July 15, 2007


Zippy returns to the world of clichés, wielded by the fast-talking salesman Shelf-Life, who seems to have no clue about what lies behind them.  But he slings casual speech like a pro:

We have miss the boat, get on board, all in black and white, staring right at you, be gold, plain as the nose on your face.  And the colloquial discourse-management formulas I'm talking here, you know what I'm saying?, listen to me, I know what I'm talking about, see?, believe it! (plus address vocative pal).  And two colloquial uses of got: obligative got in "You gotta get on board!", possessive got in ""I got inside information here!"  And the repetition for emphasis.

Then there's the representation of casual pronunciations: -in' instead of -ing one hundred percent of the time (8 occurrences); reduced ya for you (one time out of three); y'know for you know (two times out of three); gotta for got to; and my favorite, listen-a-me.  (Shelf-Life uses Auxiliary Reduction -- I'm, you're, it's -- throughout, but then so does Zippy, and these particular "contractions" are used by everybody in speech, all the time.)

I wonder if anyone has compared Shelf-Life's language with the language of David Mamet's salesman characters in Glengarry Glen Ross (beyond the obvious difference that Zippy has to stay away from serious obscenities, while Mamet's characters revel in them).

zwicky at-sign csli period stanford period edu

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at July 15, 2007 12:21 PM