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161 7 Word Formation in HIMYM Jessie Sams How I Met Your Mother is a half-hour sitcom series created by Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, which began in 2005 and ran until its ninth and final season in 2013. While the series was not particularly ground-breaking in its premise of chronicling the romantic adventures of five white, educated, heterosexual males and females in their twenties and thirties living in New York City, the execution of its narrative can certainly be considered innovative. The series actually unfolded in the future, the year 2030, when Ted Mosby, the titular “I,” tells his two teenaged children the story of how he met their mother. Ted’s narrated memories are presented as flashbacks to what is actually present time for the viewer, namely, when the series started in 2005, future Ted told his children stories, which took place in 2005. These stories featured the series’ four other main characters: Ted’s friends from college Marshall and Lily, whose long-term relationship and mutual devotion motivate Ted in his own romantic quests; Ted’s on-again, off-again girlfriend Robin, a television journalist from Canada; and Barney , a committed bachelor and womanizer. Neither linear nor condensed, the story of how Ted met his children’s mother unfolds over nine seasons, with viewers having to wait until the final seconds of the season 8 finale to actually see the mother’s face. Ted is a hopeless romantic and initially thinks of each woman he dates as the potential future Mrs. Mosby. While his friends Marshall and Lily are in a committed relationship with each other, Barney is infamous for his one-night stands and plots to pick up women. Ted meets Robin in the first season, and throughout the show, their relationship oscillates 162 | Jessie Sams between romantic and platonic. At first, this causes viewers to wonder if Robin will ultimately turn out to be the mother, but it is soon made clear that this is not the case. How I Met Your Mother has enjoyed popularity and success as a television sitcom by distinguishing itself in both form and content. The signature flashback sequences of the series provide the viewers with background knowledge, allowing them to cultivate a relationship with the characters, follow their development, and, crucially, recognize recurring themes and references to past events. The success of the series is, to a large extent, also owing to the fact that it created a recognizable linguistic identity for the characters. In other words, the language used in certain episodes managed to transcend the plots, such that what the characters said often made a greater impression than what they did. This chapter considers the characters’ linguistic ingenuity; specifically, it presents examples of new words and analyzes the word formation processes behind them. Dialogue extracts from several different episodes are included,1 but the chapter draws mainly from the episodes “Slap Bet”2 and “Game Night.”3 For this reason, the next section is devoted to episode summaries, before we move on to introducing and illustrating word-formation processes. “Slap Bet” In this episode, Lily, Marshall, Ted, and Robin are together at their local bar when Barney enters and excitedly reports that the Sharper Image has opened its 500th store. In celebration, Barney explains, he wants to invite his friends to accompany him there, where he will treat them to a product of their choice. As everyone rushes to follow him out the door, he announces that they’re off to the mall, which stops Robin in her tracks. She blankly refuses to go, and the remainder of the episode centers on 1. Unless otherwise indicated, episodes referred to in this chapter were written by Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. 2. Written by Kourtney Kang. 3. Written by Chris Harris. Word Formation in HIMYM | 163 Robin’s secret and the mystery of her aversion to shopping malls. Marshall convinces Ted that Robin’s secret is that she is married, having had her wedding ceremony in a shopping mall. Barney, on the other hand, is sure that Robin is a former pornographic film star. Marshall and Barney agree to a slap bet: whoever is right about Robin gets to slap the face of the other as hard as he can. The slap bet between Marshall and Barney is revisited throughout the series. “Game Night” In this episode, it is revealed that whenever the friends partake in their regular game night, Marshall always wins. The group thus...


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