Archive for the ‘Style and register’ Category

Jargon time

January 26, 2014

The latest Dilbert:

 

Follow from the front …

Briefly noted: emphatic prenasalization

October 27, 2013

A commercial for Fiat of Burlingame that goes past me with some frequency ends with the name of the firm blared out emphatically — with strongly prenasalized [mb] in Burlingame.

Prenasalized stops do occur sporadically for some American English speakers, most notably in monosyllabic renditions of ‘bye (goodbye), with [mb], and ‘kay (OK), with [ŋk].

Ungrammatical truncation?

October 20, 2013

From Gail Collins’s op-ed column in the NYT yesterday, “A Ted Cruz On Every Corner”, about recent looniness from Texas lawmakers:

The old center-right standard-bearer, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, is desperately trying to wipe out his reputation as a mainstream politician while he runs for re-election.

“I don’t know about you, but Barack Obama ought to be impeached,” he told a Tea Party gathering recently, with more fervor for the cause than for grammatical construction.

Collins doesn’t explain her objection, but I’m guessing she thinks that Dewhurst should have said:

“I don’t know about you, but I think Barack Obama ought to be impeached.”

(supplying the source of the opinion in the second clause). So she’s treating this case as (roughly) parallel to the truncation of as far as X goes / is concerned to just as far as, which has been widely reviled (for reasons I don’t fully understand).

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Journalese

September 5, 2013

On the TribLive website (of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) on August 30th: “Book strives to make journalese crystal clear” by Rob Kyff, about:

journalese — a bland paste of buzzwords, jargon and overused words served up by newspapers, TV stations and websites every day.

Veteran writers Paul Dickson and Robert Skole have collected and defined hundreds of journalistic cliches in their new book “Journalese: A Dictionary for Deciphering the News” (Marion Street Press, $14.95). We read and hear these terms all the time, of course, but “eyeballing” this “laundry list” provides us with “growing evidence” of a “widespread problem.”

As they tell it, Dickson and Skole are out neither to stamp out journalese nor to celebrate it, but merely to document it — though the book veers between extreme attitudes about formulaic language in the media, sometimes mocking it, sometimes noting its utility.

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Porn prosody

August 29, 2013

Another installment of material on the (gay) porn register, following up on this posting, where I looked at some lexical features, saying about

man pussy, boy pussy, man cunt, boy cunt, man hole, [and] boy hole. These are terms strongly associated with gay porn (fiction, scripts of videos, and descriptions of videos) but not much used by gay men in everyday life; they are part of a specialized porn register, akin to the specialized registers in some other domains

Today there’s some more lexical stuff, but mostly it’s about the prosody of some writing about porn; like some other advertising copy, there’s some tendency for it to fall into metrically regular patterns.

The text is the copy on the front cover of the Dream World (1994) DVD:

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‘male anus viewed as a sexual organ’

July 26, 2013

Yes, there are words — compound nouns — specifically for this meaning, but unless you’re into gay porn, you might not be familiar with man pussy, boy pussy, man cunt, boy cunt, man hole, or boy hole. These are terms strongly associated with gay porn (fiction, scripts of videos, and descriptions of videos) but not much used by gay men in everyday life; they are part of a specialized porn register, akin to the specialized registers in some other domains, for instance, restaurant menus (with vocabulary items like the adjective tasty that rarely occur outside the menu context).

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Steve Grand, DNA, Timoteo

July 11, 2013

(Not a lot about language, but mostly about music, sexuality, and the display of men’s bodies.)

This is about the country musician Steve Grand, the cover musician Steve Starchild, and the underwear models Steve Chatham and Finn Diesel — who are all the same young man, now getting wild media attention through a music video. From Wikipedia:

Steve Grand [born 1990] is a country music performer from Lemont, Illinois. He was acclaimed as the first openly gay male country singer after the music video of his song “All-American Boy” went viral on YouTube in less than a week.

“All-American Boy” is a sweet song of unrequited love, between the gay singer and his straight best buddy. It’s notable for including a kiss between the men that passes without eliciting “gay panic”, either in the buddy or in most of the video’s many viewers. Grand is also a strong singer with an attractive voice (hence Starchild’s career as a cover singer) and a very attractive body as well (hence Grand’s career as an underwear model, under various names).

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Not dead, but…

June 10, 2013

A postcard from Chris Ambidge, with a lovely quotation from a May 31, 1811 letter of Jane Austen’s:

Letting her correspondent down gently: rather than asserting baldly that the mulberry trees are not alive (or even more baldy, that they are dead), Austen merely appears to be reporting her mental state about the matter, her fears. Nevertheless, afraid with a complement clause is often used to convey the content of the complement clause; the hedging with afraid in such cases is a matter of politeness, rather than truth value. Which understanding is intended is something you have to work out from the context.

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investigational

June 7, 2013

Heard in television ads for cancer treatment centers, the phrase investigational drugs. From an FDA site on “Access to Investigational Drugs”:

Investigational or experimental drugs are new drugs that have not yet been approved by the FDA or approved drugs that have not yet been approved for a new use, and are in the process of being tested for safety and effectiveness.

This passage treats investigational and experimental as synonyms in the drug context — but then the site goes on to use investigational exclusively. This specialized use of investigational (as opposed to the transparent general use ‘of or relating to investigations’) seems to be fairly recent — recent enough that it’s not in the dictionaries I’ve consulted. It seems to have replaced experimental as the appropriate technical term for drugs undergoing testing, perhaps because some people in the relevant community had come to feel that experimental no longer sounded sufficiently technical, but had become part of ordinary language.

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Three penultimate comments

May 20, 2013

Comments on my posting on penultimate (in penultimate Frisbee) took three directions: a comic association with antepenultimate; complaints about a relatively recent non-standard use of penultimate (to mean ‘absolutely final, absolutely the best’); and complaints about using ultimate and unique and other so-called “non-gradable” adjectives as gradables (modifiable by degree adverbials).

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