Archive for the ‘Formulaic language’ Category

Or what?

May 22, 2015

A Meg Biddle cartoon in the June 2015 Funny Times:

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Yes-no questions with the tag or what? are regularly used to emphatically assert the truth of the questioned proposition. So

Is this a great country, or what?

has the effect of proclaiming that this is indeed a great country. But the question has at least one other reading, merely asking for an alternative answer to Is this a great country?, and that’s the reading Biddle is playing with in the cartoon.

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Inspirational words

May 21, 2015

(A Dilbert, to introduce a recently-finished inventory of Dilbert postings about language matters on Language Log and this blog, here on this blog.)

Yesterday’s Dilbert, in which Dogbert offers a (not very encouraging) inspirational, motivational saying to Dilbert:

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This particular aphorism is a quote (“In the long run, we are all dead”) — from John Maynard Keynes in 1923.

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A collocation

May 1, 2015

One little exercise: Ask some people to fill in the blank with an adjective: A ___ SCOT.

Another little exercise: Ask some people (not any of the ones in the first exercise) to fill in the blank with a noun: A CANNY ___.

You’ll get a lot of CANNY for the first and a lot of SCOT for the second. CANNY SCOT isn’t exactly an idiom (each word occurs freely without the other), but the two words have an attraction for one another, collocate naturally with one another. In particular, any number of people have been described (with approbation) as canny Scots:

Adam Smith, the father of economics, was a canny Scot who had a strong belief in free-trade. (link to CNBC of 9/30/11)

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Artificial elephants and X Must Die! movies

April 18, 2015

Today’s Zippy:

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This cartoon links to a long series of strips on the invented cartoon character Happy Boy in the town of Prosaic (a “normal” place close to the surreal Dingburg) — a series that I find tedious (and linguistically uninteresting) and haven’t posted about. But here we get amazing elephants (note the cartoon’s title “Tusk, Tusk”, a play on tsk tsk) and a pointer to movies with titles using the snowclonic pattern “X Must Die!”.

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The cat at the vet’s

March 26, 2015

A Benjamin Schwartz cartoon from the March 30th New Yorker:

Some friends have written me to ask for an explanation of this cartoon. The key part is the name Schrödinger. The cartoon is about Schrödinger’s cat, which has a certain fame in theoretical physics

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The end of March

March 23, 2015

Today’s Frazz:

Ok, buh-bye is indeed an iamb, but it’s not a lamb. Anyway, the end of March is eight days away.

Lab mix

March 22, 2015

Today’s One Big Happy:

If you don’t know the snowclonelet template X mix for dog hybrids (poodle mix, shepherd mix, etc.) and don’t know that Lab can be a clipping of Labrador Retriever, then you’re thrown back on things you do know  and have to treat lab mix as a compound meaning something like ‘something mixed up, created, in a lab’. Cue Frankenstein.

Three cartoons

March 8, 2015

For Daylight Saving(s) Time in the U.S., three cartoons having something to do with discourse organization: One Big Happy, Bizarro, and Dilbert:

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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.

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Name that stuff!

February 13, 2015

So what is this stuff?

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Useless hint #1: It’s from Australia.

Useless hint #2: It’s organic.

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

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