Edmonton Journal, “Of Selfies, Shelfies and Other Cray-Cray Language”

December 17, 2013

Elizabeth Withey, “Of Selfies, Shelfies and Other Cray-Cray Language” (Edmonton Journal, Dec. 17, 2013)

“There’s an element of playfulness to it,” American linguist Ben Zimmer says of the slang, which is popular online, in texting as well as face-to-face communication. “There’s fun in sharing this in-group code. These are forms of language you are sharing with a group that appreciates what you’re doing.”

Call it the cutesification of communication. Or diminutivization, if you’re sweet on linguistics. Diminutives are word tweaks that imply smallness or, in this case, affection and familiarity. The -ie or -y ending (pronounced “ee”) is one of the biggies, but other diminutives include -let, -ling, -ette and mini-. They make speech sound fun, casual, less pretentious. “The childishness of it is intentional,” says Zimmer, executive producer of vocabulary.com and language columnist for the Wall Street Journal. “It’s a way of being endearing to a particular subject in either a loving or condescending way.”

Read the rest here.

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