Archive for the ‘Lexical semantics’ Category

be gay/queer for

February 4, 2016

(I’ve been working on clearing out unblogged material on homosexuality, as part of a project to improve my “Homosexuality postings” Page. Here’s one on semantic bleaching, from ADS-L exchanges in 2006.)

Ben Zimmer to ADS-L 7/29/06:

Not sure if this has been noted here before, but one recent semantic development on the “gay” front is the construction “be gay for” = ‘have an unseemly or exuberant affection for (someone or something)’. For instance, the music magazine Blender has a regular feature, “The CD We’re Totally Gay For”. (Blender is part of the Maxim family, so the context is laddishly heteronormative.) Similarly:

Mediocre Bands You’re Totally Gay For (link)

And because “In My Arms” is one of those songs I’m completely gay for… (link)

I am gay for this BUCK-TICK song. (link)

Award Categories… I’m Totally Gay for this Blog or Best Overall Blog. (link)

We just started playing this again seriously and confirmed that we’re still totally gay for Tetsuya Mizuguchi!!! (link)

We’re totally gay for William McDonough, eco-architect and world-transformation guru. Same goes for Cameron Diaz, whose work for green causes is only made more charming by her valley-girl ditzitude. But McDonough and Diaz together in one lecture hall? Swoon, we tell you. Swoon. (link)

You could safely say I’m completely gay for Transformers and still not quite encompass my feelings for it. (link)

I love Verron Haynes, but I love Duce Staley more. I’m gay for the Steelers. (link)

Less common is “be queer for”, with the same implication of fannish exuberance or excitement:

And yes, I am, as my buddy Jay has noted, “totally queer for” the Decemberists. Yep. Fah-laming. (link)

Rusty is my former landlord and is completely queer for cycling. (link)

Examples with non-human objects seem to be akin to the playground sentiment, “If you love X so much, why don’t you marry it?”

My response:

An interesting sense development: the component of attraction remains, while the sexual component vanishes.

From Matthew Gordon 7/31/06:

I just noticed this one in an episode of the Simpsons. Lisa says to Bart, “You’re gay for Mole Man,” and Bart replies, “No, YOU’RE gay for Mole Man.” Then the camera pans to Mole Man who mopes,”Nobody’s gay for Mole Man,” or something like that. At first I was a little shocked by the potentially homophobic tone of Lisa’s line – it was meant as an insult – but Bart’s reply suggests the phrase has indeed been bleached of the sexual orientational content.

From Wilson Gray 7/31/06, reporting the older sexual use:

When I was in basic training [AZ note: that would be over 50 years ago], “be queer for” was used as an insult directed at anyone who slipped up and locked eyes with a member of the cadre: “What’re you looking at me for, soldier? You queer for me?” This was a question with no correct answer. Obviously, yes would be the wrong answer, but if you said no, it was an insult to the cadre-member, implying that you found him physically beneath your standard of masculine beauty. Your only recourse was to say nothing and drop down and give him twenty push-ups without waiting to be told.

You were supposed to use the thousand-yard stare and look *through* the members of the training cadre, not *at* them, whenever their gaze happened to fall upon you.



The toy poodle

January 22, 2016

Yet another cartoon — and there are more in the queue.

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm, with a cute play on the ambiguity of toy:


Rabble, rouse yourself from this pastoral torpor!

January 22, 2016

Larry Horn, posting to ADS-L yesterday:

Haven’t encountered “to rabble-rouse” before, although I’m sure it’s widely attested.  Here’s an interesting one in the wild, though, from George Wallace’s daughter, arguing that Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice  Roy Moore, who — after gaining fame some time ago by commissioning a monument of the Ten Commandments and posting it in the state judicial building, is now engaged in a crusade force Alabama probate judges to ignore the federal mandate on marriage equality (or, as he probably terms it, sin):

… George Wallace was able, by virtue of his office, to take political advantage by publicly promoting a theology of discrimination, but Roy Moore cannot. George Wallace was not confined by a code of ethics that restricted his right to rabble rouse, but Roy Moore is. (link)

Plenty of occurrences of to rabble-rouse and a few of rabble-rouses and rabble-roused, and rabble-rouse seems to be in WNI3. Not in my list of 2pbfVs (two-part back-formed verbs), but now it will be in entry #140.


Too early for celebration?

November 29, 2015

Today’s Bizarro, set in the Stone Age:

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

Even if you’re generous in your understanding of when the Stone Age was, it was certainly over before the time of Jesus, and that is not just a tree decorated for some celebration of the winter, but it’s specifically a Christmas tree; note the star on top. So the tree is up at least 2000 years early (and probably considerably more).


stuffing, dressing, filling

November 26, 2015

The centerpiece of the traditional Thanksgiving meal:

A roasted turkey, with its body cavity filled with a mixture of ingredients that were inside it during the roasting. There is some dispute — well, variation in local usage, about which some people feel proprietary — as to what this mixture is called: stuffing (which is pretty transparent semantically) and dressing (which is puzzling) are the most common alternatives, but some Pennsylvania Dutch folk favor filling (pretty semantically transparent again). But matters are more complicated, since some things called stuffing are used as side dishes, not stuffed into anything.

Then there’s the puzzle of dressing, which turns out to have a surprising etymology, one that connects it to the piece of women’s clothing the dress.


You’re done

November 25, 2015

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm (Thanksgiving edition):


So this turkey comes into a bar…

And sits down next to the Boston terrier Ralph, who cuts off the turkey’s drinks, announcing to him that he’s done (finished drinking). — because. pointing to the pop-up timer in his breast, he’s done (cooked thoroughly).


cold cuts

November 12, 2015

Recently I wondered about the story of cold cuts ‘lunch meat’, an Adj + N composite that is not particularly transparent semantically (in fact, lunch meat isn’t fully transparent either). There’s some interesting linguistic history here. But there’s clearly also some substantial cultural history to be uncovered, and for this I don’t have the resources.


On the cellblock, in the dugout, at an ambush

November 5, 2015

(The male body, man-man sex, and roles in sex. You have been warned.)

Yesterday’s Daily Jocks ad brings us some commanding presences:


Dominic in Dugout briefs


Mester in an Alpha harness

Dominic’s in control, and he
Knows what he wants you to
Do; submit to him. Or you can
Serve his brother
Mester; they’re both ready to
Take you.

We’re in the CellBlock 13 world of high masculinity, doms and subs, masters and slaves, and sexual fetishes.


X snob

October 31, 2015

First, I note a snowclonelet composite not discussed earlier on this blog: X snob, involving a specialized use of the noun snob. Then I summarize some ADS-L discussion of possible extensions of the snowclonelet, where it was suggested that the snowclonelet might in some cases be losing its pejorative tone.



October 26, 2015

The Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal from the 24th:

And no wonder: Baby Noam knows enough about Language to start a sustained argument that animals don’t have it, but not enough about the details of English to understand that the woman was asking what the conom (conventional onomatopoetic word — see discussion in the last section of my posting on Liam Walsh) is in English for the sound made by a chimp. (Note: there isn’t one, so far as I know). The facts of English usage in this domain are fairly complex, but little kids (other than Baby Noam, it seems) manage to cope very well with it.



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