Archive for the ‘Metaphor’ Category

Three for today

April 18, 2014

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

(#1)

(#2)

(#3)

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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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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.

palisade

October 11, 2013

It started yesterday, when Geoff Nathan posted this to ADS-L:

I’m giving a mid-term in phonetics, and have asked students to transcribe some words. So far, here are words that at least five students (out of 63, almost all native speakers of American or Canadian English) don’t know: choral, palisade.

Discussion on palisade ensued. (more…)

Hyperbolic metaphors

October 9, 2013

Frank Bruni in an op-ed column in the NYT yesterday, “Nazis, Lynching and Obamacare”, beginning:

You might think that the methodical extermination of millions of Jews by a brutal regime intent on world domination would resist appropriation as an all-purpose metaphor. You might think that genocide, of all things, would be safe from conversion into sloppy simile.

You’d be wrong.

Bruni catalogues an assortment of ravingly hyperbolic similes in recent times, mostly (but not entirely) associated with the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Comparisons to: Nazis and the Holocaust, lynch mobs, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, slavery, and hostage taking.

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Brief notice: spinsters

October 9, 2013

In the NYT Magazine on the 6th, a “Who Made This?” piece by Pagan Kennedy on movie popcorn, with this accompanying note on a metaphor:

The industry term for unpopped kernels: spinsters

One commenter disputed this claim, saying that the correct term was old maids. Other sources:

What I do not care for is all those unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bag. Incidentally, these kernels are referred to as “spinsters” among popcorn aficionados.  (link)

Unpopped popcorn kernels have been dubbed “old maids” in popular slang, since just as unmarried women that never had children, they do not “pop”. (link)

Apparently there are alternative usages.

From NOAD2 on spinster (originally ‘a woman who spins’):

an unmarried woman, typically an older woman beyond the usual age for marriage.

The word has a derogatory tone that goes beyond an unmarried woman. NOAD2 treats old maid as explicitly derogatory:

derogatory   a single woman regarded as too old for marriage.

dickhead, butthead, whatever

October 7, 2013

An entertaining piece on Slate’s Lexicon Valley blog by Neal Whitman on the 4th, “Dickheads Are More Like Buttheads Than A**holes”, beginning:

On a recent episode of The Sid Rosenberg Show, a sports talk radio program on WMEN in Royal Palm Beach, Fla., former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor called former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason — with whom he’s had a longstanding feud — a “dickhead.” Which raises the question: Did L.T. imply that Boomer was someone whose entire being consists of the head of a dick OR someone who has a dick for a head? (Yes, these are the sorts of things that linguists care about.)

Neal goes on to distinguish endocentric (subsective) compounds from exocentric (headless) ones, giving asshole as an example of the first sort (an asshole is a hole, and then the compound can be extended metaphorically to people) and butthead as an example of the second. What about dickhead?

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ballhawk

October 4, 2013

In the latest (October 7th) New Yorker, a Talk of the Town piece, “Dept. of Accumulation: Ballhawks” by Reeves Wiedeman, beginning:

Zack Hample caught his first major-league baseball when he was twelve — a defining moment in most American childhoods, but one that left him unsatisfied. If I can catch one ball, he thought, why not a thousand? Two decades later, a thirty-six-year-old bookstore clerk, with a shaved head and a soul patch, he is now the world’s preëminent ballhawk.

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Up Your Alley

September 30, 2013

Posting about the Folsom Street Fair yesterday reminded me of another BDSM street fair in San Francisco. From the fair’s website:

Up Your Alley® is an unrivaled fetish fair, always on the last weekend of July in San Francisco. It’s only for real players – and not for the faint of heart. There are sweaty athletes in full kit, motorcycle studs, hairy chested muscle men, spit-in-your-face punks, and leather daddies galore. You won’t find a filthier event here in the States. If you’re into it, there’s a scene for you at Up Your Alley. With over 10,000 sexy leathermen, you’re sure to find your match. 

Located in front of the legendary Powerhouse bar, leather and fetish enthusiasts engage in serious BDSM play – right on the street! The fair features over 50 vendor booths, hot food and cold stiff drinks, boot black stations, and a dance area with the hottest San Francisco DJs located at the intersection of 10th and Folsom. Check out this only-in-San Francisco event that attracts your most self-indulgent band of brothers. 

In order to accomodate the newly enacted SF nudity ordinance, from which the UYA fairgrounds is exempt, coat check will be available on 10th Street between the food court and Folsom St.

Smaller and more focused than Folsom Street, and seriously raunchy.

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link rot

September 25, 2013

Not a fresh expression for me, but an entertaining metaphor, caught in yesterday’s NYT, in “In Supreme Court Opinions, Web Links to Nowhere” by Adam Liptak:

Supreme Court opinions have come down with a bad case of link rot. According to a new study, 49 percent of the hyperlinks in Supreme Court decisions no longer work.

… The modern Supreme Court opinion is increasingly built on sand.

Hyperlinks are a huge and welcome convenience, of course, said Jonathan Zittrain, who teaches law and computer science at Harvard and who prepared the study with Kendra Albert, a law student there. “Things are readily accessible,” he said, “until they aren’t.”

What is lost, Professor Zittrain said, can be crucial. “Often the footnotes and citations,” he said, “are where the action is.”

For most of the Supreme Court’s history, its citations have been to static, permanent sources, typically books. Those citations allowed lawyers and scholars to find, understand and assess the court’s evidence and reasoning.

Since 1996, though, justices have cited materials found on the Internet 555 times, the study found. Those citations are very often ephemeral.

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