Archive for the ‘Taboo language and slurs’ Category

Robots up the wazoo

August 28, 2015

Yesterday’s Dilbert, one in a series on robot technology in the workplace:

… up their asses (though the pointy-haired boss doesn’t get to finish the phrase because the C.E.O. understands where he’s going and continues his own thought).

In any case, the C.E.O.’s idea is to have robots up the wazoo, both literally (up the employees’ anuses) and figuratively (to have lots and lots of them).


Jeremy drops an F-bomb

August 26, 2015

In Today’s Zits:

I especially like the F-bomb icon.

For your use: an icon:

A story of patient endurance

August 16, 2015

From yesterday’s NYT, on the front page, an obit by the estimable Margalit Fox, “Edward Thomas, Policing Pioneer Who Wore a Burden Stoically, Dies at 95”, which raised conflicting feelings in me. Here’s the beginning, with the bits that roused me  boldfaced:

When Edward Thomas joined the Houston Police Department in 1948, he could not report for work through the front door.

He could not drive a squad car, eat in the department cafeteria or arrest a white suspect.

Walking his beat, he was once disciplined for talking to a white meter maid.

Officer Thomas, who died on Monday at 95, was the first African-American to build an eminent career with the Houston Police Department, one that endured for 63 years. By the time he retired four years ago, two months shy of his 92nd birthday, he had experienced the full compass of 20th-century race relations.

His days were suffused with the pressure to perform perfectly, lest he give his white supervisors the slightest excuse to fire him — and he could be fired, he knew, for a transgression as small as not wearing a hat.

They were also suffused with the danger he faced in the field, knowing that white colleagues would not come to his aid.

In 2011, when Officer Thomas retired with the rank of senior police officer, he was “the most revered and respected officer within the Houston Police Department,” the organization said in announcing his death, at his home in Houston.

On July 27, two weeks before he died, the department renamed its headquarters in Officer Thomas’s honor.

On the one hand, you can feel pleased at how far race relations have come (though you can be sure that fellow officers referred to him as a nigger in the old days, and that some still do). On the other hand, the history is simply appalling, a tale of constant unyielding indignities.


A new Page

July 24, 2015

Just added to the Pages of Linguistics Notes on this blog: one with an inventory of postings (on Language Log and this blog) about taboo vocabulary: the choice of words labeled as taboo, the open use of these words, schemes for avoiding them, etc. Can be accessed directly by clicking here, or by clicking on “Taboo vocabulary” in the list of Pages on the right side of the main page.

This new Page joins other inventories of postings on linguistic matters: on abbreviation, anaphoric islands, attachment (in parsing), danglers, Faith vs. WF, illusions, libfixes, and mishearings. More to come.

Meanwhile, I’m struggling to find a way to format some collections of my data as Linguistics Notes, so that other researchers can have access to this material (and it can be publicly updated). In particular, my file of VPE (Verb Phrase Ellipsis) examples, with an index to them; and my file of 2pbfV (two-part back-formed verb) examples, again with an index to them. Stay tuned.

The offensive t-shirt

July 24, 2015

A recent Cyanide & Happiness:

The fuck is offensive, but then they get down to the white supremacist tats and it’s all cool, bro.


From manure du jour to the Ascent of Man

June 19, 2015

It starts with today’s Bizarro, which turns out to have a history:


The reporter challenges the presidential spokesman on the accuracy of his pronouncements, suggesting, with a euphemistic label that rhymes (in English), that it’s just bullshit.


The Haddockian argot, and licorice

June 18, 2015

A recent Language Log posting by Mark Liberman (“Vigilance – Cleanliness”) reproduced a cartoon of Captain Haddock, Hergé’s character in Tintin, exclaiming nonsensically:


That’s ‘thunder of/from Brest’ (the city in Brittany) and it’s not supposed to mean anything beyond exhibiting strong emotion in the Haddockian argot.



June 13, 2015

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm:

Ralph understands what symbols are, and even that in this context only symbols that aren’t alphanumerics count, but he hasn’t figured out that obscenicons are a conventional subset of these symbols.

Background on this blog in “The obscenicons vs. the grawlixes” of 8/1/10. Obscenicons are frequently discussed (as well as used) in cartoons; among the many examples on Language Log and this blog are a Zits and a Bizarro in this posting.


May 3, 2015

Caught on tv, in the NCIS episode “Dead and Unburied” (#4.5) (2006). The team is examining a murder scene, studying the carpet intently:

Dr. Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard [the medical examiner]: Looks like sisal. It’s a naturally stiff fiber woven from the leaf of the cactus plant. It doesn’t matt, trap dust, build static, makes it ideal for carpeting. Personally, I prefer a good shag. [Gibbs and McGee just look at him while Palmer grins like a loon]

Ducky uses the noun shag referring to a type of rug, but everyone else hears the nominalization of the verb shag ‘fuck’. Merriment ensues.


Armenian days

April 27, 2015

Some time ago I came to consciousness in the middle of the night to intriguing music from WQXR (classical music from NYC): a collage of melodies, many hauntingly semi-familiar. Hmm, Charles Ives? Not any Ives I recognized, and quieter and less assertive than you expect from Ives. Unfamiliar and charming.

Symphony No. 50 Mount St Helens by Alan Hovhaness. And that took me to Armenians in the U.S., especially to the west of Boston (near where I lived when I was in grad school); to the Armenian diaspora; and to the genocide, a hundred years ago, that triggered the dispersal of Armenians.



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