… in the latest (9/29/14) New Yorker: a Zach Kanin on writing systems and a Joe Dator with a snow cone snowclone:
Archive for the ‘Formulaic language’ Category
From the 8/30/14 New Scientist, three stories: one with a piece of technical terminology I hadn’t heard before, and two perfectly straightforward stories (on the mapping of Antarctic Ocean life and on the mating customs of the giraffe weevil) with some language play that’s characteristic of much science writing.
Posting yesterday on that day’s Bizarro, with only minimal commentary on it. Now a follow-up on two topics: what you have to know to make sense of what’s going on in the cartoon; and what makes it funny.
The cartoon repeated here:
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.
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.
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.
Two Sunday cartoons touching on formulaic language: a Zippy with clichés, a One Big Happy with a familiar quotation in a German accent:
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.
The German heavy from a bad movie, with a standard line.