Archive for September, 2010

Classic cartoons; and two contests

September 12, 2010

Bill Zippy the Pinhead Griffith is something of a student of the history of cartooning and also a great appreciator of proper names. These two threads are woven together in this recent strip:

Though in the past, I’ve taken the trouble to track down the names that Griffith gives to his Dingburgers, I’m too pressed for time at the moment, so I’m passing the task on to you, rough readers: to the reader who provides the most satisfying account of the names Jet Pinkston, Clem Beauchamp, Martin Flavin, and Russell Metty, I offer the Bonk Prize, a (paperback) copy of Mary Roach’s recent Bonk (on “the curious coupling of science and sex”) donated by Max Vasilatos. (Contest prizes don’t have to be connected with the topics of the contests; I just give away stuff I happen to have extra copies of.) Comment away!

Then there are the historic cartoons the Dingburgers mention, especially the first three, with their characteristics of potential linguist interest: King Aroo, with its big words; Abie the Agent, with its Yiddish dialect humor; and Nibsy the Newsboy, with its “syntax so removed from modern speech, it makes almost no sense”.

I was so intrigued by Nibsy that I spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to find examples of its extraordinary syntax, but without success (I don’t have access to the archives that might bring such things up in a snap). I did learn that it was based on Winsor McCay’s wonderful Little Nemo in Slumberland, and that it preceded George McManus’s great, long-lasting success, Bringing Up Father.

So, another contest, one that I think is much harder than the Bonk competition: the Language Glass Prize, a (hardback) copy of Guy Deutscher’s Though the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages (as so often happens, after I bought a copy of the book, the author sent me a complimentary copy), for the best examples of big words from King Aroo, Yiddishisms from Abie, and remarkable syntax from Nibsy.

In both contests, the decision of the judge is final.

Data points: inadvertent blends 9/12/10

September 12, 2010

I post so often about portmanteaus (which originate as intentional combinations of material and are often called “blends”) that I tend to slight the many examples of inadvertent blends, a common error type. Here’s a nice one that came by me not long ago, in reporting on the devastating San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion:

“There’s a history here that raises some pause and concern that this [inadequate inspection of the pipelines] could be an ongoing characteristic of their [PG&E’s] maintenance,” [California] Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said Friday. (Paul Rogers and Steve Johnson, “PG&E record called into question”, [S.F. Bay] Daily News, 9/11/10, p. A2)

Raise some pause seems to be an inadvertent blend of raise some question(s) with the idiom give (some) pause (which can occur as is, or with an expression of the experiencer via one of the dative constructions of English: give someone (some) pause, give (some) pause to someone).

Data points: verbing, back-formation 9/12/10

September 12, 2010

For the moment I’ve lost the particular citation that set this note off, with the noun catwalk converted to a verb, but others are easy to find — and lead to some other uses of catwalk (and dogwalk).


Pink Freud

September 11, 2010

A puntertaining Pink Freud poster came by on Facebook this morning — the ultimate source isn’t important, because (as it turns out) there are just so many of these things around. Here are three, starting with a simple number:

Then two with phallic symbols. The first is a pink variant of the famous Freud-with-cigar photo, with caption added (this was the version I saw on Facebook). The second is a doctored Freud-with-hotdog version:

There are any number of bands — rock bands, jazz bands, who knows what else — that have adopted the name Pink Freud.

In the other direction, there is at least Sigmund Floyd, “South Florida’s premier Pink Floyd Band”.

Over on AZBlogX, I recently started a series of phallicity postings, beginning, as it happens, with Würste (recall the “sausage party” postings here), with the racier stuff still to come. So it was a pleasure to come across Pink Freud holding his hotdog.

GenX so in the funnies

September 11, 2010

Zippy takes on the passage of the years with GenX so:

As I said about the syntactic construction in Language Log four years ago:

GenX so — so-called because it seems to have first appeared in the speech of Generation Xers (in the 80s, with the movie Heathers as a major boost for its spread) — is recognizable in speech by its characteristic high-rising-falling intonation (which distinguishes it from ordinary intensifying so, even when the intensifier is accented), but can be detected in writing only through its syntactic context: clear cases of GenX so occur in contexts that otherwise are not available for intensifiers — with dates and similar time expressions (“That is, like, so 1980s”, “It was so two years ago”), proper nouns and pronouns (“This is so Iceland”, “It’s so you”), absolute adjectives (“You are so dead!”), negatives (“It’s so not entertaining”, “A pizza delivery man who can’t find a campus address is so not my problem”), and VPs (“We so don’t have a song”, “Parker so wanted to be included”, “I am so hitting you with the September issue of Vogue!”).  There are cases — like the title of this posting [“So in style at the NYT”, 4/6/06] — that aren’t so easy to classify, but the Times editorial’s so [“This is so not amnesty”] is a solid example of a GenX use, with a negative.

GenX so is a development from ordinary intensifying so (“That is so beautiful!” ‘That is very beautiful’), which has been around since Old English.

[Since my latest medical adventure started (a few details here), I’ve been largely out of things; in that period 16 cartoons for posting piled up and at least that many new other topics. I’m still involved in a medical mystery story, but no longer in crippling pain, and I’m trying to catch up.]


September 8, 2010

This is day 8 of my Adventures in Cellulitis, an extended occasion that has consumed most of my time and, one way or another, pretty much kept me from posting on this blog, Language Log, and AZBlogX. Specifically, “cellulitis of the hand” (the left hand, in this case), as the medical forms put it.


The 4:33 project

September 8, 2010

From Ned Deily’s Facebook page:

Alex Ross [“The Rest Is Noise: 4’33” playlist (Rabbit Fur Coat Berceuse)”, here] passes along a suggestion to celebrate John Cage’s birth by making a 4’33” playlist from one’s music collection. His has 23 items. I find 46 in mine. We have 3 tracks in common: the Donovan, the Elgar cello concerto movement, and the Verdi “Otello” excerpt – all from classic recordings.

I have 45 in mine, seen here in two screen shots, part 1 and part 2 (click on each image to embiggen it):

I haven’t yet played them as a set, though it looks like I have an entertaining 3.4 hours in store for me.

(Mostly I’m posting this as a test of my new-found ability to create these screen shots, so I can now post the iTunes playlists I talk about on occasion.)