Wednesday, May 24, 2006

proper adjectives

What to do with French social theorists? You want to be a good intellectual and drench your writings with them, but you don't want to undermine your highbrow-self-presentation by using the wrong adjective. For Michel Foucault, people resist Foucaultian, because it makes him sound like a sibling of Billy Ocean (of "Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Panopticon" fame). So most seem to prefer Foucauldian. My own preference is Foucaultzy, especially since a friend once knitted me a Foucaultzy that I use to keep my Foupot warm.

So, I got an e-mail yesterday regarding the proper adjective for Pierre Boudieu. Bourdieuian involves more consecutive vowels than many people can apparently stand (unless they happen to be queueing). Instead there seems much enthusiasm for Bourdieusian, which to me makes Bourdieu sound like the greatest Siamese twin act in the history of social thought (or maybe then it would be Bourdieuxian). My preference is for Bourdieulean, especially since I think it sounds healthy: Too much fat in your Bour Sausage? Try Bourdieulean!

For plain old American theorists, I have found that few things provoke defensive rage quite like suggesting that maybe one shouldn't drop the 's' off a surname that ends in one. Namely, I have suggested that the adjective form for Talcott Parsons should really be Parsonsian rather than Parsonian, and in fact Parsonian makes it sound more like one is citing the work of a folksy country minister. I said this once in a brownbag and a colleague immediately and loudly said "You're wrong" with an expression on his face that was less consistent with "Jeremy, I think that's incorrect" than with "Jeremy, if not for the presence of witnesses, I would strangle you and then slaughter all your blood relatives." Academics can be such a touchy lot, especially where their parts of speech are concerned.

For referrring to the thought of Jeremy Freese, btw, the proper adjective is neither Freeseian, Freesean, nor Freesian. It's Freestylin'.

12 comments:

tina said...

Sure, Freestylin' is a gimme, but what about the tough names, like Kim Weeden? If I want to talk about new definitions of class, do I look to Weedenian theory? Weedenesque? or Weediddy?

jeremy said...

I'm not sure. I think actually changed her name to Weediddy for awhile following the death of The Notorious S.O.C..

Meanwhile, I miss the days when Tina had a blog and all could experience her Fetnergizing prose.

Rhymes With Scrabble said...

Certainly you say "Weedenesque" if you're following the Buffy standard ("Whedonesque").

My sister apparently hates our surname for being difficult to annunciate, but how can you hate a name that lends itself so easily to "Gathmania"?

Anonymous said...

Freecauldian gets my vote

dorotha said...

i'd like mine to be harridiot, please. for example, harridiot ramblings.

Kieran said...

Weeden would be Weedonian, which sounds like a geologic era. ("In the Late Weedonian, the lumbering Gruskosaurus roamed what is now upstate New York.")

Freese must be Freesian, which sounds appropriate for Wisconsin dairyland.

Rebekah Ravenscroft-Scott said...

oh, but what about those of us with hyphenated last names? the horror of ravenscroft-scottish? almost every day i think, why did i agree to hypenate?

and, i have it on the highest authority that it is indeed Parsonian and most definitely not Parsonsian. my partner went graduated Harvard with Parsons' granddaughter.

plus, the whole Bourdieuan/Bourdieusian thing is only a recent development. everyone has been saying Bourdieuan for the past 10 years. it's a fad, a flash in the pan!

brady said...

I had a whole list of these made for UW faculty. The only ones I can remember now, though, are Mustafarian and Eliasophist.

Kim said...

According to one of my colleagues cough stevemorgan cough, the proper adjective to describe the Weeden/Grusky definition of class is Weeteensyweensy.

Better that, I suppose, than adjectives like "confused" or "incomprehensible."

Tom Bozzo said...

If you want to think big, Kim, just imagine the day when it's a generally accepted theory of everything (or, at least, a not generally accepted theory that someone will back with physical force), and then it can just be Weedenism, in which case people would just write "in the Weedenist theory of class..."

Bertha MInerva said...

And what about the "-iana" suffix for stuff having to do with that person, like "Shaviana" for things that once belonged to or are somehow associated with George Bernard Shaw?

My favorite in the category would be (if indeed it has ever been used) stuff to do with Mark Twain: "Twaniana"

Twainiana Twainiana Twainiana, it just sounds great.

Clancy said...

Ratliffic for me, please.