Archive for the ‘Formulaic language’ Category

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


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:





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).



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