Archive for the ‘Compounds’ Category

Annals of hybridity

April 7, 2014

Passed on by Jonathan Lighter, this story of the 4th from Herald Scotland:, “Meet Farmer Murphy’s geep (or shoat): now what will he call it?”

An Irish farmer who claims to have bred a cross between a sheep and a goat is seeking a name for the rare offspring.

… Similar crossings have been reported before in Chile, Jamaica, Malta and in Botswana, where scientists found a hybrid – known as the Toast of Botswana – had 57 chromosomes, a number in between that of sheep and goats.

In most cases the offspring is stillborn.

A photo:

(more…)

This week’s great typo

March 6, 2014

On ADS-L yesterday, Joel Berson relayed this story on upskirting (secretly photographing under a person’s clothing; the person is almost always a woman) from the Boston Globe:

Which the highest state court in Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court — the oldest continuously functioning appellate court in America — has just ruled is not illegal.  The activity as well as the word should go viral.

The decision is that “a state law intended to prohibit ‘Peeping Tom’ voyeurism of completely or partially undressed people did not apply to people who take pictures of people who are fully clothed.”

(Yes, upskirting is a Prt + PRP compound; and there’s now a base and finite verb upskirt as well (of course).)

Berson commented:

It’s not clear to me whether the prosecutors blundered in choosing to bring charges under the “Peeing Tom” law when there might have been some other grounds.

To which Victor Steinbok wondered:

Peeing Tom? Did this happen on pubic transportation?

Indeed.

Two compounds

February 28, 2014

Two N-N compounds that came by me recently, one silly, one serious. Both are subsective: the referent of the compound as a whole is a subtype of the referent of the second (head) noun. But in neither case is the relationship between the two nouns straightforward.

First, today’s Bizarro:

Then there’s the N-N compound hope chest, heard dimly on some tv show as I was wakening from a nap.

(more…)

bitchtits

February 15, 2014

(The title provides a warning for the sensitive.)

On the 11th on Facebook, Greg Parkinson commented on steroid-induced gynecomastia, with this image:

 

Tom Kirkland followed up with:

What surprises me is … how large the fan base for bitchtits [is].

(introducing the slang bitchtits for gynecomastia; bitchtits would be doubly unsuitable for the New York Times, which treats both parts of the compound as taboo, unacceptable in print; also note the syntax).

(more…)

xkcd vocabulary

January 28, 2014

A recent xkcd:

I was about to post on this one, but Mark Liberman got to it first, yesterday, under the title “A stick tower by any other name”, where he wrote:

Mouseover title: “Stay warm, little flappers, and find lots of plant eggs!”

An amusing reminder of a serious issue: most compounds and phrasal collocations are used in ways that are consistent with their compositional meaning, but not entirely predictable from it. “Solar cell” doesn’t mean “tanning bed”; “drainage basin” doesn’t mean “mop bucket”; “forest canopy” doesn’t mean “camping tent”; etc.

The frequent failure of perfect compositional semantics in composite expressions (both N + N and Adj + N) is a persistent theme on this blog.

Who Made That?

January 20, 2014

In the NYT Magazine (on Sunday the 19th), a “Who Made That?” piece by Daniel Engber on the captcha. Some weeks ago, another one of these pieces on laugh tracks on television.

(more…)

wallflower

November 18, 2013

In my set of Art of Instruction cards, recently, one for la giroflée, the wallflower. An assortment of wallflowers:

(more…)

Campbell Drake

November 3, 2013

In my packet of Beautiful Farmyard images recently, one of a Campbell drake, a male Campbell duck. Another image, with the duck perched on one leg and with its head folded back:

According to Beautiful Farmyard,

Active ducks, Campbells prefer foraging to brooding.

Note the ambiguity of the verb brood here.

(more…)

Briefly noted: bird strikes and avian radar

October 19, 2013

In the NYT yesterday, in “Those Hazardous Flying Birds” by Eric Uhlfelder:

Planes hit birds all the time. That doesn’t typically mean captains have to glide crippled jets onto a river as Capt. Chesley Sullenberger III famously did in January 2009. But a number of collisions have led to crashes, with some deaths. … Over the past 23 years, bird strikes have forced an average of one plane a day to land prematurely, according to the F.A.A.

What caught my eye was the N N compound bird strike, with an unusual use of the head noun strike  – apparently a metaphorical use in which these collisions were viewed as like military attacks (though now strike seems to have become merely the conventional  way of referring to such events).

Uhlfelder’s recommendation for the hazardous bird problem is for “integrated avian radar systems”. Note the Adj N composite avian radar here; avian is an example of a type of non-predicating Adj often referred to as “pseudo-adjectives”; though they are adjectival in form, they are interpreted semantically by invoking a noun, in this case bird. That is, avian radar is bird radar, radar for detecting birds (just as weather radar is radar for detecting weather patterns).

Then there’s marine radar, radar for detecting ships and other objects at sea.

dickhead, butthead, whatever

October 7, 2013

An entertaining piece on Slate’s Lexicon Valley blog by Neal Whitman on the 4th, “Dickheads Are More Like Buttheads Than A**holes”, beginning:

On a recent episode of The Sid Rosenberg Show, a sports talk radio program on WMEN in Royal Palm Beach, Fla., former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor called former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason — with whom he’s had a longstanding feud — a “dickhead.” Which raises the question: Did L.T. imply that Boomer was someone whose entire being consists of the head of a dick OR someone who has a dick for a head? (Yes, these are the sorts of things that linguists care about.)

Neal goes on to distinguish endocentric (subsective) compounds from exocentric (headless) ones, giving asshole as an example of the first sort (an asshole is a hole, and then the compound can be extended metaphorically to people) and butthead as an example of the second. What about dickhead?

(more…)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 226 other followers