1443: Language Nerd

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
Language Nerd
Not to go all sentence fragment on you.
Title text: Not to go all sentence fragment on you.


Parts of speech can be treated fluidly, in English and other languages. For example, "medalled" has been coined as a word meaning "gained a medal" in a sporting competition, implying the existence of the verb "to medal" meaning "to win a medal". Megan, in conversation with Cueball, similarly creates new meanings from existing words: firstly, she uses the adjective "legit" (a slang abbreviation of "legitimate") as an adverb to mean "legitimately"; secondly, she uses the noun "adverb" as a verb meaning "to turn a non-adverb into an adverb"; and thirdly, she uses the noun phrase "language nerd" as an adjective. All three are used in the past tense.

Megan uses the words "verbed" and "adjectived" without any comment, implying that the acts of "verbing" the nouns "verb" and "adjective" are so natural and long-established that they are unremarkable (although the fact that "adjectived" came after "verbed" may also have something to do with the latter's non-mention), even if grammatical purists might decry such usage. An example of a change of parts of speech that is widely accepted is the gerund, which is nothing more than the use of a verb or verb-phrase as a noun; for instance, "I enjoy reading," and "the best thing for your health is not smoking".

Added humor is gained by the self-referential nature of Megan's sentence. She uses fluid parts of speech, and also refers to that very same use, in one sentence.

The title text, "Not to go all sentence fragment on you," is an implicitly self-referential sentence fragment, containing neither an explicit subject nor a predicate. It can be converted into a full sentence by rephrasing it something like, "I do not mean to go all sentence fragment on you, but..." It is also funnier because, as well as being self-referential, it also refers to the main comic by adjectiving the noun-phrase "sentence fragment".


Megan: I don't mean to go all language nerd on you, but I just legit adverbed "legit", verbed "adverb", and adjectived "language nerd".

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


I got edit-conflicted (not a problem), but if someone wants to consider canibalising/correcting my own intended contribution, and then completely delete this comment (please!), here's what it was:

The English language (and others) can be, and often is, treated quite fluidly with regard to certain word forms. For example "medalled" has been coined as the act of "having gained a medal" in a sporting competition. (Not to be confused with "meddled".) "Verbed" (i.e. to have made a non-verb form into a verb form) is a more long-standing example which is used in this comic without any form of meta-reference and has perhaps gained greater acceptance, already, even amongst those who might decry the other neologism.
In the comic, "legit" has been newly created as an adverb, possibly from the adjective "legitimate" (confusingly, since "legitimately" already exists as a usable adverb), "adverb" has been 'verbed' into "adverbed" and it is also pointed out that the noun clause "language nerd" has been used in an adjectival context, i.e. "adjectived".

And I had also made the edit summary say "It's probably infinitely improvable, but I've stop-gapped an initial explanation and commentified some additionalifications you might have some usiness for.", but that's probably no use to anyone. 08:53, 5 November 2014 (UTC)

Indubitably. Jarod997 (talk) 14:17, 5 November 2014 (UTC)

I wonder if this is also an homage to the Calvin and Hobbes comic where Calvin likes to "verb" words. 14:28, 5 November 2014 (UTC)

"Verbing words weirds language" came to mind when I read today's comic, but I'd forgotten the source - thanks for that! DivePeak (talk) 01:58, 6 November 2014 (UTC)
This is definitely a reference to the Calvin and Hobbes strip. "Verbing weirds language" is a famous phrase among linguists. 03:08, 6 November 2014 (UTC)

What group who "might decry the other neologism[s]" accepts "verbed"? Djbrasier (talk) 17:17, 5 November 2014 (UTC)

I'm slightly confused about the "adjectived language nerd" claim - can someone clarify or chime in with their opinion? If "language nerd" is describing "go," (i.e. describing the way in which he/she "[went] on you," wouldn't you say that it was actually being adverbed (as with legit)? Or should at be interpreted as describing he/she themself, in which case I guess adjectived is correct? 18:38, 5 November 2014 (UTC)

"Go (adjective)" is a modular expression that does turn adjectives into adverbs, but by using "language nerd" in that spot, it implies the phrase has been "adjectived" more than it has been "adverbed" [ex grat. "go yellow", "go bad", "go rogue", etc]. ArtDuck (talk) 04:03, 6 November 2014 (UTC)

If you are confused about the "adjectived language nerd", I would like to point you to the discussion of this comic by linguist Geoffrey K Pullum (http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=15576) xkcd gets Pullum's stamp of approval and that is high praise indeed for linguistic matters. 23:28, 5 November 2014 (UTC)

Pullum is being rather lax here, probably because he likes the strip so much, and even he just says that it's "arguably accurate," which I wouldn't characterize as high praise. "Language nerd" here is functioning as a predicate noun, which Pullum calls a predicative complement and Wikipedia calls a predicative nominal or predicate nominal. So "language nerd" here isn't really an adjective, any more than "language" is an adjective, notwithstanding that it modifies "nerd." 03:18, 6 November 2014 (UTC)

Megan didn't verb "verb". As with the comments pointing to the Calvin and Hobbes strip, "verbing" is already a thing. Smperron (talk) 07:06, 6 November 2014 (UTC)

I don't mean to go all anchronic nazi on XKCD, but when Megan says "I just", The meaning of the word 'just' in this sentence is "very recently; in the immediate past." However at the point of saying the word 'just', she actually hasn't yet done the thing which she is about to describe., hence it would be more correct to say "I am legit adverbing 'legit', I just verbed adverb, etc..". Unless a sentence is like a database transaction and the period at the end is the COMMIT statement, in which case you can only evaluate the sentence once you reach the end. Is it possible to overthink things in XKCD? 03:46, 8 November 2014 (UTC)

Seems to be the rule here. Nonetheless, you raise an iteresting point. 00:01, 1 December 2015 (UTC)

"Megan uses the word adverbed without any comment" <- this is wrong because she says "I just verbed adverb" 22:55, 3 December 2014 (UTC)