Archive for the ‘Language and culture’ Category

cold cuts

November 12, 2015

Recently I wondered about the story of cold cuts ‘lunch meat’, an Adj + N composite that is not particularly transparent semantically (in fact, lunch meat isn’t fully transparent either). There’s some interesting linguistic history here. But there’s clearly also some substantial cultural history to be uncovered, and for this I don’t have the resources.


In the Basque diaspora

August 9, 2015

(Warning: much of this posting is about gay porn and male hustling, and it refers in plain language to the male body and to male-male sexual acts; the photographs are not actually X-rated — such images are in a related posting on AZBlogX — but the posting is not for kids, the sexually modest, or the easily offended.)

In a comment on my posting about the Basque language and the Basques in the U.S., someone using the name “Dirty Harri” (it’s a joke, as you’ll see, a play on the title Dirty Harry) picks up a news story about disagreements in 2013 between Aitzol Azurtza, the president of the New York Basque Club, and the visiting Iñigo Urkullu, the president of the Basque Government. During this contretemps, it was revealed (by others) that Azurtza had had a career in gay porn, under the stage name Antton Harri; Azurtza had come out some time before, but it was not generally known in the Basque world (in NYC or elsewhere) that he was a gay pornstar (of some repute), or indeed that he’d worked as a rentboy in NYC. Under the cloud of the porn revelations, Azurtza resigned his Basque Club position “for personal reasons” and not long after moved from New York to Palm Springs CA, where he lives now. A piece of reporting from the time:


(On the left, Azurtza in business suit. On the right, Harri in his work clothes.


Big D

November 27, 2014

No, not Dallas, but Deaf vs. deaf, a meaning distinction (a sociocultural identity vs. merely hearing-impaired) easily made in print, but not so easily in speech, as I noted in a 11/22/14 posting. But in speech, Susan Fischer tells me, the distinction can be made as “big-D deaf” vs. “little-d deaf”. (I was hoping for the briefer /dɛf/ vs. /dif/.)

Then I asked Susan about how this worked in ASL, hoping for something more interesting. But no; apparent you just sign BIG-D DEAF vs. LITTLE-D DEAF.


The sporting news

July 1, 2014

I interrupt the flow of postings on cartoons to report on my adventures in sporting enthusiasm, in particular for teams in the World Cup. In the current round, I had three favorite teams: Mexico (how can you live where I do without supporting Mexico?), Switzerland (the land of my father’s family), and of course the U.S. Everybody lost, though the games had stirring moments.

I’m not up at all on the fine points of soccer, but I enjoy the spectacle.

And now, back to language.


August 30, 2013

In the New Yorker of 8/26/13, a letter on p. 5 from Richard M. Perloff, Professor of Communication at Cleveland State University, Cleveland OH, beginning:

Dangerous Liaisons
Hendrik Hertzberg, writing about Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, and their forerunners in the delicate pas de deux between private misdeeds and public behavior, assumes that sex scandals have an objective quality (Comment, August 12th and 19th). Whether a series of transgressions merits the label “scandal” is itself a contentious issue that is a function of social norms and cultural values.

Perloff goes on to discuss some specific cases, and I’ll get to these. But first some lexicographic notes.


NPR team and the perils of transcription

April 16, 2013

Yesterday on NPR’s Morning Edition, a piece announcing a new NPR feature:

NPR Team Covers Race, Ethnicity And Culture (by David Greene and Gene Demby)

NPR this week is introducing a new team that will cover race, ethnicity and culture. Code Switch is the name of the new blog. Code-switching is the practice of shifting between different languages or different ways of expressing yourself in conversations.

Greene and Demby chat for a while about code-switching, with examples, bringing in linguist Tyler Schnoebelen as a consultant at one point. But if you read the transcript rather than listening to the segment, you might be puzzled.


Looking modern(e)

October 17, 2012

Passed on by Dean Calbreath on Facebook, this image of the 1948 Buick Streamliner:

Dean’s comment: “I’ve never seen a car this beautiful – and it’s more than 60 years old.” It might seem surprisingly old, but it comes close to the end of the great age of streamlining as the image of fashionable modernity in design. Here’s a train design from almost two decades earlier:


Follow-up: Another breakfast

August 14, 2012

Four far-flung meals in a Zippy cartoon yesterday — Indian tandoori, Italian-American eggplant rollatini, and Ethiopian and Peruvian breakfasts — led me to recall my first experience of traditional Japanese breakfasts, at the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo during the 13th International Congress of Linguists. Since then I’ve enjoyed the experience in several Japanese (and non-Japanese) hotels in the U.S. And become addicted to miso soup for breakfast.


No word, no concept, no experience

June 9, 2012

From Charles Rosen, “Freedom and Art“, New York Review of Books of 5/10/12, p. 28:

The critical problem of the battle between conventional meaning and individual expression was best laid out many years ago in Meyer Schapiro’s apparently controversial insistence that the forms of Romanesque sculpture could not be ascribed solely to theological meaning but were also a style of aesthetic expression. What that meant at the time was quite simply and reasonably that the character of the sculptural forms could not be reduced only to their personification of theological dogma, but possessed a clear aesthetic energy independent of sacred meaning.

The fallacy that Schapiro was attacking has reappeared recently in musicological circles with the absurd claim that music could not be enjoyed for purely musical or aesthetic reasons until the eighteenth century since the word “aesthetics” was not used until then. (This naive belief that independent aesthetic considerations did not exist before 1750 without social and religious functions would strangely imply that no one before that date could admire the beauty of a member of the opposite sex unless it could be related to the function of the production of children.)

Odd forms of extreme Whorfianism turn up in the oddest places.


Surfer lingo

June 1, 2012

Today’s Zippy:

Earlier strips had God playing Parcheesi and wrestling alligators. Now he’s/she’s out on the boards, wielding surfer lingo: the intensive scubetublar, the Surf Weasels (“a legendary underground surf rock instrumental band” from Portland OR), the surfing move shredding, the gnarl (challenging conditions, like a large wave), hang ten, garshed ‘tired, beat’, noodled ‘stoned, intoxicated’, throwing buckets (making huge amounts of spray), the green room (the inside of a barrel produced by a wave), grindage ‘food’. Totally gnarly, dudes and dudettes!


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