Archive for August, 2012

Brief mention: glacier mice 8/30/12

August 30, 2012

In the NYT Science Times on 8/28, a delightful piece by Matt Kaplan, “On Glaciers, Balls of Dust and Moss Make a Cozy Home”:

Life has a habit of turning up in the most unlikely of places. Geysers, desert cliffs, even heaps of dung are environments that at least a few creatures call home.

Now balls of moss on glaciers are joining this strange list. The clumps, known as glacier mice, have been found to contain miniature ecosystems. And even in freezing temperatures, scientists found, the inhabitants manage to thrive.

… Inside the mice, the researchers found Collembola (six-legged insectlike creatures commonly known as springtails), tardigrades (tiny eight-legged moisture-loving creatures that are often called water bears) and simple nematode worms.

And contrary to what the team expected, these animals were not just getting by inside the glacier mice; with up to 73 springtails, 200 tardigrades and 1,000 nematodes being found in just a single mouse, they were thriving.

Like dust bunnies, but with lots of life in them. (I suspect that dust bunnies harbor more life than we might have expected.)


Tyrannosaurian awesome sadness

August 30, 2012

Ryan North is awesomely fond of the word awesome; see his Dinosaur Comics of 6/20/11 (with awesome inflation and portmanteaus involving awesome), here. In looking back at earlier strips, I came across another portmantawesome one, from 6/16/08:

T-Rex’s lexical inventions rarely have a lot going for them. But he’s (awesomely) enthusiastic.


Calvin on how to write

August 30, 2012

In searching for the Calvin and Hobbes “verbing weirds language” strip, I came across this entertaining piece of advice from Calvin:

It’s only too easy to make fun of academic writing, especially when it strikes the outsider as jargon-filled, and sometimes (as here) the mockery is amply justified. But the trick is to figure out when insider vocabulary has a point and when it’s mostly walling off things from the outsiders and showing off for the insiders.


to long grass

August 30, 2012

Caught by Chris Hansen (posting on Facebook) in the Guardian, here:

[Boris] Johnson [Mayor of London], who had been a siren voice within the Conservative party over airport capacity until the Heathrow reversal campaign gathered momentum, urged Cameron to come up with a definitive answer to the capacity issue. “It is plain that the argument over aviation capacity is not going to vanish and he can’t long grass this. It is necessary to come up with an answer.”

That’s a verbing of the phrase long grass — a phrase extracted from the (metaphorical) idiom to kick into the long grass.

This would be a good time to post the famous Calvin and Hobbes cartoon on verbing (which has often been quoted on Language Log and this blog):


Captain Obvious

August 29, 2012

From The Wrong Stuff on Facebook, this comic-book parody:

Note the commentary on the mechanics of cartooning: word bubbles and panel borders (plus superhero stance).

It’s probably just a fortunate accident that CO stands for carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is toxic to human beings.


Food art

August 29, 2012

From the Facebook page When Nature Calls, this creation:

An owl composed of foodstuffs. Turns out there’s quite a range of such compositions.


The bat hole

August 29, 2012

Today’s Bizarro:


A visual as well as verbal gag, which depends on the comic convention of the mouse hole (inverted as a bat hole; compare the balloon dog door in the Sam Gross cartoon here), from which we can reconstruct the presupposition associated with the also in Cat #1’s statement: we have mice.



August 28, 2012

The topic of the go get (or go + V) construction in English (Let’s go see what’s happening) has now come up (in comments) in connection with V + V compounds (sleep walk, stir-fry). I’ve spent years probing this construction, mostly in collaboration with Geoff Pullum, so I thought this would be a good time to reproduce a summary I wrote in 2000 for the Usenet group sci.lang (with editorial amendments and additions over the years).

Note: This is going to be long and pretty technical. And you should first read (at least) my 2007 Language Log posting “Go, go, go!”, which will put things in context and set aside a collection of issues off the main topic.


Best Word Ever

August 28, 2012

Passed on by Jeff Wechter in e-mail, a link to Ted McCagg’s drawings on his site Questionable Skills, including a long series of Best Word Ever drawings, in which competitions in word attractiveness are presented as bracketed sports tournaments. Yesterday’s open competition:

And then a completed tournament, in a series that runs through the letters of the alphabet (of course, I’d choose Z):

McCagg draws more traditional cartoons as well as these diagrams, which lie off on the edges of the comics/cartoons world (along with Venn diagrams and some webcomics I’ve posted about).


Fishy card games

August 28, 2012

From Robert Coren on Facebook, today’s Mother Goose and Grimm cartoon, with a play on the name of the simple card game Go Fish:

People say Go fish!, fish say Go person! A role reversal.