The M-word

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We investigate the conventionalization of mock impoliteness through a study of the Greek collocation <i>re malaka</i>, which can be construed as either solidary (<i>dude</i>) or insulting (<i>asshole</i>). Questionnaire results showed that the solidary sense prevails across the board, in contrast to the insulting sense, about which consensus was much lower. We propose that, when the expression is used between young males in a close relationship, the Banter Principle (Leech 1983) is no longer in operation and no inference is needed to disambiguate the interactional import of the collocation. Rather, the solidary sense, having resulted from a &#8220;conventionalization of invited inferences&#8221; (Traugott 1999), is activated automatically in this &#8220;minimal context&#8221; (Terkourafi 2005). Our study has implications for the debates on the inherent nature of im/politeness and on the semantics/pragmatics interface from the perspective of im/politeness research.


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