Archive for June, 2012

On the portmanteau watch

June 30, 2012

A bouquet of portmanteaus (and one libfix) recently noted, from crapvalanche to repuglican.


The lure of Low Attachment

June 28, 2012

From Gail Collins’s affectionate remiscence of Nora Ephron this morning in her NYT op-ed column (“The Best Mailgirl Ever”):

We talked about the grand saga of how the bad old days gave way to the women’s movement one afternoon while she was cooking lunch in the apartment on the East Side where she lived with her husband, Nick Pileggi.

I was envisioning the bad old days giving way to the women’s movement one afternoon right there in Ephron’s kitchen, but then I got to Nick Pileggi and realized I’d succumbed to the lure of Low Attachment, with the one afternoon while … adverbial modifying the lower clause the bad old days gave way to the women’s movement, rather than the higher clause we talked about the grand saga of how the bad old days gave way to the women’s movement. (On attachment ambiguities, see here and here.)

Low Attachment is the default, but other factors favor High Attachment in certain contexts. Here, real-world plausibility certainly favors High Attachment — but the head verb of the lower clause is considerably closer to the adverbial, which tempts the reader towards Low Attachment. Too bad.


For Stonewall Day

June 28, 2012


Adam and Pingu in the Garden of Eden

June 28, 2012

From Arne Adolfsen in Facebook, a link to a story on the science of the Creation Museum in Kentucky, with this photo:

That’s Adam in the Garden of Eden, with two animal friends, including a penguin who appears to be investigating Adam’s private parts. This would be before the episode of the serpent, since Adam is figleafless.


Bullshit etymology

June 27, 2012

A few days ago I posted on “Mickey Mouse in the old days”, ending with a clearly homophobic strip from 1931 involving a slur cream-puff inhaler, which I couldn’t find in slang sources, but speculated it involved cream-puff  ‘weaking, male homosexual’ and inhaler suggesting sucker. I then added a recent revision of the strip, in which cream-puff inhaler has become cake-eater, and  I wondered about cake-eater.

Commenter “rubberchickencircuit” then asserted:

In 1920s slang, a cream-puff inhaler was a straight guy who slummed with gay guys, which Mickey is accusing Kat Nipp of being. (Kat Nipp is a villain whom Mickey hadn’t met at this point in the story—he guessed the gay guy might be him.)

In the rewrite, a cake-eater was a guy who flirted with unattractive women so that he could mooch money or food (i. e. cake) off of them. Also makes sense in context. [In the revision, the gay guy has become a (not very attractive) girl.]

Suspicious of these claims, I asked for a source for them, but haven’t gotten an answer. At the same time, I told the story to ADS-L and asked there for information on the slang. An answer (on the 25th) from Jon Lighter, editor of the Historical Dictionary of American Slang (HDAS), began:

Sounds like BS to me.

Now for some details.


bac(k)ne, buttne, etc.

June 27, 2012

From Dean Allemang two days ago, a report of the portmanteau bac(k)ne ‘back acne’ and the related buttne ‘buttocks acne’, which turn out to be the leading edge of formations in -ne /ni/ ‘acne’.


Meaty puns

June 27, 2012

NPR’s Morning Edition enlivened its series of stories on meat eating this morning with listeners’ suggestions for a Meat Week Theme Song, all of them puns:

Steak, Waddle, and Roll
Loin on Me
Another One Bites the Duck
Thunder Roast
I’m in a New York Steak of Mind
Liver Let Die
I Wanna Hold Your Ham

The last appeared to be the staff’s favorite, the wurst of the lot.


Misnaming update

June 26, 2012

Back on Language Log in 2006, I looked at manglings of my name, in writing and in speech. New examples continue to appear. Yesterday, from Equality California, a mailing to

Arnold Swiscky

with the very frequent S for Z, plus a perseveration of the S into the second syllable. A while back, mail for

Arnold Montovani

presumably by hybridization of entries in a big mailing list. Before that, mail from the SF LGBT Center for

Randy Zwicky

a replacement of my (relatively uncommon) first name with a more ordinary one. In 2006 I reported

Ronald, Donald, Harold, Albert, Leonard, Howard

and added Andrew, but since then I’ve collected Herbert and Robert — and now Randy. Trochaic names rule.

Just call me Ishmael.


Still more gay flag

June 26, 2012

From several different sources:

From the Oreo people. I’m not sure what the significance of June 25th is; this year, many pride parades were on Sunday the 24th, and Stonewall Day (commemmorating the Stonewall Inn riots in NYC) is the 28th. But the visual is nice.


Word horror

June 26, 2012

Via Bill Halstead on Facebook, this timely Tom Tomorrow cartoon:

I’ll post in a while on the real-life events (in Michigan) that inspired the cartoon.