Archive for July, 2009

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bemildred

July 18, 2009

When rocks speak! A bit of Zippy silliness to start off the weekend:

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bemildred (or Bewildered) are three bat brothers from the Pogo cartoons. Three-part expressions (with primary accent on the third element) are all over the place: Signed, Sealed, and Delivered; liberty, equality, fraternity; Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego; Abraham, Martin, and John; ready, start, go; and endless others. (No, I’m not collecting these, just giving some diverse examples.)

Include All Necessary postings

July 17, 2009

Another little inventory (assembled by Tim Moon), this time a very little inventory, on Include All Necessary Words advice discussed on Language Log and this blog. I’ll post soon on the why this inventory is so short, despite the fact that advice along these lines is very common in the manuals.

Arnold Zwicky’s Blog

“Zombie rules I: blame, love, graduate” – January 15, 2009 – Arnold Zwicky

Zombie rules I: blame, love, graduate

Discusses the phrase “graduate from”, as in “Many students graduated from Princeton in June.” A frequent complaint against “graduate from” is that it is missing a “necessary” form of be, and that the correct phrase is “Many students were graduated from Princeton in June.”

New Language Log

“V + P~Ø” – February 13, 2009 – Arnold Zwicky
Talks about verbs that can occur (with similar meanings) either with direct objects (the Ø option) or oblique objects (the P option). Says that when usage critics prefer the P option, they usually appeal to explicitness (IANW), disregarding possible meaning differences – such critics would prefer the phrase “I played on the piano for hours” (oblique) over “I played the piano for hours” (direct).

Language Log Classic

“What’s It All About?” – September 11, 2007 – Arnold Zwicky
Discusses the OI! Project. Zwicky notes that appeals to ONW and IANW can be classified as secondary (a usage is deprecated for social reasons, and people bolster these objections with a secondary appeal to ONW or IANW) and primary (appeals to ONW and IANW that lack any evident social basis) and states his hypothesis that secondary appeals to ONW and (especially) IANW outnumber primary appeals.

“(An)arthrous Abbreviations” – September 17, 2007 – Arnold Zwicky
Discusses how how in general, initialisms are arthrous if their full forms are, and anarthrous otherwise (The Initialism Principle) while acronyms are anarthrous, even when the full names they abbreviate are arthrous (The Acronym Principle). Also brings up a general exception to the Initialism Principle in the naming of educational institutions, whose initialisms are generally anarthrous. Zwicky points to these variations as another example of the competition between economy and clarity.

“Whether Either” – December 20, 2007 – Arnold Zwicky
Brings up IANW in a discussion of various puzzles involving whether and either (concessive either, correlative either…either, correlative whether…whether, correlative subjects, bonus WTF coordination). Zwicky gives two example situations where people might omit words because they are needless in the context but “guardians of the standard” insist that you must Include All Necessary Words (non-standard truncated concessive (without or not) – “Whether you like it, you are ‘public figures.’” – and truncated as far as – “As far as your ideas on this subject, I think they’re nonsense.”). Zwicky says that “the guardians’ judgment is in fact based on social critera – who uses the variant, an antipathy to what’s perceived as innovation.”

Postings about or

July 16, 2009

An inventory of Language Log postings about the semantics of or:

GP, 4/14/08: And/or: “and AND or”, or “and OR or”?:

GP, 4/16/08: Exclusive OR: free dinner and stay out of jail:

AZ, 4/19/08: And/or or both:

AZ, 4/20/08: Conjunctions and logical connectives:

AZ, 4/21/08: Disjunction mailbox:

Plus links to other sources.

So fun

July 16, 2009

Over on ADS-L we’ve returned to an evergreen topic, uses of fun as an adjective, as in so fun in this Rhymes With Orange cartoon:

A reminder: fun hasn’t lost its noun uses (as in “We had a lot of fun”), but for many people an adjective fun has developed alongside it.

ADS-L discussions over the years have tended to focus primarily on the very noticeable inflected forms funner and funnest (which have been attested at least since the early ’80s), but there are other clearly adjective uses — so fun as above (very common), very fun, the periphrastic superlative most fun (as in “That was the most fun party I’ve ever been to”), and others.

There are two routes (not incompatible with one another) to the development of an adjective fun: by reinterpretation of the first element fun in noun-noun compounds like fun party as a prenominal adjective; and  by reinterpretation of the predicative noun fun (as in “The party was fun”) as a predicate adjective. (The intended interpretation of many instances of fun will of course be unclear, which makes the historical record hard to interpret.)

Postings on internal/external inflection

July 14, 2009

Here are some postings, on Language Log and on this blog, on internal and external inflection. This inventory is probably incomplete.

(Note: the case of noun-noun compounds with a plural as first element — activities center, Mets fan, etc. — is a separate topic from this one and is not covered in this posting.)

EB, 5/28/06: And the plural of MacBook Pro is …:

GP, 8/10/06: The dying adjective laureate:
poet laureate (vs. Nobel laureate)

ML, 8/21/06: Term for shifting plural s to the end of initialisms and acronyms?:
WMD etc.

GP, 8/21/06: No plural shifting term:
follow-up to 3484

ML, 4/22/07: Cavett’s comforting cavils:
attorney general, film noir, and more

External, internal, and double inflection

ticking off

More internal inflection

shout-out; in comments: Whopper Junior, fuck-up, Chicken-In-A-Biskit


July 13, 2009

Last week I reported to ADS-L about this find in the NYT Magazine, 7/5/09 (Mark Leibovitch, “On the Coast of Crazy”, about Gavin Newsom, currently San Francisco’s mayor, but seeking to become the next governor of California), p. 29:

He is vivacious and something of a political thrill-seeker …

My eye was caught by vivacious, which sounded a bit odd to me used of a man. Not unacceptable, just a bit odd.


to name-check

July 11, 2009

Following up on my shout-out posting, here’s another innovative formation, formally very different from N + Prt composites, but with some overlap in meaning: the two-part back-formed verb to name-check.

It started with e-mail from a correspondent whose name I mentioned in a posting:

… it’s an honor to be name-checked by you.

This is a back-formation from a compound noun name-checking (parallel to name-drop back-formed from the compound name-dropping ‘dropping names’), in the sense ‘mention someone less famous than you’ — so being name-checked (in my correspondent’s usage) is being mentioned by someone more famous than you.  In this usage, it’s the social inverse of name-drop (and name-checking is the social inverse of name-dropping).


More internal inflection

July 11, 2009

Cartoonist Ryan North wrote me on 9 July about a posting of mine reproducing one of his Dinosaur Comic strips:

… Also, thanks for the shouts out to my comic – I really appreciate it and am also flattered!

North and I both understood this to be an “internal plural” of the composite noun shout-out ‘a favorable mention’ (though that interpretation might not be immediately obvious to all readers; I’ll get to that in a moment). (Earlier discussion of external, internal, and double plurals here — including a somewhat surprising internal plural hards-on for hard-on ‘erection of the penis’.)


The telephone game

July 9, 2009

… but with shouts rather than whispers, and a teletype at the end:

On the name of the game, the Wikipedia page says:

In the United States, “Telephone” is the most common name for the game. The name “Chinese whispers” reflects the former stereotype in Europe of the Chinese language as being incomprehensible. It is little-used in the United States and may be considered offensive. It remains the common British name for the game.

Homophone problems

July 8, 2009

Another Hilary Price Rhymes With Orange cartoon: