or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Poultry in Motion

Tonight on the way home from work I saw a sign (one of those white plastic backlit jobs that you slide letters into) advertising "CHICKEN NUGETS", which I thought was sort of adorable, to be honest. Did they run out of the letter "g"? Did someone just screw up a little bit? Did the sign drone honestly not know how to spell "nugget"? Whatever: I don't eat them--they're more heavily processed than Beyonce's hair--but I'm probably going to have to call them "nugets" from now on. Chicken nougats!

A more interesting, and completely inexcusable, mistake which I also saw tonight was in a recipe book at work. It had about a hundred different kinds of cupcakes, with instructions on how to frost them all to make them look like people or Easter eggs or, in this case, a Thanksgiving turkey. I mean a live one, not a cooked one, though that would be at least as interesting. The instructions tell you how to make the turkey's feathers, its comb, and its "waddle".

Oh, really?

A turkey may have a waddle, but that's how it walks. The part of its body being described is actually the "wattle", which is the dangly flap of skin hanging from its throat. Yes, I know that in casual speech the sound "-tt-" (whether a glottal stop or a hard-edged consonant) is frequently rounded into a "-dd-" instead. There's still no excuse for mistakes like that in professionally produced publications. When I see one in a cookbook, it's really the worst of all, because the recipes therein automatically seem suspect. Are they going to ask me to use a tablespoonful of baking soda instead of a teaspoonful?

"Waddle", by the way, is a verb form called a frequentative, which isn't a living part of English any more: there are quite a few frequentatives in the language, but they're all artifacts--we don't make them any more. A frequentative is a word that expresses continued or repetitive action, and in English is denoted by the suffix "-le" or "-er". "Sparkle", for instance, is the frequentative of "spark", and likewise "suckle" derives from "suck" and "flicker" from "flick": "waddle" is the frequentative of "wade", and both are what ducks do. Isn't that a wonderful thing to know?


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