23 August 2008

Malaysian government fails to ban feature reconstruction

please, don't judge me about the inspiration for this post. the short story is "sometimes you just get bored, and who knows where you could end up on Wikipedia!" tonight it was crappy pop song articles. thence comes this quote from the "Controversy" section of the article for this summer's top hit, I Kissed a Girl.

In Malaysian radio stations, the song has been retitled 'I Kissed...' with the words 'a girl' silenced throughout the chorus in the song.
never mind the odd choice of preposition (as a native English speaker i've never heard a song in a radio station; on works fine). the fact of the matter is that this censorship is about as effective as bleeping the -hole in asshole. if you take the phrase "i kissed a girl" and eliminate "a girl", then in isolation it becomes completely open-ended. it could be "i kissed a man" or "i kissed my mother" or "i kissed a frog". too bad there are more lyrics in the song's refrain!
i kissed a girl / and i liked it / the taste of her cherry chapstick
oops! there's a gendered pronoun hanging out there, eight words later. and it needs an antecedent. and the only preceding nominals are i and it. i can't be the antecedent, because then she would have said my, and it is decidedly neuter. so it can only be...gasp! she didn't! chances are nobody's getting the wool pulled over their eyes either; Wikipedia also says that increasing numbers of Malaysians are identifying English as a first language. they can put the pieces of this not-so-tricky linguistic puzzle back together as quickly as i did. censorship falls flat again.

i think i've gotten more linguistic enjoyment out of the song than by listening to it. there's one other bit of the chorus that intrigued me. it's the other pronoun in those lines, namely it. i'm sure that the intended antecedent is "[the fact that] i kissed a girl", but i can't help but get an ambiguous interpretation where it could be topicalized and actually refer to "the taste..." is this a weird judgement? comments are always open here.


Mark Peters said...

Hey Ed--

Thanks for the comment on my blog. I'm always tickled when linguists find my preposterous little dictionary worth reading!


Anonymous said...

1. It SOUNDS to me as though it is the cherry chapstick he likes.
2. I'm often wrong about these things, though.
3. Yes, I'd agree with you that "in" the radio sounds odd there; but there was one place it was THE preposition: "...in the World Service of the BBC", they used always to say. But with the recent revamping (and considerable dumbing down) they now say "on" to go with the implied "radio". I used to respect very much the idea that the BBC was in service to the world, providing broadcast information...but now they're just a radio station.