If there’s one thing that kept me up at night as a child, it was wondering what’s wrong with Scooby-Doo. I mean, why is he always so hungry? Does he have a tapeworm? And why does he walk away from a table full of food for a couple of Scooby Snacks? I guess the whole gang has their problems. Daphne has Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and had several ribs removed to try to look slimmer. Freddy is a sex addict, who always sends the incompetent guy and the dog off on their own so he can try to talk Daphne and Velma into a threesome. Velma is brilliant, but not smart enough to get a second pair of glasses. Seriously, if you lost your glasses on a daily basis, you’d buy a backup pair. Shaggy is the worst of all. He gave up his whole weird rap-reggae career to live in a psychedelic van with a bunch of teenagers.
It turns out that other people have their own ideas about what’s wrong with Scooby-Doo. It’s his speech impediment. I guess “being a dog that learned how to speak English” isn’t a good enough reason not to enunciate properly. That’s why Kyle Hill used some of his obviously massive amount of free time to search for an answer. He found out that there are two types of speech sound disorders: phonetic and phonological. A phonetic disorder causes people to incorrectly shape sounds in a word, like with a lisp. A phonological disorder causes people to replace or add sounds to a word.
Hill took his vitally important Scooby-Doo emergency to a speech pathologist at Marquette University, Dr. Steven Long, Ph.D. Dr. Long obviously dropped everything he was doing to solve this crucial case. He concluded that Scooby-Doo has a phonological disorder called Rhotic Replacement.
Hill wrote in Discover Magazine:
He told me in an email: “I would refer to [Scooby-Doo’s disorder] as a phonological as opposed to a phonetic disorder in that he shows a pattern of substituting and adding sounds in his speech rather than just distorting sounds.”
So in terms of a diagnosis, Scooby doesn’t distort words, he adds onto them. “Uh oh” becomes “ruh roh” and “apple” becomes “rapple.” The technical term for this, Dr. Long told me, is rhotacization. In linguistics and speech pathology, rhotacization means changing some consonant like /d/ or /l/ to an /r/. Though Scooby definitely adds an /r/ to words that don’t begin with consonants, this complete rhotacization still basically describes his speech.
Giving the honors to Dr. Long, after 45 long years of odd pronunciations, he offered me Scooby’s official diagnosis: “Rhotic Replacement”.
What does that mean, Doc? Is it fatal? Is Scooby-Doo going to live?
In fact, Dr. Long explained to me that what Scooby does is basically unknown among humans. When something is wrong with our speech, we tend to subtract from the complexity of the sounds we try to make, not add to them. For example, American children speaking General American English tend to derhotacize rather than rhotacize their speech like Scooby does, “…resulting in Elmer Fudd-like pronunciations such as his much quoted phrase ‘wascally wabbit’,” Dr. Long told me.
Oh my God! Scooby-Doo’s speech impediment isn’t even real. He must have been faking it this whole time just to try to appear more vulnerable, so we’d sympathize with him. I’m glad someone finally got to the bottom of this case. I hope the cops drag that dog to the pound, as he screams “I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for those meddling speech pathologists!”