November 09, 2005


Language Log (Benjamin Zimmer) of course comes through with a more indepth analysis of the eggcorn guttural, which I noted here. It seems as though "guttural" is not in use in linguistics anymore, and my use of Ol' Dirty as an example is just in line with the perceived harshness of his voice--though I don't find ODB's speech patterns displeasing.

Anyway, it's worth noting an early example of the use of "guttural" to suggest gutter speech, from Dashiell Hammett's Maltese Falcon:

The boy spoke two words, the first a short guttural verb, the second 'you.'

From here.

Posted by Matt Weiner at November 9, 2005 08:27 AM

That's an interesting reference to the Maltese Falcon -- the character in question is referred to as a 'gunsel', which, given that he's waving a gun around, I initially understood to mean 'gunman', as did most people I've ever talked about it with. Turns out it's completely obsolete slang meaning 'teenage homosexual', which rather changes the meaning of the reference.

Not that that has a thing to do with your post, but it is Maltese Falcon trivia.

Posted by: LizardBreath at November 9, 2005 04:01 PM

Ironically 'gunsel' has now come to mean what you and everyone else thought it did, which in the reverse of the usual process takes away the undertones the dialogue used to have. Hammett himself is probably responsible for the meaning change (that's an ex recta opinion).

And we loves the Maltese Falcon trivia.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at November 9, 2005 04:49 PM

Spade's treatment of that kid (we're talking about Guttman's assistant, right?) makes much more sense now.

Posted by: washerdreyer at November 9, 2005 11:17 PM