September 04, 2006

-Vlicious invention

A little while back I looked at the Snickers coining substantialiscious, possibly a portmanteau of substantial and delicious, or an occurrence of a recent jocular suffix -Vlicious (spelled -alicious, -elicious, -ilicious, -olicious), maybe with a nod to luscious as well. I offered the further examples crunchalicious, crispalicious, and yummalicious, and passed on citations of a 1994 portmanteau sacrilicious from "The Simpsons", which some correspondents speculated might have been the model for the other examples.

Well, we can now toss the Simpsons idea, since there are cites of babelicious and blackalicious from 1992, which seems to have been a particularly morpholicious year.  The larger point is that -Vlicious words are likely to have been invented independently on many occasions, as portmanteaus, leading eventually to the emergence of the jocular suffix.  Some innovations in language have no clear single moment of creation, but arise as natural re-workings of the material of a language, by many different hands.

Babelicious turns up, not in "The Simpsons", but in another fount of popular culture, the movie "Wayne's World" (1992).  Andrew Whitby supplied the crucial quote to me:

[Talking about Claudia Schiffer]
Wayne Campbell: She's a babe.
Garth Algar: She's magically babelicious.
Wayne Campbell: She tested very high on the stroke-ability scale.

Babeolicious (with that spelling) made it into the Urban Dictionary in 2003, with the definition "A person good looking enough to eat!"  Google webhits include references to babeolicious dresses, hunky guys serving as "babeolicious eye-candy", the "über-babeolicious Emmy Jo" on the television show "The New Zoo Revue", the "babeolicious yet dull" Jadzia Dax in "Star Trek: Deep Space 9", you get the idea: high physical attractiveness.

Babelicious gets the following Urban Dictionary entry in 2005, from an enthusiastic Australian guy:

A combination of the words "babe" and "delicious", where "babe" refers to a very attractive woman, and "delicious" refers to the fact that you'd be onto her like a lion onto a prairie dog if she gave you the slightest encouragement. Things that are babelicious include supermodels, certain singers/actresses (if you're thinking Britney or Madonna here go and wash your mind out with soap), any female gymnast/contortionist over the age of 18, and that chick I walked past on the street on my way into work this morning.

Now, blackalicious.  Alexandra Zuser pointed me to the rap group Blackalicious, formed in that morpholicious year 1992.  Vast number of webhits.  It's not so clear that this is a portmanteau; this might just be -Vlicious conveying a highly positive evaluation.  The semantic development would be from 'extremely good tasting' (of food) to 'physically very attractive' (delighting senses other than taste) to 'intensely good'.

Some coinings in -Vlicious are pretty clearly portmanteaus: they refer to yummy food and drink (Eat'elicious, a London restaurant; sip-elicious; and bub'olicious, with reference to champagne, that is, to "bubbly"), and some of them also have first parts ending in d, which can then overlap with  the d of delicious (Bread-elicious; squidelicious -- "You can walk along with them on a stick and eat them like a lollipop. Squidelicious! (or is it Octopussilicious!?...)" (link); and bird foods BirD-elicious and Seed-elicious).

Portmanteauing of a word denoting food, eating, drink, or drinking with delicious is an entirely natural bit of word play, something that people could hit on on their own, or on exposure to ANY single example of the formation.  There's no need to search for an ur-portmanteau serving as a model for all the others.

Eventually, we leave the world of portmanteaus and reach X-Vlicious words that merely express a judgment of great goodness or intense Xness:  scarf-elicious, referring to an excellent scarf; a "Mac-alicious brain transplant", on the site; a photo showing lots of bikes and titled bike-olicious; a photo of a dog named Bug, which elicited the comment "You have captured the essence of Bug-olicious in this one".  In such examples, -Vlicious is a jocular suffix of approval.

Now, a little puzzle.  I have a recollection of a "Barney Miller" episode in which a man is arrested for assaulting someone responsible for a pickle ad that offends the assailant deeply.  I remember the pickle ad as having the text "It's crunch-crunch-crunchalicious" -- to which the assailant objected on the grounds that there is NO SUCH WORD as "crunchalicious".  No doubt I've mis-remembered the word, but it was certainly some jocular formation, and I'm sure about the pickles.  But I can find nothing relevant by searching for <"Barney Miller" pickle>.  Anybody have any idea what I'm thinking of here?

You can see why I'm asking.  The show "Barney Miller" ran from 1975 to 1982, so a "crunchalicious" (or something similar, like "crundelicious") in it would move the -Vlicious sightings back at least a decade before "Wayne's World" and Blackalicious.

[Breaking news: Paul Deppler reminds me of Bubblicious Gum, which, according to the wikipedia entry, dates back to 1977.  Forward into the past!  And now, Brett Altschul writes to observe, perceptively, that the "Wayne's World" exchange is surely modeled on Bubblicious Gum: "'She's magically babelicious,' must have been written with the gum specifically in mind, since the phrasing is also a joke related to marketing of sweets to children; it parodies the Lucky Charms slogan, 'They're magically delicious.'"]

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Posted by Arnold Zwicky at September 4, 2006 01:25 PM