Two cartoons for today, both involving relationships between phonologically similar words: a Dilbert and a One Big Happy:
Archive for the ‘Errors’ Category
On the front page of the NYT on 9/11, a headline that I read as
To Texas, Scots
This was deeply puzzling: I didn’t think that either Kurdistan or Texas had sizable numbers of Scots, much less ones passionately engaged in the question of Scottish separatism. But then I looked more carefully at the head, and saw that it had Spur, not Spurn. The Scottish issue has inspired separatist advocates in Flanders, Catalonia, Kurdistan, Quebec, the Basque Country of northern Spain, the Veneto region in northern Italy, Brittany, Friesland, Corsica, the South Tirol, Bavaria, the Swedish-speaking sections of Finland, and yes, Texas.
Sometimes I think I understand where my misreadings come from, but in this case I have no idea.
… on language matters, and none of them is a Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. A Zits, on disagreement; a Mother Goose and Grimm, with an uncomplicated ambiguity; and a One Big Happy with Ruthie searching for the right word:
From Chris Waigl on Facebook:
Garden path alert. After reading this for the first three times, I was left with an extraneous “appear to have been a loan”. Got it the fourth time.
Both McDonnells, who now face years in prison, were acquitted of lesser charges of making false statements on loan applications, while Ms. McDonnell was convicted on a charge she alone faced, of obstructing a grand jury investigation by trying to make a gift of $20,000 worth of designer dresses and shoes appear to have been a loan. (link to NYT)
At first (second and third), Chris understood that Ms. McDonnell was convicted of trying to make a $20,000 gift of dresses and shoes (to some person or organization). She thought the sentence was finished – but then it went on!
A classic garden path sentence, to use the term of art (in linguistics and the psychology of language) that has been around since 1970 and has often been used on Language Log and this blog.
Two recent One Big Happy cartoons with Ruthie’s misinterpretations of what she’s heard: a simple one today, and a very complex one a little while back:
Two recent One Big Happys:
Ruthie misunderstands a number of things here: in #1, the full cultural context of what she’s seeing on television, plus the interpretation of self-esteem issues (which she parses as selfish steam issues); and in #2, the interpretation of Oil of Olay (which she hears as Oil of Old Lady).
Occasionally I post some observation about language only to Facebook rather than to this blog (with a link from Facebook), when I think the observation is inconsequential. But it usually turns out that readers find more to say on the topic.
So on the 31st, I noted (in “Annals of headline reading”) that I read what I took to be:
(1) A Plan for Less Trash: Turn New Yorkers Into Composers
(a peculiar idea, but the pull of the familiar word composer overrode the oddness of the thought) for the actual headline:
(2) A Plan for Less Trash: Turn New Yorkers Into Composters
(which makes a great deal more sense).
This encouraged readers to play with the morphological resources of English. (more…)