Archive for October, 2011

Two Stein books

October 21, 2011

(Not about language.)

Just arrived at my house: two big books on Gertrude Stein, accompanying this year’s Summer of Stein in San Francisco:

Corn, Wanda M. & Tirza True Latimer. 2011. Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories. Berkeley CA: Univ. of Calif. Press.

Bishop, Janet; Cécile Debray; & Rebecca Rabinow (eds.). 2011. The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde. New Haven CT: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in collaboration with Yale Univ. Press.

The obligatory reproduction of Picasso’s portrait of Stein:


Another dubious portmanteau

October 20, 2011

To add to the previous crop of dubious portmanteaus, I offer blogumn ‘blog column’ (suggested by Victor Steinbok). I’m not convinced of the utility of the word, though possibly some people see a distinction between postings (or posts) that are columns and those that aren’t. But mostly the word annoys me because it really works only visually (with the MN from COLUMN); in speech, all that’s left of column is unaccented um.


that which won’t die

October 19, 2011

On his blog yesterday (in “That which is restrictive”), Stan Carey reported that on Monday

The Guardian’s Mind your language blog firmly advocated the that/which pseudo-rule.

(that is, use the relativizer that for restrictive relatives, which for non-restrictives). Carey attacked the pseudo-rule on the Guardian’s blog and expanded his critique in yesterday’s (excellent) posting on his own blog. His wry postscript:

My comments at The Guardian helped convert at least one editor. This morning, I received confirmation of a second. One more, and I’ll call it a trend.

We can hope. Though some days it seems like a hopeless battle. Especially while the pseudo-rule propagates itself through the schools.


Annals of verbing

October 19, 2011

A blackboard special at the Caribbean restaurant closest to me (Coconuts, a block away):


This is escoveitch, the Jamaican variant of escabeche, turned into a verb.


feel like that

October 18, 2011

Back on August 26th, I caught “I feel like that if …” in an interview on NPR. Saturday morning it was “I just feel like that we …”. That’s the perception-verb feel plus the subordinator like ‘as if’ and the complementizer that (and then a finite complement clause) — where feel like plus the complement clause would be standard.

The usage is far from rare, and extends to the related verbs sound, look, and seem.


“phonetic sounds”

October 17, 2011

Perri Klass in the NYT Science Times on October 11th, on “Hearing Bilingual: How Babies Sort Out Language”, reports on research on bilingual babies by Patricia Kuhl (University of Washington), Janet Werker (University of British Columbia), and Ellen Bialystok (York University in Toronto), focusing on Kuhl’s work. The background for the current research is this well-known finding about the development of “phonemic hearing” in monolinguals:

… the researchers found that at 6 months, the monolingual infants could discriminate between phonetic sounds, whether they were uttered in the language they were used to hearing or in another language not spoken in their homes. By 10 to 12 months, however, monolingual babies were no longer detecting sounds in the second language, only in the language they usually heard.

Here, Klass is struggling to talk about an important technical concept — phonemic distinctness — but without using the technical terminology or explaining the concept in a way the reader can understand correctly.


Frank Kameny

October 16, 2011

(Not about language.)

“Franklin Kameny, Gay Rights Pioneer, Dies at 86” by David W. Dunlap in the NYT of October 13th (and in many other places):

… A half-century ago, Mr. Kameny was either first or foremost — often both — in publicly advocating the propositions that there were homosexuals throughout the population, that they were not mentally ill, and that there was neither reason nor justification for the many forms of discrimination prevalent against them.


Bizarro puns

October 16, 2011

For Sunday, three Bizarro puns, from the outrageous to the subtle. All drawn by Don Piraro, but using joke ideas from Clifford Harris (an M.D. who’s faculty liaison for development at the Stanford Medical Center when he’s not supplying cartoon ideas to Piraro). The most outrageous, a triple play of imperfect puns:



October 15, 2011

ADS-L discussion drifted recently to the topic of Bobo as a name (personal or family), and I was reminded of two notable people with the family name Bobo: Lawrence D. Bobo and Roger Bobo. And Roger Bobo led me to a wonderful piece of light verse by John Updike.


More October holidays

October 14, 2011

We’ve just had the holiday triple play — Hangul Day, Columbus Day (U.S.) / Thanksgiving (Canada), National Coming Out Day, on successive days — and next up is Dictionary Day, October 16th, celebrated on Noah Webster’s birthday. Words running amok in the streets!

Break out those American dictionaries! In particular, NOAD, the New Oxford American Dictionary (3rd ed., out a year ago), and AHD, the American Heritage Dictionary (5th ed., officially released on November 1st).

Though purveyors of porn celebrate holidays of all sorts with sales of their wares (most recently, Thugmart celebrating Columbus Day, on AZBlogX, here), I suspect that they’ll give Dictionary Day a pass.