Two notes on Wondermark

The Wondermark of the 24th (Permalink here), with David Malki providing more sharp social / political commentary on attitudes about poverty, gender, and race:

Two linguistic points: the portmanteau fauxtopia, the plural poors.

fauxtopia. The made-up utopian past! The word compacts faux utopia into a single portmanteau word.

It’s been created by others, of course. Remarkably, an elaborate invented land, with a complex website of its own. From Ray Kampf’s Fauxtopia Dedication of 4/1/04:

To all who come to this fictitious place: WELCOME.

Fauxtopia is your land. Here, age relives distorted memories of the past, and here, youth may savor the challenge of trying to understand the present. Fauxtopia is made up of the ideals, the dreams and the fuzzy facts which have re-created reality… with the hope that it will be a source of edutainment for all the world.

Compare my Gayland, the fantasy land of gay male porn, which I’ve posted about here many times.

poors. I don’t recall having seen a plural of the nouning poor (as in the poor ‘poor people’), but there are a fair number of uses on the net that seem to be from native speakers of English. For instance:

[Jezebel] Whole Foods Is Opening a Lower Cost Store Just For Poors (link)

[Gawker] OK GOP Very Sorry You Misread Their Post Comparing Poors to Wild Animals (link)

[Wonkette] Bobby Jindal Sticks It To Planned Parenthood By Screwing The Poors (link)

I suspect that poors arises from attempts to “fix” the nouning poor, which is plural in both sense and syntax, but lacks an inflectional mark of the plural (that is, it’s a species of “zero plural”).

2 Responses to “Two notes on Wondermark”

  1. David Malki ! (@malki) Says:

    I would venture to say the formation ‘poors’, as used in vernacular, implicitly carries a judgment: ‘this is how people who don’t relate to poor people would blithely mis-state the word, as if they are unfamiliar with the entire concept’.

    Thus you most often see it used ironically, put into the mouths of those (via paraphrases like those headlines) whom the writer presumes would condescend to the poor.

    I love that this sort of thing is being discussed! Eagle eye for language, you have.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    Nice observations. What I usually say about innovations that at first might strike people as unnecessary (because the language already has a standard way of conveying the meaning) is that those who use the innovations are conveying some semantic or pragmatic nuance not in the existing expressions — as you suggest here.
    Thanks for the compliment. But having an eagle eye for language is my business, so to speak. It’s what linguists do, and I’ve been a practicing linguist for over 50 years.

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