Sunday, May 8, 2011

Shit-talking, Etymologically Speaking

There’s talking shit in the casual sense, and then there’s talking shit in the psychological sense.
coprolalia (kah-pruh-LAY-lee-ah) — noun: obsessive of uncontrollable use of obscene language.
I found this one almost a year ago via A Word a Day and it’s been stewing ever since, waiting for the right moment to burst forth and ruin a dinner party.

The preceding imagery is doubly unpleasant, you see, for in addition to copralalia having everything to do with “F”- and “C”- and all other fun consonant-led swears, it is especially rooted in the “S”-word, because it comes from the Greek word for “shit.” Yep, the root korpos means “excrement,” and floats up in on all manner of unpleasant English words: among them, corprolite (fossilized excrement, or literally “stone shit”), coprology (the scientific pursuit of Dr. Poop, Ph.D.) and coprophagia (practiced by your dog, no matter how much you love him). The second root in coprolalia, -lalia, meaning “babble,” seems to exist in English only in the names of various speech disorders, such as alalia (the lack of speech), glossolalia (speaking in tongues) and echolalia (either the involuntarily repeating of others’ words or the imitative babbling of infants).

Of course, the immediate association most people would make upon learning of this word coprolalia would be Tourette’s syndrome, but Wikipedia states that only about ten percent of those with this affliction actually suffer from the need to append every other sentence with “shitballs dicklicker.” Those that do, I’m sure, would be even more frustrated to know that the technical term incorporates a word for “feces,” though I’d imagine they’d have little trouble talking about it.

Previous strange and wonderful words:
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