Archive for the ‘Pragmatics’ Category

The unflappable waitress

July 23, 2015

Today’s Bizarro:

Hun / hon.

The informal clipped form hon (for honey) as a term of address is stereotypically used, along with other pet names like the full honey, sweetie, dear(ie), and doll, by waitresses to their customers, in addition to the use of these as terms of endearment to genuine intimates. Many customers find the usage disrespectful and insulting, expressing intimacy in a situation where they see that deference to authority is called for.

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Don Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

30 twats in a field

July 19, 2015

Passed along by Mike Pope, this supremely annoying video clip in which a man poses what sounds like a question riddle to a woman, who can’t interpret the question, and the man, chuckling offensively, just goes on repeating the question. But if she didn’t get the trick early on, she’ll be stuck indefinitely in her incomprehension — and by the time her tormentor finally provides hints that might let her see the trick, there’s no hope she’ll get out of the processing hole she’s in.

I would label the man as an asshole or a total dick, but since the speakers are British, I prefer to call him a first-class twat.

But check it out for yourself:

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“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.

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Ominous questions

July 12, 2015

Today’s Dilbert:

“May I speak frankly?” is one of those seriously ominous questions: the person who asks it is ready to unload some very unpleasant frank opinions, as above. Even worse, it’s very difficult to say “No” to this question — because it doesn’t really function like a yes-no question, but at best serves to ask for permission to speak, and even then presumes that the permission will be granted, so that its effect is to announce that you’re going to speak.

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Disruptive conversation

July 8, 2015

From Wondermark on 9/9/14:

(#1)

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.

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y/y?

July 8, 2015

From the Mental Floss site yesterday, “Why Have People Started Asking Questions by Adding ‘Y/Y’?” by Gretchen McCulloch:

This is the best new way of asking questions, y/y? Some examples from around the internet show how this method of appending a y/y to the end of statements is starting to be used.

So I should wear my matching shirt at some point, y/y?
So, Ramsay is the new Joffrey but 1000x worse, y/y?
#knitting friends. We should all make these for next winter, y/y?
I have a million of these flower dresses and I need another one y/y?
the weirdest hat he’s ever worn, y/y?

This is strictly an orthographic feature; y/y? isn’t an abbreviation for spoken yes or yes?, as McCulloch points out. Instead, it’s a very compact way of converting a (written) statement to a question seeking agreement with that statement.

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Talking wine

June 6, 2015

A cartoon in the latest (June 8th/15th) New Yorker by Jason Adam Katzenstein:

(#1)

It’s the wine talking is used to confess something you might not have said if you hadn’t drunk some wine. But it’s a formulaic expression, so it can be deployed in other ways, for instance to introduce talk about wine.

In the cartoon, the wine is literally talking.

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The nuptial trough

June 5, 2015

A cartoon by Sandra Boynton to celebrate June, the month of weddings:

Marriage for pigs: troth vs. trough. /θ/ vs. /f/ for many people, differing only in point of articulation.

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The hunted 95 per cent?

June 4, 2015

Let’s start with:

(1) Hunted for its horns, 95 percent of the population disappeared

This looks like a classic “dangling modifier”. We have a SPAR hunted for its horns (a Subjectless Predicative Adjunct Requiring a referent for the missing subject), but the adjunct doesn’t obey the Subject Rule (doesn’t pick up its referent from the subject of the main clause: (1) doesn’t in fact tell us that 95 percent of the population was hunted for its horns). (On the concepts and terminology, see the material in the Page on “Dangler postings”, especially the “as a SPAR” posting.)

But even without context, (1) is easily understood: 95 percent of the population is a metonymic stand-in for a population of X, and it’s X that was hunted for its horns. But that takes some interpretive work. However, when more discourse context is provided, this work is no longer needed, and I’d expect that readers wouldn’t even notice that (1) is technically a dangling modifier.

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Sideways denial

May 24, 2015

Today’s Doonesbury, in which Barack Obama toys with the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, Mitch McConnell

Much as McConnell would like to deny that the sky is blue, that’s too much for him to assert directly, so he says that he’s not qualified to answer the question, in effect issuing a sideways denial.

The strategy is familiar from the positions politicians take on climate denial.

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