January 20, 2007

The evolution of Zippytainment

Today's Zippy strip takes us from entertainment to infotainment to confrontainment to laundrotainment.  The words are all attested, and in rapidly descending frequency in the order Bill Griffith gives them.

First the cartoon:

I get almost 200 million raw Google webhits for "entertainment"; over a million hits for "infotainment", including a Wikipedia page (there are also over a million for "edutainment" and again a Wikipedia page); 61 hits for "confrontainment" (two below); and only 2 for "laundrotainment" (both below).  The rate of descent in frequency ratios isn't constant -- the ratios are 200:1, 16,393:1, and 30.5:1 -- but Griffith certainly has the words in the right order.


The second, of course, is the growth of so-called "trash TV" - or, as one of its principals calls it, "confrontainment." (link)

[about Andy Kaufman] A pioneer of the "confrontainment" style of comedy, his stand-up routines and professional wrestling appearances often transformed audiences into riotous, ... (link)


Over the last several years, this "bigtainment bang" has had a profound impact on virtually every one of our society's business and social institutions. Consumers increasingly expect and are drawn toward infotainment, edutainment, eatertainment and retailtainment. When a coin-operated Laundromat installs big-screen TVs, a bar and a cool kids play area, it too becomes an entertainment attraction.
Laundrotainment. (link)

I threw out my TV....
and now I watch my front-loading washer.
Now that's laundrotainment!
by Don Quixote on Wed Aug 17, 2005 at 08:02:29 PM PST (link)

When I searched for "laundrotainment", Google asked if I meant "wondertainment" -- 109 raw hits for that one, many for the first below:

Wondertainment: Bird Adoption and Placement Center [for exotic birds] (link)

Master illusionists, Skibber & Zip present Wondertainment every evening and Sunday afternoon on the Fountain Plaza Stage. (link)

Then I started finding oddities:

That's Entrail-Tainment!
What's worse -- getting tortured at Abu Ghraib, or volunteering for Fear Factor?
by George Smith
August 3rd, 2004 9:50 AM (Village Voice)

eater-tainment noun. A restaurant that also offers entertainment such as wall-mounted memorabilia, video displays, or live music.

Example Citation:
"Eater-tainment has become the industry buzzword for restaurants such as Hard Rock Cafe, Dave & Buster's and Jillian's, which bring together dining and play under the same roof."
--Lornet Turnbull, "Theme Restaurants Looking for a Hook," The Columbus Dispatch, August 21, 1999 (WordSpy)

WordSpy supplied links to "irritainment" and "promo-tainment".  There was obviously a big "tainment" iceberg here.  Googling on "tainment" pulled up the items above, and also (in the first hundred hits. in alphabetical order):

archi-tainment [architecture]

auto-tainment [automated robots; automobiles]

Centertainment [a booking office]

China-tainment [entertainment in China]

clutter-tainment [having fun de-cluttering]



Doy-tainment [guy called Doy on movies]

econo-tainment [entertainment on a budget]


etainment, eTainment, E-tainment

extra-tainment [a variety of uses]

histo-tainment [history]

Inter-tainment [internet]

itainment, iTainment

M-tainment, m-tainment, mtainment [mobile entertainment; MTV]

m-tertainment [mobile entertainment]



Politi-tainment [(black) politics]

promo-tainment [a promotional ad presented as a form of entertainment]

psycho-tainment [psychology]





(My usual caution: I'm not proposing to inventory all occurrences of the phenomenon.  The point is only to demonstrate that -tainment is versatile and popular.  People love to play with language.)

In any case, Zippy has, once again, touched on matters of linguistic interest, in this case, the spread of -tainment (from entertainment) as a compound-forming element.  The strips often take off on linguistics and linguistic phenomena, as we've noted here six times so far:


X's World (It's X's world; we just live in it): here

The New Y: here and here

other topics

non-standard pronunciations: here

Chomsky; language as music: here

odd words from old comic strips: here

I have a pile of other linguistics-related Zippy cartoons stashed in my iPhoto files (along with some art-related ones that I love but aren't really relevant to Language Log [yes, I know that's a somewhat odd coordination, of a type we've looked at here before, but on re-reading it I've decided I like it and I'm sticking with it]), and now that I have a lot of fresh storage space for publicly accessible files, I'll assemble some Zippy retrospectives on language.  Stay tuned.

zwicky at-sign csli period stanford period edu

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at January 20, 2007 01:57 PM