It is the offseason, a time for self-reflection, a time to spend our energy focusing on the things in life that are more important than football. If you're like me, there are a series of burning questions that begin to bubble up into your consciousness this time of year demanding to be dealt with. One of the recurring questions that has been simmering in my mind all season, and I write this piece assuming that I am not alone in this, has been: Why does Brian always say "Cumong, man?"
Whenever I would see this in print, I would wonder: is this how Brian pronounces "come on"? If so, why? Is this a thing people say? It seems to have caught on to the point where other people on the board use it as well. What is the origin of this spelling? Has the Michigan accent evolved since I left? I decided to do some research. I present to you what I have learned about the etymology of "cumong".
First, is this phrase mgoblog-specific? The evidence supports the notion that the term is indeed highly associated with this blog. There is actually an entry in the Urban Dictionary, which defines the term as "A word Alabama Crimson Tide fans use to exhort their team before a key play or belt out with a fist pump in celebration." The example given is CUMONG Tide, run the dad gum ball. Git this! However, as I will cover later, this entry was most likely added by an mgoblogger. Outside of that, there seems to be little to no usage of this word on the English-speaking web, with the exception of mgoblog, where its usage is frequent.
How do we characterize this phenomenon linguistically? The word is an apparently intentional misspelling of "come on". It is a kind of metaplasmus, but more specifically it appears to be a version of sensational spelling, in which a word is deliberately misspelled for effect. Examples of sensational spelling include "Froot Loops" and "Led Zeppelin".
Phonologically, this spelling portrays a shift in place of articulation of the final consonant of "come on," moving it from an alveolar nasal to a velar nasal. In other words, the contact between the tongue and the roof of the mouth simply moves further back when producing this variation.
Historically, on this site the first usage came on November 14th, 2012 in this post describing the Michigan-Northwestern football game. In that post, Brian writes:
Git R Done, for values of R that equal racism. If you don't follow me on twitter you missed the saga of the Larry The Cable Guy clan in my immediate vicinity, a group of redneck yahoos that said a lot of things like "LEZ GO CUMONG" and "GIT EM CUMONG," which was annoying when they did that really loudly after a four yard run--now my hopes are all up and it's second and six--but mostly harmless.
I tracked down that original series of tweets. I present to you the first time the phrase "cumong" was used in mgoblog history:
they cloned larry the cable guy and put four of them behind me— mgoblog (@mgoblog) November 10, 2012
send help— mgoblog (@mgoblog) November 10, 2012
LEZ GO CUMONG— mgoblog (@mgoblog) November 10, 2012
Note that the Urban Dictionary entry, which is the only known instance of this phrase on the web outside of mgoblog, was added on November 15th, 2012, one day after Brian made his post highliting the term. This timing strongly suggests that it is not an independent phenomenon. After the initial Nov 15th post, it appeared again over the next couple of days, first in the defensive UFR as a figure caption and then in the offensive UFR. The phrase picked up steam in 2013 and by October of 2014 became an actual tag on the site.
EDIT: By popular demand, a chart! This is number of unique google results by month on the mgoblog site for the word cumong. Notice that there was a sizable jump in its popularity this football season:
In light of the information that spelling of this phrase was intended to portray the dialect of several "redneck yahoo" fans, we can re-evaluate its literary significance. It seems now that the phrase is in fact a kind of eye dialect, a misspelling often used to convey the ignorance of the speaker, even though the spelling may correspond to how the word is generally pronounced. This is the same device Dickens used to convey the way his uneducated characters spoke, and was a common feature in Mark Twain's writing. (That said, I can find no academic work that confirms the substitution of the nasal alveolar with the velar consonant in dialects from the American South).
I asked Brian to comment on this, and he confirmed that the phrase indeed originated from the a group of Larry the Cable Guys sitting around him during that game. I hope you've enjoyed this foray in to mgoblog history and culture, and that I have helped to shed some light on a question that was on all of our minds.