Archive for the ‘Idioms’ Category

“Hash Brown Built-In”

February 9, 2015

On Facebook, this photo:

(#1)

Jeff Shaumeyer wondered:

(1) Does “hashbrowns” really have a common singular form, and is this it?

(Bob Boutwell amplified on this, saying that “Hashbrown potatoes” is commonly used on menus, but he’d never seen “hashbrown” used as a singular noun.)

And Robert Coren asked:

(2) And what’s a “hash brown built-in”, anyway?

I’ll have answers, but there’s a good bit of background to get through.

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Weak heel

January 10, 2015

Passed on to me by Mike Pope, this cartoon with a complex pun:

The noun heel (the body part) and the verb heel — “(of a dog) follow closely behind its owner: these dogs are born with the instinctive urge to heel (NOAD2) — wrapped together with the idiom Achilles heel.

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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.

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Idioms

December 14, 2014

A Wrong Hands cartoon by John Atkinson, from 9/18/12:

(#1)

What happens when you take idioms literally.

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Ask AMZ: two queries

November 27, 2014

… from Karen Schaffer: on trickle treat, and on gangbang and gangbanger.

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Annals of etymythology: to pass for

November 26, 2014

In a Harper’s Magazine review (Dec. 2014, pp. 84-6) of Allyson Hobbs, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life (Harvard) by Joshua Cohen, we read about the sad history of “black” people passing as “white”, with a story about the origin of the usage:

The term “passing” seems to come from the passes that slaves had to carry, which allowed them to visit their relatives on other plantations or when they were rented out for day labor.

Lexicographers and linguists will immediately smell a rat: the story is detailed and grounded in a very specific piece of history (and so is attractive to many people). But it’s only too specific: in fact, the usage is quite general, not restricted to blacks passing for whites, or to situations where some sort of pass is involved. Cohen’s account looks like an etymythology (aka mythetymology).

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Ask AMZ

November 24, 2014

Two usage queries came to me recently: one on uses of a noun doxy; one on two informal idioms (the whole shooting match and wham, bam, thank you ma’am (with some variant versions)): Max Vasilatos reported coming across two Californian young men, one of whom didn’t understand the first, the other of whom didn’t understand the second.

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Monday quartet

November 10, 2014

Four varied cartoons in this morning’s crop: a Zits on address terms; a Scenes From a Multiverse on ; a Rhymes With Orange on case-marking of pronouns with than; and a Zippy reviving Doggie Diner.

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One by one …

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Three from New Scientist

September 4, 2014

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.

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hash browns, home fries

July 22, 2014

Two potato preparations often offered as alternative side dishes for breakfasts in American diners and the like: Would you like hash browns or home fries with that? Both have idiomatic names, names that in fact are easily confused: both are browned by pan-frying, so the words browns and fries have some motivation in their names, while hash and home are simply puzzling.

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