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SLAPSTICK

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SLAPSTICK

Postby Dr. Goodword » Thu Oct 13, 2005 10:25 pm

• slapstick •

Pronunciation: slæp-stik • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Two flat paddles used by Vaudeville comedians, one hinged to the other so that when something (or someone) is hit with it, one slaps against the other making much louder bang than expected. 2. [Noun, mass] The kind of crude humor based on knockabout melodrama and farce, with or without slapsticks.

Notes: Today's good and funny word came to us be way of synecdoche (no, not Schenectady). Synecdoche [si-nek-dê-kee] is a type of metaphor in which a part of something represents the whole. If your pal asks if you have wheels, meaning a car, he is guilty of synecdoche—a poet who doesn't know it! A slapstick was once a prop so tightly identified with broad humor that it became our word for that type of humor itself.

In Play: We usually associate slapstick with the movies with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, the Keystone Cops, the Marx Brothers and, last but not least, the Three Stooges. However, it is still alive and well in such recent movies as Dumb and Dumber. "Honestly, what he did at the office party was pure slapstick; he even put a lampshade on his head."

Word History: Today's word is a compound made up of two purely English words—how is that for a rarity? Stick was originally an instrumental noun from the verb stick "to poke", i.e. an instrument for poking. That is probably the same root in thistle, too, without the initial [s]. (The Fickle S is just about as common in Indo-European languages as the Fickle N.) It is related to Greek stigma, which we borrowed pretty much as is, a noun based on the verb stizein "to prick, tattoo". In Latin we find it in the stem -stigare "to spur, prod on", the stem of instigare, the origin of our instigate. (Today we owe a tip of the hat to Luis Alejandro Apiolaza, Uncronopio of the Agora. for wondering aloud what this Good Word is all about.)
Last edited by Dr. Goodword on Sun Oct 16, 2005 10:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: SLAPSTICK

Postby M. Henri Day » Fri Oct 14, 2005 4:45 pm

Dr. Goodword wrote: ...

(Today we owe a tip of the hat to M. Henri Day for wondering aloud in the Agora what this Good Word is all about.)


Alas, the honour is too great for my narrow shoulders to bear ! As near as I can reconstruct the chronology, on 16 June I posted a message to the Res Diversae forum, in which I reproduced an article by Julia Lovell on Chinese literature in the UK, which had been published five days earlier in the Guardian (that was in the good old days, when we were allowed to reproduce articles in extenso). It was in Ms Lovell's article that the term «slapstick» seems to have been mentioned for the first time on the Agora. But the honour of proposing it as GWotD properly belongs not to me, but to uncronopio, who posted his suggestion on 23 September. Hats off to him !...

Henri
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
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Postby Iterman » Sat Oct 15, 2005 6:53 am

The pronunciation of slapstick wasn't difficult. How about the pronunciation of synedoche, please!

Always trying to learn.

PS. Thanks Henri, but I'm looking in every other day.
Beg your pardon for my poor spelling and grammer.
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Postby M. Henri Day » Sat Oct 15, 2005 6:05 pm

Questions regarding standard US pronunciation can usually be answered by looking up the word in question in the AHD : here's what that work has to say about synecdoche : sǐ-nĕk'dǝ-kē. This business of pronouncing a Greek «η» as an English «ē» is, to my mind, a real pain in the posterior portion of the anatomy, but so can it go (and, of course, the modern Greeks, unlike their classical predecessors, do so all the time)....

Henri
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
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Credits

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Oct 16, 2005 10:40 pm

My apologies for scrambling the credits this month. Next month we will be more careful.
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Postby M. Henri Day » Tue Oct 18, 2005 4:52 pm

Promises, promises, promises...

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