Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Green Eggs and Ham

October 22, 2014

From Facebook friends, this use of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham:

(#1)

The Muppets Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy inquire of the narrator of Green Eggs and Ham about their missing son, who is presumably green (like Kermit) and porcine (like Miss Piggy) and so, ewww, might be the source of that green ham on the platter.

Two things: one, about the source of this cartoon; two, about the children’s book and, especially, about the parsing of green eggs and ham.

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Tove Jansson tomorrow

October 19, 2014

From the “Goings On About Town” section in the 10/20/14 New Yorker:

Tove Jansson Celebration: N.Y.R.B. Classics and Scandinavia House mark the hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Finnish writer, known for the Moomin cartoon series and other works, as well as the publication of a new collection of her stories, “The Woman Who Borrowed Memories.” The novelists Philip Teir and Kathryn Davis will discuss Jansson’s fiction, the actor Thomas Hiltunen will give a reading, and the journalist Anu Partanen will moderate. (58 Park Ave., at 38th St. scandinaviahouse.org. Oct. 20 at 6:30.)

Another multiple talent who doesn’t usually get pegged as Artist (without qualification), like many others I’ve written about on this blog (Edward Gorey, for instance). Charming but complex books for children (a favorite in our household when my daughter was young), among other things.

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Ling wars in Dingburg

September 30, 2014

Today’s Zippy has Dingburgers, drawn into camps on issues of linguistic variation and usage, slinging lots of technical terminology:

Most of these features — the glottal stop, NG coalescence, like, awesome, uptalk, whatever, vocal fry (creak, creaky voice) — have been discussed on Language Log or here, because they are associated with a collection of geographic or social dialect characteristics (region, age, sex, class, etc.) or particular styles and registers; they are socioculturally significant, usually in quite complex ways. The remaining three — strident voice, slack voice, and falsetto — are phonation types that have, I think, escaped attention on these blogs

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Banned comics

September 24, 2014

For this year’s Banned Book Week, the focus is on comics. From a story today on NPR by Lynn Neary, “Too Graphic? 2014 Banned Books Week Celebrates Challenged Comics”:

Comics and graphic books are flourishing these days — writers and illustrators are taking on increasingly sophisticated topics and children’s authors are finding just the right balance between naughty and nice. But a number of the books have come under fire from critics who would like to see them banned from schools and libraries. That’s why comics and graphic books are the focus of this year’s Banned Books Week, an annual event that calls attention to challenged titles.

Two books catch most of the attention: Jeff Smith’s Bone and Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants.

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Two from Out

September 20, 2014

Yesterday, it was The Advocate; today, it’s another LPI publication, Out (or OUT) magazine, again with two pieces of interest for this blog in the latest (October 2014) issue: one on straightsplaining, one on gay bookstores.

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What a difference 30 years makes

September 6, 2014

Just arrived: Dan Jurafsky’s delightful The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu (Norton, 2014):

I’ll have more to say about the book later; here I’m focusing on chapter 1, “How to Read a Menu”, because it takes up a topic than Ann Zwicky and I wrote on in 1980 (“America’s National Dish: The Style of Restaurant Menus”, in American Speech 55.83-92; available on-line here). A lot has changed in 30+ years.

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In memoriam Martha Pigeon

September 5, 2014

(Only a little bit about language.)

From New Scientist on 8/30/14, “Beautiful but doomed: Hubristic humans should heed the tale of the passenger pigeon” by Adrian Barnett, beginning:

This September marks a melancholy anniversary: the first of the month is the centennial of the death of Martha the pigeon in Cincinnati zoo and, with her passing, the extinction of the passenger pigeon. It was an extinction that 100 years earlier would have been inconceivable.

This was a species that moved in flocks of billions of individuals, so dense as to blot out the sun and take days to pass.

… The anniversary has been marked by the publication of three very different books, all focusing on how a species can go from sky-darkening abundance to a single, aged individual in a matter of decades – and what this may tell us about the future.

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A further Nixonian note

August 11, 2014

In a posting yesterday I paired Richard M. Nixon with the poet Frank O’Hara, both of whom have significant anniversaries this year:

A startling juxtaposition of personalities: the awkward, often surly, and fiercely ambitious politician Nixon versus the charming and gregarious poet, with his great gift for friendship.

I went on the embroider some on O’Hara, but didn’t expand on my brief and cautious characterization of Nixon. Into the breach steps distinguished historian David M. Kennedy in yesterday’s New York Times Book Review, in “On the Record: ‘The Nixon Tapes 1971-1972’ and ‘The Nixon Defense’ “, which hits RMN with both barrels.

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Yesterday’s anniversaries

August 10, 2014

Yesterday, August 9th, was the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resigning the Presidency of the United States. And the New York Times had an appreciation of Frank O’Hara’s “Lunch Poems”, which was first published in 1964 and has now been reissued by City Lights. A startling juxtaposition of personalities: the awkward, often surly, and fiercely ambitious politician Nixon versus the charming and gregarious poet, with his great gift for friendship.

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Clickbait schemes

July 17, 2014

Andras Kornai wrote me on Tuesday to comment on a prominent pattern he’d seen in online clickbaiting, exemplified by:

You Won’t Believe What This Cop Did When The Cameras WEREN’T Rolling. WOW!

Man Attempts To Hug a Wild Lion. What Happens Next Stunned Me

He’s collected hundreds of similar examples and wondered whether others had noticed the pattern (many have in fact been annoyed by it) and whether it had gotten a name (not so far as I know). In this particular schema, the “hook” is an expression of astonishment or surprise, which can be expressed in a number of ways, referring to the reader (“you won’t believe”, “you’ll be amazed”) or to the presumed writer (“… stunned me”, “I couldn’t believe”), in a variety of syntactic constructions. As a temporary expedient, I’ll refer to this as the SURPRISE! clickbait scheme.

The scheme is “semi-formulaic”, in a way that’s reminiscent of the precursors to snowclones (see “The natural history of snowclones”, here): a culturally significant idea is given a number of formulations; one version achieves special status (in a formula); and then this formula serves as a template for new expressions. The SURPRISE! scheme hasn’t yet crystallized as a formula, but it’s nevertheless recognizable by its form(s) and functions.

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