Animals on duty

October 19, 2014

In the latest (10/20/14) New Yorker, a hilarious and simultaneously disturbing piece by Patricia Marx, “Pets Allowed: Why are so many animals now in places where they shouldn’t be?” (starting on p. 36), about emotional-support animals. From p. 37, on E.S.A.s vs. service dogs:

Contrary to what many business managers think, having an emotional-support card merely means that one’s pet is registered in a database of animals whose owners have paid anywhere from seventy to two hundred dollars to one of several organizations, none of which are recognized by the government. (You could register a Beanie Baby, as long as you send a check.) Even with a card, it is against the law and a violation of the city’s health code to take an animal into a restaurant. Nor does an emotional-support card entitle you to bring your pet into a hotel, store, taxi, train, or park.

No such restrictions apply to service dogs, which, like Secret Service agents and Betty White, are allowed to go anywhere. In contrast to an emotional-support animal (E.S.A.), a service dog is trained to perform specific tasks, such as pulling a wheelchair and responding to seizures. The I.R.S. classifies these dogs as a deductible medical expense, whereas an emotional-support animal is more like a blankie.

In the piece, Marx attempts (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to take (purported) E.S.A.s into places where animals are in fact not allowed, using creatures borrowed from acquaintances: a turtle, a (large) snake, a turkey, an alpaca, and a pig.

Tove Jansson tomorrow

October 19, 2014

From the “Goings On About Town” section in the 10/20/14 New Yorker:

Tove Jansson Celebration: N.Y.R.B. Classics and Scandinavia House mark the hundredth anniversary of the birth of the Finnish writer, known for the Moomin cartoon series and other works, as well as the publication of a new collection of her stories, “The Woman Who Borrowed Memories.” The novelists Philip Teir and Kathryn Davis will discuss Jansson’s fiction, the actor Thomas Hiltunen will give a reading, and the journalist Anu Partanen will moderate. (58 Park Ave., at 38th St. scandinaviahouse.org. Oct. 20 at 6:30.)

Another multiple talent who doesn’t usually get pegged as Artist (without qualification), like many others I’ve written about on this blog (Edward Gorey, for instance). Charming but complex books for children (a favorite in our household when my daughter was young), among other things.

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Quarantine

October 19, 2014

As the dreadful story of the Ebola virus in Africa unfolds, and with it the parallel story of the panicked response to Ebola in the U.S., the word quarantine is much in the news. The stories explain that the quarantine for Ebola is 21 days. But now look at NOAD2 on the word:

quarantine noun  a state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed: many animals die in quarantine.

verb [with obj.] impose such isolation on (a person, animal, or place); put in quarantine.

ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Italian quarantina ‘forty days,’ from quaranta ‘forty.’

and note the origin, involving the Italian word for ‘forty’. We have here a straightforward case in which morphological material from the etymological source is still visible in the word, yet its current use no longer respects the semantics of the source. I’ll call such words decimators, after one famous English example that has led peevers to seethe in word rage at an offense to etymology.

If you take etymology dead seriously, then referring to a 21-day isolation period as a quarantine is just wrong.

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X bar

October 18, 2014

Yesterday’s Bizarro:

The compound hippo bar, with head bar ‘establishment where alcohol is served’ — so it’s subsective: a hippo bar is a kind of bar. It’s also an instance of a snowclonelet composite X bar, a snowclonelet I hadn’t previously looked at — in this case a subtype of X bar in which X characterizes (directly or indirectly) the patrons of the bar. The model for hippo bar in the cartoon is gay bar ‘bar catering to gay people (esp. men)’, and that adds to the humor in the cartoon: to start with, a hippo in a bar; then the idea of a bar catering to hippos; and then, the zinger, the guy who didn’t know the place was a hippo bar, the way some guys turn up in a gay bar maintaining that they had no idea the place was a gay bar.

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No word for it: ‘erectioned’

October 18, 2014

In a discussion on ADS-L recently, the wonderful technical term ithyphallic came up (so to speak), and I realized that this was another case (of many) where English doesn’t have a word for something, in any useful sense of to have a word for.

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Plug anal géant on the Place Vendôme

October 17, 2014

Annals of phallicity (and transgressive art). This giant statue in Paris:

(#1)

(Hat tip to Arne Adolfsen.)

From the Wikipedia page on the artist, Paul McCarthy:

In October 2014, he unveiled his statue “Tree” in Place Vendome in Paris. It stands 24 feet tall and resembles a large green butt plug. This has caused controversy among citizens, who believe their historic square has been sullied.

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Extinction

October 16, 2014

Today’s Zippy:

Not a lot of linguistic interest here; this is mostly an assemblage of Bill Griffith’s passions, including comic strips (Funky Winkerbean), diners (a generic diner interior in the strip), and the print media, plus the surreal appearance of a dodo. The title, however, does give us a rhyming reduplicative double trochee. And then there’s the topic of extinction (with extinct or extinction in each of the four panels).

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Dictionary Day

October 16, 2014

The folks at Mental Floss tell me that today, October 16th, Noah Webster’s birthday, is Dictionary Day, described on the Days of the Year site as follows:

A day for lexicographers everywhere, Dictionary Day was founded to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Noah Webster – the father of the modern dictionary. Why not take the opportunity to learn some new words?

Several things to annoy the careful reader here, starting with the narrow American focus and going on to the ideas that we’d all be improved by learning some new words and that the primary job of lexicographers is giving us a great big list of words.

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Hidden symbols

October 16, 2014

After I posted a Bizarro in “No stinkin’ budgies” (here), Chris Hansen wrote in puzzlement over the stick of dynamite in the cartoon. I replied that this was just one of Dan Piraro’s “hidden symbols”, with no meaning in the context of the cartoon (or in the wider culture). I thought I’d posted the full inventory of these, but apparently not, so for reference here’s the list from the Wikipedia page on the strip:

Most Bizarro cartoons include one or more of these devices hidden somewhere in the cartoon:

an eyeball (the Eyeball of Observation)

a piece of pie (the Pie of Opportunity)

a rabbit (the Bunny of Exuberance)

an alien in a spaceship (the Flying Saucer of Possibility)

the abbreviation “K2″ (referring to his children Kermit and Krapuzar)

a crown (the Crown of Power)

a stick of dynamite (the Dynamite of Unintended Consequences)

a shoe (the Lost Loafer)

an arrow (The Arrow of Vulnerability)

a fish tail (The Fish of Humility)

an upside down bird (the Inverted Bird)

Piraro indicates how many symbols are hidden in each strip with a number above his signature.

The cartoon in “No stinkin’ budgies” has two symbols: the Dynamite of Unintended Consequences, and also the Eyeball of Observation. Over the years I’ve noted other hidden symbols from this list in Bizarro cartoons. (The Pie of Opportunity and the Bunny of Exuberance are especially common.)

On the conlang patrol

October 15, 2014

Lee Tucker on Facebook yesterday:

I must be going mad Arnold Zwicky. I just read an article that included the phrase “voiceless uvular ejective affricate.” For the record, I flinched.

That article would “Utopian for Beginners: An amateur linguist loses control of the language he invented” by Joshua Foer in the 12/24/12 New Yorker, where we read:

More than nine hundred languages have been invented since Lingua Ignota, and almost all have foundered. “The history of invented languages is, for the most part, a history of failure,” Arika Okrent, the author of  [In the Land of Invented Languages (2009)], writes. Many of the most spectacular flops have been languages, like Ithkuil, that attempt to hold a perfect mirror up to reality.

Ithkuil is a conlang (constructed language), very much in the spirit of the 17th century. And yes, it has a mind-boggling assortment of phonemes, especially consonant phonemes.

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