Date: Thu, 6 Apr 1995 09:44:46 EDT


Subject: Harassment

Dennis P. writes:


The alternatives to harass reflect euphemistic practices. harASS (and

harASSment) sound too much like HER ASS; HARassment (and HARass) have

increased. (-ment follows regular rules depending on stress on the

bisyllabic) Note the similar use of Uranus. urAnus sounded too much like YOUR

ANUS, so (following Sagan's lead in Cosmos) a URanus pronunciation became more

popular than before. I treat Uranus in more detail in a Maledicta article of a

few years back.


Some linguists sitting in on Noam Chomsky's celebrated exposition of the post-

Sound Pattern of English theory of phonology during the 1966 LSA Linguistic

Institute (he taught one phonology seminar and one syntax (post-Aspects)

seminar, both very well attended) still remember the day he chose to illustrate

stress rules by citing (several times in succession) the pair


with the latter (like the former) receiving final stress. It was never clear

whether he anticipated the snickers from the audience; if so, it would con-

stitute one of the few occasions on which Chomsky employed humor in a lecture

on any topic. (As Fritz Newmeyer recalls, students in those days would bring

up examples of the form "Gwendolyn persuaded Murgatroyd to be easy to seduce"

and Chomsky would write on the board "Mary persuaded John to be easy to


On the euphemistic frontal stressing of the planet, though, the alternative

--replacing "Your Anus" with "Urinous"--doesn't completely solve the problem.