Morphophonetic aesthetics

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At Non Sequitur, for the past few days, Danae has been bingeing on "words that are fun to say out loud, and when you say them over and over, they get to sound even funnier":

Her father Joe is susceptible to similar lexical-earworm infection:

Father and daughter have taken this trip at least once before, in the strip for 11/28/2005:

Is there a commonly-used word or phrase for this kind of irrational pleasure associated with repeated performance of a particular word? I've previously suggested "word attraction", but this lacks charisma, and on reflection, it's not really accurate anyhow.



45 Comments

  1. richard howland-bolton said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

    Perhaps 'Zippyism' or 'Pinheadics' in reference to another perp of the crime.

  2. Joel Shaver said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

    Reminds me of the Vestibules' 'Bulbous Bouffant':
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uuCNAwXGaQ

  3. Stan said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

    How about euphonia or euphornia? Like euphony, but with added euphoria.
    Or echophoria, to emphasise the repetitive aspect.

    I don't think the pleasure is irrational, BTW. Not necessarily, anyway.

  4. Julie said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

    Another fun example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uuCNAwXGaQ

  5. Julie said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 2:27 pm

    I can't delete that, can I?

  6. Natalia said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 2:27 pm

    well, i don't know about you, but i'll start using ur "lexical earworm"! :)

  7. Wm Annis said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

    Thrulemania? From θρυλέω, which means "chatter" but also "repeat over and over." "Thrulemantic fugue" is nicely recursive (if only for me).

  8. Pflaumbaum said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

    Reverberations (or even reverborations)

    Iteration Titillation (Iteratio titillans)

    Autopolylexitychia

    Logologophilia

    Logologologophilia (etc.)

  9. Rubrick said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

    Lexiphoria?

  10. Graham said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

    Mitochondrion!

  11. Marc said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

    Euphornia is perfect!

  12. LDavidH said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

    But what about the opposite phenomenon, when for one reason or another you see or hear a perfectly ordinary every-day word repeated, and it suddenly seems utterly odd and alien – is there a word for that?

  13. Caitlin Burke said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

    Whatever it's called, I have a bad case of it. I get new compulsions regularly, and I have a few classics I can always turn to. I love words that end in "umps," and I never get tired of the sound of "roller skates." Generally, -umps words notwithstanding, I'd say my compulsions are for dactyls. I just love the rhythm of them. Oh! Also words that end in "ipple"! Oh, and how about "nozzle"?!

    Where does it end, really?

  14. Matt said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

    @LDavidH – Semantic satiation

  15. Dan K said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

    I'll second LDavidH's request. I don't think words even have to be repeated to be, uh, de-lexicalized. I once spent a few days making up a list of pronounceable nonwords for a study, by hand. I generated the word "lunch" at least twice. To this day I'm half convinced that it's the five-letter word that least deserves its status as a word. Maybe this should be called "alien word syndrome," analogous to alien hand.

  16. R said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

    My colleagues and I describe this activity (repeating words for the sound sex of it) as stimming. Because linguists are all a little autistic. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stimming)

  17. John Burgess said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

    LDavidH: When I used to teach ESL, this would often happen to me. There would be a class repetition exercise and, after a few minutes, the word I was saying for them to repeat would suddenly make no sense at all. I haven't a clue if there's a name for the phenomenon.

  18. Nathan said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 3:34 pm

    LDavidH and John Burgess: Your phenomenon has been covered on LL before, under the name of word weirding.

  19. Mr Fnortner said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

    For the impairment: Repetition induced verbal auditory agnosia.

    For the pleasure of inducing said impairment: oralgasm.

  20. LDavidH said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

    Thanks, all – very interesting! At least I'm not the only one it happens to…

  21. William Young said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

    Richard Howland-Bolton has a good point; I clearly recall Zippy going on a mantra-like bout of repeating "Blaupunkt" purely for the mouthfeel and all.

  22. Jarek Weckwerth said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

    Word glee?

  23. Chandra said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

    Well, she does say they "get to sound even funnier", so this in fact seems to be a case of echophoric lexical-earworm word weirding.

  24. db48x said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

    'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' is such a word, if I recall the song correctly.

  25. Brian said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

    When I first saw "euphornia" I thought it said "euphomania". I think I actually like that one.

  26. Amy Stoller said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 8:35 pm

    Lexury. Lexurious. Lexuriating lexuriously.

    My favorite word combination for sheer lexiliciousness is "sanginary lycanthrope" – not because it sounds funny, but for the sheer delight of saying it.

  27. Matt Baldwin said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 8:40 pm

    My father the physician suggests "lexical extinction" for the phenomenon of a word losing its meaning, patterned after the name for the way a smell ceases to offend after we get used to it, "olfactory extinction."

    This article, about memory extinction in Drosophilia, also uses terms such as "decay" and "interference" for the phenomenon: http://www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S0896-6273%2802%2900832-2

    As for what one reader is calling euphornia, I like the word "stimming" very much for that behavior.

    Yet, I suspect that a good term for it could be built out of the Greek λαλέω. "Glossalalia" (speaking in tongues), is built upon this word, which signifies mere speaking, in contrast to λέγω, which is rational speech.

    Lalalalia suggests itself.

  28. Darla-Jean Weaterford said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

    Julie–I'm glad you *didn't* delete "Bulbous Bouffant"; it's a hoot. Except that now I'm going to have weird words banging around in my head all night and making me laugh…..

  29. Matt Baldwin said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 8:54 pm

    Addendum: is there a name for the phenomenon when you coin a new word and then decide you think it is kinda brilliant? I suspect more than one of us in this thread may have had that experience.

  30. Dan Bruno said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 10:16 pm

    Also at least a little related — Monty Python's "Woody and Tinny Words" sketch. (Specifically the woody ones, of course.)

  31. Estef said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

    Mouth Feel?

  32. Nathan Myers said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 11:22 pm

    On a side note, the use of "tuberculosis" near the end of the Bulbous Bouffant sketch brings me down every time. I don't have an aversion to the word itself, but to the insertion of an image of painful, grisly death into the playful performance. "Tsunami" could be fun for an English speaker to practice saying correctly, but I wouldn't do it in public just now. "Temblor", similarly, or "radionuclides".

    I'd like a version that used a less loaded word better.

  33. hector said,

    April 8, 2011 @ 11:58 pm

    Personally, I think you shouldn't coin a term for it, because the minute the phenomenon had been "named" it wouldn't be quite as much fun. Really, this is just a childish delight in the sounds of words. Children don't need labels for fun, silly things, and adults, once they have a label for something, are less likely to indulge themselves childishly in the activity, because knowing what it's called reminds them they're adults. Of course, calling it something like "euphornia" would save most adults from ever learning the label.

  34. Derry said,

    April 9, 2011 @ 4:07 am

    Babies babble; adults addle?

  35. Pflaumbaum said,

    April 9, 2011 @ 5:59 am

    The only one so far suggested that actually answers MYL's request for a 'commonly-used word or phrase' is, I think, R's stimming.

    Still, it's is a shame if the term doesn't embody the activity. Stim-stimming?

  36. Mark F. said,

    April 9, 2011 @ 9:24 am

    One of my favorite bits of culture on this topic is here: http://dontknockmysmock.com/

  37. Atmir Ilias said,

    April 9, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

    Before creating the first word, the human thought was not on a zero point. They thought a lot to whom and which was related a phenomenon and after a long time of thinking, they put a name on it. When the primitive eyes saw the first day to start, or the first night, after they passed the unconscious level, they have remained so surprised, maybe for thousand of years. The second day was the same to the first one, and so on again and again. After every night it was the same day. They were identical, but at the same time they were typical and repeatable. It was for them like a rotation. The Sun kept repeating itself after a strange moon. Daylight kept repeating itself after every dark night. They thought there was only a singular day and only a singular night, but they just about were kept repeating themselves. The same was with a season, or a session. It was the same season that was going to be repeated, although there was more than one. When the season was repeating itself it was just the same one. (We say now that a season is one of the four periods into which the year is divided according to the weather. That's so wrong.) Thousand of years they kept seeing and things were doing same thing, and finally somehow they did find out the way to codify them. They did not create the word from the inside of themselves. The word was just there, outside in the repeatable Mother Nature. A thing had its repeatable-typical shape, sound, color, light. Trees, fruits, grass, animals, etc, were also continuously repeating themselves as the Sun. So was also the human need for food and to get rid of solid waste. The same was …… In their inside was only an unknown engine that it is still so hard to understand it.
    What did someone write down? Θρυλέω?
    It sounds like "Woman gave birth to….". The Albanian word for /woman/ is /gru/(geg). The Albanian has two words for / give birth/, two native: /le/ and /lind/; /gruja leu/,/ gruja leo/, or /gruja lindi/. After she gives birth to a baby, she is called /lehone/.
    Giving birth to a baby could be a repeatable process for a life itself, or could be just about anything?
    I can not understand only one thing. Where the English word "grow" came from?
    Please, do not write down that the "Θ" is a "the" sound. I know that.
    I do not know only that the first word was a name, or a verb, but I am sure that word was multiplied thousand times.
    Was that funny?
    Yes, of course. The language stays in a border between the idiotism and the rationalism.

  38. Ken Brown said,

    April 9, 2011 @ 1:54 pm

    "plug"

  39. seriously said,

    April 9, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

    There's a James Thurber story about the phenomenon cited by LDavidH and Caitlin Burke (repeating a common phrase until it seems utterly alien), but I can't remember the name of it. It involved names of cities like Perth Amboy.

    [(myl) The story is "More Alarms at Night".]

  40. BillC said,

    April 10, 2011 @ 11:55 am

    Some of the charm associated with words that are fun to repeat has to do with their rhythm. I enjoy reading the credits of Italian movies for the many wonderfully rhythmic and melodious Italian names which I attempt to read out-loud as the credits roll by. Japanese names come close – they are rythmic but not as melodious as Italian names. Much of this derives from the consonant-vowel alteration typical in both languages.

  41. Babayaga said,

    April 11, 2011 @ 1:59 am

    "bark nuggets"

  42. George said,

    April 11, 2011 @ 7:59 am

    There's a wonderful children's poem by Michael Rosen called "The Bathroom Diddler" that ends like this:

    Then I stick my finger down the plughole
    and scoop out the mucky stuff down there
    and then I stand and dream
    sucking on the sponge
    and then I stand and dream
    sucking on the sponge
    and dream sucking on the sponge
    sucking on the sponge
    on the sponge
    the sponge
    sponge.

    For me, it perfectly sums up that pleasure we can all get from repeating a word to the point where it becomes all sound and no meaning. And 'sponge' is a particularly good word to do it with.

  43. Mark said,

    April 11, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

    Great, thanks to @Pflaumbaum and @db48x I now have "chim chim cheree" stuck in my head:

    Stim StimineyStim StimineyStim Stim Stim-ming!

    A sweep is as luckyAs lucky can be

    Now I've gotten an earworm!

  44. Tracey said,

    August 8, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

    Euphilia or phonophilia….

  45. The Brothers Grimm and Their Phonology Habit | said,

    April 12, 2012 @ 1:59 pm

    […] was this exciting? Well, unlike theories like "This word is fun to say becuase I think it is", Grimm's law is testable. You can go out and take a picture of some non-pink stop […]

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