Archive for September, 2012

Useful but rare vocabulary

September 29, 2012

On ADS-L on the 27th, Victor Steinbok noted the rarity of the useful adjective mononymous (and nouns mononym and mononymy) — cf. homonymous, synonymous, antonymous, etc.  From Paul McFedries’s WordSpy entry (posted 7/18/98):

adj. Describes a person who uses only one name. [or the name itself — AMZ]
Example Citation: “The mononymous Cafu is a defender for Brazil, the world’s most stylish and self-absorbed collection of athletes, a team aptly described by one Brazilian newspaper as a ‘cauldron of vanities.’ ” —Steve Rushin, “Tour de France,” Sports Illustrated

For example, Socrates, Cher, Banksy, Pelé, Batman, to choose people from various walks of life.

The Rushin cite is the only one Victor found in dictionaries for the word. The alternative McFedries suggests, uninomial, seems not to be any more frequent than mononymous (with reference to personal names, that is; see below). Other alternatives are longer but less technical-sounding  (e.g., “a philosopher with a one-word name” instead of “a mononymous philosopher”).

For whatever reason, the technical vocabulary seems not to have caught on, even though it would sometimes be useful to have such a brief (mononymous!) term. But of course nothing obliges speakers to opt for brevity, against other considerations (like the naturalness of ordinary vocabulary).


Mapping the territory

September 29, 2012

Pretty much any place of any size has neighborhoods, areas (usually named) that are part of a local folk classification of places within the larger place — though the neighborhoods often take on some sort of more official status. Here, for example, is one map of the neighborhoods of San Francisco:



September 28, 2012

Passed on by Peter Korn on Google+, this enthusiastically crude video:

Some explanation:

Norwegian Song Explains How Bigger Is Better

Not everything is bigger in America!

Kollektivet, (Norway’s version of The Lonely Island) made this music video which explains how everything is bigger and better in America, except for one thing… (link)

… the alphabet. The Norwegian spelling system has the 26 letters English has, plus, tacked on to the end of the alphabet, Æ Ø Å, so it beats out English in the alphabet-size competition. Consequently, the song is known as “The Aeoa song”, or “Size Matters”. To further highlight the extras, the site above credits music and lyrics to the performers,

Fridtjof StensÆth Josefsen and Jakob SchØyen Andersen

In written Nowegian, since these three characters count as distinct letters, they have their own place in alphabetizing. Something similar is true in Spanish and Welsh orthography (some details here). But in other orthographies, like German and French, extra symbols are treated as variants of the basic letters — as a basic letter plus a diacrfitic, or as a sequence of basic letters.

So: German has three umlauted vowel letters – Ä Ö Ü – plus the ligature ß (called Esszet), but these don’t count as “letters of the alphabet” and play no role in alphabetization: the umlauted vowel letters count as variants of A O U, respectively, and ß is treated just like the sequence ss. In French, the five diacritics (acute accent, grave accent, circumflex accent, diaeresis, cedilla) are ignored in alphabetization, and the ligatures Œ and Æ are treated as OE and AE, respectively. Note the difference in the way Norwegian and French treat the symbol Æ.

These are entirely matters of convention, so (as I pointed out in the earlier posting) they can change over time).


Plural clothing

September 28, 2012

Silliness for the weekend, taking off from a postcard I got from Max Vasilatos a little while back:

This from Pantalaine (ostensibly from 2005):

Est. 1950 – Provisioners of America’s Finest Plural Clothing – South Bend, Ind.

Yes, clothing cut for two.


Course preparation

September 28, 2012

At 3:30 this afternoon begins the first departmental colloquium of the year at Stanford, presentations of their work by five summer interns for 2012, including Melissa Carvell, on the Linguistics in the Comics project directed by Elizabeth Traugott and me. Melissa’s slides are available here; the link takes you to a file that needs to be downloaded to view.


Digital physical humor

September 28, 2012

Today’s Zits, with an electronically entangled Jeremy and Sarah:

A little piece of shtick, brought up to date.


ho made

September 28, 2012

From Roy Calfas on Facebook, who got it from Captain Grammar Pants:

Commenter Ilene Giambastiani on the Captain Grammar Pants Facebook site:

They could spell apple and butter, but they couldn’t figure out how to spell home? Boggles the mind.

Well, actually, the question is: how do you spell /hòméd/ (which is how most people pronounce homemade / home-made most of the time)?


dispose ‘dispose of’

September 27, 2012

Ben Zimmer passes on a tweet with this image:

with the of shaded, presumably as a “correction”: Please only dispose of toilet paper in toilet. The tweeter’s message, “Is this a peeve I don’t know?” (Certainly, I don’t.)


Your future in academia

September 26, 2012

Passed on by Kathryn Campbell-Kibler on Facebook, this PHD Comics of the 19th:

Jorge Cham’s strips are usually wry but sweet-natured, as here. Beleagured grad students are the protagonists.

In this case, you’re invited to imagine other possible Secret Plans.


Astonishing NYT volte-face

September 26, 2012

In the Internet Tendency issue of McSweeney’s (on the 24th), Sarah Rosenshine’s “The New York Times announces an editorial policy change”, which begins:

The New York Times has been a steadfast beacon of truthful reporting since printing began in 1851. Our slogan, “All the News That’s Fit to Print” applies well even to this day, though our definition of “fitness” has evolved as decades have progressed. It is with this in mind that we are making an important announcement. In a medium that not only prides itself on conciseness, but is rooted in it, it is absurd to waste entire strings of words and even sentences avoiding a particular word. We’re going to print it now. It’s “fuck.”

Ah, how long we’ve waited for this day, when the Gray Lady picks up some color!

Not yet polychromatic, though. See:

P.S. The monosyllabic vulgarity for a woman’s genitals is still completely off limits.

Well, you have to draw the line somewhere.

No word on the monosyllabic vulgarity for feces, etc.

(Hat tip to Ben Zimmer.)