Archive for January, 2013

concordance ‘example, occurrence’

January 30, 2013

Back on December 5, Lynne Murphy reported in Facebook about an essay-marking game — drinking a shot of liquor or eating something whenever a particular expression occurred in a student essay:

‘concordance’ to mean ‘example found in a corpus’, as in ‘COCA has three concordances of this collocation’.

… I’ve read this so many times, that I actually looked it up to see if this terminology was polysemous in ways I had not yet appreciated.

(No evidence for it I could find in dictionaries.)

So an error, but what kind? Mishearing (of occurrences)? Classical malapropism (perhaps as a result of learning the technical term concordance)? Eggcorn? Examples like this can be remarkably hard to classify.


Another invented “rule”

January 30, 2013

From a correspondent in Germany, an e-mail query about there vs. over there in English. My correspondent reports that when he was in vocational college (in Germany) he had a teacher from Great Britain who explained to the class that the difference between the two expressions was that there was used for relatively short distances, over there for significantly longer distances.

She said you can ask someone over the phone, who lives in China “How’s the weather over there?”. But asking “How’s the weather there?” is, according to her, grammatically incorrect.

Oh lord, another invented “rule”, of a sort that linguabloggers (notably on Language Log) have been wrestling with for years. Teachers and amateur usageists are especially prone to come up with misguided advice — for reasons that are pretty clear.


Explanations and understandings

January 30, 2013

Posted by Mike McKinley on Facebook this morning:

Ah, I recognized this as a variant of a quotation I have long admired. From Boswell’s Life of Johnson, courtesy of the Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page:

Johnson having argued for some time with a pertinacious gentleman; his opponent, who had talked in a very puzzling manner, happened to say, “I don’t understand you, Sir;” upon which Johnson observed, “Sir, I have found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding.”


Male models as jocks

January 30, 2013

(Not about language.)

On the cover of the latest Undergear catalog, and inside (p. 5), a model in Gabriel Grey colorblock briefs (brief, jock brief, and trunk), presented as a football player. The cover photo:

Nice body, but it’s a male-model nice body, rather than a rugged-jock nice body, and the shoulder pads and the black grease paint under his eyes just make him look somewhat ridiculous.

For obvious reasons, athletes are a common focus of gay porn, and though some porn actors have genuine jock credentials, many are not fully convincing as jocks, so that this porn requires a certain suspension of disbelief to sustain the fantasy.


Dominic Monaghan

January 29, 2013

(No linguistic interest here. All about men I find attractive, so it’s filed under “Gender and Sexuality”.)

Will Parsons posted on Google+ two days ago about the tv series Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan:

I love that someone referred to this as… “The Crocodile Hunter: Hobbit Edition” [a reference to Monaghan’s Hobbit role in the Lord of the Rings movies] …  a quote from the show “this is the very last piece of the largest snake I’ve ever had the pleasure to hold onto” [ok, unintended double entendres] … He isn’t naked enough in this show.

My response:

I’ve been a fan of Monaghan’s since the Hetty Wainthropp days (1996-98). Cute, sweet, sexy. But Will is almost surely right that there won’t be nearly enough of him naked.

And Will in return:

What impressed me is his absolute commitment and willingness to place himself in personal danger. This doesn’t strike me as a “let’s put a cute actor near the baby tiger and get a photo” kind of show. He is doing some seriously risky stuff with these wild critters.

Well, Monaghan is definitely one of my “types”: a relatively small guy (5′7″), slim. And projecting sweetness, openness, and earnestness. (For me, hotness is as much a matter of character as body type.)



January 29, 2013

Recently arrived at my house, Volume VI (the last) of the Dictionary of American Regional English (Harvard Univ. Press, 2013, ed. by Joan Houston Hall with Luanne von Schneidemesser): Contrastive Maps, Index to Entry Labels, Questionnaire, and Fieldwork Data. From the acknowledgments:

The materials in this volume are the results of efforts by DARE Fieldworkers, Pre-Editors, Editors, Proofreaders, Production Assistants, and students over a period of 47 years.


Magnetic synesthesia

January 29, 2013

An arresting summary in This Week in Psychological Science, of “Learning, Memory, and Synesthesia” by Nathan Witthoft and Jonathan Winawer (in Psychological Science for January 10, 2013, (24)1):

Individuals with color-grapheme synesthesia experience color when viewing written letters or numerals. Although some studies examining whether there is a learning component to synesthesia have returned negative results, these studies have examined very small numbers of individuals. Witthoft and Winawer revisit this question with the benefit of a larger sample. Eleven individuals with color-grapheme synesthesia completed a color-letter matching task in which they indicated the shade of the color they associated with each letter of the alphabet. The researchers found that participants’ color-letter associations closely matched those found in Fisher Price magnetic letters sets — which all but one of the participants had owned as a child. The authors suggest that these findings demonstrate a need to include learning and memory components into explanations of synesthesia.

The Fisher Price alphabet:

The full article (available only to subscribers) is very clear that these results don’t mean that some number of synesthetes have simply learned the letter-color associations from refrigerator magnets. For one thing, a huge number of children have been exposed to the Fisher Price alphabet, but the number of synesthetes is small. Witthoft and Winawer suggest that a small number of children are inclined to synesthesia, and that for them, exposure to colored letters and numbers can provide models for their associations.


Annals of phallicity: toy guns

January 29, 2013

Over in Facebook, Cliff Johnson has unearthed this wonderful ad, which he posted under the title “Cocked”:

It’s genuine: from Vol. 22 Issue 2 (December 1918) of Little Folks Magazine, on a page (96) of ads for Christmas toys, all of them gun-related.



January 29, 2013

A William Haefeli cartoon from the New Yorker of 11/11/02:

The speaker is treating his sexuality not as a permanent enduring state or property, but as something that can change over time — though he might be viewing sexuality as a noun that can denote either behavior (which can of course change over time) or a state of desire (which is more enduring, though someone might fail to appreciate its strength or significance for some time; see my posting on “Taste Y”).

The cartoon is a great favorite of lesbians and gay men who have children from a marriage to someone of the opposite sex.

(Hat tip to Mae Sander.)


Fear of Twitter

January 28, 2013

Back at the beginning of this month, an invitation (with the header “3Q Twinterview”) in e-mail:

I’m sorry to bother you at a busy time of the year, but I wondered if you’d be interested in taking part in a really very short Twitter interview? I run the language/linguistics Twitter/Facebook pages for UCLan ( and and for 2013, I’m starting a monthly Mini Bios feature where I ask a famous linguist three questions and tweet the answers. If you are interested, there is one catch: due to the limitations of Twitter, each answer would need to be around fifty words, maximum.

Something of a nightmare prospect for me. Not just an interview, but one with extraordinarily tight space limitations. I do have a Twitter account, but have never used it, so that’s a graceful way out of this exercise.