The Thursday Zits cartoon has Jeremy using the wrong greeting gesture for the context (where a fist bump would be appropriate, matching Jorge’s offered fist bump):

Here we get the N + V compound V to lady-wave, which appears to be an invention; at least I can find no evidence of it on the net. But what does it mean?  Something like ‘wave like a lady, wave the way a woman does’? Or like ‘wave as one does to a woman (rather than to a man)’? Either makes sense in the context, and either would be mortifying to Jeremy. The first has a possible model in the attested to queen-wave ‘to wave like the Queen’, while the second has no obvious model I can think of — but either is a possible innovation.

Maybe the cartoonists had one sense in mind, but the question is how the characters would understand the expression and how the readers of the strip do. Maybe we should just be satisfied saying that Jeremy messed the greeting up.

3 Responses to “lady-wave”

  1. Greg Stump Says:

    The expression “to bitch-slap” has a similar ambiguity, as can be seen by comparing the definitions (of “bitchslap”, “bitch-slap” and “bitch slap”) at

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Nice parallel. The set of compounds here would be N + V expressing an action of Ving similar to one involving N, with the ambiguity being whether the N is understood as the subject or the direct object of the V. There are likely to be more, though no further ones spring to my mind immediately.

  2. Greg Stump Says:

    Another similar (though seemingly unambiguous) example from the MSNBC website today:

    ‘The outcry over Rush Limbaugh calling birth control activist Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” seems to have worked. Several days after his attempt to slut-shame the Georgetown University law student, Limbaugh issued a rare apology on his website, saying “in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize.”‘

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: