Archive for the ‘Compounds’ Category

paper cut

June 26, 2014

For years it was clasped firmly in the embrace of a plastic device with a magnetic strip on the back, which allowed it to be displayed on a refrigerator (or other metal surface). But then it somehow slipped out and, being almost weightless, wafted away on some breath of a breeze, until eventually it was discovered by a visitor, on the floor far from the refrigerator.

It’s a Chinese paper cut, depicting my animal from the Chinese zodiac, the dragon:

A gift from the students in my 1985 classes at the Beijing Language Institute (as it was then).

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Sunday jottings

June 22, 2014

Four items from the front matter in today’s New York Times Magazine: the compound poolside memoirs; the euphemism go to Spain; the term binky ‘pacifier’; and citronella for warding off mosquitoes.

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MUFFIN SAUSAGES WITH EGGS

June 18, 2014

That’s what was on the diner’s board giving the day’s breakfast specials a few days ago. How to interpret it?

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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:

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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.

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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).

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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.

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wallflower

November 18, 2013

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

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