Archive for August, 2013

Colander song

August 31, 2013

From Frank McQuarry on Facebook this morning:

“I love, I love, I love my little colander tool….”

An allusion to the song “Calendar Girl” — and a lead-in to Pastafarianism and recent politics in Russia.



August 31, 2013

Steven Levine writes me about coming across the portmanteau frape on a recent visit to Ireland, heard from young Irish acquaintances:

It refers to somebody getting hold of your Facebook access (I’m assuming because they all log in from their phones so this is easy enough for a friend to do, if you leave your phone sitting on a table or somethiing) and posting as you. (A fake post is a “frape”, and somebody might have a status saying “fraped again”.) It stands for “Facebook rape”.

At first, Steven didn’t know whether the usage was specifically Irish or specifically youth-speak (or both), but he’s since discovered that it’s widespread. There’s even a snarky e-card:

Google on {“frape” “Facebook”} and look at the images — many many screenshots of frapes.


Tasty names 2

August 30, 2013

Follow-up to the Häagen-Dazs gelato campaign here, with its tasty names: a story in Stanford Magazine of July/August about research by my colleague Dan Jurafsky: “Why Ice Cream Sounds Fat and Crackers Sound Skinny: Words carry weight. A linguist explains”. The brief version:

… front vowels are used in words for small, thin, light things, and back vowels in words for big, fat, heavy things

… Since ice cream is a product whose whole purpose is to be rich, creamy and heavy, it is not surprising that people seem to prefer ice creams that are named with back vowels.

… In a study for an upcoming book based on my freshman seminar The Language of Food, I checked to see whether commercial ice creams (like Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s) make use of this association by using more back vowels in their names, and conversely whether thin, light foods like crackers would have more front vowels. I found more back vowels in ice cream names — Rocky Road, Jamoca Almond Fudge, Chocolate, Caramel, Cookie Dough, Coconut — and more front vowels in cracker names: Cheese Nips, Cheez-It, Wheat Thins, Pretzel thins, Ritz, Krispy, Triscuit, Chicken in a Biskit, Ritz bits.


Tasty names

August 30, 2013

From my back files, this entertaining story in the MediaPost Marketing Daily on April 21st, “Haagen-Dazs Gelato Launch Uses ‘La Dolce Vita’ Theme” by Karlene Lukovitz, beginning:

Häagen-Dazs – the ice cream brand with the Danish-sounding name that was actually created by a Polish immigrant in the Bronx in 1961 — is celebrating all things Italian in its new campaign for the U.S. launch of its gelato line.

The “La Dolce Vita” campaign is kicking off with four TV spots airing on networks including Travel Channel, Food Network and HGTV (also viewable on the brand’s YouTube channel).

A 30-second spot shows an Italian couple arguing passionately in their native language (English subtitles provided), who are stopped short — and turn suddenly loving (at least momentarily) when they spot a carton of Häagen-Dazs Gelato and share spoonfuls of the treat. The spot closes with a screen message/English-language voiceover: “Häagen-Dazs Gelato — our new Italian masterpiece.”

The video:



August 30, 2013

Some time ago on Facebook, several posters ended up chatting about the vocabulary for talking about a gay man’s anal virginity. The term cherry plays a central role in this vocabulary domain — taken over, like some other sexual vocabulary, from reference to women and their sexuality.


E-mail addresses

August 30, 2013

Over the years, I’ve had a number of Stanford e-mail addresses. For the one I’m now using (the simplest possible), see here. This address replaced a longer one, which I used for some years. The older address went through a server that closed down some time ago, but continued as a forwarding service. On September 1st it’s scheduled to be shut down entirely, and forwarding will stop.

So make sure your address book has my current Stanford address.

I’ve been getting an astonishing amount of spam mail recently, most of it through the address that’s about to be discontinued. I’m hoping that that will eliminate much of this spam.

[Update: users of the old address have now appealed to the staff, saying that the end of August is too soon, and the shift has been postponed for a month. I was hoping for some relief from tlhe spam — now 50-70 messages a day — but I’ll have to wait a month.]


August 30, 2013

In the New Yorker of 8/26/13, a letter on p. 5 from Richard M. Perloff, Professor of Communication at Cleveland State University, Cleveland OH, beginning:

Dangerous Liaisons
Hendrik Hertzberg, writing about Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, and their forerunners in the delicate pas de deux between private misdeeds and public behavior, assumes that sex scandals have an objective quality (Comment, August 12th and 19th). Whether a series of transgressions merits the label “scandal” is itself a contentious issue that is a function of social norms and cultural values.

Perloff goes on to discuss some specific cases, and I’ll get to these. But first some lexicographic notes.


Brief mention: a genital portmanteau

August 29, 2013

Via Ellen Seebacher, a link to a HuffPo piece on

Cliteracy 101: Artist Sophia Wallace Wants You To Know The Truth About The Clitoris

Yes: clitoris + literacy.

Sophia Wallace isn’t the first to coin the word, but she’s made it into a big campaign.

Porn prosody

August 29, 2013

Another installment of material on the (gay) porn register, following up on this posting, where I looked at some lexical features, saying about

man pussy, boy pussy, man cunt, boy cunt, man hole, [and] boy hole. These are terms strongly associated with gay porn (fiction, scripts of videos, and descriptions of videos) but not much used by gay men in everyday life; they are part of a specialized porn register, akin to the specialized registers in some other domains

Today there’s some more lexical stuff, but mostly it’s about the prosody of some writing about porn; like some other advertising copy, there’s some tendency for it to fall into metrically regular patterns.

The text is the copy on the front cover of the Dream World (1994) DVD:



August 29, 2013

In the Guardian yesterday, a light-handed review of a recent light-handed book on surnames: “What’s in a Surname? A Journey from Abercrombie to Zwicker by David McKie” by Sam Leith.  (Not all the way to Zwicky, but then you can’t have everything.)