Odds and ends 8/14/13

An assortment of short notes that have come my way recently, on errors, back-formations, penguins, gender roles, and more.

1. Spelling woes. Writing about ukuleles (here) was quite a trial for me. The word ukulele kept coming out ukelele — partly, I suppose, from the influence of the clipped variant uke, partly by anticipation of the E’s later in the word. I’m given to anticipatory errors in both handwriting and typing.

2. Sources. My posting on Haida manga┬ádidn’t credit Alan Hayes, who put me onto the art form. Alan’s on the staff at the Three Seasons restaurant, where I frequently have dinner, and we chat about many things, but especially art-related things (Alan’s finishing an architecture degree). I showed him my stuff on the scrapwood sculptures of James McNabb, and he pointed me to Haida manga. A nice exchange.

3. The news for penguins. From Chris Ambidge, a link to a BBC News story, “King penguin Missy at Birdland may be world’s oldest”:

Missy – who arrived at Birdland [in Gloucestershire] in 1982 as an adult – is the matriarch of England’s only colony of King penguins.

“She must be at the very least, 36 years old and she could actually be significantly older,” said Simon Blackwell, Birdland manager.

Missy is blind in one eye so she uses her wing as a guide against the enclosure to help her navigate

4. Gender roles, sports, and colors. Frank Bruni’s op-ed column in the NYT yesterday (“Tackling the Roots of Rape”) featured psychology professor Chris Kilmartin, author of The Masculine Self. One nugget from his “trove of riffs”:

He mentions the University of Iowa, which for decades has painted the locker room used by opponents pink to put them “in a passive mood” with a “sissy color,” in the words of a former head coach, Hayden Fry.

5. Annals of word retrieval. Also in yesterday’s NYT, a “World Briefing” bulletin from Australia, “After a Notable Debate, a Verbal Misfire”, on a recent debate between Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbot, the leader of the opposition Liberal-National coalition:

On Monday, in a speech critical of Mr. Rudd’s decision-making style, Mr. Abbott, a Rhodes scholar, said that “no one, however smart, however well educated, however experienced, is the suppository of all wisdom.” Mr. Abbott apparently meant to say repository.

Quite a fuss in the press and on the net.

This was surely a Fay-Cutler malapropism, an inadvertent error in word retrieval, based on phonological and morphological similarity between the target and the actual production. Such things happen all the time in speech.

6. Another error. From Coby Lubliner, this head and subhead from a Salon story yesterday:

The government wants media gag for Barrett Brown

The journalist-come-hacktivist faces a century in prison and the prosecution want him silenced

Yes, journalist-come-hacktivist, with come for cum.

There are so many ways this could have happened. It could be a typo, an eggcorn (perhaps reshaping cum on the basis of become), a simple spelling error (based on homophony), or a bowdlerization (either by the headine writer or by an automated spellchecker), to avoid cum ‘semen’.

7. A back-formation. In the September Details, in an interview with SNL star Kate McKinnon, McKinnon on making out with Louis C.K. on the show:

… what was just supposed to be a little gross turned into a dance of mouths and of hair and of teeth. He’s the best bad kisser. There’s no one I’d rather bad kiss.

So we start with bad kisser, and then strip off agentive –er to get to bad kiss. Back-formations with adjectives as their first elements are not enormously common, but they do occur.

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