Archive for October, 2010

Underwear gods

October 19, 2010

From Federico Escobar, this wonderful quote from Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis (2003):

Eric watched them cross the street, stunted humans in the shadow of the underwear gods that adorned the soaring billboards. These were figures beyond gender and procreation, enchanted women in men’s shorts, beyond commerce, even, men immortal in their muscle tone, in the clustered bulge at the crotchline. (p. 84)

I got this in my role as Underwear Guy, a sideline career that I seem to have stumbled into back in 2005. Some linguablog discussions of categories and terms in the domain of clothing, mostly men’s clothing, mostly underwear and related items (heavy homo-content in many of my postings):

AZ on LLog, 3/19/05: Tidy-whiteys (link)

ML on LLog, 3/20/05: Raising and lowering those tighty whities (link)

AZ on LLog, 3/20/05: Tighty-whities: the semantics (link)

AZ on LLog, 3/27/05: Underwear sociolinguistics (link)

AZBlog, 9/23/09: Lifting shirts (link)

AZBlog, 11/27/09: Hybrid underwear (link)

AZBlog, 4/29/10: What IS that garment? (link) [on the “swim brief”]

AZBlog, 5/1/10: DEFINE “SCRIMMAGE T-SHIRT” (link)

AZBlog, 5/2/10: Wife beaters (link)

AZBlog, 5/13/10: Short shot #47: underwear models (link)

AZBlog, 7/1/10: Golden State Rufskin tit (link)

AZBlog, 7/27/10: Collage essays: from concealment to display (link)

AZBlogX, 8/2/10: Five from 2005: XXX-rated collages (link) [collage “Exposure” on shirt-lifting]

AZBlogX, 8/14/10: Pits ’n’ Tits: five underwear models (link)

AZBlogX, 8/15/10: From 10percent 8/15/10 (link)

AZBlogX, 8/16/10: Hi-def (link)

AZBlogX, 8/16/10: The triad: jockstrap, locker room, shower room (link)

AZBlogX, 8/18/10: Hommage à Rusty (link)

AZBlog, 8/21/10: Return to rainbow flagwear (link)

AZBlog, 9/17/10: Update: an endnote on shirt-lifting (link)

“Five underwear models” has illustrations of some underwear gods, including the first Top God, Mark Wahlberg.

The cowbell industry

October 18, 2010

Via Federico Escobar, a 10/5/09 Farley Katz cartoon in the New Yorker:

As I note every month or so, N + N compounds have a large range of possible interpretations, hinging on the relationship between the referents of the two nouns. Even sticking to the canonical relationships, every such compound is potentially ambiguous, though some of the interpretations will be absurd.

As in this case. The conventionalized interpretation for cowbell is ‘bell for cows’, but here the cartoonist has chosen the alternative ‘bell made of cows’. Not a pretty sight.

Shapenote videos

October 17, 2010

Addendum to my postings on shapenote singing (here here and here):

You can google on {“Sacred Harp” Youtube} for some — a whole lot of — video clips. There’s a remarkable clip of the Chicago Convention from a few years ago, with a kid leading Panting for Heaven (384) — in Ida Noyes Hall at the University of Chicago (which linguists will recognize as the site of Chicago Linguistics Society meetings in the old days — annoying acoustics for meetings, but completely fabulous for Sacred Harp singing).

More on writing and memory

October 15, 2010

Back in June, I wrote some here on “Memory and fictobiography”, including a section of quotes on memory and writing. An addition to this bank of quotes, from an “Up Front” column (New York Times Book Review of September 12) interviewing novelist and memoirist Dani Shapiro:

Readers [Shapiro says] … “often think that writing a memoir must be cathartic, But, if anything, I found [in writing the memoir Slow Motion] that it embeds the story more deeply in the writer. The story becomes frozen, in a way, by the crafting of it. Memory is mutable, and the relationship between writer and the story at the particular moment the story is written becomes the story.”

The story becomes frozen by the crafting of it. So in writing pieces of Reflections on a Sexual Life (which I’m beginning to think of as a set of episodes, fictobiographical short stories, rather than as a sustained novel-like narrative), I found that the act of writing fixed my memories: the way I fashioned the stories became my memory for the events and feelings of the past, even when I understood that I was shaping the telling for artistic purposes. Increasingly, I could no longer access alternative, more “immediate”, recollections.

Unsurprisingly, this freezing effect held for stories told at considerable remove from the real-world events they purport to describe (like the first three gay-baths stories linked to here). But it happened even when my first drafts came very soon after those events, as for the last two gay-baths tales. And then as I rewrote, edited, and polished, I was not so much recovering more details from the past as improving and elaborating the material using details that came from god knows where (memories of different events, stories I’d been told, things I’d read or seen in movies, dreams, fantasies, sheer invention).

It’s like a family story that improves over time, eventually to settle into a canonical version that displaces all the earlier versions — and, very often, gets retold virtually verbatim after that. (Sometimes people can’t even recall whose story it was in the first place; it’s become everybody’s story to tell.)



Two obscenicon cartoons

October 13, 2010

Obscenicons began as a device in the comics, and cartoons return to them again and again in an assortment of meta-referential ways, using them not merely for ostentatious concealment of taboo vocabulary, but also in play about them. Two recent examples, from Zits and Bizarro:

Jeremy’s cursing is conveyed by some standard obscenicons, plus an assortment of dire symbols, thus harking back to the early days of obscenicons in the comics, before they became largely conventionalized.

(Note the use of adult here, as in adult movies and adult book store.)

Then we have the conceit that the whole spoken taboo word is represented by a sequence of obscenicons (@*%&!), but can be broken down into its separate glyphs, just as, say, SHIT represents a spoken word and also a sequence of letters.


One letter away

October 12, 2010

A vein of typos causing embarrassment. PUBIC for PUBLIC is a stand-out here; some Language Log discussion here (AZ, 10/13/06, “What the L?!”) and here (GP, same day, “Pubic information”).

More recently, this in from South Bend IN, courtesy of Victor Steinbok on ADS-L:

(It was caught and corrected fairly quickly.)


More Pink Freud

October 11, 2010

Back a while, I posted on the Pink Freud pun (and since have gotten a t-shirt with the first of the images there on it — much appreciated in my department). Now Dan Piraro has picked it up:


On AZBlogX: the gay baths

October 9, 2010

Now complete on my X blog, five pieces on the gay baths, with a couple pieces of commentary. Not explicitly about language, but with some observations of and about language and social interaction.

These things are a combo of fictobiography (remember the ficto- part; these pieces are crafted), hard-core gay porn, and participant-observer ethnography. Lord knows what you’d call the genre.

Almost all the names have been anonymized. “Arnold Zwicky” remains, but he’s a character in the stories and their narrator.

High Carnality Warning throughout.

Listed in the chronological order of the real-world events that served as the basis for the stories, not in the order in which they were written (the dates below are the dates on which revisions were posted on my X blog):

10/7/10: Seaside resort (link) [Brighton 1977 stories, with gay baths in the middle]

8/26/10: Nostalgia for the baths (link) [Washington DC, early ’80s]

8/30/10: The baths in a new world (link) [San Jose, late ’80s/early ’90s, and Columbus, mid ’90s]

10/3/10: Superbowl Sunday (Part I) (link) [San Jose, 1996]

10/3/10: Superbowl Sunday (Part II) (link)

10/3/10: Superbowl Sunday: notes (link)

10/7/10: An anthropologist at the baths (link) [San Jose, 2002]

10/7/10: Anthropologist at the baths: comments (link)