Archive for the ‘Figurative language’ Category

Sunday penis notes: #3 phallic food

October 25, 2015

(Lots of penis talk, but some linguistic points along the way.)

More things that popped up when I went looking for something having to do with penises — and was offered various sites on phallic food, a long-standing topic on this blog. Three senses of phallic food here: penises as food; foodstuffs that resemble penises (either naturally, or by accident); foodstuffs that are fashioned to look like penises. I’ve posted often about the last two types, but the first is new on this blog.


Bread play

October 22, 2015

From Ann Burlingham, this Scott Milburn cartoon from 2012, with a pun avalanche, or punvalanche for short, of bread-related vocabulary: breadwinner, the verb loaf, (slice of) toast, Melba (toast), sourdough.


Some highlights follow.



September 19, 2015

It seems to be Breadstuffs Weekend. Yesterday, breadsticks. Today, muffins.

Today started with a photo from London, posted on Facebook by Steven Levine:


Steven’s comment:

Excuse me, I’m looking for a guy who lives here who calls himself “the muffin man”. Do you know him?

Yes: Do you know the muffin man?


Zombie X

September 16, 2015

For some time, Mike Pope has been (gently) after me on Facebook to assemble a list of linguistic terms that are my innovations. This turns out to be a devilishly difficult enterprise, for several reasons, a prime one being something that afflicts any attempt to discover the “inventor” of an expression: as I’ve noted several times on this blog, most innovations exploit potentials in the language that are in principle available to everyone (various figures of speech, semantic extensions and specializations, patterns of word formation, and so on), so that it’s quite likely that an innovation has been made by many people on many different occasions, without anyone taking special notice or recording these events.

But sometimes one of these events is noticed, at least within a particular sociocultural community, and that’s taken to be a founding event (with an identifiable source), from which the innovation can spread within the community; the innovator is then given credit within the community.

And so to the story of metaphorical zombie.


Substance massification on the golf course

September 15, 2015

In another watching of the GEICO “Kraken” commercial (posting here), I caught a nice everyday example of the sort of conventionalized metonymy that I called in a 2008 LLog posting substance massification, a particular type of conversion of a C (count) noun to a M (mass) use.

In their in-play commentary on a golf game in progress, one reporter says to another, about a golfer attempting to cope with a sea-monster:

(X) Looks like he’s going to go with the 9 iron. That may not be enough club.

(Golf) club is C, but here is used with M syntax, according to this generalization (from the LLog posting):

C>M: substance massification. A C noun denoting an individual has a M use to denote a generic substance or totality, usually in construction with a quantity determiner (“That’s a lot of horse”, “That’s more elephant than we can handle”). [So: horse / elephant (roughly) ‘amount of horse / elephant material or substance’ (considered as a whole)]

Or in the case of (X), enough club, with club (roughly) ‘amount of club substance or material’.


Go for the nuts!

September 8, 2015

From Ned Deily on Facebook, a photo of the Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game for small children, which invited jokey comments playing on nuts ‘testicles’. And from there to other expressions for the testicles: play ball!


The linguistics of temperature

August 20, 2015

Posted to the Linguistic Typology (LingTyp) mailing list yesterday by Maria Koptjevskaja Tamm ‪<>, a query to the experts, incorporating some information about conceptual metaphors of temperature in (some of) the world’s languages. Her query

concerns extended uses of temperature terms (such as ‘warm’, ‘hot’, ‘cold’, ‘cool’, etc.), primarily in reference to emotions, human dispositions and interpersonal relations, which are the focus of my current cross-disciplinary research together with the social psychologist Hans IJzerman.

As you certainly know,  “affection is warmth”and “anger is heat” are two of the most widely quoted “universal” conceptual metaphors suggested by cognitive linguists on the basis of such expressions as “warm words, feelings” or “hot tempered”, well-attested in familiar languages.

However, the chapters in the volume The linguistics of temperature (John Benjamins, 2015), edited by [Tamm], clearly reveal a significant variance in using temperature metaphors.


Crediting inventiveness

July 7, 2015

A letter in the NYT Book Review on the 5th (from K. Margaret Schwarz of Hillsborough NJ):

Erica Wagner’s review of Jonathan Galassi’s “Muse” (June 21) praises Galassi’s cleverness in referring to Amazon as “Medusa.” But Alison Bechdel did so years ago in “Dykes to Watch Out For.”

Apparently Galassi’s metaphorical reference wasn’t actually clever, because he wasn’t the first person to use it; presumably, he should have searched for the metaphor before he used it in his book and then should have given Bechdel credit for it. (And, following that reasoning, Wagner should have done such a search herself and either cited Bechdel’s precedent or not mentioned the figure at all.)

This strikes me as loony.


I Can’t Even

July 5, 2015

A follow-up to my posting “That goes without”, on an Amanda Hess piece in the NYT Magazine of 6/14, about the (largely) teenage use of “I can’t even” to convey being rendered speechless by strong emotion. Now to the letters section in the magazine for 6/28, which comes with two Tom Gauld cartoons illustrating reader comments.



June 27, 2015

Today’s Rhymes With Orange:

A subtle pun on bait — understood literally, as in bait for fish, or understood figuratively, as an enticement (in this case to click on a link).



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