Archive for the ‘Conversion’ Category

Zippiedile tears

November 27, 2015

Today’s Zippy, with our Pinhead dissembling sadness:


(With a little compendium of expressions conveying sadness or despair.)


Substance massification on the golf course

September 15, 2015

In another watching of the GEICO “Kraken” commercial (posting here), I caught a nice everyday example of the sort of conventionalized metonymy that I called in a 2008 LLog posting substance massification, a particular type of conversion of a C (count) noun to a M (mass) use.

In their in-play commentary on a golf game in progress, one reporter says to another, about a golfer attempting to cope with a sea-monster:

(X) Looks like he’s going to go with the 9 iron. That may not be enough club.

(Golf) club is C, but here is used with M syntax, according to this generalization (from the LLog posting):

C>M: substance massification. A C noun denoting an individual has a M use to denote a generic substance or totality, usually in construction with a quantity determiner (“That’s a lot of horse”, “That’s more elephant than we can handle”). [So: horse / elephant (roughly) ‘amount of horse / elephant material or substance’ (considered as a whole)]

Or in the case of (X), enough club, with club (roughly) ‘amount of club substance or material’.


Briefly: circular word-formation

September 11, 2015

Caught in an episode of CSI: NY a little while ago: a parole officer talking about a parolee who missed his most recent meeting:

I didn’t violate him. I decided to cut him some slack.

That’s the transitive verb violate ‘cite for a violation’. Intended as cop-talk, I assume.

That looks like a (simple) back-formation from the noun violation. But of course violation is itself a derived noun based on, yes, violate ‘break or fail to comply with (a rule or formal agreement)’ (NOAD2)

But the back-formation gives us a new sense of violate — actually, a new verb violate. So:

violate > violation > violate

Dave Blazek

July 26, 2015

Another cartoonist new to this blog (like Ken Krimstein, recently posted on). The Loose Change cartoon by Blazek below (from 2010) came to me from the Grammarly Facebook page via a friend:


Pin the Apostrophe on the Word.

There’s a rich vein of cartoons mocking English teachers for their purported inclination to focus on minutiae.


“beat a urine”

July 17, 2015

At first glance this looks like word salad, and things aren’t helped much if I tell you that it’s a VP, that it’s attested, and that it wasn’t an inadvertent error. Context, we need context.


Disruptive conversation

July 8, 2015

From Wondermark on 9/9/14:


From blogger Tegiminis (“Game critic, writer, big gay robot” in Seattle WA) on the site Simplikation (“Heaps of words on games, culture, and media in general”) on 11/20/14: “Why Sealioning Is Bad”:

Chances are you’ve seen this comic by David Malki if you frequent Twitter at all these days. It even coined a new verb – “sealioning” – to describe the act of jumping into a discussion with demands for evidence and answers to questions.

But why is it an awful thing to do? Why do people react so negatively to a request for evidence? Surely a reasoned, rational person would acquiesce to such a statement!

Well, no.


nutmeg, the verb

June 25, 2015

From Steve Anderson a few days ago, this cute story (by Seth Rosenthal on June 20th) from the world of basketball, on player Boogie Cousins:

Hero child nutmegs DeMarcus Cousins, then scores in his face

This is Boogie’s “DeMarcus Cousins Elite Skills Camp,” and it’s the typical session in which campers get to attempt scoring on the 7′ basketball man. Cousins obviously isn’t trying very hard to start the exchange, but then the kid successfully puts the ball through his legs and Cousins spins around with what looks to me like a genuine effort to block the reverse finish … but it’s got juuuust the right arc to soar over his fingers and drop in! And the crowd goes wild!

Video in the story. Still shot of the aftermath:


Ah, the verb nutmeg.


Easy verbings

June 12, 2015

Two cases of the verbing of composite nominals that have recently come past me:

Adj + N free ride > to free-ride  (1)

N + N fireside chat > to fireside chat  (2)

Now, verbing is all over the place, but these two are especially easy, because the head N of the source composite (bold-faced above) is in fact the nouning of a corresponding V (to ride > a ride; to chat > a chat), so that the verb is in a sense instantly available.


Why are they pets?

May 25, 2015

Today’s Rhymes With Orange:

(Note the title: “Linguistics 101”.)

For the people:

We call them pets because we pet them.

For the cats:

We call them feeds because they feed us.

The two cases of nouning aren’t parallel, but reversed — in a sense, chiastic.

May 26th. Note of etymological truth, which I playfully omitted in the original posting. This is a cute story for pet, but it’s etymologically backwards. The noun came first, for ‘indulged child’, then for ‘animal companion’, and then the verb was derived from the noun, meaning something on the order of ‘to treat like a pet’, specifically ‘to stroke’.

Specialists in International

April 7, 2015

Slogan on the side of a DHL truck in Palo Alto:


The adjective international is serving as a noun here, conveying something like ‘international shipping’ or ‘international mail’ or ‘international delivery’. Informally, this is “nouning by truncation”, but the implicit noun head isn’t uniquely identifiable.

Two pieces of background here: on “nouning by truncation” and on the DHL company and its slogans.



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