Medical Microfiction: Labiodental

Greeting Frenzy

Fidgeting with my blue vest, I stood at the entrance to ColossoMart, hoping to make a good impression.

“Relax, kid,” said Denny, my supervisor. “We’re greeters, not accountants. Smile.”

He flashed his pearly whites at a passing customer. I caught the eye of a blonde woman with her kid. Following Denny’s example, I gave her my widest grin.

Her eyes widened. She clutched her son’s hand and hurried past.

“Well done! I knew you’d have the knack for Loss Prevention.”

I beamed. They usually stick Sharkmen behind computers or phones, but I’m a people person. I love my new job.


Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy poster.

Labiodental means “pertaining to the lips and teeth”. It’s most often used in the field of linguistics to describe sounds produced using the upper teeth in conjunction with the lower lip. Confused? Make the “f” sound. Really drag it out: ffffffffff. You should be able to feel how your upper teeth bite down on your lower lip to make it happen.

The full technical name for this “f” sound is a voiceless labiodental fricative. “Voiceless” because your vocal cords don’t activate while producing the sound, “labiodental” for the position of your mouth, and “fricative” because it’s produced by constricting air flow through your mouth. To give you a comparison, the “v” sound in English is a voiced labiodental fricative. It’s exactly the same as the “f” sound, except you make noise with your vocal cords while doing everything else the same.

Imagine my confusion when I started learning German and discovered that German spelling rules often reverse the “f” and the “v” sounds! Because in the world of linguistics, nothing’s ever simple.

Today’s story has a labiodental theme as well. I think a shark’s smile well-describes this word! I also think that employing a Sharkman as a greeter would more than take care of any potential theft problems in the store. For people like me, greeters like these might even attract my business. Talk about customer service!

Would you be more or less likely to shop at a store staffed by Sharkmen?

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