Thursday, December 18, 2008

Nuggnuts - What did you say?

McDonald's advertising presents yet another specimen for linguistic analysis:

When I read this magazine ad (I have seen it as a billboard as well) I immediately think of the word numbnuts and there is a simple phonetic explanation for this - nuggnuts and numbnuts differ by only one phoneme and nuggnuts is not an actual word yet (and lets hope it never attains dictionary status). Additionally, it is well-known in linguistics that when the human brain encounters an unfamiliar word it will automatically search for a known word that is similar to use as a semantic template in determining the meaning of the unknown word. Because nuggnuts is not a known word the human brain searches for the closest known word and that is numbnuts.

By the way, the word numbnuts has been in use since 1970 according to

And, upon further thought, there is another (somewhat similar) word that might be used as a semantic template for nuggnuts and that is numnah. My son reminded me of this when he saw the ad because it reminded him of the humorous incident at the Scripps National Spelling Bee this past spring. To refresh your memory, one of the contestants was given the word numnah and he misheard it as numbnut.

Numbnuts Post

Video Outtake

P.S. If I were a man and I was considered by others to be a numbnuts I certainly wouldn't be proud of it.


Spellsmith said...

I didn't read "Nuggnuts" as "numbnuts" at all; I think that's because of the geminate /gg/, which keeps the /g/ salient enough to call attention to itself. I'd be much more likely just to overlook the second /n/ entirely and read "Nuggets and proud of it."

However, I think Nuggnuts is a cute word.

- Scribbles & Dots


My first thought was "numbnuts", too. :) And that association does NOTHING to make me want to eat one of those little nugget things...

Tay said...

Not my first thought, but now that you brought up numbnuts I don't think I'll ever look at that ad the same way again. If I were a man, I'd imagine it wouldn't inspire me to eat one either, that is unless I wanted numbnuts lol. Sorry, couldn't resist.

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