Archive for the ‘Pragmatics’ Category

Apologetic candy

April 26, 2015

On the tv this morning, a (very short) commercial that turned on the apology “Sorry I was eating a Milky Way”. It’s on this site, with an explanation of its content:

A hairstylist, a rodeo clown and a cruise ship captain all completely forget what [they’re] supposed to be doing while eating a delicious Milky Way chocolate and caramel candy bar. Hilarity ensues, but their Milky Ways are just too good for these people to care.

On another site, a set of other “Distracted Chocolate-Eating Ads”:

Although being distracted by a chocolate bar might not be the best excuse for certain scenarios, the Milky Way Caramel campaign shows that this snack may be particularly irresistible. With its gooey caramel center, how could a bride possibly make it to her wedding on time? Or a mother not burn her son’s boy scout uniform with an unattended iron? These situations and more should be excused, at least according to the Milky Way Caramel campaign.

(more…)

NEG + because

March 25, 2015

From yesterday’s NYT:

[Philadelphia police commissioner Charles H.] Ramsey has emerged recently as a national figure in the policing debate. He leads President Barack Obama’s policing task force, which recently made recommendations on how to improve trust between law enforcement and minorities. “I wasn’t selected because the president thought we had the perfect police department,” he told reporters Monday.

The crucial point is this quote from Ramsey:

(1) I wasn’t selected because the president thought we had the perfect police department.

Out of context, (1) is ambiguous, between a reading in which NEG has scope over the because clause:

(1a) It wasn’t because the president thought we had the perfect police department that I was selected.

and a reading in which the because clause is outside the scope of NEG:

(1b) It was because the president thought we had the perfect police department that I wasn’t selected.

Given the context in the story — Ramsey was in fact selected — (1a) must be the reading Ramsey intended, and I’d expect readers of the sentence in context would not even have noticed that it had another interpretation.

(more…)

Said … Heard

January 23, 2015

In Zits, yesterday and today, on what people say and what listeners (well, Jeremy) make of that:

(#1)

(#2)

Two different phenomena here. In #1, Jeremy calculates the consequences of what Sara is saying and concludes that he should escape. In #2, Jeremy suffers from selective attention, editing out the parts of what his father said that he doesn’t want to hear (not unlike the many cartoons of the form: “what we say – what dogs hear”).

xx

No problem

December 31, 2014

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm:

Mother Goose objects to (what she sees as) an innovation in politeness routines, seeing it as recent (and characteristic of kids) and especially associated with serving people. These criticisms has been leveled by many others.

(more…)

The Curse of Knowledge

December 7, 2014

The latest Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (#3565):

Ah, the Curse of Knowledge.

(more…)

Taking offense: three stories

November 19, 2014

Three stories (two of them recent) about taking offense: on spear phishing; Illegal Pete’s; and frape. First, some background on taking offense.

(more…)

higher

November 14, 2014

Yesterday, we had One Big Happy‘s Ruthie and James at cross-purposes on the meaning of bigger (Ruthie was bent on teaching arithmetic, while James wandered into other territory). Another exchange today, on higher:

(more…)

Monday quartet

November 10, 2014

Four varied cartoons in this morning’s crop: a Zits on address terms; a Scenes From a Multiverse on ; a Rhymes With Orange on case-marking of pronouns with than; and a Zippy reviving Doggie Diner.

(#1)

(#2)

(#3)

(#4)

One by one …

(more…)

Putrid in context

October 27, 2014

Back on the 15th, I posted about the appearance of the adjective putrid in a NYT feature story. From that posting:

Natto for breakfast. From the NYT Magazine on the 12th, in “Rise and Shine: What kids around the world eat for breakfast” (photographs by Hannah Whitaker, text by Malia Wollan) … [in the section on a Japanese breakfast that included the fermented soybean dish natto]

I was taken aback by putrid [for natto], which struck me as much too negative in the context. [in fact, the article had “putrid soybean goop”]

In a comment on this posting, Steve Anderson wrote:

I don’t know whether you’ve ever eaten (or tried to eat) natto, Arnold, but in my opinion ‘putrid’ [meaning ‘rotten’, and by extension, ‘very unpleasant, repulsive’] is precisely descriptive.

Two comments here. First, note the “in this context” in my posting. I meant that seriously. My objection to putrid was to its use in the specific context of the NYT piece, not to its use in any context whatsoever (specifically, not to its use in a description of personal tastes). Second, a note on my own experiences of natto. I’ll reserve for another posting a (lengthy) discussion about rotten or rotted food, fermented food and drink, and related topics — a domain in which ordinary English is poor in vocabulary.

(more…)

Giving offense, or the Right to Trample

October 26, 2014

The most recent Wondermark:

Giving and taking offense is a very complex matter, but this strip mocks an extreme case, where someone straightforwardly behaves with contempt for others, including using slurs. And then complains that those who take offense are threatening his rights.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 846 other followers