welcome any questions you have about this word.

You may not like the answers.
You can ask why we define this word, whether there are other similar constructions in English, or if it's acceptable for you to use it.
Or you can simply shriek into the void about the cruelty of a world in which language does not follow the rules you think it should.
As a primer, here is a collection of some (but by no means all) of the evidence we have of this word’s use in published and edited prose, from the late 18th to the late 19th century. Image
Read 9 tweets
Jun 1, 2022
Writing Puzzle #25

Rework this sentence to fix the grammar:

"As she jogged along the beach, the large shark caught the eye of the lifeguard."
Congratulations to all of you who came up with the solution we had in mind, which was to clarify that the lifeguard (rather than the shark) was jogging on the beach.

Limericks this well done get an honorable mention, even if they don’t address the question:

Read 5 tweets

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