Archive for the ‘Compounds’ Category

The toy poodle

January 22, 2016

Yet another cartoon — and there are more in the queue.

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm, with a cute play on the ambiguity of toy:


butt/booty, dial/call

January 20, 2016

Yesterday’s Rhymes With Orange:

The nouns butt and booty overlap in their uses, and so do the verbs dial and call, and so do the related nouns dial and call. However… the compound nouns butt dial and booty call (also the related verbs butt dial and booty call) are both slang idioms, and they aren’t at all interchageable.


The family that fund-raises together

January 17, 2016

From a Gail Collins column “Everything’s Relative” in the NYT on the 14th, about political candidates engaging their families in their campaigns:

Remember Jeb? He was going to run as his own man, but people on the campaign mailing list are getting requests for donations from George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Barbara Bush, George P. Bush and Columba Bush [Jeb’s father, brother, mother, son, and wife, respectively]. The family that fund-raises together stays together.

Collins chose to use the 2-part back-formed V (2pbfV) fund-raises rather than the phrase raises funds, and (though a fair number of people, including some language critics, are deeply hostile to 2pbfVs, as unnecessary innovations) in my opinion that was an excellent choice: fund-raises describes an activity that is more unitary, and more specific, than raises funds. There’s a distinction here that’s come up on this blog several times, and there’s also a general principle at work, a principle I’ll call Structural Tightness.


Penis size in the steam room

January 16, 2016

Today’s Steam Room Stories (which you can view here) circled around once again to a topic always of fascination to the young men in the steamroom: penis size. One guy confessed that he was down because his girlfriend freaked out as they were getting into serious love-making. He’d warned her that he had an infant-size penis, and she was cool with that, but then when it came time for his pants to come off, she freaked. Oh, his steamroom buddy says, that’s totally insulting, to reject a guy because he has a little penis. No, no, the first guy said, I didn’t warn her that I have a penis the size of an infant’s, but that I have a penis the size of an infant: 6 lbs. 7 oz. and 18 inches long. His buddy asks to see, and is then suitably astounded. The big reveal:


The news for penises, issue #1 of 2016

January 5, 2016

A continuing series on this blog, with at least 9 postings before this under the heading  “The news for penises” (plus a great many other penis postings not under that heading). Four items that have come to me in the past few days: an ad for gay porn with some phonological play in it;  horse penises in Kyrgyzstan; beef whistle as a slang term for the penis; and the celebrated candiru fish of the Amazon.


boxboys and transitive bottoming

December 29, 2015

(Lots of plain talk about bodies and sexual practces, so not for kids or the sexually modest. But also plenty of stuff of linguistic interest.)

An ad for a Christmas sale on gay porn at an aggregation site for porn (of all sorts) that fills my mailbox with offers, most of which I just trash, but in this case… Here’s the ad, with the sale details cropped out:


We’re left with six naked guys in Santa caps (ohhh, Santa baby!), their genitals covered by the (Christmas) packages and boxes they’re carrying. They’re presented as hot gay men cruising and admiring one another’s endowments — and in the case of one man, Gay 1, reaching into his neighbor’s box to handle its contents.


X queen

December 19, 2015

I’ll be posting mostly about a family of snowclonelet composites of the form X queen, in which the queen component is a word going back to Old English, with the meaning ‘woman, wife’, though a lot of history has intervened. Eventually we get to things like

the gay partner-preference snowclonelet X queen, denoting ‘gay man who prefers Y men as romantic or sexual partners’, where Y is a class of people and where X refers to something, typically a food, associated with Y

— for example, rice queen, denoting a man, typically white, with a preference for partners who are East Asians or of East Asian descent (given that rice is a characteristic food of East Asians).


Know your eels

December 18, 2015

From Facebook friends, this cute cartoon by Wayno:


The composites electric eel and electric guitar, both with the pseudo-adjective electric, but in two different senses. Then there’s electric guitar vs. the retronym acoustic guitar (for what, until the introduction of electric guitars, was known simply as a guitar). Then

electric guitar : acoustic guitar  ::  electric eel : X

and X is acoustic eel.


fish food, fish flakes

November 15, 2015

Yesterday’s Rhymes With Orange:

Hilary Price returns to the ambiguity of compounds every so often, and I return to the topic myself fairly often, noting that even if we set aside Type X, or “distant”, compounds (where you have to know a story about some situation to understand what the compound means) and stick to Type O, or ordinary, compounds (where there’s a relatively small set of patterns for interpretation), there’s still plenty of room for ambiguity. As here: food / flakes for fish (to eat) OR food / flakes (made) from/of fish?


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.



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