is a process by which an expletive
is inserted into a word, usually for intensification. It is similar to tmesis
, but not all instances are covered by the usual definition of tmesis
because the words are not necessarily compounds
The most commonly inserted expletives are adjectival: either participles (fucking, mother-fucking, freaking, blooming, bleeding, damned) or adjectives (bloody). They are usually somewhat phonetically altered (fuckin').
Although most speakers are not exposed to these formations until after childhood, they can form new examples readily once introduced to the process, and their judgements of which formations are acceptable are remarkably consistent. This suggests that the rules for the placement of the expletive are not arbitrary, but instead derive from fundamental aspects of English phonology.
A simple rule is that the insertion occurs at a syllable boundary, usually just before the primary stressed syllable. Thus, one hears abso-fuckin'-lutely rather than *ab-fuckin'-solutely. This rule is insufficient to describe examples such as un-fuckin'-believable (not *unbe-fuckin'-lievable), however, so modifications to this rule are proposed such as morpheme boundaries taking precedence over stress.
A more fundamental theory due to John McCarthy is based on prosody. Its basic principle is that "the metrical stress tree of the host is minimally restructured to accommodate the stress tree of the infix". For example, although unbelievable and irresponsible have identical stress patterns, and the first syllable of each is a separate morpheme, the preferred insertion points are different: un-fuckin'-believable, but irre-fuckin'-sponsible. McCarthy explains this by saying they have different prosodic structures: un(be((lieva)ble)), but (irre)((sponsi)ble). The infix cannot fall between the syllables ir and re because they form a single prosodic foot.
- congratu-fucku-lations (Harold and Kumar)
- unbe-fucking-lievable (The White Album, 2000; The Wire)
- fan-fucking-tastic (Terms of Endearment, 1983; The Departed, 2006)
- fan-damn-tastic (Earthsiege 2)
- guaran-damn-tee (Southwest American slang)
- "Ah, so loverly, sittin' abso-bloomin'-lutely still..." (from the song "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" in the musical My Fair Lady)
- "the emanci-mother-fuckin'-pator of the slaves" (from the musical Hair)
- "ri-goddamn-diculous" (attributed to a drunken John Wayne, in an address to graduating ROTC cadets, also used in the movies Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Haggard)
- "abso-fraggin'-lutely" (catch phrase of character John Sheridan in the television show Babylon 5)
- "Ala-fucking-bama" (used in the movie My Cousin Vinny)
- "I'd say that makes him a lia-fucking-bility." (from The Boondock Saints)
- "You don't look like your average horti-fucking-culturalist." (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels)
- "Fan-smegging-tastic" (a fictional infix from Red Dwarf)
- "The war in Viet-fucking-nam!" (Richard D'Alessandro as Abbie Hoffman from the movie Forrest Gump)
- "Cinder-fucking-rella" (from Pretty Woman)
- Don't inter-fucking-rupt!
- "I'm not o-fucking-kay!" (from 'I'm Not Okay (I Promise)' by My Chemical Romance)
- "Leave me a-fuckin'-lone!" (from Glorious by Eddie Izzard)
- "Pay a-bloody-ttention!" (from Dressed to Kill by Eddie Izzard)
- "Forty-fucking-five!" (from Sex and the City)
- "Contra-fuckin'-band" (from The Departed, 2006)
- "Sen-fucking-sational" (from QI, Series A episode 4, October 2003)