August 31, 2014

Revisiting my posting “The accent in Polish”, with a cartoon in which a Mr. Waterski corrects a desk clerk’s pronunciation of his name. The correction comes in two parts:

(1) a statement of fact about this particular name: “The accent is on the second syllable”; and

(2) an appeal to a generalization: “like every other Polish surname”

Part (1) is a brute statement of fact and it’s largely inarguable: people’s names are to be pronounced as they say they are (so long as this pronunciation is consistent with the phonology of the target language). If your family name is Taliaferro and you’re a Virginian who pronounces the name like Tolliver, then that’s the pronunciation (but you can’t insist that in English it’s pronounced [ˌtaʎʎaˈfɛrro], as in Italian).

Part (2), however, makes a claim about Polish — that the accent in Polish surnames is on the second syllable — and that generalization can be tested against the evidence. In fact, it is incorrect, and simultaneously (in a sense) insufficiently general.

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Geoff Leech

August 30, 2014

Died on August 19th, linguist Geoffrey Leech of Lancaster University (in the UK). The quick overview from Wikipedia:

Geoffrey Neil Leech (16 January 1936 – 19 August 2014) was a specialist in English language and linguistics. He was the author, co-author or editor of over 30 books and over 120 published papers. His main academic interests were English grammar, corpus linguistics, stylistics, pragmatics and semantics.

A nice notice on Language Log by Ben Zimmer on the 20th, emphasizing the importance of Geoff’s work in corpus linguistics.

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More Bizarro followup

August 30, 2014

After I posted a Bizarro Batman cartoon and a followup analysis of it, Billy Green has posted on Facebook:

On his blog today, [Dan] Piraro [the Bizarro cartoonist] mentions that this was suggested by another cartoonist, Dan McConnell:


In this one, a pun on Holy See ‘the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome’.

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Airing out the naughty bits

August 30, 2014

(Not much on language here.)

From Xopher Walker recently, a photograph (from 1998, by Keith Munyan) flirting with the X line, the border between sexually suggestive and X-rated. In this case, a glimpse of public hair, but no more:

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The accent in Polish

August 30, 2014

Today’s Rhymes With Orange:

Ah, Watérski.

I did spend some time trying to find out if Waterski was an attested Polish name, but the enormous number of sites on waterskiing frustrated my search.


August 30, 2014

It’s the end of summer here, and the fall-blooming anemones are in flower: plants with tall stems (several feet) and elegant purplish-pink flowers (there’s also a white variety, but the local ones are all pink). The flowers, with a couple of insects as a bonus:


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Visual burlesque

August 29, 2014

From Xopher Walker recently, this image from the American Postcard Co. in 1995; design by George Costaldo, photography by Michael Huhn. One of a set of political leather images — involving Hillary alone, Bill alone, Hillary and Bill, and (below) Bill and Al — sometimes described as parodies, but to my mind better characterized as (visual) burlesques.

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Ruthie and Joe again

August 29, 2014

In today’s One Big Happy, the kids do their best to cope with rare English vocabulary:


I’m not at all inclined to use eschew in speech, and I seem to have used it only once in writing on the net. It’s awkwardly formal in style/register.

Bizarro followup

August 29, 2014

Posting yesterday on that day’s Bizarro, with only minimal commentary on it. Now a follow-up on two topics: what you have to know to make sense of what’s going on in the cartoon; and what makes it funny.

The cartoon repeated here:


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While Robin’s off duty …

August 28, 2014

Today’s very silly Bizarro:

While Robin’s off-duty, Batman calls in Cardinal. Stick to the birds.


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