In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

American Speech 79.1 (2004) 110-112

[Access article in PDF]

Meaningful Infixing:
a Nonexpletive Form

Michael Adams
Albright College

According to James B. McMillan (1980, 163), infixing generates a lexeme with "a polysyllabic word as the matrix and an emotional intensifier (an expletive or a euphemism) as the insert," such as guaranfuckingtee or unfuckingbelievable. Infixes are "emotive stress amplifier[s]," and inserts are usually semantically neutral, though recent evidence proves that infixes (and interposings) can take meaningful inserts on occasion, whenever a meaningful infix (or interposing) best serves a complex, probably humorous, rhetorical situation (Adams 1999, 2001, 2002). McMillan (1980, 167) insisted that "some inserts which are not expletives and which add lexical meaning to their matrices rather than emotive intensity should not be classified as infixes" and illustrated the point with, among other literary coinages, Gerard Manly Hopkins's wind-lilylocks-laced and E. E. Cummings's democra(caveat emptor)cy, which, he suggested, were examples of tmesis, or perhaps diacope, rather than infixing. While every rule admits exceptions, one finds it difficult to imagine a nonexpletive infix: all of the examples of meaningful infixes (and interposings) previously recorded are admirably expletive; the inserts "add lexical meaning to their matrices" IN ADDITION TO, not RATHER THAN "emotive intensity."

Nonetheless, a possible nonexpletive form is tucked away in an overlooked corner of American speech: "Slay the Critics," the letters to the editor section of Dark Horse Comics' series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic books. A correspondent named Brandon (2002, [27]) writes, "Fassbender & Pascoe, in my unprofessional opinion, need to take a leap of faith, and really do something to the Buffy-comicverse." In order to take the form as an infixing, one must take -comic- as the insert andrecognize Buffyverse 'world of all things relating to Buffy the Vampire Slayer or the television show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer', a quotidian blend of Buffy and universe, as the matrix.

As recorded in Slayer Slang: A "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" Lexicon (Adams 2003, 158-59), Buffyverse is fully lexicalized, illustrated in the glossary by 12 quotations, spanning 1999 to 2002, from sources as diverse as The Bronze and Bronze: Beta (official Buffy posting boards), a Buffy-relatedWeb site, a book about the television series, articles in American Libraries and Entertainment [End Page 110] Weekly, and essays from two scholarly collections about the show. The glossary also includes three quotations that illustrate the term's attributive use.

There are reasons, however, to question whether the form is an infixing at all. For instance, the Buffy in every other Buffyverse refers to the character, not to the show, and does not appear in italics, as it does in the form under scrutiny here. Also, it isn't clear why Buffy is separated from comicverse with a hyphen: one might interpret this as evidence of attributive compounding rather than infixing, with comicverse a novel blend; certainly, in "I'm hoping, wishing, you can get some fresh blood to pick up the Buffy-pencil," the sentence immediately preceding that with Buffy-comicverse, Buffy serves just such a formative purpose. Yet earlier in the paragraph, Brandon laments that he misses "the teens and the twenties of the Buffy comics," in which the attribution is accomplished without any hyphen. Or, as a referee for this article suggested, perhaps Brandon blends Buffy-comic and universe. Or perhaps the hyphen attempts to ensure that we understand the form as an infixing, by indicating that Buffy is not used merely attributively but as one component of a complex item.

And one might object to classifying Buffy-comicverse as an infix on McMillan's grounds: "sixteenth-century scholars imported the terms TMESIS and DIACOPE to describe the interruption of a compound by another word" (1980, 163). In other words, where an infixing or interposing is not an "emotional stress amplifier," we observe tmesis or diacope, instead. But neither classical rhetorical term quite captures the phenomenon described here. According to Lanham (1991, 49-50), diacope is "repetition of a word with one or a few words in between: 'My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed' (Peacham)," whereas...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 110-112
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2005
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.