Archive for the ‘Names’ Category

Coneflowers and Goldfinches

September 14, 2014

Now the flowers of the late summer and early fall. Message from Liz Fannin in Columbus OH a little while ago:

Today I had the best reward for planting echinacea: a goldfinch on it. There was a little female who was so engrossed in eating those seeds that she didn’t even fly off when I went out the front door to the car.

On echinacea, from Wikipedia:

Echinacea … is a genus … of herbaceous flowering plants in the daisy family, Asteraceae. The nine species it contains are commonly called coneflowers. They are endemic to eastern and central North America, where they are found growing in moist to dry prairies and open wooded areas. They have large, showy heads of composite flowers, blooming from early to late summer. The generic name is derived from the Greek word ἐχῖνος (echino), meaning “sea urchin,” due to the spiny central disk. Some species are used in herbal medicines and some are cultivated in gardens for their showy flowers.

… The flower heads have typically 200-300 fertile, bisexual disc florets but some have more. The corollas are pinkish, greenish, reddish-purple or yellow

I’ll get to the goldfinches in a moment.

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Linguistic diversity among the nopalries

September 13, 2014

I’ve been reading through Amy Butler Greenfield’s fascinating A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (HarperCollins 2005, paperback in 2006), which abounds in great topics: conquest, colonialism, skullduggery, official secrecy, piracy, medieval-style commercial guilds, mysteries of natural history, the growth of science, international trade, cultural diffusion, and more. Officially it’s about dyes, in particular the intense and durable true red dye sought by cultures around much of the world. So of course it turns out to be about cactuses and scale insects. Plenty of linguistic interest in there.

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I never promised you a rose garden

September 8, 2014

Yesterday I posted four birthday presents to  me, appealing to various parts of my life: a penguin, language, comics/cartoons, and the the lgbt angle (plus food). And then came a wonderful language-and-plants offering, from an old friend: a “rose garden”.

(#1)

Some actual roses (of the genus Rosa), plus primrose, Christmas rose, tuberose, and rosemary (none of them roses at all or botanically close to them or (for the most part) with names etymologically related to rose. A wonderful conceit.

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The accent in Polish

August 30, 2014

Today’s Rhymes With Orange:

Ah, Watérski.

I did spend some time trying to find out if Waterski was an attested Polish name, but the enormous number of sites on waterskiing frustrated my search.

named after

August 10, 2014

Today’s Zits, about naming kids:

Now about the song, which the creators thought about as a “silly song” with some nonsensical words …

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The definite article of fame

August 6, 2014

In the NYT yesterday, an August 1st  letter from Pamela Shifman and Gloria Steinem in response to a July 30th op-ed essay on “The Girls Obama Forgot”. The letter-writers are identified in the Times as follows:

Ms. Shifman is executive director of the NoVo Foundation, which focuses on girls’ and women’s rights. Ms. Steinem is the writer and activist.

Both identifcations are semantically (or pragmatically) definite, conveying uniqueness in this case. The first has an anarthrous (article-less) title: executive director of X ‘the executive director of X'; in fact, the executive director of X would have been an entirely acceptable alternative, but the anarthrous version is shorter.

The second has the definite article, in a context where an indefinite article would have been entirely acceptable;

Ms. Steinem is a writer and activist

is not only syntactically well-formed, but also true. Why the definite article?

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Godzilla’s Manhattan

July 9, 2014

A recent Bizarro:

 

(I’ll get back later to the piece of pie in the center of the cartoon.)

Godzilla seems to hold an idea about proper names: roughly (though it’s hard to be sure about the mind of a cartoon monster) that referents sharing a name do so because of some intrinsic or natural identity between them, in this case that the Manhattan cocktail and the island (or borough) of Manhattan must share some intrinsic property: in Godzilla’s mind (given his experience), hordes of screaming people fleeing in fear.

But the cocktail comes up short in this respect.

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Japanese knotweed

July 9, 2014

My usual postings on plants are about plants that are ornamental or useful or both, but occasionally I look at invasives: recently, on privets and tumbleweed, and a bit earlier on monstrously invasive vines —  kudzu and mile-a-minute. Today, thanks to a piece in the 7/5/14 New Scientist (“Let them eat weeds” by Stephanie Pain), I turn to a dreadful pest, the Japanese knotweed. The plant will push aggressively through concrete, survive volcanic eruptions, and more.

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Cartooning at the diner

July 6, 2014

Today’s Zippy, with Zippy and Griffy on cartoon styles and men’s fashions:

(#1)

And, in the third panel, a diner — which turns out to be identifiable, and leads us to some surprising places (Mercury Comets and English pubs):

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From the Zwicky diaspora

July 2, 2014

Google Alerts has, well, alerted me to a story about a skateboarding cop, as has Horton Copperpot in e-mail. From a site provided by Copperpot, this story of June 25th, “Holy Kickflip Batman! Is that a Skateboarding Activist Cop?!”:

Meet Officer Joel Zwicky, “Skateboard cop,” of the Green Bay Police Department.

Zwicky is not your typical cop, for starters, instead of harassing skaters, he’s shredding right next to them.

Instead of lobbying for more strict laws on skateboarding, he’s fighting to get restrictions lifted; and he’s successful at it.

Earlier this year, Zwicky convinced the city of Green Bay to lift the skating ban on the 25 mile urban path known as Fox River Trail.

Zwicky is trying to change the stereotypes about skaters.

“Wanted to break that down and show people that skateboarders aren’t just punk kids causing trouble, they are all kinds of people in the community, and they’re even your police force,” Officer Zwicky told KHON 2 News.

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