“Dude,” Jess said, setting her pint down and leaning forward, “let it go. You’re harshing the squee.”
“I…” I paused. “What?” I glanced at Daryl, who seemed to have understood her.
“You’re harshing the squee,” Jess repeated. “Don’t go pick pick picking at fiction all the time. Willing suspension of disbelief! Sci fi is allegory anyway, so never mind about their needing three years to learn the language after arriving on the planet.”
“Harshing the squee.” I pulled out my soft leather Letts and my Cross mechanical pencil and wrote it down. “Does that mean what I think it means?”
Daryl reached into the basket and grabbed a sweet potato fry. “It means you’re pissing in the popcorn.” He dipped the fry and relaxed back with it.
I looked at the two of them. “This is apparently a term I’m supposed to know? It’s current? Squee?”
Jess smiled. “You’re getting old. And out of touch.” She stuck her tongue out.
“Squee is a noise fangirls make,” Daryl said. “You know, anime fangirls, so excitable. It started out as onomatopoeia –” (“An ideophone,” Jess interjected) –”and has become a verb and a noun and probably an adjective too somewhere.” Ah, yes, the versatility of the English language – and of ideophones, which are words that have a performative aspect to them, like lickety-split, whoosh, and so on.
“No doubt,” I observed, “the fangirls become ‘woo girls’ once they’re old enough to get into bars – those girls who scream, ‘Partyyyyyy! Wooooo!'” I sipped my dark pint. “Squee is a really nice, expressive word. It has an imitative feel to it, as you say, but also draws on some good current phonaesthemes. It echoes squeal and squeak, using the /skw/ to intensify the high-pitched /i/, sliding in on the /s/ and then, like a shuffleboard puck, knocking the rest of the word forward with the /kw/.”
“And that /i/ by itself,” Jess added. “An expression of glee, as in whee and whoopee and yee-haw.”
“And there’s also the hint of squeeze and squeegee cut off,” I mused. I reached for a sweet potato fry and found I was taking the last one.
“Another reference you’re too old to know,” Daryl said, “is that Squee is also the name of the main character in a comic book series.”
“Oh, come now,” Jess said. “Surely James has read Johnny the Homicidal Maniac.”
I looked at them with a slight smile and washed down the rest of my beer.
Daryl was getting busy with his iPhone. After a moment he held it out to me. It was displaying the webpage tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Squee , which turned out to be a treasure trove of citations from popular culture of uses of squee. I scrolled and read. Scroll scroll scroll. “Only tweenage screams of ecstasy have the strength to cut a hole in space itself!” Scroll scroll scroll. I stopped and stared at yet another must-take-out-my-Letts-and-Cross-pencil word. “Nerdgasm!” I looked up. “Squee!”
The waitress had just happened by at that very moment. Jess turned to her and said, “He needs another.”
The waitress looked at me. “I think I might need to see some ID.”