Posted by: gdevi | December 21, 2014

Partial Beyonce and Manspread

Lexicographers, get your pencils out. There are two new words crowding the sidewalks of the English language, calling attention to themselves in their suggestive get-up and go.

Manspread, the Urban Dictionary tells us, was coined back in April 2010, and means that situation “where a dude sits down on a chair and spreads out his legs to make a V shape with them.” The Urban Dictionary example is this one: “Dude I need to man spread, I have been on my feet all day.”

“Man spread,” as used above, is a verb, as in the to-infinitive: “to man spread.”

Note that in the Urban Dictionary entry, Manspread is two words — “man” and “spread.” The rule of compounding tells you that when a compound is first coined, users tend to hyphenate the new word in writing, or keep the words as two distinct morphemes in speech and writing. When its use becomes more or less naturalized, we drop the hyphen and confer a unique morphemic status to the new coinage.

The most recent use of “manspread” shows us the word has arrived. The word has lost the hyphen and it is one word now. In this Guardian report, New York subway users are cautioned about “manspreading” (a gerund participle) and “manspreaders” (a noun with an agentive suffix -er). The word has syntactically grown up.

“Partial Beyonce” is part of a family of neologisms that have styled themselves as a sort of classification system for the pop music industry. It takes a while to comprehend the manufactured claim to fame and hysteria of this term–who are these people?–but once you figure it out, it becomes evident that this term has a very limited scope and has no relevance outside its immediate purview.

In order to understand what a “partial Beyonce” is, you have to understand what a “Beyonce” is. Thankfully, the editors at the popjustice website has defined the various gradations of this term.

Did you follow the link, and read it? Good. Now you know what a Beyonce and a Partial Beyonce are.

The latest celebrity to achieve “partial Beyonce” is Madonna, according to this Guardian report. This report, in particular, has the potential to make language teachers wince at the gross misuse of English words. For instance, Madonna claims that the leak of her songs (and they are incredible songs as evinced by the titles — “Unapologetic Bitch,” and “Bitch I am Madonna”) amounts to “artistic rape” and a “form of terrorism.”  “Artistic rape,” strictly from a linguistic point of view, is an oxymoron, and an anomalous expression, on top of that. The semantic properties embedded in the words “artistic” do not entail the semantic properties embedded in the word “rape.”  It is amazing that illiterate people can make and sell music. It is not uncommon for words to be subjected to semantic drift over the course of time. But since when and how is leaking a song “a form of terrorism”?

“Beyonce,” “Partial Beyonce,” “to pull a Beyonce,” “Beyoncegeddon”  and “pulling a Beyonce,” illustrate several processes of derivational morphology. Of these, the first four are eponyms, where the name Beyonce is associated with certain things–here, apparently, a calculated marketing strategy to appropriate the greatest amount of attention and money to oneself by posting songs to itunes blah blah blah. (Read popjustice website above.)

Beyoncegeddon, in addition to being an eponym, is also a Blend: Beyonce + Armageddon.  My research took me to a 2013 Twitter posting where this term was used for the first time in an exchange about the Superbowl: “Gotta call it #Beyoncegeddon cause she caused all the power to go out.”  The Army of the Good will vanquish the Army of the Evil, not in the Biblical Plains of Har Magedon, but at the Superbowl. Amazing.

But apparently there was a time when Beyonce could not tell left from right. According to the Urban Dictionary, an alert poster noted in December 2006 that “pulling a Beyonce” means “to say one direction, but to go in another as in her live performance, where she sang “to the left” but pointed to the right.” The test sentence was: “Man, she was Pulling A Beyonce when she went right instead of left.”




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