February 11, 2010

absquatulate and bamf

Cat absquatulating

Definition and Regional Note from AHD:



absquatulate: To depart in a hurry; abscond: 

"Your horse has absquatulated" (Robert M. Byrd)

intr. v. -lated, -lating, -lates Midwestern; Western U.S.

[Mock-Latinate formation, purporting to mean "to go off and squat elsewhere."]
Regional Note. In the 19th century, the vibrant energy of American English appeared in the use of Latin affixes to create jocular pseudo-Latin "learned" words." There is a precedent for this in the languages of Shakespeare, whose plays contain scores of made-up Latinate words. Midwestern and Western absquatulate has a prefix ab-, "away from," and a suffix -ate, "to act upon in a specified manner," affixed to a nonexistent base form--squatul--, probably suggested by squat. Hence the whimsical absquatulate, "to squat away from."
Another such coinage is Northern busticate, which joins bust with --icate by analogy with verbs like medicate. Southern argufy joins argue to a redundant -fy, "to make; cause to become. Today these creations have an old-fashioned and rustic flavor curiously at odds with their elegance. They are kept alive in regions of the United States where change is slow. For example, Appalachian speech is characterized by the frequent use of words such as recollect, aggravate, and oblige (7-8).
From The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000 [AHD].

AHD speculates in its "Regional Note" that absquatulate is a mock Latinate formation "to squat away from." If we read this definition too literally — and let's do that,  just for fun —  as a verb describing a dynamic action, we are asked to picture one very close-to-the-ground style of self-mobilization.  Imagining a person "squat away from" some location appears, at least in this writer's imagination, as someone "squat-walking," i.e., starting from the squat position, moving the bent right leg forward in what we might loosely call a "step," moving the left in a likewise fashion, then the right, and the left and so on. It's something like the shikko movement in the martial art of Aikido: low striding leading with one's knees; knee walking. I can't imagine one person asking another to go "shikko" or "squat-walking" in the park. 

Therefore, I think that The American Heritage Dictionary's 1a definition of absquatulate (at the top of this page) is the operative one: "to depart in a hurry; abscond." Here, I picture a squatting (or seated or reclining) person enjoying an otiose moment on a front porch. Out of the front door comes a friend who says, "Hey, let's obsquatulate!" The squatter, who agrees with his friend's suggestion, stands up and joins her in going for a walk.

Not surprisingly, absquatulate--a word that states a negation--opens with the prefix "ab-," which means "away from" or simply "not" (as in ab-normal). Accordingly, the erstwhile squatter decides "not" to squat any longer but to "move out of" the passive mode of  "squatage" (a nonce word for today) in order to "move into" the dynamic mode of walking.

If not kept under guard, the suspect will, for sure, absquatulate.  You know, bolt right off!  Like Nightcrawler:  go bamf! [1] --B'nJ'n

 Nightcrawler, one of the X-Men
[1] bamf: the noise made by Nightcrawler (of the X-men comic book series) when he uses his teleporting [2] powers. 
[2] teleporting: the ability to jump nigh-instantaneously from one location to another.
"Nightcrawler flashed in and out of the President's office leaving nothing but a brief hint of brimstone." 
--The Urban Dictionary http://www.urbandictionary.com (15 Feb 2007).
A Final Note:

Watch out!  The letters b-a-m-f , as the acronym B.A.M.F., carry a shameless street-wise significance, "Bad Assed Mother F*cker, usually a term of approbation". --The Urban Dictionary http://www.urbandictionary.com (15 Feb 2007).


No comments:

Post a Comment