Pizza Boy outtakes

(About English, but in the context of a gay porn flick, with plain-language discussions of men’s bodies and mansex, so not for kids or the sexually modest.)

Two items of linguistic interest that came up in preparing a posting (soon to appear) on pizza boys as cultural figures, especially in gay porn, the great work of the genre being William Higgins’s 1986 The Pizza Boy: He Delivers. From scene 5 of the movie, the sexual slang canyon yodeling ‘anilingus’ and an occurrence of underwear as a plural count N.

The capsule description of scene 5: Steve Henson and Troy Ramsey take turns rimming and fucking each other. (The movie in general is “sexually democratic”, as I say in my posting about it: sucking, rimming, fucking, everybody enjoys both roles in the act.) In action (anuses and genitals cropped for modesty):

(#1) A focused Henson, about to tongue Ramsey

(#2) Henson enjoying Ramsey’s tongue (both are smiling)

Henson suggests canyon yodeling, approaches Ramsey in #1, rims him in this position, and asks him to sit on his face. Henson still has his underwear on in #1, but soon Ramsey will rip Henson’s underwear off to get access to his cock and ass. Henson protests, “I hope you realize — those are new underwear”, but he rapidly sacrifices the underwear for the sake of Ramsey’s enthusiastic rim job (in #2).

Sexual slang canyon yodeling ‘anilingus’. From GDoS:

v. yodel in the canyon (of love): 2 (also grin in the canyon (of love), yodel, yodel from the highest tower, yodel down/in/up the valley) to perform cunnilingus [first cites: three examples from Tijuana Bibles 1997 (c.1935 and c.1938)

n. canyon: 1 the vagina. [in yodel in the canyon, plus later cites in 1970 and 1980]  2 the anus. [one cite, from 1995, not in a gay male context]

In Pizza Boy, we see the metaphorical extension from ‘cunnilingus’ (sexual stimulation of the female genitals by tongue and lips) to gay male ‘anilingus’ (sexual stimulation of the anus by tongue and lips) — another instance of “the male anus viewed as a sexual organ”, as in my 7/26/13 posting. More generally, this is exporting vocabulary used for women to use for gay men.

PL C underwear ‘underpants‘. Steve Henson’s protest:

(1) … those are new underwear

shows plural subject-verb agreement (VAgr), with are rather than is, and plural anaphoric agreement (AnaphorAgr), with those rather than that. With the predicative noun underwear, the standard alternative would be:

(1′) … that is / that’s new underwear

And with other predicative nouns referentially similar to underwear, but formally plural, the alternatives would be

(1″) … those are new underpants / undershorts / underclothes / undies / briefs / boxers / skivvies

Pizza Boy was shot in 1985. More recently, these underwear are — with plural demonstrative agreement (DemAgr), in these underwear rather than this underwear, and plural VAgr, are rather than is — has widely appeared in underwear ads. It was reported with astonishment by Wilson Gray on ADS-L on 7/6/16, citing:

These Fruit of the Loom breathable underwear are perfect!

but it’s appeared with considerable frequency in material published over at least the past ten years, and it’s used for both women’s and men’s underwear. One example of each:

These Underwear Are Designed to Enhance Your Camel Toe [publicity for women’s panties] (link)

Oh God These Underwear Are Orgasmic [posting about Calvin Klein men’s micro modal trunks] (link)

And in a billboard ad for the anti-diarrheal product Imodium, but with men’s underwear front and center:

(#3) Don’t soil those expensive briefs!

I interpret these as involving what I’ll call PLunderwear: PL C(ount) underwear, but with an unmarked-PL item underwear (roughly similar to PL C sheep, as in these sheep are), indeed a PL-only item (with no corresponding SG — *one underwear but one sheep — so, closely similar to PL-only items like police — these police are, *this police is), rather than the standard SG M(ass) underwear (this/much underwear is).

An alternative analysis (floated by Larry Horn on ADS-L in a response to Wilson Gray’s posting) would take underwear in (1) and the like to be a COLL(ective) N — a subtype of C Ns — with (partially) notional syntax, syntactically functioning sometimes as singular, sometimes as plural, like the COLL N family: My family is/are ridiculous. But though notional syntax allows for plural VAgr, it doesn’t allow for plural DemAgr (this family, *these family — contrast these underwear above) or most other syntactic concomitants of plurality, so I reject the notional-plural proposal in favor of the PLunderwear analysis. More on this below.

I turn now to the conceptual underpinning for what I’ve just written. Before this, one more reference to scene 5 from Pizza Boy. My forthcoming posting on the porn flick features Steve Henson, but offers only brief mention of Troy Ramsey. I’d hoped to unite the two themes of this posting, canyon yodeling and underwear syntax, with an image of Troy Ramsey in his underwear, but I came up, um, short, and can only offer a shot of him out of his underwear, which seems to have been his characteristic state during his gay porn career:

(#4) Gratuitous male nudity in service of sexual slang and syntax

C/M, SG/PL, COLL/UNIT. There’s a Page on this blog on postings about C/M and related matters. An important posting is one I did on Language Log on 12/8/06, “Plural, mass, collective”. The first crucial point is that the categories in question — C/M, SG/PL (for C Ns), and COLL(ective) / UNIT(ary) (for C Ns; labeled +COLL/-COLL in that earlier posting) — are grammatical categories, manifested in morphosyntax, not semantic categories, though there are important systematic associations between the grammatical categories and semantics.

Note 1. Some PL Ns bear no mark of the PL category; some of these (police, for instance) are PL-only, but some (sheep, for instance) are zero-PLs, with the PL form identical to the SG.

Note 2. Some otherwise SG COLL Ns (like family) can have (partially) notional syntax, functioning either as SG for VAgr and AnaphorAgr with it/they or as PL (the whole family is/are coming for Thanksgiving; it/they will probably be in disarray) – but not for other syntactic purposes, particularly not for DemAgr (demonstrative determiner agreement) – this/that family, *these/those family – and only marginally for AnaphorAgr with demonstrative pronouns – this/that is my family, ?these/those are my family [pointing to a group of people].

PLunderwear doesn’t have the syntax of notionally plural COLL Ns: it does have plural VAgr and allow plural AnaphorAgr with the personal pronoun they, but it also shows plural DemAgr with the demonstrative determiners these/those and (as in (1)), plural AnaphorAgr with the demonstrative pronouns these/those.

Note 3. In their determiner selection, COLL Ns are neither PL C (many shrubs, *many family, two shrubs, *two family) nor SG M (much shrubbery, *much family), but resolutely SG C (one shrub, one family).

PLunderwear behaves like a PL C noun: non-standard how many underwear, only two (of the) underwear, etc.

Note 4, with complexities. The assignment of C/M is subject to variation for particular Ns; there are systematic conversions of C to M and vice versa; and the availability of notional syntax for COLL Ns varies from dialect to dialect (BrE is well-known for its notional plural syntax, in particular plural VAgr, for COLL Ns referring to groups of people: The committee are enthusiastic about the proposal, etc.)

Now back to work on pizza boys as cultural figures…

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