Archive for February, 2010

Short shot #40: the Snurfer

February 28, 2010

As the 2010 Winter Olympics draw to a close, the NYT Week in Review (January 28) passed on a piece from on the history of snowboarding. The story begins on Christmas morning 1965, when Sherman Poppen put two Kmart skis together and started surfing the snow in his backyard. “The Snurfer — think snow and surfer — was born and became an instant hit.”

Also think portmanteau, of course.


February 28, 2010

From Michael Quinion in his World Wide Words #679 (February 27):

BOTTLED  I’d previously heard of the TOTTLE, a combination tube and bottle, a term of the packaging industry that’s been around since the early 1990s. But this week I learned of the NOTTLE. It appeared in a packaging supplement in my daily paper. Details are sparse and an online search is befuddled by all the references to Gussie Fink-Nottle, but it appears to be a bottle that has been turned upside down so it sits on its flat lid, to make squirting the last of its contents easier. My tomato ketchup has been sold me in a bottle like that for some years, but I never knew there was a name for it. Nor do I know where the term comes from. “Not a bottle”? “Negative bottle”?

I have now added HOTTLE (hot + bottle), defined in’s 21st Century Lexicon as:

a thermal or glass carafe (often with black-banded neck and a lid) for holding a hot beverage, as coffee, with which one can refill one’s cup

There’s an illustration of a “Glass Hottle with Cover” here.

In e-mail today, Quinion writes about HOTTLE:

Another new word for me. So far as I can discover, this is a product that came on the market around 1950. The oldest I can find is a snippet (but with a pic) in Popular Mechanics for April 1950.

All three -ottle portmanteaus seem to be  “terms of trade”, used by people who manufacture or sell the items in question, or buy them for commercial use. They are, in effect, technical terms used by a relatively confined community, which has a real need for such terms: people who manufacture, sell, or buy such things need terminology — “in-house terminology”, if you will — that discriminates among the many sorts of thing that they deal in, and people outside this community rarely have such a need.

Going up one level: the usual technical term for such terminology is jargon, defined by NOAD2 as:

special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and and are difficult for others to understand

Unfortunately, probably because of the difficulty jargon presents to outsiders, the word has picked up strong negative connotations. As NOAD2 puts it in a secondary definition:

a form of language regarded as barbarous, debased, or hybrid

The word has now been so poisoned by this sense development that I find it hard to use except in professional contexts having to do with language varieties.

Again and again, all over the time

February 26, 2010

In class yesterday, I said, about some usage, that you could  find it “all over the time”. For me, this was an inadvertent blend, of “all over the place” and “all the time”, both conveying frequent occurrence; it was not what I intended to say, and I caught it on the spot. Then I checked my error files, and found that I had made the very same inadvertent error in a different class  in 2007. Well, that happens; some errors are more likely than others and will occur again and again.

A Google search pulls up more (relevant) examples of “all over the time”, for instance these:

BARKER: We have had our billboards and our signs up all year-round in many states, all over the time. (link)

This is a classic deceptive practice that is used all over the country, all over the time. (link)

There are lots of irrelevant examples, and many with “all over the time” understood as ‘all during the time’, but there are also some that look like genuine combinations of time and place meanings. The question is whether all of these are inadvertent errors (like mine), or whether some of them came out as intended. That is, it’s possible that  for some people all over the time is now an idiom on its own (unmoored from its origins  as a blend), which people simply pick up from other people.

A somewhat different example: my Fay/Cutler malapropism (errors in word retrieval, based on phonology) files include the expression “spread like wildflower” (for “spread like wildfire”), which I’ve uttered in error several times in error (correcting myself each time).

“Spread like wildflower(s)” has made it into the Eggcorn Database (here), where it’s noted that people “often comment on the poetic character of the ‘wildflower(s)’ versions”. In any case, some of the examples are not inadvertent errors, but were intended to be as they are; by whatever route, some people have picked up the “wildflower(s)” version, believe it to be an ordinary expression of English, and are willing to explain that it makes good sense, because wildflowers spread fast.

Note the larger lesson here: the same expression can have different statuses for different speakers on different occasions.


February 25, 2010

A nominative conjoined object (NomConjObj for short) is, first of all, a NP which is coordinate in form (consisting of two or more conjoined NPs) and which serves as an object (a direct object or prepositional object). Then, at least one of the conjuncts is visibly nominative — that is, it is a 1st or 3rd person personal pronoun in its nominative form. (Other NPs show no visible evidence of their case.) Although many combinations are attested, only two seem to be really frequent:

NP and I [e.g., “to Kim and I”]
he/she and NP [e.g., “to he and Kim”]

(You will see that both serial position and person/number features are relevant.)

[Clearly, “nominative conjoined object” is an imperfect name, but it’s hard to imagine how to pack all the relevant information into a reasonably short name. And anyway, labels are not definitions.]

The full set of facts about pronoun case in English ranges over quite a bit of territory, including, most notably, AccConjSubjs, as in “Me and Kim went swimming”. The advice literature on the general topic is vast, and I won’t attempt to survey  it here, though I point out that MWDEU has an excellent entry (between you and I) on NomConjObjs.

On to some references on NomConjObjs.


Shortshot #39: a memorable title

February 25, 2010

As someone who has perpetrated the occasional playful title (“Hey, whatsyourname!”, Studies Out in Left Field, the self-illustrating “I wonder what sort of construction that this example illustrates”), I was delighted to come across

Groundhog Day Versus Alice in Wonderland: Red Herrings Versus Swedish Fishes …

by M. Brent Donnellan and Kali H. Trzesniewski, Perspectives on Psychological Science 5.1.103-8 (Jan. 2010).

The original article (earlier in this volume) was on “Generation Me”, with five commentaries, plus D&T’s summary reply to all of them (cited above).

Annals of nouning (the ADS-L volume)

February 23, 2010

I don’t try to keep track of all the direct conversions of verbs to nouns that come my way — that would be an overwhelming task — but in the last few days two nounings that I didn’t recall having seen before came up on ADS-L: one used unreflectingly by a poster, the other deliberately coined, with somewhat different histories, but both now reasonably frequent.


Two errors

February 23, 2010

Two errors from the past week — one an inadvertent phonological error (committed by me), the other a spelling error (committed somewhere in the process of getting information onto iTunes).


Zippylicious geographical names

February 20, 2010

Zippy is in love with words — beautiful words, somewhat ridiculous words, peculiar words, they’re all delicious to Zippy (a manifestation of word attraction). Names especially so. Here he is savoring two geographical names from Montana: Grundy Gulch and Zortman:

As is customary with Bill Griffith, the names are genuine. He does seem to have taken some liberties with the depiction of Grundy Gulch, though. There seems to be no actual town named Grundy Gulch — nothing like what we see in the cartoon. There is only

A gulch [in Lewis & Clark County] named for David Grundy, discoverer of the gulch. (link)

(My Times Atlas of the World lists a Grundy VA and a Grundy Center IA, but no Grundy Gulch.)

However, there is a town of Zortman MT, with an entertaining website (with photo), almost all of it promissory.

Zortman, Montana is a historic gold town located in the middle of the Little Rocky Mountains.  It has been home to farmers, ranchers, sheepmen, miners, storekeepers, loggers, teamsters and outlaws, among others.

There is camping, hiking, float trips, self guided nature tours, gold panning, pow-wows, fishing and hunting.

For those who just like to kick back and let the world go by for awhile, the Zortman area provides the perfect spot.  For those who don’t want to be quite so out of touch, the information highway runs right through Zortman. There are several small businesses in the area already taking advantage of the future. [There’s an optimistic page on the “Technology Gold Rush in Zortman”.]

The Accommodations page lists no actual places to stay, but has a photo of a big-city-scape (viewed from on high), with the promise:

Here we will put a picture of the inside of a room or the view from one of our rooms.

The Rates/Amenities page tells us:

Here we may list our rates for the different rooms we have. These rates could vary, so it is always a good idea to confirm the rates when making reservations. [No address is provided for such confirmations.]

All in all, the site has a lot of goofy Zippylicious charm.

Chatty Cathies

February 18, 2010

(or Cathys — see this posting on, among other things, the plural of rubber ducky.) Yet another Zits on gender stereotypes of adolescents:

Short shot #38: portmantoad

February 16, 2010

Today’s NYT Science Times had a piece (“This King-Sized Frog Hopped With Dinosaurs”, by Sindya N. Bhanoo) on a prehistoric giant — like, 10-pound — frog, recently reconstructed from fragments unearthed over some years on Madagascar and now on display in the lobby of Stony Brook University Medical Center.

The creature is named Beelzebufo ampinga, glossed as ‘armored devil frog’ in the article (sometimes as ‘devil toad’ — see the Wikipedia entry). The specific name ampinga means ‘shield’ in Malagasy. The generic name Beelzebufo is, yes, a portmanteau of Beelzebub and bufo (Latin ‘frog’). Which means that, taking some liberties, the creature is a portmantoad.