National Grammar Day comes around again tomorrow (along with Opal Eleanor Armstrong Zwicky’s birthday, the 11th). To recognize the occasion, Dennis Baron has posted an entertaining piece (“Why is National Grammar Day different from all other days?”) on his blog.
Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category
Yesterday’s One Big Happy, in which Ruthie works at telling jokes:
Part of acquiring a language is acquiring a large assortment of social routines using that language — including joke patterns. Linguists studying conversation have looked at the acquisition of a number of different joke types, for example knock-knock jokes, where they see the gradual unfolding of the abilities involved in producing and appreciating jokes. For instance, many jokes turn on puns, so that a child has to learn that exact wording can be crucial to the joke; paraphrase won’t do. But children often fail to appreciate that, while still understanding that laughter is called for at a certain point in the joke.
Just went past on the Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show on KFJC (radio from Foothill College in Los Altos Hills CA): a routine from The National Lampoon Radio Hour, “The Indianapolis Academy of the French Accent”. What to do if you have a coarse accent in English that’s holding you back in life: learn to speak with a French accent (not actually speak French, mind you, just get that suave accent). On YouTube here, in a version on the album National Lampoon Radio Hour: Best Moments, released in 2003. With: Christopher Guest, Chevy Chase, Emily Praeger, and Alice Playten.
Today’s Zippy, a tribute to actor Mel Blanc:
Lots of linguistic interest (not to mention humor) in Blanc.
In the latest (10/20/14) New Yorker, a hilarious and simultaneously disturbing piece by Patricia Marx, “Pets Allowed: Why are so many animals now in places where they shouldn’t be?” (starting on p. 36), about emotional-support animals. From p. 37, on E.S.A.s vs. service dogs:
Contrary to what many business managers think, having an emotional-support card merely means that one’s pet is registered in a database of animals whose owners have paid anywhere from seventy to two hundred dollars to one of several organizations, none of which are recognized by the government. (You could register a Beanie Baby, as long as you send a check.) Even with a card, it is against the law and a violation of the city’s health code to take an animal into a restaurant. Nor does an emotional-support card entitle you to bring your pet into a hotel, store, taxi, train, or park.
No such restrictions apply to service dogs, which, like Secret Service agents and Betty White, are allowed to go anywhere. In contrast to an emotional-support animal (E.S.A.), a service dog is trained to perform specific tasks, such as pulling a wheelchair and responding to seizures. The I.R.S. classifies these dogs as a deductible medical expense, whereas an emotional-support animal is more like a blankie.
In the piece, Marx attempts (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to take (purported) E.S.A.s into places where animals are in fact not allowed, using creatures borrowed from acquaintances: a turtle, a (large) snake, a turkey, an alpaca, and a pig.
In the (San Francisco mid-peninsula) Daily Post on the 3rd: “Mural artist Greg Brown dies: He brightened up downtown with his amusing paintings” by Elaine Goodman:
Greg Brown, an artist whose whimsical paintings of burglars, space aliens and other creatures enlivened the sides of buildings throughout Palo Alto, has died [on August 29th, at the age of 62]
Brown’s murals are trompe-l’oeil fancies. Some have been destroyed, and others have been re-done at new locations, but a considerable number remain.
In the June/July 2014 Details, pp. 57-8, a piece by Laurence Lowe on the Jeff Koons retrospective now showing at the Whitney Museum in New York, treating four of his most iconic works: New Hoover Celebrity III’s (1980); Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988); Made in Heaven (1989); and Puppy (1992).
On the last, Koons says:
I created it for a site-specific exhibition in Bad Arolsen, Germany. There was a huge schloss in the center of town. I envisioned Louis XIV visiting it and thought, ‘If Louis lived there, what would he want to see?’ Maybe he’d wake up in the morning and want to see a sculpture, about 40 feet tall, all made of live flowers, in the shape of a dog. It was that intuitive.
(There are other installations in other places.)
Two recent items that challenge the borders of categories in the world of art, literature, and humor: another Jane Austen quote (yes, Chris Ambidge keeps sending them on); and an e-card (passed on by Victor Steinbok because of the entertaining portmanteau on it).
(Not much about language.)
It starts with a postcard from Xopher Walker, a photograph by an artist I was unfamiliar with, Paul Blanca (for maximum confusion, there’s also a photographer Paul Branca, and Google really truly wants to tell me about Branca rather than Blanca): the 1985 “Selfportrait decoration”, a male torso shot, showing a line of chest hair and the model’s (Blanca’s) left nipple, and in between a safety pin piercing in his pectoral muscle and, below that, a white composite flower (like a small chrysanthemum flower) looking much like a boutonnière. I’ve added a caption of my own: “Piercing, man, piercing” (a little pun).