Synthetic compounds and back-formation: go-go truth-telling

Once I start looking at synthetic compounds and back-formation, new examples pop up all over the place. Two today: the synthetic compounds truth-teller (and truth-telling) and  go-go dancer (and go-go dancing) — from which, the verbs to truth-tell and to go-go dance.

truth-tell. From a letter to the editor (by Amanda Hitt) in the NYT today:

Mandatory reporting is intended to thwart long-form investigations by limiting the amount of evidence needed for successful prosecution. These clauses prematurely surface truth-tellers and allow management to retaliate against conscientious employees, framing the incident as isolated rather than systemic wrongdoing.

So: truth-tellers. The synthetic compounds truth-teller and truth-telling are amply attested. This instance is notable only in that it suggested to me that there might be back-formed to truth-tell out there. And so there is. Two intransitive examples from among a modest number:

Love @GroverNorquist how he truth-tells on the taxes rising in Obamacare while the journos are scribbling about the fiscal cliff soap opera. (link)

Let’s all take a break at this till he truth tells. (link)

go-go dance. This one came up in a write-up for Lucas pornstar Goran in the flick Undress for Success (one in a genre of gay porn devoted to sex between men in business suits; there’s even a site

When he’s not earning some cash as a trainer or porn star, he also likes to go-go dance.

Backtracking to the adjective go-go, in OED2:

a. Fashionable, ‘swinging’, ‘fabulous’, unrestrained; (of funds on the stock exchange) speculative. Cf. go adj. 2.

b. spec. Of a dancer or a dance, the music, etc., at a discothèque, strip club, etc.: full of verve, excitement, and movement (often deliberately erotic). Also as v. intr., to dance in this manner. Also go-gon. (also go-go-go) continual movement, hustle and bustle.

The first cite is from 1960. Then the OED has later cites for go-go girls (1965) and go-go dancer (1967); these go-go items are relatively recent. From Wikipedia:

Go-go dancers are dancers who are employed to entertain crowds at a discotheque. Go-go dancing originated in the early 1960s when women at the Peppermint Lounge in New York City began to get up on tables and dance the twist. There were many 1960s-era miniskirted clubgoers who wore what came to be called go-go boots to night clubs, so night club promoters in the mid‑1960s conceived the idea of hiring them to entertain the patrons.

… In gay clubs: Many gay clubs had male go-go dancers, often called go-go boys, from 1965 to 1968, after which few gay clubs had go-go dancers until 1988, when go-go dancing again became fashionable at gay clubs (and has remained so ever since).

Minibar’s Go-Go boys at the 2008 Chicago Gay Pride Parade;

(Note the money tucked into the waistband of one of the dancer’s briefs. Incidentally, I wonder if Goran, who’s a serious top, would dance in pink briefs — well, maybe for a good cause.)

In any case, we’ve had the synthetic compounds go-go dancer and go-go dancing for 50 years or so, so back-formation loomed, and there are in fact a modest number of cites (all intransitive, so far as I can tell). Here are three:

Granny Go-Go Danced Through Life (link)


[from a joke about men on the golf course boasting about their sons’ successes] The fourth man rejoins the group, and the first man says, “How’s your son doing these days?”

“Well, my son is gay, and he go-go dances in bars,” the guy replies.

There’s an awkward silence. “I’m not thrilled about his job,” the guy continues, “but he must be doing well. He’s got new a house, a Mercedes, and an impressive stock portfolio.” (link)

Always nice to end with a joke.


One Response to “Synthetic compounds and back-formation: go-go truth-telling”

  1. Mark A. Mandel Says:

    I’ve always wondered why we bother saying “back formation” instead of simply “backform”.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: