sinking my teeth in

I’ve decided I need to organize my things. I have a tendency to make lists of things, willy-nilly, whenever the urge strikes. Any old day of the week. Whether it’s blue dudes on a Saturday, balls on a Friday, or pigs on a Sunday, or cheese on a Tuesday. Willy-freakin’-nilly, I tell you.

So I was all like “hey, I should pick a day. Have a thing day. A themed thing day.”¹ So to go all out with the alliteration, I’m going with Thursdays. Thus creating the Themed Thing Thursday.

So in honor of the onset consonant of the words theme, thing and Thursday, the voiceless inderdental fricative, my first official theme of things for this Themed Thing Thursday will be teeth. Because without teeth, it’s really hard to say things.


A few things toothy

  1. ϴ or theta.
    The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol for the voiceless dental (or interdental) fricative. This sound is usually written “th” in English, though the sound is nothing like a t followed by an h. (Note also that not all instances of “th” are stand-ins for theta: there’s the evil twin ð, too. Sometimes called the “eth.” It’s the voiced dental fricative. You know, the one in the.)
  2. The Tooth Fairy
    A legendary individual who pays children for losing their teeth. In the version of the myth I grew up with, when you lose a tooth, you put it under your pillow when you go to bed. In the morning, you wake up to find a coin in place of the tooth. The explanation for this phenomenon is not that the tooth has metamorphosized, but that a strange woman, possibly with wings, sneaked into your room while you slept, and felt around under your very head for the tooth, grabbed and pocketed said tooth, and then left you a small payment. This was supposed to be a comforting tale.
  3. The Wikipedia Tooth Fairy page has a whole bunch of fun popular culture references to the tooth fairy by the way, such as the episode of the Simpsons where Bart loses his last baby tooth, or Darkness Falls (2003), horror movie about an evil tooth fairy.
  4. The movie Toothless (1997)
    I had actually never heard of this movie until some soul out there tried desperately to find quotes from the movie. I have no idea why. I’m assuming it was the same person, trying variations of “quotes from the movie toothless” and “toothless movie quotes.” And they kept getting my post on movie quotes where I quote the “tough and ruthless/rough and toothless” bit from Kentucky Fried Movie. Anyhow, the movie “Toothless” was a TV movie from 1997, and looks to have been pretty sucky. Kirstie Allie played a dentist turned tooth fairy.
  5. Speaking of dentists, there’s the movie Marathon Man (1976) (And also the novel by William Goldman, author of The Princess Bride.)
    The story features a famous (or infamous) torture scene involving an evil, sadistic dentist. (“Is it safe?”)
  6. Little Shop of Horrors. A 1960’s B movie that was later adapted to a Broadway musical which was later adapted to another movie. The main story is about an alien man-eating plant, but it also features a sadistic dentist. (Clearly, some people have issues with dentists.) Steve Martin plays the dentist in the 1986 movie.
  7. Just in case you fear that all pop culture portrayals of dentists are unfavorable, Monty Python offers this counter-example, featuring heroic feats performed by a member of the BDA. (“It’s a man’s life in the British Dental Association”):

  8. And speaking of Python, what list of teeth could be complete without those big pointy teeth from the Holy Grail. You may be happy (or dismayed) to learn that you can now purchase associated merchandise, such as slippers and hand-puppets featuring rabbits with big pointy teeth.


¹ I’m also inpsired by some folks I admire who have their own weekly theme days, like KC’s Medical Advice Mondays and Sage’s Word Wise Wednesdays.

11 thoughts on “sinking my teeth in

  1. Sometimes called the “eth.” It’s the voiced dental fricative. You know, the one in the.

    Surely the voiced fricatives are represented alphabetically by ess, eff or eth, while the voiced fricatives use zee (even as an Australian I’m willing to concede that one), vee or thee.

    Maybe it’s to do with some tendency for fricatives to be voiceless in codas yet voiced in onsets. You’re much better a phonologist than I, is there any truth to that or am I being silly?

  2. Two things:

    At 5, I swallowed a tooth that I lost and was incredibly upset that the tooth fairy wouldn’t be leaving me any money because there was no tooth to be found. That was my biggest tooth fairy haul, EVER. It was awesome.

    And my Dad tells me that Jack Nicholson has his first part ever, a bit part, in the 1960s version of Little Shop of Horrors, as a guy who enjoys his visits to the sadistic dentist.

    Yay for Themed Thing Thursdays!

  3. Jangari-
    You make an intersting point. I hadn’t noticed the tendency for the names of voiced fricatives to start with that voiced fricative, and for it being usually the voiceless ones that show up in the coda. Following the pattern you’ve described, it should indeed have bee nicknamed “thee”, but I’ve never heard it called that. (Do folks out your way call it “thee”?) As far as the name “eth” goes, the Wikipedia entry on the letter gives a nice history. Another funny thing about “eth” is that I often hear it pronounced with the voiceless interdental, rather than the voiced, but it still refers to ð . And the wiki entry had this:

    In Icelandic, ð represents a voiced dental fricative like th in English “them”; however, the name of the letter is pronounced eþ, i.e., voiceless, unless followed by a vowel.

    As far as a tendency for fricatives to be voiceless in codas but voiced in onsets, I think it’s part of a bigger pattern. Word-final voicing contrasts are often neutralized for obstruents in general. (cf. German)

  4. I have absolutely no idea what you guys just said. something about codas and fricatives… anyway, it sounds impressive. ( yeah, that’s supposed to be a compliment- i wasn’t sure if it sounded scarcastic)

  5. Sage-
    I found your comment in my spam folder a little bit ago. (Not sure why it got spammed…I didn’t notice you trying to sell me anything…) I’m glad the tooth fairy came through for you. Did you ever contemplate swallowing or losing future teeth, to increase the haul? And funny bit o’ trivia about Jack Nicholson.

    Glad to hear it sounds impressive. But the real question is: would it be entertaining at a cocktail party?

  6. YAY for Themed Thing Thursday. Alliteration is food for the blog soul.

    As for your discussion above, I thought my vocabulary was pretty good until now. Hopefully Linguistics will not be one of my categories when I’m playing Jeopardy (not that I’d ever be playing Jeopardy or any game show for that matter).

  7. I think the schwa makes better cocktail party conversation.

    In the 80’s remake, I believe Bill Murray played the same role that Jack Nicholson had. I’m too lazy to go to imdb to check up on it.

  8. No one refers to ð as a letter here, because it isn’t orthographically represented by a single grapheme, unlike in Iceland, apparently.

    I’d be willing to regularise the names of all letters in the phonetic alphabet. Stops all take the form “Cee”, like “dee” or “pee”, nasals all take “eN”, as in “en”, “em” and “eng” (velar), except this would cause a contrast problem with the palatal “eny” – it more or less demands a final vowel “enye”. And as I said above, fricatives are divided along voicing, so the voiceless forms take “eC”, “ess” and “eth” (for θ) and the voiced ones use “Cee”, “zee” and “thee”.

    Just out of interest, if the voiced is represented by “eth” with a voiceless, what is the voiceless called? Theta I suppose.

  9. KC-
    Have no fear. Linguistics is about as likely to be a category on Jeopardy as…some other highly unlikely event.

    Ah yes, ə. I could say ə all night.

    Yeah, the voiceless interdental is usually just called “theta” as far as I can tell. And as for the voiced one, I can’t say the name is used all to frequently. Certainly neither of these are used as frequently as those letters that are in the plain vanilla alphabet. As for your proposal, will you be starting a campaign? While most don’t have official names in the IPA, I can foresee resistance to changing the nicknames of g and h. (“eh” and [gi]?) And to lose “engma”? I like to say “engma”. Engma is a cool word.

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