Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Linguistics and Humor

Gosh, has it really been nearly a month since my last post? I suppose it has.  At least, I presume the site doesn't lie.  June 22nd to July 16th is--well, quite almost, nearly a month. I suck, don't I?

But wait!  I really do want to talk about linguistics and humor.  But first, how 'bout I 'splain, briefly, why I've been such a slacker?

I'm in Pennsylvania now, for one thing.  I know, when I started this blog I was in Virginia, and then I was in Tennessee.  Memphis is Memphis, and some day, if you meet me in person and perhaps wet my lips with a little bit of alcoholic beverage, I'll give you some details about why I'm chuckling to be outta there.  But since the last post, I managed to stuff all of my--well, my stuff--into storage, and I'm now living in the second bedroom of my brother's house in The Keystone State.  It's been a challenge in more ways than one, but I'm finally back to where I might actually be able to start writing seriously once again.

That said--TWP!  No, no, just kidding, if you understood what I said.

Now, some of you might have no idea what I just said.  It is, after all, three English consonants, which means that technically it's not an English word.  It might be an English acronym, of course, but often those are represented T.W.P. rather than TWP. Often, but not always.

However, if you know Welsh, or if you've read my latest novel Prophecy, you know that "twp" means "idiot."  See, Welsh needs vowels, too, but luckily for them they held on to the double-u as a vowel as well.  Twp, then, is pronounced toop in Welsh, and is an insult.

Why, then, does it seem to be on so many road signs in eastern Pennsylvania?

The first time we saw it was leaving the PA Turnpike headed toward New Hope on Highway 202.  It was used in a road name, and I shook my head: surely they can't know what the word means.  After all, Twp is also the abbreviation for township, sometimes.  Just a little way down the highway, though, we happened upon Welsh Road, and, I confess, that set me to wondering.

Then, today, in our driving up and down the Delaware River, I saw it on a sign again.

No, seriously, there's nothing like seeing a sign and your brain interpreting it as "Idiot Road."

Could that Twp today have stood for Township?  I suppose it could.  English, after all, isn't all that good at delineating the distinction between a word and an acronym. In any event, I hope it does.  I really do hope nobody would name their street Stupid Road on purpose.