From blasty-hoo to bushytail

1 02 2008

For the first time ever, I am going to attempt to explain what the hell it is I do in my head. Let’s start at the beginning: I used to count letters in words. All the time. First I counted steps, and then when I got over that I counted letters in words and phrases. After I counted them, I would subdivide them (EVENLY! It only counts if it’s evenly!) into new syllables and then listen to the new syllables. This worked up into longer words and phrases and I’m just saying I probably walked around 2nd grade with a constipated look on my face as I tried to keep track of the letters.

Now I rearrange letters in words and phrases. It keeps me pretty busy and highly amused. Examples, you say? That’s what you want? I’m only too happy to oblige! I’ve been curious lately about what’s going on in my head, so I’m going to try and detail some of these processes. I’ve got the how of it, but I’m definitely missing the what and the why.

Let’s begin with something simple, a two-word phrase or a multi-syllabic word like . . . aimed it.
First I think, aimit ed.
aben it
apin ed
aped in

This was a simple one and even though there are tons more things I could do with it, I’m already bored. But I will say that the above was a stock phrase that leaps to mind at any old time and I find it reassuring to always make the first few permutations before moving on.

How about . . . the thing in the title of this post? It could probably do with some explaining anyway.
“Blasty-hoo” is what I decided to call fireworks New Years Eve 2006 while mildly inebriated. That’s not the point. What’s good about it is that it’s a fun word all on its own and the first thing I heard afterwards was “bushytail.” But that was a bit of a process to get there, even though it happened pretty quickly in my strange head.
Okay! So we have blastyhoo. Something in me has decided that I like the b, the s, and the y where they are, but the lat and the hu sounds have to switch places. And I’ve also decided that a consonant must continue to follow the s instead of a vowel because, well because. Rules exist, even if I don’t always understand them. So . . .if the u and the h are moving to the front part, but the b, s, and y must stay where they are, and s must be followed by the consonant rather than the vowel, we get “bushy.” That part is done. But what happens to the lat? Well, since the u and h have been reversed from their original positions in relation to each other, then the lat must change to tal. Also, I should have mentioned that the properties of the vowels stay behind, so if something was a short vowel in one position, no matter what vowel might go there must become a short vowel. Same goes for long vowels. That’s how we got bushy instead of boooshy. And that’s why we get tail. So, blasty-hoo becomes bushytail.

Please note that these rules were in my head WAY before I took linguistics or learned phonology and the IPA. So when I talk about it, I’m not using the same terms that I would use if I were describing data for a class or a project. But I would like to start looking for patterns the way I would with phonological data. Maybe there’s something I do, there must be some pattern to the vowels I choose, or the consonants. Maybe I favor moving stops over fricatives, maybe I think that liquids have special rules.

And! If anyone reads this and decides that they want to start some linguistic project, fuck off. It’s mine and I’m already working on becoming a linguist. Don’t steal my thunder, man. But if someone reads this and they’ve heard of this kind of thing or, even better, they do a similar thing, please tell me about it! I’m going to keep posting stuff like this so I can keep track of it. Stay tuned.

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One response

10 03 2008
derek

ok, you really are my kin. 🙂 although i would typically subdivide words (or groups of words) numerically, into groupings of 3-5 letters, ideally into equally sized chunks and balanced around any non-standard-remainder-sized chunk in the middle. (optimized for the minimum sum-of-squares delta between chunk sizes) predictably, I dislike words with a prime number of letters. and i like not necessarily a 1:1 relationship between constants and vowels, but at least an even and regular distribution. (and *love* palindromes)

hmmm… maybe this is why you’re studying linguistics and I’m studying statistical natural language processing. =P

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