Archive for March, 2010

to school-home

March 31, 2010

In a comment on my “Dilating eye teeth” posting, Ron Hardin noted a wonderful story from the Onion, beginning:

Increasing Number of Parents Opting To Have Children School-Homed

WASHINGTON—According to a report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education, an increasing number of American parents are choosing to have their children raised at school rather than at home.

Deputy Education Secretary Anthony W. Miller said that many parents who school-home find U.S. households to be frightening, overwhelming environments for their children, and feel that they are just not conducive to producing well-rounded members of society.

[from here, though available from many sources]

A play on the verb home-school ‘to school (children) at home’, with the two nouns exchanged — to yield a verb that doesn’t quite mean ‘to home (children) at school’, but rather ‘to raise (children) at school’, raising children being something that’s conventionally done at home.

The verb home-school (OED draft of December 2004: ‘to educate (a child, esp. one’s own) in the home’, as a transitive and also as an intransitive with an understood object, as in “You don’t have to be a qualified teacher to home-school”) is relatively recent, with OED cites only from 1981. It’s a conversion of some kind — either a back-formation from the synthetic compound home-schooling or a direct verbing from the noun-noun compound home school, both possible sources going back to the 19th century.

In the 2004 OED entries, the compound home school (‘a school located in a private home; the fact of educating children, esp. one’s own, in the home’) is the older of the two, with cites from 1850. The cites for the compound home schooling (‘the action of teaching, or the fact of being taught, at home, esp. by one’s parents; education of a child by his or her parents’) go back to 1899. (In fact, the OED relates the synthetic compound to the noun-noun compound.)

(Along with the verb home-school, there is another relatively recent item, the synthetic compound home-schooler, with two senses: ‘a child who is educated at home’, from 1981; ‘a parent (or occas. another person) who teaches children at home’, from 1984.)

The Saturday cartoon crop

March 27, 2010

Three items today: two continuing sequences and a free-standing cartoon.

There’s Zits with Jeremy negotiating with his parents on meaning in context. In earlier cartoons, it was argue (here) and late (here) that were at issue; now it’s disagree:

And there’s a Zippy sequence on the decline of books-as-we-have-known-them, with two strips here (where there are links back to two earlier strips). And now:

Then a Bizarro that’s only tangentially connected to language:

though it will appeal to those looking for phallic symbols.

A treat from Dr. Zwicky

March 26, 2010

[Not about language] Just came across this site, “Welcome to Dr. Zwicky’s”, which offers meat rubs:

Dr. Zwicky’s specializes in making the best tasting Meat Rub for you [sic] favorite cut of meat. Try it and you’ll agree that it is the “Dirtiest” Meat Rub on the market.

Dirty dirt·y [dur-tee]: adjective, slang, superlative

  1. Really good.
  2. Awesome.

Useage: “Wow! This meat rub is sooo good, it’s dirty.”

Dr. Zwicky’s sells:

Dirty Steak Rubs: Dr. Zwicky has developed the “dirtiest” steak rub. It tastes sooo good, you’ll want to slap your mama! [free sample available]

Dirty Pork Rubs: Dr. Zwicky is working on a Pork Rub that is sure to huff, and puff and blow the house down!

Dirty Chicken Rubs: Dr. Zwicky is in the kitchen with Chicken Little…who knows where that will lead?

I gather that all the rubs are too spicy for my current diet (no coffee, tea, alcohol, spicy food, fried food — or aspirin; very low salt, low carbs and fat). But maybe I could offer Dr. Zwicky’s Meat Rubs as enticements to students.

Coming soon to a small screen near you

March 23, 2010

You can’t tell what Jeremy is doing unless you can see what’s on his screen.

He could, of course, be searching on the web, or …

Dilating eye teeth

March 22, 2010

In Bizarro-world, phrasal blends/portmanteaus are commonplace. Like this combo of dilate someone’s eyes (referring to dilating the pupils, in the fashion of optometrists and ophthalmologists examining a patient’s eyes) and eye teeth (referring to the canines, especially the upper canines; the canines are also known as dog teeth and fangs), with a concomitant mashing up of the semantics of the two expressions:

The eye teeth (or eye-teeth) are so called because they are directly under the eyes. The upper canines are in fact the closest teeth to the eyes. (For some discussion of the idiom (would) give one’s eye teeth (for something, or to do something), see Michael Quinion’s discussion here.)

In any case, eye tooth is another in a long line of noun-noun compounds in which the relation between the two nouns is distant, in fact inscrutable without some special knowledge. In most of the cases that have drawn attention on Language Log and in this blog — canoe wife and pumpkin bus, for example — this special knowledge is ad hoc and contextual, but there are other cases where the relation between the nouns goes back in history, and the compound has become a fixed, and semantically opaque, expression. That’s what happened to eye tooth, and also to milk tooth (a.k.a. baby tooth, deciduous tooth, temporary tooth, or primary tooth) and wisdom tooth (referring to a third molar). The first milk tooth erupts at roughly 5 to 8 months of age, when the baby is suckling, and the wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt (or become impacted), at roughly 17 to 25 years of age, by which time some degree of adult astuteness has, one hopes, been attained.

More negotiating on meaning in context

March 20, 2010

Continuing the Zits theme in which Jeremy tries to negotiate word meanings with his parents… he moves on to what counts as late:

It all depends on your definition of …

March 19, 2010

Jeremy (in Zits-world) disputes with his mother over what it means to argue:

An echo of the “argument clinic” sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus (show #29):

… Man [a client of the clinic]  Well, an argument’s not the same as contradiction.

Mr Vibrating [apparently in charge of the clinic]  It can be.

Man No it can’t. An argument is a connected series of statements to establish a definite proposition.

Mr Vibrating No it isn’t.

Man Yes it is. It isn’t just contradiction.

Mr Vibrating Look, if I argue with you I must take up a contrary position.

Man But it isn’t just saying ‘No it isn’t’.

Mr Vibrating Yes it is.

Man No it isn’t, argument is an intellectual process … contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.

Mr Vibrating No it isn’t.

[and so on, maddeningly]

LINGUIST List (2010)!

March 17, 2010

[Also posted on Language Log.]

It’s that time of  the year again: the LINGUIST List’s annual fund drive is under way, for the month of March; the drive is about halfway (about $32,000) to its goal of $65,000 (the money goes to support the student staff). From the list’s site:

The LINGUIST List is dedicated to providing information on language and language analysis, and to providing the discipline of linguistics with the infrastructure necessary to function in the digital world.

LINGUIST maintains a website with thousands of pages and runs a mailing list with tens of thousands of subscribers worldwide. LINGUIST also hosts searchable archives of over 100 other linguistic mailing lists and runs research projects to develop tools for the field.

The LINGUIST mailing list provides a space for open discussion, reviews of publications, job listings, information on conferences, and much more. LINGUIST also runs an Ask A Linguist service, where people can get answers to questions about language and linguistics.

The list is an incredible resource for linguistics, deserving of your support. Small donations are welcome, by the way.

(Information for donors is on the site, along with special features like a “linguist of  the day” writing about how they got into the field. This year’s writers are Claire Bowern, Dafydd Gibbon, C. T. James Huang, Pius ten Hacken, Anna Wierzbicka, and Anthony Woodbury.)

Dative delights

March 16, 2010

The world of English “datives” (using “dative” to refer to English NPs, especially personal pronouns, that are not direct objects but also are not marked with a preposition; English has no distinctive dative case, so “dative” here is a syntactic and not a morphological term) is rich and complex, taking in a number of phenomena beyond indirect objects with verbs of transfer, as in “Kim gave me a present”. (For some discussion, see Larry Horn’s 2008 paper ” ‘I love me some him’: The landscape of non-argument datives”, in Bonami & Hofherr (eds.), Empirical issues in syntax and semantics 7, here.  For an example that’s easier for most standard English speakers to parse, consider “I want to see me some polar bears”.)

Now here’s today’s Zippy with a somewhat different sort of example:

In the last panel, we have “hunt and gather me a dozen Ho Hos”, with the accusative form me, where a reflexive myself is possible in standard English (though a bit awkward) with a benefactive ‘for myself’ interpretation, ‘hunt and gather a dozen Ho Hos for myself’.

[Added 3/26/10: This analysis is seriously messed up. See my comment.]

The NYT goes at it slantwise

March 14, 2010

Over on Language Log, we’ve remarked repeatedly on the lengths the New York Times will go to to avoid certain taboo vocabulary and also to avoid standard avoidance schemes (asterisking, “[expletive]”, “the F-word”, replacement euphemisms in square brackets, etc.), which the Times seems to believe call too much attention to those nasty expressions. Instead, the paper opts for more indirect (often rather coy) methods of avoidance. I’ve recently gotten reports of two instances of going at things slantwise.

First, Ben Zimmer wrote with this wonderful avoidance in the obituary for the classicist Kenneth Dover:

In it [his memoir, Marginal Comment], Mr. Dover abandoned traditional British restraint in discussing, among much else, his sexual exploits with his wife, Lady Audrey Dover. Nor did he stint, as The Times of London said in its review of the book, in his use of “the Anglo-Saxon tetragram” to recount the proceedings.

That’s the Anglo-Saxon, rather than the Hebrew, tetragram. (Holy fuck, Batman!)

And Jesse Sheidlower found this baffling piece of avoidance, referring to the 70s girl band The Runaways:

Creem magazine infamously dismissed them with three unprintable words.

Jesse went to some trouble — there was no link in the Times — to discover that what Creem said was “These bitches suck.” The insult term bitch makes it onto some people’s list of tabooed items; about this deprecating use of suck (roughly, deprecatory ‘stink’) there is some disagreement as to whether it’s really a taboo word, or just rude; and, as for these, it’s unimpeachable. No way Jesse could get three unprintable words out of “these bitches suck”, nor can I. Maybe these was contaminated by its companions bitches and suck; that’s what happens when you hang out in bad company.