Splitting up: collaborative word-splitting

This is an extra, a little digression from the main “word splitting” postings — so this is installment 1.5 in the series of 3 — with something similar to the

legen-…wait for it!…-dary

example in my posting on enjambment. This time it’s

antici- …say it!… -pation

Both examples have an expression (in these examples, a multi-word expression, in fact an imperative VP, though these details aren’t crucial) inserted within a word, where it functions much like a pause. Call this Filled Pause Insertion (FPI).

The obvious parallel is to one of the topics of installment 3, Expletive Insertion (EI) in English — Minne-fuckin’-sota — though

the inserted material in EI is chosen from a small set of expletive words, while in FPI the menu of interruptions is much more open;

the inserted material in EI is integrated prosodically into the matrix word (EI is a kind of word formation), while in FPI it’s truly an interruption and is set off prosodically, by pauses; and

the inserted material in EI functions semantically like a modifier of the matrix word (Minne-fuckin’-sota ~ fuckin’ Minnesota), while in FPI it performs a separate speech act (a metalinguistic one) from the surrounding material.

In fact, the inserted material in FPI can come from someone other than the speaker of the matrix word (and the rest of the surrounding utterance), which is what’s happening in “antici- …say it!… -pation”.

The anticipation started with a July 28 Facebook posting by Aric Olnes, in which he exclaimed:

Ooh, Tim Curry is back. He appears in Masterpiece Mystery! on PBS’s Poirot X: Appointment With Death.
It makes me shiver with Antici “Say It” pation.

I got the Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) reference right off — here’s Curry as the transvestite scientist Frank N. Furter (or Frank-N-Furter) in Rocky:

(welcoming the innocent kids, played by Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick, to his Transylvanian castle). The musical moment comes in Dr. Furter’s song “Sweet Transvestite”:

“I see you shiver with antici …[long pause]… PAtion” — long pause for audience to shout out “SAY IT!”

You see, Rocky, which played for many years, late on Saturday nights, to audiences of wildly enthusiastic teenagers, is a genuine audience partici…say it!…pation movie. The kids — the nonconformists, the misfits, the queers, the outcasts, the despised nerds — turned up in costume, with an assortment of props (including rice and confetti to throw, which, I can attest, get into everything when the kids come home); selected kids acted the parts on stage along with the movie; and the audience shouted out retorts during it. (You can get audience participation scripts. I suppose showings still go on, but it can’t be anything like the old days.)

(On the surface of it, the movie should be totally objectionable to responsible adults, since it’s full of flamboyance, outrageous costumes, haircuts, and makeup, sexual perversions of several kinds, cross-dressing, vampirism, motorcycle gangs, and general tastelessness, and at the time it did enrage many authorities. But in fact — as my partner Jacques exclaimed in astonishment when I finally got a video he and I could watch together in the privacy of our own home, not getting in the way of the kids — it’s really quite sweet, not to mention funny in a fabulously broad way. And “Sweet Transvestite”, an all-out, show-stopping, Curry-strutting number, was his favorite part.)

In any case, there’s FPI where the interruptive material is directed by the speaker towards an audience, and there’s a collaborative variety where the audience breaks in on the speaker, addressing the speaker, so that the whole performance is a joint creation. There are obvious connections to participatory theater, jazz performance, song traditions where material is traded back and forth between performers and the audience, the Greek chorus, off-stage commentary, and so on. But in FPI outside intrusions work themselves all the way down inside words.

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