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:
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.
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.
In today’s Pearls Before Swine, Pig once again fails to recognize idiomaticity, but this time he does it in steps:
Pig first treats expect as taking an infinitival complement, as in They’re expecting to leave soon. But then Goat provides an NP direct object (as in They’re expecting a baby, still with an idiomatic use of expect), so Pig shifts to treating expect as taking a direct object plus an infinitival complement, as in They’re expecting the kid to leave soon. Pig asks for the infinitival complement — for him, the sentence is still incomplete — and Goat abandons the whole thing in exasperation.
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).
Passed on by Karen Chung on Facebook, a HuffPo piece (with video) about a Kmart ad with ostentatious taboo avoidance:
‘Ship My Pants’ Kmart Ad: For The 12-Year-Old In All Of Us
Looks like Kmart has finally said, “F it, we’re not Target and we’re not Walmart… we’re @#$%*! Kmart.”
Touting the fact that if you can’t find what you’re looking for in store you can find it online and then have it sent to your home, Kmart has introduced its “Ship My Pants” ad… which you will make you laugh despite your higher aspirations.
Not since Benny Bell’s immortal “Shaving Cream”, has the word shit not been said [repeatedly] with such glee.
We shall endeavor to ship our pants very soon. Thanks, Kmart!
A Cyanide & Happiness cartoon collected in the 2010 book Ice Cream & Sadness:
An old joke, turning on an ambiguity in some double-object verbs: V NP1 NP2 interpretable either as benefactive (‘V NP2 for NP1′ — e.g. ‘make a woman for me’) or with some other argument structure (in this case, ‘make NP1 into NP2′, here ‘make me into a woman’). Another classic version: call me a taxi ‘call a taxi for me’ (benefactive) or ‘say that I’m a taxi’ (other: ‘say that NP1 is a NP2′)’.
[Added 4/10/13: There's a gay version of the Cyanide joke, with the readings reversed. Someone tells a gay man that they can make him a man, meaning make him into a *real* (i.e. straight) man, but he takes them to be saying that they can make a man for him. There are several variants.]
For some time now, I’ve been analyzing gay male porn flicks from several points of view: the construction of various gay identities, genre conventions, and so on. Every so often, points of linguistic interest turn up in the flicks; well, they are, after all, sources of data like any other, and I’m giving them very close attention, so I pick up things I might have missed in other data. A recent find, in a long-running analysis of Jeff Stryker flicks — on b/t (roughly, bottom/top relations between men), the Total Top role, functions of mess in depictions of (fantasy) gay sex, the organization of sex talk, etc. — is a striking bit of syntax from the Falcon Studios description of Stryker’s first movie, Bigger Than Life:
Jeff Quinn watches superstar Jeff Stryker showing his rock star charisma as he struts his stuff on stage with his big-haired band. And like his song says, he’s “Bigger Than Life!” The infatuated fan waits like a stagedoor Johnny hoping to realize his dream of meeting his hero, and better yet, getting starfucked by Stryker’s monster cock.
The datum is: get starfucked by Stryker’s monster cock. Could have been just fucked, but the writer went for the more colorful starfucked instead.
From the weekly report (10/5/12) of the Bowman International School in Palo Alto, this note from a student in room 5:
The sand tiger shark lives near the shore. Sometimes they [sand tiger sharks] confuse surfers for seals and attack them.
This is certainly non-standard, but there are two distinct possible sources of the problem:
the choice of verb: confuse rather than, say, take or mistake (mistake surfers for seals); or
the choice of preposition: for rather than with (confuse surfers with seals)
What remains constant in all the examples so far is the assignment of participant roles (which I’ll refer to as RIGHT and WRONG, indicating correct and incorrect identification, respectively) to non-subject syntactic arguments (direct object and oblique object); all fit the template for “misidentification verbs”:
V DirObj:RIGHT P OblObj:WRONG
That is, the sharks are confronted with surfers (RIGHT), but perceive them as seals (WRONG), whether the event is packaged syntactically as (A) mistake surfers for seals, (B) confuse surfers with seals, or (C) confuse surfers for seals.
C-type examples (with a V of type A and the P of type B) are by no means rare, and there’s more to come.