Archive for the ‘Lexical semantics’ Category

Mind the Gap

April 22, 2015

The title of a piece on “mindfulness” by Virginia Heffernan in the New York Times Magazine on the 19th. Well, that was the title in the print version, using a conventionalized expression for warning about a (specific) danger; in the on-line version, the title is the more straightforward (but alliterative) “The Muddied Meaning of ‘Mindfulness’”.


On the double entendre watch

April 20, 2015

Posted on Facebook by Leith Chu:


Oh my: the verb pork, the verb pull, the verb rub, all available with sexual senses.



April 10, 2015

Today’s Zits:

Pierce seems to believe that using the same label for things means that there’s a deep connection between them. In this case, why bears and worms but not other things? (In the real world, there are all sorts of gummi candies.)

Three cartoons

March 8, 2015

For Daylight Saving(s) Time in the U.S., three cartoons having something to do with discourse organization: One Big Happy, Bizarro, and Dilbert:






March 1, 2015

Today’s Bizarro, with a play on abduction:

So: abduction by aliens (‘extraterrestial beings’) — but for what purpose? In a significantly conventionalized use of alien abduction, the purpose is probing human beings, but here the purpose of the abduction is a more common one: kidnapping for ransom (where it happens that the kidnappers are alien creatures). There are other possibilities.


Smell vocabulary

February 25, 2015

Previously on this blog: a Calvin and Hobbes (of 2/16/15) in which we learn that (at least in comic strips) tigers have an extensive vocabulary for smells. In a comment on that posting, Steve Anderson noted the paucity of smell (and taste) vocabulary other than via analogical descriptions (“tastes/smells like old socks”). But now comes a paper from the recent AAAS meetings in San Jose. From the 2/21 Economist, the story “Scent off: Culture, not biology, rules the relation between smell and language”, which I’ll post here in its entirety, in case readers can’t get access to the Economist site.



February 23, 2015

Today’s One Big Happy, in which it turns out that Ruthie isn’t the only character who’s unsure about word meanings:

NOAD2 identifies gormless as informal and specifically British, so it’s no surprise that the adults don’t know what it means (though the appalling Avis takes it back to a putative noun stem gorm, which she treats as a mass noun (gormless ‘without gorm, lacking gorm’), though it could be a count noun (gormless ‘without gorms, lacking gorms’)).


Auto parts

February 19, 2015

Today’s Bizarro, exploiting an unexpected ambiguity:

It’s all in the parts. Components (of an automobile) or a role in a dramatic work (which, in this case, is to be taken by — surprise! — an automobile).



December 15, 2014

A sign on a law office down the street from me in Palo Alto:

The warning seems silly in the neighborhood, where I’ve never seen anyone even stopping in front of the building. So why the warning? And what is its legal standing?



December 8, 2014

Repeated annoying ads on television for Teeter Hang Ups, with insistent messages like this one:

Inversion has changed my life and I believe it will change yours.

Well, inversion (in one sense) has certainly changed my life.

The ads are for inversion tables, devices for hanging upside down, more or less, as here:


Then there’s a sexual sense (now dated) of inversion.



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