The badly-behaved primer.

Hard to get the subject right for this post; so many possibilities, most of them from that dark, Milwaukee’s Best-stained corner of my brain, neglected for the most part since undergraduate school.  Is that tardtarded? 

Retard, on the other hand, has become just tard in a process known as aphaeresis, meaning that the beginning of the word has been removed. A tard is the same as a retard

It has also become the multi-use suffix -tard(ed), extracting almost whole the root that originally meant “slow” in Latin, which now carries with it the meaning of “stupid”. It’s what we call a formative – a tiny piece of language that contains meaning but isn’t a word on its own. 

Motarded, for example, is used among American military personnel to describe a person who is “excessively enthusiastic about being a soldier to the point of stupidity”. It probably comes from the mo- in moronic, motivated, or more plus retarded.   

A new recruit who is motarded is very gung-ho: eager to fight, eager to shoot weapons, and eager to out-soldier everybody else. 

Smacktard is another -tard word and yet another name for a stupid person, perhaps one who is acting as if they are intoxicated by smack, the drug heroin. Some people use it in a way that suggests that a smacktard is a person who is behaving so stupidly that you want to smack them across the mouth.

I do love the linguistics, though, through and through.  My favorite undergraduate course, far and away.  Here’s your linguistics money quote, courtesy Russ Rymer:

Linguistics is arguably the most hotly contested property in the academic realm. It is soaked with the blood of poets, theologians, philosophers, philologists, psychologists, biologists, anthropologists, and neurologists, along with whatever blood can be got out of grammarians.

And you thought linguistics stodgy?  There’s blood on my hands!

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