Archive for the ‘Language play’ Category

Verbatim letter

April 21, 2015

A while back, in a comment on my word entertainment posting, I referred to a note I posted in Verbatim magazine — a letter in #1.4.6 (1975) — with (among other things) observations on –oon words in English. Now I have unearthed it:

Jim Dultz

April 21, 2015

A cartoonist, with this cartoon in the May issue of Funny Times:


This works pretty well as a pun in print — Oedipus Rex / Oedipus Rx — with the mother theme and the prescription theme combined. Apparently there are people who treat the abbreviation Rx as an initialism /ar ɛks/, a noun meaning ‘prescription’ (“an Rx for Viagra”), and for them Oedipus Rx works as a (moderately distant) pun in pronunciation as well.

Now: more on this, a note on the cartoonist, and a couple more punning cartoons from him.


Drag mashups

April 12, 2015

In the March-April 2015 issue of The Gay & Lesbian Review, the piece “Ryan Landry of the ‘Make ’Em Laugh’ School”, in which Jim Farley interviews Landry. From Farley’s intro:

A comic playwright and impresario of drag theater, his parody productions of classic movies, fairy tales, TV shows, and plays have long been a staple of Provincetown and Boston entertainment. More recently, along with his company, the Gold Dust Orphans, Landry has expanded his satiric reach to New York and beyond.

While he acts and often sings in most of his shows, Landry’s major gift is the ability to turn out hilarious camp burlesques with a punk attitude, sort of like Charles Ludlum crossed with Courtney Love. The titles of his bawdy pop culture mash-ups — of everything from classic films to classic rock — perhaps say it best: Phantom of the Oprah, Silent Night of the Lambs, Mary Poppers, Pornochio, Snow White and the Seven Bottoms, and on and on.

Wonderful titles, reminiscent of the language-play titles that are so popular with makers of porn flicks — on (some of) which, see my posting “Porn titles” of 3/21/11, where you can find, among others:

Catcher in the Fly, Fist and Shout, Terms of Endowment, Field of Creams, Blond Leading the Blond


Sunday Pun

April 12, 2015

Today’s Bizarro, with an outrageous play on The Mummy’s Curse (the movie):



Allusion in The Economist

April 7, 2015

Every so often I post here on how some publications (science publications, especially, but plenty of others as well) indulge in various kinds of language play in titles, captions, lead sentences, etc. They are “ludic locales”. Now on the 4th, in the Economist, in a report on Peru: “A jarring defeat: The loneliness of Ollanta Humala”, the story leads with:

To lose one prime minister might be considered a misfortune, but to lose six in less than four years in office, as Peru’s president, Ollanta Humala, has done, must be seen as carelessness.

Ah, that would be Oscar Wilde, in The Importance of Being Earnest. Lady Bracknell, in Act I, to Jack Worthing.


The element of confusion

April 4, 2015

A graphic that appeared on Facebook yesterday:


Versions of this are available as t-shirts from a wide assortment of suppliers, with various atomic numbers on them. This one has 29, the atomic number of copper (Cu).

Um here represents confusion. In other contexts it’s a hesitation noise, often viewed as a disfluency, a kind of error.


More na na na

April 3, 2015

An addition to my “na na na” posting, with an xkcd cartoon compressing a collection of “na” songs into a chart: the song “Get a Job” and the name Sha Na Na for the rock group that took its name from the song. Nonsense syllables rule!


John Bell

March 28, 2015

From Facebook friends, this John Bell cartoon:


A wonderful double pun, on stroke (‘brushstroke’ or ‘cerebrovascular accident’) and brush (‘implement for painting etc.’ or ‘light and fleeting touch’).


Name those spiders

March 27, 2015

Making the rounds in science reporting recently: newly discovered peacock spiders. From National Geographic on the 24th. the story “Behold Sparklemuffin and Skeletorus, New Peacock Spiders: A few new species of these colorful, dancing spiders have been found in eastern Australia” by Carrie Arnold:

If you don’t think of spiders as cute and cuddly, then you’ve never met Sparklemuffin, Skeletorus, and the elephant spider. Scientists have identified these three new species of peacock spiders in various parts of eastern Australia.

Less than a quarter-inch long (five millimeters), male peacock spiders are known for their bright colors and a rolling-shaking mating dance that would make Miley Cyrus jealous.

Two of them:


A new species of peacock spider, nicknamed “Sparklemuffin” by the graduate student who discovered it, performs a leg-waving mating dance.


The peacock spider Maratus sceletus earned the nickname “Skeletorus” for its black-and-white markings.


Elise Partridge

March 24, 2015

The story starts with this poem about X in the April 2nd issue of the New York Review of Books:

X, a C.V.

I stand, legs astride, a colossus—
or dancer in fifth position, wide port de bras.
Polymorph strayed into English,

sometimes pronounced like Americans’ z,
in French I’m often silent; in Pirahã the glottal stop;
a fricative in Somali.

Vector, Cartesian axis,
chromosome, bowling-strike. Pirate-map cynosure;
at a letter’s close, a kiss.

I do plebeian duty in tic-tac-toe,
range marble façades. Paired with y, I dodge—
variable incognito.

I lend myself to comets of cryptic orbit,
ally with rays that pierce time’s edge.
I’m default sci-fi planets.

In my Roman hours,
I was ten.—Later, the name of millions:
those never granted an alphabet’s power.

Then I read the contributors’ notes in the NYRB.



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