Vampire detective

Yesterday’s Scenes From a Multiverse:

— with a crucial ambiguity in the N N compound vampire detective: an object reading for vampire (‘someone who detects vampires’) vs. a predicative reading (‘detective who is a vampire’).

4 Responses to “Vampire detective”

  1. John Baker Says:

    I am reminded of the discussion on an old episode of The Big Bang Theory: Does a reference on a menu to “mobster sauce” mean sauce made from mobsters, or does it mean sauce of the kind that mobsters like? A third character more prosaically argued that it was an error for “lobster sauce,” which I guess means that he favored the first interpretation but with a correcting amendment.

    In the Scene from a Multiverse, Dracula Jones is wrong. There are three ways at issue in which the sign can be read: a detective who detects vampires exclusively, a detective who focuses on vampires but can also detect other things, and a detective who is a vampire.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      “X sauce” has come up several times in postings on food on this blog: ‘sauce for X’ vs. ‘sauce made from X’.

      As for the number of ways vampire detective can be understood, it’s huge — potentially endless when you take into account the many ways in which vampire and detective can be related to one another in specific contexts (cf. Geoff Pullum’s canoe wife example and others that have come up on LLog and this blog); all of these can be glossed as ‘detective associated in some way with vampires, the precise way to be determined by context’. Even for “canonical” interpretations, there’s at least one more: ‘detective who resembles a vampire’.

      But I don’t think that the distinction between exclusive focus on vampires and a potentially wider focus is a real difference in meaning. The object interpretation of N N compounds is an ‘as a rule’ understanding, consistent with some play in context.

  2. Daniel Tobias Says:

    I think soy sauce has soy in it, but duck sauce doesn’t have any duck; it’s just intended to be used with duck. Does lobster sauce have lobster in it? What does sauce for the goose or the gander consist of?

  3. Greg Lee Says:

    Correct is apparently also ambiguous. Thinking that it meant “interpreted in accordance with established norms”, I had some difficulty at first understanding the last panel. At last, I figured out that here, correct means “referentially appropriate in the circunstances”.

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