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Unit 1.15 – Fishapod Linguistics

Difficulty: Hard

Time: 3 minutes

 

Below is an extract from I Smirt, You Stooze, They Krump… by J. Crozier, C. McKeown & E. Summers entitled ‘Mix and Match’.

One of the latest creatures to have slithered from the primeval swamp of palaeontology is Tiktaalik roseae, a link between fish and land animals recently discovered in the Nunavut territory of Arctic Canada.

Tiktaalik has been dead for a mere 383 million years, but its name, Inuktitut in origin, looks set to enter the Collins English Dictionary in the near future.

It’s nice to see another Inuktitut word enter the English language, joining anorak, igloo, and kayak. But Tiktaalik’s nickname is just as interesting. Fishapod not only succinctly encapsulates the nature of this ‘fish with feet’ (an important missing link between water and land animals), but also highlights an interesting trend in language – the increasing freedom with which we create new hybrids from exisiting words, regardless of linguistic convention.

Purists will doubtless sneer at the way in which Germanic and Greek words have been spliced together in fishapod (‘Surely it should be icthyopod?’), but these people are probably still bemoaning that egregious Greek-Latin hybrid television.

As coinages like flexitarian, fauxmosexual and tanorexic show, we are adept at making new words from old, based on punning, allusion, and common sense rather than deference to ancient linguistic principles. These words are memorable, amusing, and – most importantly – easily understood. So the fishapod, our new friend from the distant past, serves as a reminder that English is ours to do with what we will, rather than a fossilised museum exhibit.

 

1.     ‘Egregious’ (3rd paragraph) is closest in meaning to:

  • A      Remarkably good
  • B      Outstandingly bad
  • C      Utterly confusing
  • D      Highly contradictory

 

 

2.     We can infer from the above passage that, when it comes to the construction of new words, language purists

  • A      favor adherence to linguistic convention over ease of communication
  • B      favor the use of just one root language
  • C      favor studying language over using it
  • D      exert significant influence over their inclusion in the Dictionary
  • Q1: B
    Straightforward word meaning outstandingly or outrageously bad.

    Q2: B
    The answer is in the 4th paragraph; Purists will doubtless sneer at the way in which Germanic and Greek words have been spliced together in fishapod (‘Surely it should be icthyopod?’), but these people are probably still bemoaning that egregious Greek-Latin hybrid television.
    The problem being that two root languages have been used to construct both of these words. We can therefore infer that they favor the use of just one root language.
    The writer seems to suggest that this modern method of creating language is superior to the purist methods, but he doesn’t refer to them directly – A and C might be deemed to be true by comparison, but this requires unfounded assumptions to be made. There is also nothing to suggest that D is true.

    Gamsat Sample Questions

    May 26, 2012

  • Q1 is somewhat confusing for me if you could clarify that would be great, as I understand the word egregious, it means something that is outstanding in a negative sense. So why isn’t the answer B ?

    Usman Akhtar

    August 9, 2012

  • That’s actually a typo – fixed now – thanks for the heads up Usman!

    Gamsat Sample Questions

    August 13, 2012

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