Archive for the ‘Figurative language’ Category

Three for today

April 18, 2014

Three cartoons for today: a Dilbert, a Bizarro, and a Mother Goose and Grimm:

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Zippy on figures of speech

April 7, 2014

Today’s Zippy:

 

 

Zippy runs through an inventory of figures of speech. Then there’s the language play: oxymoron / moron, and (in the title) idiomatic pressing ‘urgent’ vs.one of the literal senses of pressing (Zippy is ironing clothes).

Faint damns, faint praises

March 6, 2014

On Facebook on the 4th, this charming story from Sally Thomason:

Back in about 1964, when I was in graduate school at Yale, I was moaning and groaning during one of our regular tea-time gatherings about a test I thought I’d blown in Warren Cowgill’s Indo-European class. Warren listened fairly patiently for a bit and then starting saying almost inaudibly, “damn damn damn damn damn damn.” I stopped complaining and asked him what on earth he was doing. “I’m praising you with faint damns,” he said. — Fast forward to today: Rich [Thomason, Sally's husband] just showed me p. 206 of a fantasy novel he’s reading, Point of Hopes, by Melissa Scott & Lisa A. Barnett: “That Rathe seemed to think well of him, or at least to praise him with faint damns, was something of a reassurance…”. Probably the authors weren’t plagiarizing from Warren, because I know they weren’t in the Linguistics tea room on the third floor of the Hall of Graduate Studies in 1964. (Probably Warren wasn’t the first person to have said this either, of course. But this is only the second time I’ve heard it.)

I noted this an inversion of damning with faint praise and suggested that it was older that Warren Cowgill’s use. (I also missed Warren, who died in 1985.) Now some details. (more…)

wicked, insane, crazy

March 4, 2014

From Damien Hall, a pointer to this Questionable Content cartoon (by Jeph Jacques):

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Wicked here doesn’t attribute literal wickedness; instead, it serves as a highly positive intensifier, roughly a New England counterpart to Northern California hella.

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paraprosdokian

February 4, 2014

This figure of speech — sometimes characterized as “bait and switch” — came up in conversation with Don Steiny on Sunday. It seems not to have been discussed on this blog or Language Log.

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Genital plants

December 15, 2013

Two cards in succession in the Art of Instruction set: acorns and arums, both visually similar to human genitals, a fact recognized in some of the common names for the plants.

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wallflower

November 18, 2013

In my set of Art of Instruction cards, recently, one for la giroflée, the wallflower. An assortment of wallflowers:

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Two cartoons

October 21, 2013

Monday morning comics: A Bizarro with word play, A Pearls Before Swine with a slogan reworked:

(#1)

Another kind of hypallage (see here), with a VP adverbial (here, a little) converted to a modifier of a N: play guitar a little > play a little guitar. This particular hypallage has become conventionalized: play some / a lot of / occasional / etc. guitar.

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KEEP CALM — CARRY ON is an excellent slogan phonologically: good prosody, near rhyme (note calmon). PANIC — AND THROW A FUCKING FIT isn’t quite as compact as the model, but it has its own virtues (includling the alliteration in FUCKING FIT, plus panic - fit).

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Briefly noted: bird strikes and avian radar

October 19, 2013

In the NYT yesterday, in “Those Hazardous Flying Birds” by Eric Uhlfelder:

Planes hit birds all the time. That doesn’t typically mean captains have to glide crippled jets onto a river as Capt. Chesley Sullenberger III famously did in January 2009. But a number of collisions have led to crashes, with some deaths. … Over the past 23 years, bird strikes have forced an average of one plane a day to land prematurely, according to the F.A.A.

What caught my eye was the N N compound bird strike, with an unusual use of the head noun strike  – apparently a metaphorical use in which these collisions were viewed as like military attacks (though now strike seems to have become merely the conventional  way of referring to such events).

Uhlfelder’s recommendation for the hazardous bird problem is for “integrated avian radar systems”. Note the Adj N composite avian radar here; avian is an example of a type of non-predicating Adj often referred to as “pseudo-adjectives”; though they are adjectival in form, they are interpreted semantically by invoking a noun, in this case bird. That is, avian radar is bird radar, radar for detecting birds (just as weather radar is radar for detecting weather patterns).

Then there’s marine radar, radar for detecting ships and other objects at sea.

Zippy on comic art (plus fudge)

October 17, 2013

Today’s Zippy, with Griffy and Zippy having another one of their Art Talks, with heavy similes:

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In the background, Oh Fudge Lucille’s Candies in Brants Beach NJ:

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Lucilles — note: no apostrophe — makes and sells fudge (among other things, like salt water taffy), but the name Oh Fudge alludes to the cutesy euphemism fudge for fuck.


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