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  • Stan:

    Communion that’s phatic
    Is quite automatic;
    The question, “how are you?”
    Is never socratic

  • Burgess’s comment that “Irish urban speech is ‘probably the most phatic of the English-speaking world’” shows a misunderstanding of Malinowski’s unfortunately-constructed term. *All* spoken language is phatic (φάτικος); it’s the “communion” that is special.

    I remember arguing over the same error with a fellow graduate student who insisted on calling it “phatic communication”, under the doubly mistaken impression that
    1) the unfamiliar adjective carried the burden of the special meaning,
    and that
    2) the noun that looked so familiar at a quick glance didn’t need any closer inspection, as it was applicable to all speech (and indeed to all language: we were studying American Sign Language), and obviously served only the trivial but syntactically necessary role of providing a head for the adjective.

  • Thank you for the useful note, Mark. Given that phatic is often used in this sense without modifying communion, it may be said to have taken on some of that word’s implications. Presumably this is what Burgess and so many others have intended.

  • I enjoyed the Morrissey pun; a very ‘phatic singer’. Compare how his lyrics sound to how they read.

  • seajay: Yes, I’ve noticed that dissonance between tone and content in some of The Smiths’ songs. I’m glad you enjoyed the pun (and I hope there weren’t too many people nonplussed by the reference).