March 10, 2006

Best. Snowclone. EVAR.

In response to Ben Zimmer's comment on my 3/9/2006 post Respect, Philip Brooks wrote to observe

Regarding the "Best * Ever" snowclone you mentioned recently on Language Log: I sometimes see or hear "Best * EVAR" (usually in caps like that when written, or yelled if verbalized, with the "ar" sounding the same as in the word "mar"). People also often write periods after each word for emphasis. I think it may have started with the cartoon Invader Zim, or at least that's the first place remember hearing it.

I don't know one way or the other about the Invader Zim attribution -- that's a piece of pop culture I managed somehow to miss, and the current Invader Zim wikipedia entry doesn't include the string "evar". However, {"best * EVAR"} gets 343,000 Google hits, so this should be a fertile field for future scholarship. Some values from the first couple of pages: game, joke, YTMND, emksaplation, webcomic, controllar, phonescams, prezzunt, birfday, emoticon, computar, ...

I'm not sure whether the "-ar" orthography started as an in-group dialect reference, or whether people have been adjusting their pronunciation under the influence of this spelling, but for several years I've been hearing occasional youth-culture emphatic forms of words like "ever", "never", "over", etc., in which the vowel of the last syllable (though still rhotic) is lowered and backed. In terms of my own dialect, that's away from the vowel of stir and towards the vowel of star.

Note by the way that the Wikipedia entry on Typographical error gives

teh best thign evar!!1!one!1!!

as a characteristic example of an error caused by careless typing, or more precisely an imitation of such an error, used to ridicule hackers with poor keyboard control (where the digit 1's are caused by letting the shift key up too early while repeating exclamation points, and the "one" is introduced by a critic in order to draw attention to this mistake).

[Ben Zimmer points out that in Clueless ("Jane Austen's Emma meets Beverley Hills 90210"), the character Amber says "whatevar" accompanied by the "W" hand sign.]

[Arthaey Angosii writes that he doesn't know anything more about the origins of -ar-ism, but can contribute some information about its radiation into another culture:

I often see it written in l337: "ev4r" returns 9,420 ghits. This is still half as many as "ev3r" with 20,800 ghits. But my l337-senses ;) tell me that the 4 looks more l337 than the 3.


Posted by Mark Liberman at March 10, 2006 01:28 PM