goldilocksian

Several correspondents have written to compliment me on the content and organization of the “About (academic)” page on my website (here). One went so far as to refer to the goldilocksian mean — not too small, not too big, and (though this isn’t in the Goldilocks fairy tale) “everything easily discoverable”.

These nice comments inspired me to spend yesterday adding to the “Handouts for conference papers” section of the page, adding links to handouts from four Stanford Semantics Festivals.

And then there’s the nice derivational formation goldilocksian ‘just right’, a useful (and, given that you know the fairy tale, easily comprehensible) innovative adjective, moderately frequent (on the order of 6k ghits, dupes removed) but not in the OED.

Maintaining a website on your research and teaching is no easy task, and I often get behind on the upkeep. Providing scans of published papers, in particular, is quite a task. (I’ll think that no one could possibly have any use for some of these items, and then I get a — very reasonable — request for something not already scanned in. Recently I’ve added two items, but there might still be some ephemera out there.)

Now, on conference papers. These are the four SemFest handouts I added yesterday:

2011 “Categories and labels”, in the sexuality etc. domain, using initialisms (LGBT and its relatives)

2012 “Parts of the body”, on concepts and labels in this domain (note: extensive discussion on categorization and labeling, plus more about (external) parts of the body than you probably want to know)

2013 “In a syntactic quandary”, about variation in the way possessives of coordinate NPs are formed (??Sandy’s and my friend)

2014 “Metatext in the comics”, on meaningful material (like titles and captions) beyond the images and texts of cartoons

(Most of the many conference handouts are in .pdf format on my website, but a few are in html format on this blog.)

Then, on goldilocksian, an innovative formation using productive morphological resources (adjectival -ian) and requiring significant cultural background knowledge (plus the ability to pick out which facet of the fairy tale is relevant in the context). The word isn’t in the OED, probably on the grounds that it isn’t widespread enough to merit inclusion and in any case is semantically transparent — but for the noun Goldilocks / goldilocks the OED has the word only with reference to hair (especially its color), so that goldilocksian ‘just right’ might be a useful addition.

3 Responses to “goldilocksian”

  1. Allison Wright Says:

    I especially enjoy the linguistic discipline you bring to the perusal of all those comics.
    It fascinates me that cartoonists who would never describe themselves as linguists in the broadest sense of the word often rely on linguistic complexities to create humour. I sometimes wonder which element occurs first when ideas for cartoons are conceived – the image or the words – or whether both occur simultaneously.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      About image first or words first, the actual answer is: all of the above. As Mankoff tells it in How About Never?, some cartoonists regularly are image-first people, some words-first, and a few start with the combination.

  2. Ben Zimmer Says:

    For more on the “just right” Goldilocks metaphor, see my Wall St. Journal column and Word Routes followup.

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