April 16, 2007

It's Sofa King uncensored!

Greetings once again from the Youth and Popular Culture desk at Language Log Plaza. If you missed Saturday Night Live this past weekend, then you missed a sketch that has had us all laughing around the water cooler today. Luckily, you can catch it (again) here: the "Sofa King" sketch. (Or catch it on youtube while it's still up.)

The form of the sketch is simple enough. It's an ad for a furniture store called "Sofa King", and the tag line is that everything that the store does is not just x, it's "Sofa King x" -- where x is some adjective. The examples used in the sketch are as follows:

  1. It's Sofa King great!
  2. It's Sofa King comfortable!
  3. It's Sofa King comfortable, I could sit here all day!
  4. Because it's ... Sofa King cheap!
  5. Sofa King cheap, man. You won't believe it.
  6. Sofa King easy!
  7. It's Sofa King easy! You could do it with your eyes closed.
  8. And as always, our delivery is Sofa King quick! It will make your head spin.

The play, of course, is on how "Sofa King" sounds like "so fucking", and it works because "Sofa King great" can mean something like "great in the way that only Sofa King can make it" (kind of like "Army strong", as discussed here) while "so fucking great" means something like "(so) amazingly great".

I should mention that the good folks at SNL weren't the first to figure this one out. According to Wikipedia, there was a song in 2005, itself based on an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force (also mentioned in the last report from the YPC desk). There's a website dating from 2003 dedicated to the ATHF joke, and an Urban Dictionary entry also dating from 2003. (No doubt this goes back even further, and I'm sure the joke was "discovered" independently many times.)

At least three devices are used in the sketch both to make the joke more effective and (presumably) to get past censorship issues:

  • Every time "Sofa King" is mentioned in the sketch, a "Sofa King" logo appears on the screen.
  • "Sofa King" is always pronounced "Sófa Kíng" -- that is, with the first and third syllables distinctly stressed -- as opposed to "so fúcking", where the second syllable is the stressed one.
  • The characters in the sketch all speak with a discernible (but not explicitly identified) foreign accent.

The second and third of these devices go hand in hand, I think. The fact that the characters speak with an accent invites us (the audience) to "forgive" certain mispronunciations; this makes "Sófa Kíng" sound more like "so fúcking". (This combination of devices has been used in at least one similar SNL sketch before: the Colonel Angus, in which a stereotypical southern American English accent is used to make "Colonel Angus" sound like "cunnilingus" -- hat-tip to Ben Zimmer.)

I wonder, though, whether the accent device hides the fact that some of the examples cited above don't quite work. For example, consider example #3:

It's Sofa King comfortable, I could sit here all day!

The intonation in this example was such that there's really only one way to interpret it: as an answer to the question, "How comfortable is it?" ("It's so fucking comfortable, I could sit here all day!") It's just not possible (for me) to figure out how "It's Sofa King comfortable" would be interpreted in this example. (Examples 5, 7, and 8 are similar, but these were said in such a way that they were arguably meant to be two separate sentences.)

[ Comments? ]

Posted by Eric Bakovic at April 16, 2007 05:46 PM