Archive for the ‘Speech acts’ Category

My Hobby Comics

March 24, 2014

Some bounty from the Stanford Linguistics in the Comics freshman seminar, a collection of xkcd cartoons with subheaded metatext “My Hobby”, searched out by Kyle Qian. Kyle found about 1,300 xkcd cartoons online, 36 of them subheaded this way, and he posted 7 of them with discussion. (I’ll put off posting about his comments until he gives me permission. The cartoons are in some sense public, but Kyle’s analysis is certainly not.)


Messing with my mind

February 11, 2014

From a Stanford student, this xkcd:



Odds and ends 8/18/13

August 18, 2013

An assortment of short items on various topics, beginning with three from the July 22nd New Yorker. Portmanteaus, New Jerseyization, oology, dago, killer whale, and Gail Collins on Bob Filner.


Language trickery

August 12, 2013

In today’s Pearls Before Swine, Rat tricks Goat into saying something that gets him in trouble:

Shades of the mantra “Oo watta na Siam”.  (There used to be a Thai restaurant called Watana Siam in Park Slope, Brooklyn, but it seems to have morphed into a completely different Thai restaurant.)

In any case, is asking someone if they want to get high a punishable offense? Does it count as an offer of drugs?

don’t know

May 29, 2013

Today’s Zits:

The dad’s “I don’t know” conveys that he’s unsure of his opinion on the subject (whatever that is), so he says “Ask Mom”, meaning ‘Ask Mom what she thinks”, with ellipsis of the Wh-clause object of ask, but with understood reference (within that object) to the mother. But Jeremy takes the other possible reading, involving reference to the father — i.e., ‘Ask Mom what I think’ — which, though possible, is unlikely in context (how should the mother know what the father thinks, when he doesn’t know himself?).


Word avalanche

May 26, 2013

Today’s Pearls Before Swine, with a type of language play I have no ready name for:

(The human in the last panel is the cartoonist, Stephan Pastis. And Rat’s question is rhetorical, conveying ‘the word shame means nothing to you’.)

In this form, you pile up phonologically identical words or parts of words to make a gigantic expression that is almost impossible to parse (without the context that sets up the expression): pen the writing implement, the pen- of penultimate, Sean Penn the actor, and Penn the university; the ultimate ‘final’ of penultimate, ultimate ‘very best’, and the ultimate of Ultimate Frisbee. (On penultimate, ultimate, etc, see this posting.) The effect of the set-up is to license what sounds like a massive attack of stuttering.

Pub(l)ic notice

May 12, 2013

Posted by Jonathan Stover on Facebook:

Well, it might or might not be genuine, but it’s entertaining. And notice that it has a characteristic feature of many notices prohibiting acts: its indirection. It dosn’t say “Don’t masturbate in the showers”; it tells you instead that doing so violates a code. And then it tells you to masturbate in your own room, meaning, instead of in the showers — you’re supposed to work that out from the context — but it doesn’t say that, so it can be understood as an instruction to go and masturbate in your own room. Now.

I haven’t found anything on the UMass Housing Code, outside of this notice. And I’m dubious about the semen buildup in the drains. I do like the instruction to see your RA with any questions you might have. Do RAs give advice about jacking off?

How ’bout them Cubbies?

May 12, 2013

Today’s Zippy:

So the strip is “about” hair(s), but it’s also “about” How ’bout them Cubbies?

(On a personal hair and holiday note: I’m watching Hairspray for Mothers Day.)


Sarcastic and literal

May 9, 2013

Yesterday’s Dinosaur Comics:

T. Rex maintains he just wants to warn people about doors hitting them — this strikes me as dubious indeed — so he has to rephrase an expression that has been lexicalized as “sassy/sarcastic” (conveying ‘Get out of here!’ or something of the sort) by one that has only the literal meaning he intends. Similarly for “What do you want me to do about it?” (conveying unwillingness to do anything about it) and “Welcome to the real world!” (conveying that things are generally tough in life, so you should stop complaining). Not a fully successful strategy.

On Facebook, Jeff Runner took great pleasure in the strip, noting that he especially liked “the part about words being filed under “sassy molassy” in the lexicon!”


Three musicians walk into La Côte Basque…

November 9, 2012

(Only a little bit of language in this one.)

Long obituaries for Elliott Carter this week, celebrating a very long career — he was still composing almost up to his death at 103 — characterized by, among other things, great independence of mind. The New York Times gave Allan Kozinn a huge amount of space to reflect on Carter’s life and works (“Elliott Carter, Composer Who Decisively Snapped Tradition, Dies at 103″), including some anecdotes (it’s easy to catalogue the Pulitzer Prizes and other awards, not so easy to give a feel for what someone was like and what moved them).

Which brings me to a story that was in the print version of the obit but was snipped out of the on-line version. Carter and Igor Stravinsky are joined by a third man…



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