Archive for the ‘Formulaic language’ Category

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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Anemone pun

July 1, 2014

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm:

Mistaken anemone for mistaken identity. Phonologically distant, but interpretable because mistaken identity is an idiom, a formulaic expression, which is, moreover, appropriate to the context of the cartoon.

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Four for the fourth

June 5, 2014

My morning mail on Wednesday the 4th brought me six suitable cartoons for this blog. Two I have already posted about: a Doonesbury with Duke hallucinating a lizard; and a Bizarro with a diner asking for eggs without any sense of style. The others: a One Big Happy on the attractions of “diet” versions of foods; a Zits on hearing and listening; a Zippy with (among other things) more better; and a Mother Goose and Grimm with a symbolic ambiguity.

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Threesies

May 29, 2014

From Bob Mankoff’s How About Never …  (see here), p. 255, on Mankoff’s effort to give “aspiring cartoonists feedback” by “developing a mini course in cartoon fundamentals and the psychology of humor.” One course topic: “things are funnier in threes”.

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Formulaic: Zippy, OBH

May 4, 2014

Two Sunday cartoons touching on formulaic language: a Zippy with clichés, a One Big Happy with a familiar quotation in a German accent:

(#1)

The line between clichés and idioms is not always clear (and I’m not at all sure that making the distinction clearer would be particularly useful): I’d class have a frog in one’s throat and zip your lip, for instance, as idioms.

(#2)

The German heavy from a bad movie, with a standard line.

hip

April 25, 2014

Today’s hip Zippy:

 

Full of hippie slang, from days now gone.

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Spiders and flies

April 12, 2014

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm:

A transposition of the parts of a familiar saying.

Time flies when you’re having fun came up recently in a somewhat different kind of language play, a simple pun in a Dilbert, here

My Hobby Comics

March 24, 2014

Some bounty from the Stanford Linguistics in the Comics freshman seminar, a collection of xkcd cartoons with subheaded metatext “My Hobby”, searched out by Kyle Qian. Kyle found about 1,300 xkcd cartoons online, 36 of them subheaded this way, and he posted 7 of them with discussion. (I’ll put off posting about his comments until he gives me permission. The cartoons are in some sense public, but Kyle’s analysis is certainly not.)

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Labeling

March 15, 2014

Today’s Zippy:

 

Griffy and Zippy consider carrying identifying labels about their place in the social order. Serbio-Ethiopio-Greco-Roman is especially nice; there can’t be a lot of people claiming that as their ethnic heritage.

Then there’s Zippy in the last panel with another of his yet questions (the lineage of the formula goes back to Are we having fun yet?, a Griffith invention discussed every so often on this blog).

Another allusive pun

February 20, 2014

Yesterday’s Mother Goose and Grimm with an outrageous pun:

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