Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Words for smells

February 16, 2015

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes:

We accept the conceit that Hobbes is a tiger, with many tigerish properties, but a sentient tiger with the power of speech and an extensive knowledge of our culture. But now it turns out that tigers have a linguistic culture of their own, to fit with their tigerish nature.

A dangler in Belfast?

February 7, 2015

In an anecdote about James McCosh in his years at Queen’s College Belfast (posted in “McCosh on NomPred” here), this sentence:

(1) Late one night, while proctoring one of the dormitories, loud noises of student revelry began to emanate from one if the third-foor rooms.

As Mike Pope noted to me, this has a classic dangling modifier — a subjectless predicational adjunct (while proctoring one of the dormitories) requiring a referent for the missing subject, but not finding this in the default place, the subject of the main clause (loud noises of student revelry); surely loud noises were not proctoring a dormitory.

But the Subject Rule for finding the missing subject is just a default, and as in many other cases I’ve posted about on this blog, another principle leads us easily to the intended referent — so easily in fact that most readers will not have noticed that (1) has what is technically a dangling modifier in it.


Dangler time

January 18, 2015

It’s been a while since I posted about “dangling modifiers”, so here’s a nice example from the Economist last month (December 13th), in a story “Charting the plastic waters”. On p. 81:

The Five Gyres Institute, for example, is campaigning to phase out the use of plastic microbeads in facial scrubs and other consumer products in favour of natural alternatives made from such materials as apricot husks. Sewage treatment plants do not capture all the beads which wash down the drain, so some inevitably end up in the sea. And being so small, no one really knows where they are going.

The crucial bit is boldfaced.


Implied text

December 20, 2014

A wordless cartoon from Maria Scrivan’s Half Full, caught in the January 2015 Funny Times:

There’s no text, but the implied text is the idiom breed like rabbits. Apparently, bunny slippers breed like proverbial rabbits.


States I’ve visited

November 20, 2014

These maps seem to be all the rage at the moment. Here’s mine:

It’s the result of giving talks and going to linguistics conferences all over the place, plus all that commuting (by car, via various routes) between Columbus OH and Palo Alto CA.

I don’t count stops at airports; they would fill in some of the obvious gaps, and add Hawaii, but even that wouldn’t fix Mississippi and Alabama.

Today’s outrageous pun

October 24, 2014

Today’s Bizarro:

(medical) marinara as a pun on (medical) marijuana: same prosody (double trochee), same first syllable, same final schwa. Then there’s Mrs. Rotini, the (literal) pasta woman, suitable for treating with marinara sauce.


The 1958 Nash Metropolitan

October 14, 2014

Today’s Zippy, with not much linguistic in it, but it recalls an earlier Zippy posting:


Earlier on this blog: a posting of 10/3/14 on Zippy’s Unicar, a fanciful hybrid creation with a Nash Metropolitan chassis on a unicycle body — and a portmanteau name.


Cowboy Rub

August 25, 2014

From Tara Narcross-Wyckoff, a supermarket scene:

Two points of linguistic interest here: the noun rub; and the semantics of N + N compounds X rub. (Several observers have speculated on possibly raunchy interpretations of the product name Cowboy Rub. I’ll get to that.)


Getting the message across

June 9, 2014

Three cartoons today on some version of this theme: a One Big Happy, a Bizarro, and a Zits.


Implicit content

April 30, 2014

Today’s Zits:

Jeremy’s parents don’t say this, but they intend to convey (something like) ‘…sit down and eat with us‘ and …pull up a chair at the table‘, but Jeremy chooses to disregard this possibility and pulls up a chair in front of the open refrigerator, so he can browse the food there.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 608 other followers