The shateria

By day it looks like this:

(#1) The washateria ( = laundromat) at 37th and Guadalupe in Austin TX

But UT linguistics professor Steve Wechsler reports that at night, thanks to a defect in the lighting, it looks like this:

(#2) The Austin shateria: shat + the -eria variant of the libfix -((e)t)eria ‘commercial establishment selling X or offering Xing as a service’

I get two possible interpretations, both risible: either the base X is shat, one of the possible PST/PSPs of the verb shit (so that a shateria sells shit as a product or offers shitting as a service); or it’s Shat, a nickname for the actor William Shatner (so that a Shateria sells Shatneriana or offers Shatner’s professional services as an actor, writer, producer, director, or huckster).

The libfix. Although the libfix was first reported as -((e)t)eria, playfully named Austin laundromats seem mostly to be washaterias, with an a rather than an e in the spelling of /ǝ/ in the second syllable, and indeed washateria seems to be the dominant spelling these days.

For some background on the playful libfix, see the -((e)t)eria section of Zwicky & Pullum on plain and expressive morphology (Berkeley Linguistics Society, 1987). The Google Ngram for washeteria / washateria shows both spellings attested throughout the history of the playful formation, but with a general preference for washateria, presumably a reflection of a favoring of a spellings for /ǝ/ in words perceived to be from the Anglo-Saxon stratum of the English vocabulary:

(#3) washeteria / washateria through 2008

The inflectional forms of the verb shit. There are three widely attested PST/PSPs of this verb (all listed in dictionaries, in particular NOAD): the completely regular shitted (compare pitted for the verb pit); the PST/PSP = BSE variant shit (compare hit for the verb hit); and the ablaut PST/PSP variant shat (compare sat for the verb sit). If I recall correctly, the second (in, say, The cat shit on my pillow this morning) is by far the most frequent, but the last is available for interpreting shateria < washateria.

William Shatner. I don’t know if he’s ever been nicknamed Shat (parallel to my being nicknamed Zwick, which has certainly happened), but at least some people who saw Steve Wechsler’s Facebook posting of #2 got that interpretation for shateria. From Wikipedia:

William Shatner (born March 22, 1931) is a Canadian actor, author, producer, and director. In his seven decades of television, Shatner became a cultural icon for his portrayal of James T. Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise, in the Star Trek franchise.

(#4) Shatner in Star Trek

(#5) Shatner just before his 87th birthday

One Response to “The shateria”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Chris Waigl on Facebook:

    Most of the remote communities in Alaska have one of those, and most go for the spelling with E (though I have a report with a footnote that explains the term like this: “Coin Laundry. Residents of the village come to the public “washeteria” (also spelled “washateria”) for hot showers and laundromat, as well as restrooms with running water and flush toilets.” They’re frequently the only public building, in addition to health clinic, school and sometimes tribal hall, with piped-in water and sewage. While searching I came upon a scientific paper that looks at correlations between washeteria closures in Kivalina (which is a village that’s being eroded into the sea by climate change and has massive issues with safe water provision) and health clinic visits for a number of infections. I wanted to find a picture of the one in Circle, which is on the road system, and I’ve used, but did’nt find any. Even the Google Streetview car stopped 10 miles outside. (Huh, the road isn’t THAT bad.) So here’s the one in Beaver, which is fly-in and float-in only in the summer.

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