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View Full Version : Enthusiastic contrafibularities: did Blackadder really invent these words?


Colophon
08-18-2004, 11:33 AM
One of my favourite Blackadder scenes is that in which our hero congratulates Dr Johnson, who has just completed his dictionary after 10 years ("Yes, well I'm a slow reader myself" - Prince Regent), on including every single word in the English language:
E: Oh, well, in that case, sir, I hope you will not object if I also offer the Doctor my most enthusiastic contrafibularities.

J: What?

E: "Contrafribularites", sir. It is a common word down our way.

J: Damn! [writes in the book]

E: Oh, I'm sorry, sir. I'm anaspeptic, phrasmotic, even compunctious to have
caused you such pericombobulation.

J: What? What? WHAT?

G: What are you on about, Blackadder? This is all beginning to sound a bit
like dago talk to me.

E: I'm sorry, sir. I merely wished to congratulate the Doctor on not having
left out a single word. [J sneers] Shall I fetch the tea, Your Highness?

G: Yes, yes -- and get that damned fire up here, will you?

E: Certainly, sir. I shall return -- interphrastically. [exit] [J writes some more]
And later...
E: Leaving already, Doctor? Not staying for your pendigestatory interludicule?

J: No, sir! Show me out!

E: Certainly, sir -- anything I can do to facilitate your velocitous extramuralisation.

Like most viewers, I originally assumed these words were invented, but thinking about them, many of them appear to make perfect sense, or even be real words already.

"Compunctuous" and "velocitous" are obviously in the dictionary.

"Extramuralisation" comes from the Latin extra, meaning outside, and murus, meaning "wall" (as in "mural"), so it means "to take something outside the walls", i.e. to leave the building. A Google search shows that it seems to be used from time to time, in all seriousness, as a synonym for "outsourcing".

"Pendigestatory interludicule"? Well, we have the prefix "pen-", from the Latin paene, meaning "almost", so "pendigestatory" relates to something that is "almost a meal", i.e. a snack. The suffix "-cule" means "small", so an "interludicule" is a short break. So, a short snack break.

"Pericombobulation" presumably comes from "peri-", meaning "around", and "discombobulate", meaning "to confuse".

Now it gets tricky. "Anaspeptic" is obviously related to "peptic", related to digestion. "Ana-" can mean "backwards" or "upwards", so the word could mean something similar to "dyspeptic".

"Interphrastically" - could it mean "between phrases"?

"Contrafibularities" - well, "contra" means "against", but other than that, no clue.

And as for "phrasmotic" - no idea.

Any English majors agree or disagree?

Smeghead
08-18-2004, 01:44 PM
I think that's what makes the joke - the fact that all the words sound very much like they could or even should be real words. If he'd stuck with "flibble" or the like, it wouldn't have been nearly as funny.

jfortun
08-18-2004, 02:16 PM
I'm laughing out loud just thinking about this scene.


another of my favorites:

Prince Regent: Honestly Blackadder, I don't know why I'm bothering to get dressed. As soon as I get to the Naughty Hellfire Club I'll be debagged and radished for non-payment of debts.

Edmund: Radished, sir?

PR: Yes, they pull your breeches down and push a large radish right up your-

E: Yes, yes, yes, all right. There's no need to hammer it home.

PR: Well as a matter of fact they do often have to-

E: No, no! No!

seosamh
08-18-2004, 03:39 PM
Edmund: Radished, sir?

PR: Yes, they pull your breeches down and push a large radish right up your-

E: Yes, yes, yes, all right. There's no need to hammer it home.

PR: Well as a matter of fact they do often have to-

E: No, no! No!

Of course, that was the punishment for adultery in ancient Athens. There's even a verb ραφανιζειν (from ραφανις, a radish).

Zoe
08-18-2004, 06:55 PM
I've never gotten over the definition of "c" -- a blue wobbly thing with mermaids.

Colophon
08-19-2004, 05:21 AM
That settles it, I'm finally going to buy the box set of DVDs from Amazon :)

E: Good. So we're well on the way, then. "'a'; impersonal pronoun; doesn't really mean anything." Right! Next: "a" ... "a b".

B: Well, it's a buzzing thing, isn't it. "A buzzing thing."

E: Baldrick, I mean something that starts with "a b".

B: Honey? Honey starts with a bee.

G: He's right, you know, Blackadder. Honey does start with a bee ... and a flower, too.

E: Yes, look, this really isn't getting us anywhere. And besides, I've left out "aardvark"...

Arch Trout
08-19-2004, 06:46 AM
All of the words in that episode are perfectly cromulent, they embiggen the vocabularly.

Ross
08-19-2004, 08:12 AM
George and Jerry trying to find a present for Jerry to give Elaine, that will send exactly the right signals and only those signals:

George: What about candle holders?

Jerry: Too romantic.

George: Lingerie?

Jerry: Too sexual.

George: Waffle maker.

Jerry: Too domestic.

George: Bust of Nelson Rockefeller.

Jerry: Too gubenatorial.

George: Let's work on the card.

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