Idioms: got your back

There’s a vein of language play, much mined by cartoonists, in which idioms are taken literally. Here from Cafe Press is an example that brightened my morning, because it plays on a convention of cartooning as well as a convention of language:

(Design by Stick figure t-shirts.) It comes in a variety of colors; here it is in (Stanford) cardinal.

3 Responses to “Idioms: got your back”

  1. More on idioms « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Arnold Zwicky's Blog A blog mostly about language « Idioms: got your back […]

  2. beslayed Says:

    This works in writing, but the intonation patterns would surely be different for the two senses.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      In many cases, ambiguities can be resolved by prosodic means (including intonation, pausing, and timing), but are often not so resolved in ordinary speech. In a fair number of cases, people think they can resolve ambiguities prosodically, but hearers simply don’t get it; the belief that you can signal different senses prosodically in these cases is an illusion, fostered by your knowledge of which sense you intend on particular occasions.

      As in this case, I think. I, at least, can’t imagine how prosody could work to signal the sense of ‘I got your back in my hands’ vs. ‘I’m backing you up’.

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