One more -tard

Michael Quinion’s treatment of the incipient libfix –tard (quoted from World Wide Words here, discussed on his affixes site here) omits what I believe to be by far the most frequent of the words with this libfix: the insult fucktard, defined in Sheidlower’s The F Word (3rd ed., p. 166) as “a despicably stupid person” (with cites from 1994 on).

Instead, Quinion picks celebutard as the “most common” of the words in this class, while admitting that it isn’t all that common. He also cites debutard, e-tard, lame-tard, scientard, conservatard, libtard/Libtard, and Avatard.

Why would Quinion have overlooked this item? Several possible reasons, not necessarily exclusive:

(1) Quinion is British, and fucktard might be heavily American: all of Sheidlower’s cites seem to be American; the many examples of fucktard you can google up are very predominantly American; and so, apparently are the sources of the 347 (!) definitions for the item in Urban Dictionary. So Quinion might not have noticed it.

(2) The examples that make it into print are mostly in reports of speech (in publications that allow fuck and words with fuck in them to appear in print); otherwise, the word appears in informal speech and writing (as in blogs). So Quinion might not have appreciated just how common fucktard is.

(3) The word is not only an insult, but a profane one, and Quinion might have left it off his list to spare his reader’s sensibilities. Certainly, some people are offended by it: Joe Clark reports to me that he “caused offence talking to a Canadian Oxford lexicographer about the word”. (A small irony here: The F Word is published by Oxford.)

Quinion is of course welcome to comment on fucktard and his treatment of it, and he probably will.

In any case, both parts of fucktard are understood non-literally (without reference to sexual acts or mental retardation), that is, as ritual insults.

Side note: googling on the word did pull up an instance of Fucktard McFucky, a type of Mc-naming pattern related to the ones mentioned briefly on Language Log in #5 here (the type X-y McXerson, as in Drinky McDrinkerson) and in #24 here (the type X-y McY, as in Drunky McPukeshoes), in the latter case referring to a wide-ranging discussion of jocular Mc-names on ADS-L in 2007.

6 Responses to “One more -tard”

  1. mollymooly Says:

    My money is on (1), but whether it applies only to “fucktard” or the whole “-tard” suffix I’m not sure. I’ve only heard of “Avatard”, and that as an Americanism. Of Quinions examples, “lame” and “debutante” are largely American words anyway (the specifically-British debutante is extinct since c.1954).

    I think “retarded” may be less PC in the US than UK; which paradoxically makes it more tempting in the US for naughty slang. I’ve also seen, on The Onion, tard as a nasty clipping of “retard”.

  2. irrationalpoint Says:

    “In any case, both parts of fucktard are understood non-literally (without reference to sexual acts or mental retardation), that is, as ritual insults.”

    Are being a ritual insult, and having reference to cognitive impairment mutually exclusive?


  3. Michael Quinion Says:

    Suggestion 1) is the main reason. It’s unfamiliar to me. Suggestion 2) is also significant, since I relied on printed sources for my research. That can’t, of course, be an excuse in a site that makes any attempt at all to be authoritative and comprehensive. I shall add it.

  4. -tards « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] words have some history on this blog, most recently in a January 2010 posting on fucktard, here, where I quoted Michael Quinion’s affixes entry on -tard words, which did cite […]

  5. Inventory of libfix postings « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] 1/24/10: One more –tard (link): on […]

  6. Playing with morphology « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Which brings us to the playful reptard, with the libfix -tard (postings on it here and here). […]

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