Monday, April 12, 2010

Teabonics Schmebonics

This photo illustrates what has been dubbed in political circles (and written about on numerous language blogs including Language Log, Mighty Red Pen, Guardian and to name a few) "Teabonics".

The photo is from a flickr post that includes a collection of similar photos as well as the following description:

"These are signs seen primarily at Tea Party Protests.

They all feature 'creative' spelling or grammar.

This new dialect of the English language shall be known as 'Teabonics.'"

It seems obvious from the description that the term "Teabonics" is a blend of "Tea Party" and "Ebonics".

Interestingly, "Ebonics" is itself a blended word according to the following entry found on
Pronunciation: \ē-ˈbä-niks, i-, e-\
Function: noun plural but singular in construction
Etymology: blend of ebony and phonics
Date: 1973
: black english: a nonstandard variety of English spoken by some African-Americans

What bothers me most about the neologism "Teabonics" comes from the contradiction in its definition with that of the definition of "Ebonics", upon which is supposedly based.

The "phonics" portion of the Ebonics definition is defined by as: the science of sound : acoustics. And even the definition of Black English refers to the fact that Ebonics is a variety of spoken English.

So if Teabonics is based on the creative spelling or grammar found on written signs, why not name it something that has to do with writing and not sounds.

Teagraphy or Teapography, anyone?


4ndyman said...

Is "teabuggery" out of the question?

I think morphology covers spelling and word changes, doesn't it? Hard to come up with a portmanteau to fit Tea party and morphology together, though.

Teaography is a good-sounding portmanteau, but it lacks the negative connotations that Teabonics does. Perhaps we should just call them "Amuricanisms."

Laura Payne said...

4ndyman - morphology is actually the science of word formation; whereas, orthography is the study of correct spelling according to established usage. That is why I was trying to form a portmanteau out of Tea Party + Orthography.

I do like teabuggery though, because these signs are incredibly annoying.

Thanks for commenting.

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