Archive for the ‘Lexical semantics’ Category

Two compounds

February 28, 2014

Two N-N compounds that came by me recently, one silly, one serious. Both are subsective: the referent of the compound as a whole is a subtype of the referent of the second (head) noun. But in neither case is the relationship between the two nouns straightforward.

First, today’s Bizarro:

Then there’s the N-N compound hope chest, heard dimly on some tv show as I was wakening from a nap.


Two Wednesday cartoons

February 26, 2014

A Zippy on lexical semantics, and a wry Zits on watching your language:


Define sup, and distinguish the referent from slurp. The proper names are, as usual for Zippy, entertaining, and the title is a separate bit of language play.


The joke here, of course, is that Jeremy censors not just his speech — that would be routine — but also his thoughts.

Guessing at meaning

February 23, 2014

Passed on by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky, this entry from Failblog:

The writer has guessed at the meaning of suffrage, taking it to be related to the verb suffer.



September 27, 2013

From Gregory Ward, a link to a piece by Jesse Bering in aeon magazine on perversions, “Atheists and homosexuals were called perverts once. Why do we still see perversion where no harm is done?” (excerpts from his new book, Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us). The background:

In 1656, the British lexicographer Thomas Blount included the following entry for the verb ‘pervert’ in his Glossographia (a book also known by the more cumbersome title A Dictionary Interpreting the Hard Words of Whatsoever Language Now Used in Our Refined English Tongue): ‘to turn upside down, to debauch, or seduce’. … In Blount’s time, and for several hundred years after he was dead and buried, a pervert was simply a headstrong apostate who had turned his or her back on the draconian morality of the medieval Church, thereby ‘seducing’ others into a godless lifestyle.


Two stories

September 22, 2013

From the NYT on the 19th: fairies and Ganesh(a).



September 14, 2013

In the NYT on the 12th, an obit, “Robert Taylor, Who Put Hand Soap in a Bottle, Dies at 77″ by John Schwartz:

Robert R. Taylor, a serial entrepreneur who popularized hand soap from a pump [Softsoap], gambling $12 million to prevent competitors from duplicating it, and fragrances like “Obsession,” which he advertised with artful eroticism, died on Aug. 29 in Newport Beach, Calif.

… Mr. Taylor built and sold 14 consumer products businesses during a long career, starting in 1964 with Village Bath Products, a company he founded with $3,000 to sell scented, hand-rolled soap balls through gift shops. Working initially out of his garage, he was soon selling more than 100 products through department stores.

It was serial entrepreneur that caught my eye. Easily understood, but new to me, I think. Not, however, new to the world.


geek, dork, etc.

September 1, 2013

A Shoebox cartoon by Brian G. (in the Chuck and Beans series) from 4/30/10:


Endless discussion on geek vs. nerd. On this blog, “Geek days” of 5/22/12. And earlier, “Venn diagramming for nerds” of 9/17/11, where I wrote:

Note that all four of the terms in this diagram — dweeb, nerd, geek, and dork — are of obscure etymology. This is a semantic domain where people are likely to just make words up.

(Another Chuck and Beans strip came by here.)


August 30, 2013

In the New Yorker of 8/26/13, a letter on p. 5 from Richard M. Perloff, Professor of Communication at Cleveland State University, Cleveland OH, beginning:

Dangerous Liaisons
Hendrik Hertzberg, writing about Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, and their forerunners in the delicate pas de deux between private misdeeds and public behavior, assumes that sex scandals have an objective quality (Comment, August 12th and 19th). Whether a series of transgressions merits the label “scandal” is itself a contentious issue that is a function of social norms and cultural values.

Perloff goes on to discuss some specific cases, and I’ll get to these. But first some lexicographic notes.


crouch, squat, hunker

August 11, 2013

It begins with this photo by male photographer Howard Roffman:


(This is a scanned-in image of a postcard that I will use to make an Asterixion. It bears the marks of a rough passage through the mail, but in the Asterixion these will be covered up by a caption and stickers. [Now done: see  Roffman 21 in "Asterixions 2".])

I wanted a word to refer to the young man’s stance — a noun, or a verb referring to taking this stance. What came to me first was crouch, but I realized that there was a more specific word. Eventually, I dredged up two more words, squat and hunker. And wondered about the meaning distinctions between these words.


Sexual lexical semantics

July 9, 2013

In this posting I’m going to try to tie together several threads: a recent story about a dancer forced out of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet school for making gay porn videos on the side; the proverbial sexual activity of certain animals, in particular minks (a topic suggested by my recent posting on three fur-bearing mustelids); and the lexical semantics of the verb fuck. You can see the connections — and you can see why this posting might not be to everyone’s taste (though no images over the X line will appear in it).



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