No-name cats, cats of dubious art, monstrous cats

August 7, 2022

Cats 3: Cats Ripped My Flesh. The previous installments were about the names people choose, or might choose, for their cats:

— Cats 1, my 8/4/22 posting “The Complete Book of Cat Names”, about Bob Eckstein’s new book, with lots and lots of names, arranged in entertaining categories, plus of course Bob’s own cat drawings and cat cartoons

— Cats 2, my 8/5/22 posting “Cats, names, art”, with the names (Russian, Sanskrit, Estonian) of my cats; with Bob’s musings on Roman names for cats, with a side trip to Egypt, and his own cartoon art; and with the Swiss-thread poster by graphic artist Donald Brun depicting Silken Cat.

Earlier (on 7/26), in what I guess I’ll have to call Cats 0, “O tasty Tweety! O Tweety, my prey!”, I looked at a few familiar cartoon cats — all with names, of course — casting a side glance, in the cat Sylvester’s comic attempts to capture and devour the canary Tweety, at the predatory and destructive aspect of cats, including the little Felis catus, which dispatches billions of birds and small mammals.

Meanwhile, on Facebook (on 8/5), cinephile Tim Evanson explored the dark side of cats in pop-cultural art: murderous cats, cats en masse, cats without names, cats in badly made movies. All of these together in Night of a Thousand Cats.

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Sniff my leather, Boy!

August 7, 2022

(Racy-raunchy topic, probably not to everyone’s taste, but not actually into sexual organs or man-on-man sex.)

From the annals of commercial naming: today’s entertaining ad flashing by me on Facebook, for Leather Daddy cologne:

(#1) [ad copy:] “Dominate your day with a scentsational blend of Leather, Scotch, Vanilla, & 18 Erotic Spices 😈”

A narrowly targeted product with a carefully chosen name: not just leather, referring to a scent widely perceived as both erotic and highly masculine (so used in colognes and after-shaves from all the high-end men’s fragrance companies — Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, Cartier, Fendi, John Varvatos, Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior — and plenty of others besides); but leather daddy, evoking the BDSM world of rough, commanding daddies (in their leather gear) and their subservient boys. That’s Way Gay that you’re soaking in, Blanche.

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Cats, names, art

August 5, 2022

The cats prowl through ancient Rome, Egypt, and India — and modern Russia, Estonia, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Leaving their names and (in the work of graphic artists and cartoonists) their images. All of this triggered by the appearance — my copy came yesterday — of Bob Eckstein’s latest book:

(#1) As noted in my posting yesterday, which was unadventurously entitled “The Complete Book of Cat Names”, my name is in the book, in a list of people who suggested cat names to Bob

On reflection, I might have suggested any or all of the names of My Three Cats (now starring in a heart-warming bird and fish comedy shown on a loop throughout the day on The Cat Channel) to Bob, though none of them made the cut: Koshka the Russian cat, Marjarah the Sanskrit cat, and Kurniau the Estonian cat (kurniau is what cats say in Estonian — it’s a purr and a meow — so it would definitely be a candidate for Bob’s “names you would think your cat can pronounce” category). Yes, I know, Marjarah and Kurniau are obscure — arcane and professorial — but Russian кошка (fem.), transliterated as koshka, is just everyday ‘cat’ (specifically female if sex is relevant, but also used for male cats; a tomcat is қот (masc.), transliterated as kot).

That was yesterday. Today I’ll take you to one section of Bob’s book, on “Roman cat names” (which, the Roman Empire having been what it was, also takes us to Egypt), with two cartoons; and to Donald Brun’s famous Swiss thread-cat poster, depicting the cat Silken Zwicky (which will take us also to the Cat Museum in Amsterdam). So, a tour of Eurasia, from Nederland to Bharata.

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The Complete Book of Cat Names

August 4, 2022

By the admirable and entertaining Bob Eckstein (of snowman and bookstore fame, among other things), now appeared. My copy arrived today. Notable because my name is in it, in a long list of people who wrote Bob about naming cats. (I offered my Sanskrit cat Marjarah, which Bob seems, unsurprisingly, not to have found a place for; Scottish cats, Jewish cats, but no Sanskrit cats, go figure.) I don’t expect that my own name will ever again appear together with New Yorker cartoonist Liana Finck’s, so I’m treasuring the moment.

The book is a hoot, and it’s got a lot of Bob’s cat cartoons, so I’ll probably be posting some of those eventually — but today, I’m just giving you the announcement, plus an appreciation of the book. (In a section on cat names for foodies, in a subsection of that on meat names, I found two superb names — Chorizo and Kebab — that almost made me want to get a cat. NO, NO, DO NOT give me a cat. I am, really, truly, just very barely taking care of myself and could not possibly tend to another living thing. Look, I’m seriously considering getting rid of my beloved cymbidium orchids, as I become more and more physically disabled. But I love the idea of having a sausage or grilled-meat cat. Or maybe one with a cheesy name, like Mascatpone.)

The lists deserve to be read out loud, as performance art:

Cheeto, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Fudge, Jellybean, Kit Kat, Lollipop, …

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Stilettoed on the balcony

August 3, 2022

The killing of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri by a targeted U.S. drone strike (taking him down as he stood on a balcony) over the weekend in Afghanistan was described by an MSNBC commentator yesterday morning as

a stiletto strike:  with the N1 + N2 compound N stiletto strike ‘sudden (military) attack resembling a stiletto (in being very narrowly focused lethal weaponry)’; the sense of the N2 strike here is NOAD‘s 2 [a] a sudden attack, typically a military one

Possibly it was stiletto airstrike; it went by very fast, I haven’t seen another broadcast of it, and it’s not yet available on-line, so I can’t check — but I am sure of the N stiletto and the N strike and the intent of the commentator to commend the pinpoint accuracy of the operation.

It seems that the metaphor has been used occasionally in military circles for some years, but very rarely outside these circles, so that it came with the vividness of a fresh, rather than conventional, metaphor — but while it worked well for me (evoking the slim, pointed, lethal daggers of assassins), it might not have been so effective with others, whose mental image of a stiletto is the heel of a fashionable women’s shoe (slim and pointed,  but alluring rather than lethal).

Yes, the two senses (plus a few others that I won’t discuss here) are historically related, with the dagger sense the older and, in a series of steps, the source of the shoe sense. But of course ordinary speakers don’t know that, nor should they be expected to (such information is the province of specialists, historical linguists and lexicographers); what they know is how stiletto is used in their social world, and that’s likely to involve trendy footwear rather than medieval weaponry.

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Z fudge

August 1, 2022

🐇 🐇 🐇 🇨🇭🇨🇭🇨🇭 Hail, Caesar Augustus! (rabbit rabbit rabbit for the 1st day of this month, August) Hail, Helvetia, unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno!

Swiss flags for Swiss National Day, August 1st; I am of course wearing my Swiss-flag gym shorts — plus a rainbow-heart tank top, since I cheer for Team Queer as well as Team Helvetica.

But wait! I also cheer for Team Z, of everything named with a Z, from zucchini and zithers, through Zerlina (là ci darem la mano) and Zippy & Zerbina, to Zoroaster / Zarathustra and Zuckerberg, with a special fondness for ZW names: zweiback, zwölf of anything, Die Zwitscher-Maschine, die sieben Zwerge (und Schneewittchen), Zwingli, Zworykin. And, in the food world, I cheer for Team Savory, embracing umami, meaty, fermented, fragrant, and flavor-intense (taking in dark and bitter chocolate). And, in the word world, I cheer for Team Fuck, embracing vocabulary from what I’ve called the profane domain (see my 5/7/18 posting with that title).

So what would catch the eye of someone who cheers for Team Z, Team Savory, and Team Fuck too?

A fudge company with a Z name.

And so, one appeared, in an ad in my Facebook feed, about a week ago. (To anticipate your unspoken query: no Swiss or queer connection I could find. Well, nobody’s perfect.) This ad, for Z. Cioccolato:

(#1) An attractive ad, for a genuinely local company, offering very traditional plain fudges (dark chocolate, milk chocolate) and fudges with nuts (walnuts, pecans, peanuts, almonds, coconut), plus entertaining inventions, eventually working out to confections that would have to be called fudge-adjacent (bottom left above: “7 layer peanut butter pie” (which I would describe as containing some fudge, but not being itself fudge)

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The pickle slicer joke The pickle slicer joke

July 31, 2022

On this blog, a Bob Richmond comment on my 7/29 posting “Many a pickle packs a pucker”, with an old dirty joke that turns on the line “I stuck my dick in the pickle slicer” — with Bob noting, “I’m sure Arnold can provide an appropriate grammatical analysis”. The hinge of the joke is a pun on pickle slicer, which is ambiguous between ‘a device for slicing pickles’ and ‘someone who slices pickles (esp. as a job)’. You don’t need a syntactician to tell you that, but what I can tell you is that this isn’t some isolated fact about the expression pickle slicer, but is part of a much larger pattern that a linguist like me can bring to explicit awareness for you, so that you can appreciate something of the system of English that you (in some sense) know, but only tacitly, implicitly.

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The Bagels of the Damned

July 31, 2022

🐆 🐆 🐆 (goodbye, July). A cartoon ad for New Yorker Bagels, offering “22 flavors of fresh hand-rolled bagels” made daily in New York City:

(#1) Going straight to bagel hell on the Circle Line Tour of the Damned

22 flavors? you ask, suspiciously, wondering what could lie beyond plain, sesame, poppyseed, onion, salt, and maybe garlic, made with white high-gluten bread flour. Well, there are other flours: whole wheat, pumpernickel, quinoa eek multigrain. And bagels with other stuff in them or on them: blueberry, apple cinnamon, cinnamon raisin, Kalamata olive. Bageloid and bagel-adjacent food items that depart from the bagel pier, with Charon at the helm, to veer into the murky waters of doughnuts, sweet breads, cakes, quiches, and pizza. Bound for that mournful bourne,  the scorched and reeking landscape of the Bagels of the Damned.

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Many a pickle packs a pucker

July 29, 2022

O pickle, my love / What a beautiful pickle you are!

Blame it on Nancy Friedman (@Fritinancy on Twitter), who took us down to the pickle plant in Santa Barbara on 7/18, citing these 5 delights, with their label descriptions:

Unbeetables (pickled beets with unbeatable heat) – pun on unbeatable

Carriots of Fire (pickled carrots to light your torch) – punning allusion to the film Chariots of Fire

¡Ay Cukarambas! (dill-icious spicy dill pickle spears) – complex portmanteau of the American Spanish exclamation ¡ay caramba! and the noun cuke ‘cucumber’

Asparagusto (pickled asparagus with a kick) – portmanteau of asparagus and gusto

Bread & Buddhas (semi-sweet bread & butter pickles) – pun on bread and butter (pickles)


Pickles are automatically phallicity territory, and the Pacific Pickle Works in Santa Barbara CA (website here) doesn’t shy away from their penis potential, augmenting it by references to phallic carrots, asparagus spears, and unpickled cucumbers. If you have the eye for it, we all live in Penis Town.

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The life she lived

July 29, 2022

First, a Google Alert on 7/27, leading to a notice for a gallery retrospective of Jill Zwicky’s photography, that notice in turn leading to an extraordinary obituary for the artist — not so much a death notice as a loving celebration of her life.

The notice, in “Out and about in Petaluma” (in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco) by the Petaluma Argus-Courier staff on 7/26/22:

Vibe Gallery opens a retrospective: The Photography of Jill Zwicky, from July 19-Aug. 3. The reception on July 30 is from 5-8 p.m. to celebrate Zwicky’s life and work, a photographer who died in 2020. [AZ: no, I can’t postpone the appositive modifier of Zwicky like that, any more than you can; it should be: to celebrate the life and work of Zwicky, a photographer who died in 2020]. She was a graphic artist who took up photography later in life, focusing on photographing nature. There will be refreshments and live music by David and Reed Fromer at the reception. Come celebrate Zwicky’s life and support Vibe Gallery

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