Archive for the ‘Argument structure’ Category

Dingburg names

July 31, 2015

Today’s Zippy, with two sets of names to savor:


First, there are the preposterous Dingburger names: Flexo Sodafiber, Glassine Bookpaper, Flemish Spindleplunger. Then there are the products, their mascots, and their names. Commerce and pop culture.


This week’s diathesis alternation

June 1, 2015

From the NYT yesterday, in “Who Will Watch the Charities?” by David Callahan:

Last week federal authorities disclosed that four cancer charities had bilked tens of millions of dollars from donors.

The subordinate clause here has a VP of the form:

(1) bilk MONEY from VICTIM

where I might have used one of the form:

(2) bilk VICTIM of MONEY

i.e., four cancer charities had bilked donors of tens of millions of dollars. Same verb, same participants in the event (a victim, some money), but different syntax: different argument structures, that is, different associations of the syntactic arguments (direct object DO and oblique object OO) with the participants. In more detail:

(1) V: bilk DO:MONEY P: from + OO:VICTIM

(2) V: bilk DO:VICTIM P: of + OO:MONEY

There is some tradition for referring to such a variation between argument structures as a diathesis alternation. In this case, both alternants are standard, and, so far as I can tell, are treated as such in the usage literature.


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.


Laughter and forgetting

April 20, 2015

Today’s Zippy, set in the town of Prosaic:

With apologies to Milan Kundera, it’s the strip of laughter and forgetting: forgetting the catch-phrase, forgetting to rewire the CD remote, forgetting that Dingburg is only 12 miles away. Apparently Happy Boy interferes with memory.

(Note that there are three argument structures for forget here: forget NP, forget to VP, forget that S; remember and, for that matter, know have the same possibilities.)


Thanksgiving crunch

November 27, 2014

Act 1: Tim Pierce posted this photo of sugared cranberries on Facebook:


And some readers referred to these tasty, crunchy berries (which some find addictive) as “cranberry crack” or “cran crack”, alluding to crack cocaine and evoking CrackBerry as a mocking name for the BlackBerry smartphone.

In Act II, Aric Olnes introduced the Quaker Oats breakfast cereal Crunch Berries into the discussion.


Holiday Xposting

November 7, 2014

Over on my XBlog, a posting on a holiday sale (where the holiday is, omigod, already, Xmas) offering the gay porn flick Everybody Fucks. The title should warn you about the content there: not for kiddies or the modest. In passing: a note on reservation names (one of the pornstars is named Alexander Adams) and a reminder on the argument structures associated with the verb fuck.

Flashers abroad

October 11, 2014

This seems to be Sex Saturday, though I have plenty of other things I’m anxious to post about today. But here goes, with a story from the weekend edition of the (San Francisco Mid-Peninsula) Daily Post, headlined: “Cops: Flasher strikes again: Fourth incident in a week” (by Angelo Ruggiero). About a flasher (possibly more than one) operating locally.

One recurrent feature of the Post‘s stories is the euphemism pleasure onself for masturbate (itself a technical or medical term avoiding genuinely vernacular expressions). As here, from today’s story:

The women, in their 20s, looked out the window [of Peet’s Coffee in Belmont] onto El Camino and saw a man parked at the curb and pleasuring himself, said Capt. Pat Halleran [of the local police].


Coping with the new

June 2, 2014

In today’s One Big Happy, Ruthie and Joe are back on the track of trying to make sense of things they haven’t heard before:


Lots of knowledge needed here — about the words of English and about sociocultural conventions:


Argument structure mysteries

October 4, 2013

From Ben Zimmer yesterday, this find:

“We now have seen the full flowering of the replacing of Alito for O’Connor,” says Walter Dellinger, former acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration. (link)

along with a Twitter message from Calvin Li about the quote:

“replacing of Alito” suggests Alito is being replaced, but “Alito for O’Connor” makes the meaning clear….

That is, the argument structure here is:

(1) replace NEW for OLD

in place of the standard argument structures for replace,

(2)  replace OLD by/with NEW

The argument structure in (1) is the one appropriate for substitute:

(3) substitute NEW for OLD

In (1), replace has the syntax of substitute — the opposite of cases of “encroached substitute“, in which substitute has the syntax of replace:

(4) substitute OLD by/with NEW

The question is where (1) comes from.


to clean up well/nicely

September 24, 2013

Caught in passing in a posting of mine on AZBlogX about porn actor Boomer Banks (I am not making this name up), who’s notable (at least) for his very long and thick cock (illustrated in my posting), this item in his Rentboy ad (image #3 in the posting):

(1) I clean up well

conveying that Banks can make himself presentable as an engaging companion for social occasions as well as serving as a hot and sweaty sexual partner.

The idiom to clean up well/nicely is a “reflexive/middle-voice” verbal: (1) is roughly paraphrasable as “I clean myself up well” or “I can be cleaned up well/easily”. That is, the referent of the subject is the Patient (the affected participant) in the event, rather than the Agent. Compare the classic This book reads easily.



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