"Arrival" gets the wug treatment

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Linguists have been having a field day with the movie "Arrival" (see: "'Arrival' arrives"). From Ollie Sayeed on Facebook, here's a playful take on the shot of Louise Banks (Amy Adams) holding up a whiteboard with the word "HUMAN" for the aliens' perusal.

If you're unfamiliar with Jean Berko Gleason's famous "wug test," check out Wikipedia, or see this piece from the public radio show "On Being." Finally, here's a video of Gleason administering the wug test, from the PBS Nova series "The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers."


  1. Christopher Henrich said,

    November 22, 2016 @ 10:10 pm

    Well, I would have described a little wug as a "wuglet". To me, "wug-ette" is marked as feminine, not small.

  2. Keith said,

    November 23, 2016 @ 2:47 am

    "-ette" is the feminine of "-et" which is a diminutive borrowed from French.
    I prefer the English diminutive suffix "-ling", also meaning "offspring of", like "duckling", "gosling", and of course "earthling".

  3. Andreas Johansson said,

    November 23, 2016 @ 5:16 am

    I once read a popsci book that used "wug" to mean "worm or bug" – apparently many languages have a word of that approximate meaning and the author found it convenient to have an English equivalent when making some anthropological point.

    (That I remember the word and not the point possibly suggests it was infelicitous as a communicative device.)

    Re "-ette", Wiktionary lists "small" and "feminine" as entirely separate meanings of the suffix (in English). I have a hard time not reading "small" into all occurrences, though, even ones where it clearly also means "feminine" (it doesn't help that women, generally speaking, are small from my tall guy point of view, so femininity itself tends to have connotations of smallness).

  4. David L said,

    November 23, 2016 @ 9:28 am

    "Kitchenette" = female kitchen
    "Maisonette" = female house
    "Baguette" = female, um, dunno…

  5. Ralph Hickok said,

    November 23, 2016 @ 10:16 am

    I assume that somewhere Gleason is more specific about she means when she says "young." "Young kid" to me could mean anyone from 0 to 11 years old.

  6. Jonathan said,

    November 23, 2016 @ 11:00 am

    My mind is more Yiddish that I would have guessed, as 'wuggeleh' is what first came to mind.

  7. Rob Chametzky said,

    November 23, 2016 @ 11:13 am

    I exhort my classes to use "-ling" in "breadling," as a transparent replacement for the pointlessly opaque "roll", thus bringing at least some English more in line with, e.g., the more sensible "Broetchen" and "panecillo".

    Rob Chametzky

  8. Gregory Kusnick said,

    November 23, 2016 @ 5:06 pm

    If there were a pop star called Wug, his backup singers would be Wugettes.

  9. Zeppelin said,

    November 24, 2016 @ 7:00 pm

    It's a Wügchen, of course.

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