Archive for July, 2012

Amazing app

July 29, 2012

From Ann Burlingham on Facebook, a link to this xkcd:

Definitely a cool app, one I’d have a lot of use for. Especially since it has roughly the same effect as reading minds.

The mouseover text:

If you read all vaguebooking/vaguetweeting with the assumption that they’re saying everything they can without revealing classified military information, the internet gets way more exciting.


Crape myrtle

July 29, 2012

On the street in front of my Palo Alto house is a row of crape myrtle trees, which this year are late in blossoming, though other crape myrtles in the neighborhood are in gorgeous bloom; but mine are loaded with buds, and soon will follow.

Crape myrtle is an intriguing compound. To start with, it’s not subsective, but resembloid: crape myrtles are not myrtles, though they (rather vaguely) resemble myrtles. Then there’s the first element, crape (or crepe), which turns out to be, historically, the same word as in the fabric crêpe (or crepe or crape), crêpe (or crepe or crape) paper, the thin pancakes called crêpes, and crepe soles for footwear.

(Then there’s the demi-eggcorn cray paper, which afflicted me as a child.)


Sunday puns

July 29, 2012

Two pun cartoons this morning: a Bizarro Sunday Punnies collection, and a Zippy with a surprise in the last panel:


More t-shirt art history

July 29, 2012

Yesterday it was Munch’s The Scream done in cats. Today the Woot t-shirt is based on van Gogh’s Starry Night: ASCII Night by artguyaaron:


Far Side puns

July 28, 2012

More cartoons from the Gary Larson Wiener Dog Art book — not about wiener dogs, but about puns:

My favorite of this set: an imperfect pun on the La Brea Tar Pits, a collection of tar (asphalt) pits in the middle of Los Angeles, into which all sorts of creatures were enmired over tens of thousands of years. A wonderful place to visit.

So we get the imperfect pun carpets vs. the original tar pits. The two differ in prosody — carpets is ´ ˘, tar pits (like car pets ‘pets for cars’) is ´ `.  The initial consonants are different: /k/ in car vs. /t/ in tar, two voiceless stops differing only in point of articulation. And the vowels in the second syllable are different: unaccented /ǝ/ in carpet vs. accented /ɪ/ in tar pit, again very close.

Here we get an idiom have an itchy trigger finger ‘be inclined to shoot one’s gun, to act impulsively’ in collision with the literal itchy trigger finger ‘trigger [index] finger that is itchy’.

Even more subtle: runaway ‘s.o. or sth. that has run away’, specialized in two different directions — ‘someone (esp. a child) who has run away from home’ (hence the notices on milk cartons) vs. ‘something (esp. a train) that has run out of control’.

Here’s one where the actual words aren’t expressed: antenna in two (historically related) specialized senses — the sensory appendages of an insect, the receiving/transmitting devices of radio and television.

More Larsons, of other types, to come.

The Mrowr and The Whine

July 28, 2012

The t-shirt offered by Woot today, The Mrowr, designed by walzaman:


A take-off on Munch’s The Scream, done in cats.


On the NomConjObj watch

July 27, 2012

From Thomas Grano, my sometime companion in the world of nominative conjoined objects (NomConjObjs), this catch:

At the end of three weeks, I finally called the chair of the search committee and invited he and his wife to go out to dinner with us. [in “They’re here!”, 7/24/12 Chronicle of Higher Education blog post by Lesboprof, available here]

That’s a 3sg pronoun in the first conjunct, in a direct object that’s the notional subject of an infinitive — the first example with this combination of factors that I’ve seen.


Ask Emma Grice

July 27, 2012

A piece of advice circulating widely on the web:

An entertaining answer, but not what the questioner wanted to know when she asked, “What should I do?”


Pun time in the monastery

July 27, 2012

Yesterday’s meeting with the intern on the Traugott-Zwicky linguistics in the comics project was about puns in the comics, focusing on Bizarro and Rhymes With Orange (two strips that regularly offer puns): phonetic similarity, the One Form, One Meaning principle (vs. the prevalence of ambiguity in language), portmanteaus and compounds, the importance of context and background knowledge, and much more. Since we’re looking at cartoons and comic strips, the marriage of visual and verbal content was a recurrent theme. There are puns that absolutely require visual presentation, like this one (which I posted about here):

The verbal content — snake eyes for a particular roll of the dice — is equally important, though it’s only implicit in the cartoon.

Then there are puns that work just fine without graphics.


Branding rules

July 26, 2012

A reader has sent me a tweet from Waterstones (the big British chain bookstore) in Oxford St., Mayfair, London:

So, as we can’t say the name of the big sporting event because we’re not a sponsor, we shall call it Voldesport. It which cannot be named!

What’s at issue here are very stringent branding rules about the use of the trademarks of the Olympics: the word Olympics, the interlocked rings, the Olympic torch. Only official sponsors of the games are allowed by law to use these trademarked names and logos in advertising, and the games organizers have been bulldogs in enforcing the rules. They have pursued shops that display versions of the rings — in bagels, doughnuts, flowers, or tissue paper — in honor of the games, as well as non-sponsors who use the words Olympics, Olympic, or Olympian in advertisements. It’s strictly pay to play.

Waterstones have puckishly offered the portmanteau Voldesport (Voldemort + sport) as a replacement.