Archive for the ‘Formulaic language’ Category

The Zippyclone again

February 21, 2015

Today’s Zippy:

Barreling from a first date towards mid-life in three panels. And then we get “Am I th’ divorced father of 2.3 kids with visitation rights yet?!”, a 1sg variant of the Are We X Yet snowclone with a complex X — both features Bill Griffith has exploited before.


Name that stuff!

February 13, 2015

So what is this stuff?


Useless hint #1: It’s from Australia.

Useless hint #2: It’s organic.

Useless hint #3: It’s vegetable rather than animal.



January 23, 2015

Yesterday’s Zippy has our Pinhead playing with catchphrases:

More grist for my posting mill; I’m working on a posting about:

Orin Hargraves. 2014. It’s Been Said Before: A Guide to the Use and Abuse of Clichés. Oxford.

Robert Deyber

January 16, 2015

Visual play on formulaic language from artist Robert Deyber. A sample:


Guess the caption…


No problem

December 31, 2014

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm:

Mother Goose objects to (what she sees as) an innovation in politeness routines, seeing it as recent (and characteristic of kids) and especially associated with serving people. These criticisms has been leveled by many others.


Scientific language play

December 10, 2014

Every so often I post on word play in science writing; journalists are given to spicing up stories that have heavy technical content by playful headlines or lead paragraphs, using puns, alliteration, rhyme, and playful allusions to familiar quotations or other formulaic language. A recent example from New Scientist (on the website on December 3rd, in print in the December 6th issue). The on-line title, which conveys the technical content:

Spotted: First quadruple star image produced by gravity

In print this was jazzed up to the more eye-catching:

Once, twice, thre, four times a supernova…

(with a bow to Lionel Richie and the Commodores).


No cultural clichés!

November 16, 2014

In a possibly apochryphal story, someone complains that they can’t appreciate Shakespeare’s plays because they’re so filled with clichéd expressions. Of course, those expressions were either innovations of Shakespeare’s or other figurative language spread through Shakespeare’s. If you come to works of art in a vacuum, with no sense of their cultural context, then even works of genius can seem banal.

Another example: a friend of mine who found Mozart’s music boring, because for him it was all generic “classical” music, only too familiar.

And now, another friend who (despite his attraction to action movies of many sorts) can’t appreciate classic Westerns, like Red River, because he feels they’re too predictable.

I’m sure there are other examples from other arts, though I can’t provide them from my own experience. Probably there are people who can’t appreciate Monet’s water lily paintings, or Charles Dickens’s novels, or John McPhee’s non-fiction books.


It happens

November 14, 2014

From Ann Burlingham, a piece of modest taboo avoidance in her own home town of Perry NY. In the Daily News (Genesee, Wyoming, and Orleans (NY) Counties) today: “It happens: Stolen car found in Perry manure lagooon”, beginning:

Perry — A car reported stolen Monday from Creative Food Ingredients, 1 Lincoln Ave., was recovered Friday morning from a manure lagoon of a Perry farm.

Another contribution to the variations on the formulaic expression shit happens. Earlier entrants:

“X happens” of 7/11/11: Chick Happens, Lit Happens

“More X happens” of 8/5/11: Sit Happens [of a dog]

“SOS” of 8/19/11: Ship Happens [a sinking ship]

[Added 11/15: pit happens would have been a possible caption for the Perry photo. Plenty of other possibilities more widely afield: wit happens (cf. lit happens); Schick happens [the razor]; fit happens [in a gym]; nit happens [lice]; Mitt happens [Romney]; etc.]

X bar

October 18, 2014

Yesterday’s Bizarro:

The compound hippo bar, with head bar ‘establishment where alcohol is served’ — so it’s subsective: a hippo bar is a kind of bar. It’s also an instance of a snowclonelet composite X bar, a snowclonelet I hadn’t previously looked at — in this case a subtype of X bar in which X characterizes (directly or indirectly) the patrons of the bar. The model for hippo bar in the cartoon is gay bar ‘bar catering to gay people (esp. men)’, and that adds to the humor in the cartoon: to start with, a hippo in a bar; then the idea of a bar catering to hippos; and then, the zinger, the guy who didn’t know the place was a hippo bar, the way some guys turn up in a gay bar maintaining that they had no idea the place was a gay bar.


No stinkin’ budgies

October 15, 2014

Today’s Bizarro:

A famous cultural reference here, worked into a pun on badges and budgies.



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