Thursday, March 05, 2009

Unnecessary Words, hey, and my research!

I just saw a headline that Vince Vaughn, an actor, was engaged to his girlfriend Kyla Weber. We always say things like this.

"John Doe got married to his girlfriend Jane Doe."

"I got married last week to my girlfriend."

"My oldest grandson got married to his girlfriend last week. It was a beautiful wedding."

Well, who else is he going to get married to? We always marry our girlfriend or our boyfriend. No one else.

What? Is there going to be an announcement one day along the lines of, "Vince Vaughn got married to a-woman-that-he's-not-really-passionate-about-physically-and-so-might-best-be-labeled-just-friend-but-he's-not-sure-he's-ever-going-to-do-better-so-he's-going-for-it-now-before-he-gets-even-fatter Kyla Weber."

Or "Judy got drunk in Vegas last weekend and married her acquaintance-who-seemed-quite-charming-and-passionate-after the-6th-tequila-shot Randy."

I doubt it.

So why not just say, "Vince Vaughn got engaged to Kyla Weber"? It would amount to the same thing, or at least it's rude to imply she's anything less.

But for some reason it just doesn't feel right. Who is this Kyla Weber person, people seem to want to know. Well, if they give a, umm my mom reads this, hoot about Vince Vaughn's marriage plans, they might want to know. Who is this Kyla and what's the relationship?

Bizarrely, this fits in perfectly with one of the class projects we're working on in my language acquisition class. It turns out that if you tell a story with some person "Kyla" being mentioned without explaining who she is, people really focus on this sorta, kinda mysterious person. They remember Kyla more easily and even have a harder time coming up with stuff that occurred after her mention as if Kyla is on the brain distracting them. However, if you simply add a little tag like "my girlfriend Kyla" or, in the research article "my grandson Brandon", they don't fixate so much on Kyla or Brandon.

It seems like we like these little tags even in entertainment news articles and when it's obvious that Kyla is going to be his girlfriend. Curiouser and curiouser. I wonder how this relates to classic tags like the Iliad's "swift-footed Achilles".

*Note 1: Yes, as marriages among different sexes becomes more common the words "girlfriend" and "boyfriend" could be actually useful information, though I don't know too many men named Kyla.

**Note 2: I didn't start writing this as yet another annoying reference to linguistics. I was just annoyed by the useless word. Then I realized it fit in with my project perfectly, so I went the annoying route. In fact, I think I will now email this post to the students working on this project. I don't annoy them enough yet, so I have to add to it through email.


fairyhedgehog said...

Linguistics is not annoying.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Vince got married to his bit-of-stuff...

sylvia said...

Definitely not annoying - very intriguing in fact. I'm thinking about how I could use this.