Brad Pitt Quits Acting to Produce a New Word

The world of acting may still be coming to terms with Brad Pitt’s announcement that he will quit acting in three years’ time, but the world of lexicography may soon be welcoming a new innovater.

In making his announcement that he is going to hang up his script at the age of 50, the actor announced that instead, he is going to go behind the camera, as he has enjoyed “the producerial side”.

There seems no obvious reason why “producerial” doesn’t work as a word, even though it clearly doesn’t. Sometimes a word just sounds wrong, and that is enough reason to feel uncomfortable around it. Words ending in ‘r’ which have an ‘-ial’ tacked on the end can work. Managerial is a perfectly fine word. Or if Brad Pitt had wanted to go behind the camera in a different way, he could have had a successful directorial career.

But this is not a universal linguistic rule, it seems, and unlike some situations, where you can add a prefix or a suffix to make up a word that at least sounds OK, with this suffix, you can’t. Teacherial, actorial, hookerial – none of these add a sensible adjectival element to these professions.

It could be as simple as the fact that they are not filling a linguistic need – we don’t really need an adjective from these words, they are not filling a linguistic hole, so they simply sound wrong.

And to prove that such words are not necessary, you only have to check out the Spanish versions of the Brad Pitt story. “He disfrutado mucho el lado producerial,”, the translation declares. Producerial is not translated into a neat Spanish alternative, it seems to be producerial in any language. And so the first thing that Brad Pritt has produced since his announcement is a word that nobody needs.

One thought on “Brad Pitt Quits Acting to Produce a New Word

  1. Chris R.

    Well, i don’t know about the “not needed” part. Reason I found this article at all was by searching for the non-word “teacherial”. I was hoping to find a real-word equivalent for it, specifically ending in “al” which I wanted as a contrast to “maternal”. “Professorial” with its implied deep, phlegmatic (due to pipe smoking) voice and beardedness (another non-word according to this spell checker) hardly seemed suitable for a young, female elementary school teacher who has not yet achieved schoolmarmishness. This is one reason I enjoy reading David Foster Wallace: he makes up words when he needs them without a moment’s hesitation, sometime two or more per line.

    But back to Mr. Pitt’s neologistic candidate, I think there are identifiable reasons why some “ial” constructions might sound familiar while others not. These have to do with the number and stresses of syllable, and for “contained words” that may be inadvertently created. ManaGEERial, ProfesSORial, DirecTORial are all five syllables with the stress in the middle, providing a symmetry of weight about the center axis. TeaCHERial, is only four syllables and as such will be forever lopsided with respect to stress. ProduCERial, while containing the proper mass distribution about the centroid, contains the word “cereal” (or “serial”, I guess), which somehow rubs us the wrong way. But I don’t fault Mr. Pitt for throwing it out there…

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