Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Talking out loud about slips of the tongue

Verbal slips. Everybody has them. We add a letter here, or subtract a letter there. Sometimes we use a word in a sentence in a way that makes no sense, showing that we really don’t know what the word means (“Inconceivable!” – for those who have ears to hear…). Sometimes we trip all over a sentence like an outstretched leg. Sometimes we get riled up and invert a phrase – like my preacher friend who, while talking to me in preacher-mode, told me of something being like “ducks off a water’s back”.

We also have verbal slips that are unique to our region and culture. Here in the South we have a practice I like to call “syllable conservation”. We try to remove all the extra syllables in a word, because speaking is hard work. If you’re really good, you can say a whole sentence with only one or two syllables.

We slip, and our friends all have a good laugh at our expense. At least, we hope they’re our friends.

Maybe I’m easily amused, but nothing gets me rolling on the floor like a good verbal slip. If done right, they can provide hours or even days of entertainment.

I thought I’d post the occasional verbal slip whenever I run across a new one. For now, here are a couple of ones from colloquial speech that I’ve found being used in regular discourse more commonly as of late. I would classify these as more strange than funny, but you can be the judge.

Talking out loud. The phrase was originally “thinking out loud”. I can’t swear to it, but I’m pretty sure I first heard the phrase “talking out loud” being used by a stand-up comedian who was imitating someone, shall we say, less-than-intelligent. Somehow this got picked up such that it is more common to hear someone say, “Oh, I’m just talking out loud”. Which is a bit bizarre to say anyway. All talking is out loud, isn’t it?

Slip of the tongue. The phrase I always heard growing up was “slip of the lip”. You know, “slip” and “lip” rhyme and all that. Then the heavy metal group Whitesnake came out with an album in the late 80’s entitled “Slip of the Tongue”, and it was all downhill from there. This was intended to be a clever play on the phrase “slip of the lip” with additional connotations. Those heavy metal guys are so funny. I hardly hear the former phrase anymore, finding rather that it has been substituted with “slip of the tongue”. It’s rather disturbing that a heavy metal group can have such influence on the English language.

Is anybody else hearing these, or am I just hanging out with the wrong people? Tell me in the comments section. Also, have you heard any other verbal slips? If you have I’d like to hear them, so feel free to put them in the comments section as well.


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