Three stories (two of them recent) about taking offense: on spear phishing; Illegal Pete’s; and frape. First, some background on taking offense.
Archive for the ‘Context’ Category
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.
Yesterday’s One Big Happy, in which Ruthie goes (as usual) with the familiar over the novel:
Stovepipe hat (an unfamiliar expression for Ruthie) is transformed in Ruthie’s ears into Stove Top Stuffing, a familiar expression in her world (context is crucial!), even though the two are pretty distant phonologically (very imperfect as a pun).
Two of today’s cartoons — a Bizarro and a Zippy — bring us back to recurring questions on this blog: what do need to know to make sense out of what’s going on in a cartoon, and then what do you need to know to see why it might be funny? It’s all about background knowledge.
#1 brings back the clowns from an earlier posting on background knowledge. #2 is more intricate.
Today’s (re-run) Calvin and Hobbes:
Hobbes poses a hypothetical question to Calvin: suppose you knew …, then what would you do? Stated as a question, but functioning (indirectly) as a threatening instruction to do a specific thing (not named in the question, but inferrable from the context): do this, and today will not be the last day of your life — that is, DO THIS!
A comment (of 8/23) by Andy Sleeper on my haloumi posting:
At a hotel in Chicago recently, at the breakfast buffet, they were serving some dish with egg, meat, and cheese, with a little sign saying “Scrambled with chorizo sausage and chihuahua.” [Note that chorizo would have done fine here; chorizo is the name of a type of pork sausage, so that chorizo sausage is an expansion of chorizo — similar to Brie cheese versus Brie.]
Adjectives with assumed nouns are asking for trouble, it seems to me. From scrambled, I understand eggs, though it could have been brains.
After I inquired, I learned that “chihuahua” refers to a type of cheese I had never heard of. I think “cheese” would have been an important word to include.
First, a note on Chihuahua cheese, then on the “conversion by truncation” in scrambled for scrambled eggs and chihuahua for Chihuahua cheese.
The Bizarro of 3/20/14, which I seem to have missed when it came up in March, but caught yesterday reproduced in the July issue of Funny Times:
An ambiguity — Miss France as a (NP) title in a beauty pageant vs. Miss France as a VP remnant of a declarative S, conveying ‘I miss France’. This gross difference in syntax and semantics corresponds to a pragmatic difference, whether the expression is viewed as printed on a sash (as in beauty pageants) or as the equivalent of a t-shirt slogan — very different sociocultural contexts.
Another topic arising from the Stanford comics seminar, again from a proposal for a student paper (which I won’t cite here because the topic might change and in any case is still the student’s work, though I might cite it later with the student’s permission).
The topic is metatext, outside the text of the comic itself and in Elizabeth Traugott’s phrasing in e-mail, serving to “frame the way to read the text”.
At least six types: captions, titles, inserts, mouseovers, accompanying text, and footnotes. I haven’t discussed any of these systematically, but they’ve all come up in my postings on the comics. Some notes.