Archive for the ‘Style and register’ Category

Cute-sounding ailments

June 9, 2015

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes:

We have a problem in style and register here. The vocabulary Calvin has for talking about what afflicts him comes from a kind of babytalk — owwy ‘painful’, boo boo ‘small injury’ — so doesn’t get taken seriously. (But note that Calvin’s internal monologue, like his talk to Hobbes on other occasions, is decidedly adult: ailments, sympathy.)

Reading out loud

May 18, 2015

In yesterday’s NYT Book Review, a set of reviews of audiobooks, including one by by Kathryn Harrison of Jo Nesbo’s Blood on Snow as read by Patti Smith. Harrison sees a mismatch between the novel’s protagonist Olav as she understands him and Olav in Smith’s speech style (which Harrison refers to as diction).


Judge Judy: the early days

May 14, 2015

Today’s Zippy, featuring Judge Judy and her hectoring courtroom speech style:

Judge Judy is something of a preoccupation in Zippy, often in combination with Donald Trump (for instance, #2 on 3/17/14, #1 on 5/26/14), sometimes with other pop culture icons (JJ, Howie Mandel, and Dr. Phil on 8/17/13).


Dinosaur connoisseur

April 23, 2015

Today’s Bizarro, with a portmanteau:

Dinosaur + Connoisseur. With some entertaining play on the style of wine writing.

whom from long ago

March 19, 2015

In the NYT Magazine on Sunday (the 15th), an article, “The Last Volunteer”, with an account, as told to Dan Kaufman, from Del Berg:

Del Berg, 99, is the last known surviving veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a contingent of nearly 3,000 Americans who fought to defend the democratically elected government during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.

The beginning of his story:

It was 1937, and the Fascists had already revolted in Spain. I was walking down a street in Hollywood when I saw a sign — “Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade” — written on the side of a building. I turned the corner, opened the door and went in. The people inside said, “What can we do for you?” I said, “I want to go to Spain.” They couldn’t legally send people to Spain, they told me, but did I want to help? I did. My life started with poverty and then came the Depression. I felt a certain responsibility to help the Spanish workers and farmers.

They told me to go to an organization called the Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy. I was put to work there helping organize meetings and collecting clothes for the Republic. There was a younger guy working with me. One day he turned to me and said, “Do you want to go to Spain?” I said yes, I sure do. He said, “I’ll tell you whom to go see.”

That whom caught my eye; it sounded awfully formal for the context.



January 24, 2015

Passed on to me, this 2007 Phil Selby cartoon:


A take-off on door-to-door evangelizing, by (in particular) Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, using the pun Jesuscheeses to move things to the world of mice, who are famously fond of cheese.


Calvin’s genre competence

January 23, 2015

A while back, we witnessed Calvin’s competence in writing tabloid headlines. Yesterday he took on talk radio:

“Imagine getting paid to act like a six-year-old!”

Headline stuff

January 6, 2015

When I posted on Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) and his mastery of tabloid headlinese, readers contributed two kinds of comments (here and on Facebook): appreciations of inventive headlines, and notes on the vocabulary of headlinese.


Mastering a style

December 31, 2014

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes, in which Calvin shows his mastery of tabloid headline writing:

Calvin’s doing well on the headline register (simple present tense for reporting events, omission of articles) used with other stylistic features (lexical choices in ichthyoidgrim melee, devours) and a breathless framing of the report, to reproduce the genre of tabloid headlines.

Visual formats

September 12, 2014

(Warning: some material about gay sex in plain language.)

On AZBlogX, a posting about a “cast album” for the gay porn flick Crave. Here, some reflections about this (conventionalized) visual format, an analogue to to conventionalized formats for linguistic material, variously referred to as “styles”, “registers”, “routines”, or “genres” (the terminological issues are vexed indeed) — choices of linguistic features that come together in packages, for use in specific contexts for specific purposes.



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