Archive for the ‘Ambiguity’ Category

NEG + because

March 25, 2015

From yesterday’s NYT:

[Philadelphia police commissioner Charles H.] Ramsey has emerged recently as a national figure in the policing debate. He leads President Barack Obama’s policing task force, which recently made recommendations on how to improve trust between law enforcement and minorities. “I wasn’t selected because the president thought we had the perfect police department,” he told reporters Monday.

The crucial point is this quote from Ramsey:

(1) I wasn’t selected because the president thought we had the perfect police department.

Out of context, (1) is ambiguous, between a reading in which NEG has scope over the because clause:

(1a) It wasn’t because the president thought we had the perfect police department that I was selected.

and a reading in which the because clause is outside the scope of NEG:

(1b) It was because the president thought we had the perfect police department that I wasn’t selected.

Given the context in the story — Ramsey was in fact selected — (1a) must be the reading Ramsey intended, and I’d expect readers of the sentence in context would not even have noticed that it had another interpretation.

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Lab mix

March 22, 2015

Today’s One Big Happy:

If you don’t know the snowclonelet template X mix for dog hybrids (poodle mix, shepherd mix, etc.) and don’t know that Lab can be a clipping of Labrador Retriever, then you’re thrown back on things you do know  and have to treat lab mix as a compound meaning something like ‘something mixed up, created, in a lab’. Cue Frankenstein.

Miss Peach

March 14, 2015

In response to my Zippy posting earlier today in which I looked for the source of the strip’s title, “Peachy Keen”, Drew Smith suggested that the peach part came from the strip Miss Peach rather than (my suggestion) the game character Princess Peach. At issue was the model or models for a grotesquely big-headed character in the Zippy. I wasn’t entirely convinced, but now I see that Miss Peach seems not to have come up on this blog, so it would be worth discussing.

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eunuchs

March 7, 2015

Following up on my posting yesterday of a Dilbert strip that ended with Alice apparently bent on castration, David Preston resurrected a droll Dilbert of 11/9/93:

UNIX, eunuchs, what’s the dif?

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Ambiguity, ambiguity

March 6, 2015

Two cartoons today turning on ambiguities: a One Big Happy in which Ruthie confronts two ways in which someone can be said to keep books; and a Calvin and Hobbes in which Calvin does something similar with ways in which a writer can have a block:

(#1)

(#2)

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Learning to tell jokes

March 2, 2015

Yesterday’s One Big Happy, in which Ruthie works at telling jokes:

Part of acquiring a language is acquiring a large assortment of social routines using that language — including joke patterns. Linguists studying conversation have looked at the acquisition of a number of different joke types, for example knock-knock jokes, where they see the gradual unfolding of the abilities involved in producing and appreciating jokes. For instance, many jokes turn on puns, so that a child has to learn that exact wording can be crucial to the joke; paraphrase won’t do. But children often fail to appreciate that, while still understanding that laughter is called for at a certain point in the joke.

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abduction

March 1, 2015

Today’s Bizarro, with a play on abduction:

So: abduction by aliens (‘extraterrestial beings’) — but for what purpose? In a significantly conventionalized use of alien abduction, the purpose is probing human beings, but here the purpose of the abduction is a more common one: kidnapping for ransom (where it happens that the kidnappers are alien creatures). There are other possibilities.

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Ode to Almond Joy

February 24, 2015

Today’s Zippy, with a candy-bar parody of Schiller’s Ode to Joy (An der Freude), used by Beethoven in the last movement of his Ninth Symphony:

(#1)

Almond Joy, Mounds, Mars bars! Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.

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lost

February 22, 2015

Today’s Bizarro, continuing Piraro’s ambiguity theme:

PST lost of the transitive verb lose, used here in a specialized subsense of a ‘be deprived of’ sense. From NOAD2:

be deprived of (a close relative or friend) through their death or as a result of the breaking off of a relationship: she lost her husband in the fire.

This in contrast to an ‘unable to find’ sense:

become unable to find (something or someone): I’ve lost the car keys.

How do we work out that these two senses intersect in the cartoon?

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Bird seed

February 20, 2015

Yesterday, a Bizarro with an ambiguity in auto parts. Today, another ambiguity, somewhat simpler than that one:

Two interpretations for the N + N compound bird seed, differing in the semantic relationship between the head N seed and the accompanying N bird — one like parrot seed ‘seed to give parrots, to feed parrots’, one like grass seed ‘seed of grass, i.e., of the grass plant; seed to grow grass from’.

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