Friday, July 17, 2009

Dr. Boring: A Discourse on Language

Here begins the newest, most amazing musing from The Loudest Fan. Bow appropriately:

Dr. Boring here!

Recently, I have become enamored with the intricacies and miracles inherent within the modern English language, especially in regards to modern colloquialisms. In order to demonstrate this fascination, I have selected one amazing phrase that never ceases to amaze me: "Head on over."

Alright. My thesis here is that this is the most inherently understood colloquialism that is also absolutely impossible to understand on any semantic level.

To begin, I need to point out that this phrase is clearly understood by virtually everyone who can rightfully claim fluency in English in this day and age. The words, "Head on over," communicate nothing other than a command for one to immediately travel to a specific location. No other interpretation is afforded, period.

Now, we must look at this phrase from a new perspective in order to fully appreciate its mind-blowing complexities. The perspective necessary here is one of complete ignorance of any and all colloquialisms, which views the English language purely by the strict semantics that govern it.

Let's start with the first word, "head." Already, we are hit by a huge dose of ambiguity. "Head" not only means two entirely unrelated things, but each falls into one of the two most important parts of speech: noun and verb. As the top of something, or as the brain-housing part of the body, "head" operates as a noun. As traveling from one place to another, "head" operates as a verb. The only way to know which this "head" could be is to infer from the context.

This brings us to our next roadblock: no context. None of the rest of the phrase contains either subject or predicate. In fact, the other words are both prepositions, and prepositional phrases can exist freely in either the subject or the predicate. If this was a complete sentence, one could infer the rule of "You (understood)," but this is in no way a complete sentence. For as much as a semantic-driven interpreter is concerned, this sentence is already pure gibberish.

Finally, we are hit by a double-dose of syntactical impossibility. The sentence ends in a preposition, something unforgivable in the rules of grammar. No preposition can exist without an object following it. Not only does the sentence end with this abject failure, but it is preceded by exactly the same offense. The incompleteness, when placed in front of an otherwise complete sentence, is comparable to saying, "He went to a the."

Thus, we have an ambiguous word operating as either subject or predicate (but not both), with two empty prepositions that fail to provide any context to clue in the unfortunately ignorant interpreter.

Somehow, the human mind learns language differently from the logical "from the ground on up" (catch the impossibilities of that one?) approach to learning. Otherwise, a phrase like this could not possibly exist. Instead, we somehow manage to communicate succinctly and definitively to each other after learning through what is essentially an immersive clusterfuck. That, my friends, is nothing short of miraculous.

This is Dr. Boring, reminding you to eat your veggies, and signing out.


Taste the amazing, react here: