Archive for October, 2013

Grotesque crash blossom

October 31, 2013

From Chris Waigl, this headline from a story in the Fairbanks (AK) Daily News – Miner of 10/30/13:

Man who bought pets later found roasted, eaten in Denali Park still unknown

The bold-faced PSP phrase can be understood in either of two ways:

(1) as a reduced VP with subject man who bought pets, with the copular verb was omitted, as is common for copular verbs in the headline register; or

(2) as a postmodifier (a “reduced relative clause”) for pets — so ‘pets who were later found roasted, eaten in Denali Park’.

If you start parsing the sentence as in (1), then you’re brought up short at the end of the bold-faced phrase; you’ve been led down the garden path. Then you have to go back and re-parse, to be about to incorporate the still unknown (now as a VP with omitted copular verb) into the interpretation. In the body of the story:

Whoever bought pets at a Fairbanks pet store and then apparently roasted and consumed them just inside Denali National Park has not been identified.

According to Chris,

There’s some debate in the comments of our local paper regarding whether this headline is misleading.

Chris speculates that different people have different favored parsing strategies — producing the debate over whether the headline is misleading.


October 31, 2013

The Dinosaur Comics of  October 7th:

Blackmail, prostitution, pornographic movies, and big banking. Quite a set.

Doubtful regress

October 31, 2013

Today’s Zippy:

A loop of doubting here:

An infinite regress in a series of propositions arises if the truth of proposition P1 requires the support of proposition P2, the truth of proposition P2 requires the support of proposition P3, … , and the truth of proposition Pn-1 requires the support of proposition Pn and n approaches infinity. (Wikipedia link)

girls, women, gals

October 30, 2013

On Facebook, Ann Burlingham has passed on this posting (from February 1st), “Why Are We Referring to Women as Girls?” by Yashar Ali, about men referring to women in the workplace as girls. (Note: Yashar Ali is a man.)


make sure

October 29, 2013

It started with tv commercials for home security systems, for example:

No-show alerts to make sure your kids get home safe (SafeMart systems)

SafeWatch VideoView allows you to keep an eye on who is knocking at your front door, watch over a vacation home, or make sure your kids are safe. (ADT systems)

These have the idiom make sure with a (that) Clause complement. But it turns out that there are two understandings of such examples:

[verifying]  make sure (that) Clause: ‘verify that Clause is true’

[causative] make sure (that) Clause: ’cause it to come about that Clause is true’

The security systems intend the verifying reading — they provide a way to see if your kids are, in fact, safe(ly) at home — but of course they can’t ensure that this will be the case.


Briefly noted: tv film noir

October 29, 2013

(Mostly not about language.)

Seen on Smallville this morning, an episode (centered on character Jimmy Olsen) that switched into film noir style for most of its time. This is a trope — duly noted on the TV Tropes site — that has appeared in episodes on other tv shows: Charmed, Moonlighting, Monk, Castle, plus some shows that drew on the style throughout (Peter Gunn, Angel, Veronica Mars). A borrowing of a characteristic visual style and thematic content from one (historical) medium into another, intended affectionately rather than mockingly.

More bottoms and tops

October 29, 2013

From Chris Hansen on Facebook, this new contribution to the clothing bottom/top thread:

Previous installments, with explanations of the sexual senses of bottom and top:

7/11/11 “Active bottoms”

1013/11 “More bottoms”: Big and Tall Bottoms

3/29/13 “Colored bottoms”

House men

October 27, 2013

(Not really about language, but just about popular culture on a Sunday morning.)

Re-runs of House have been going past me this morning. On the show, from Wikipedia:

House (also known as House, M.D.) is an American television medical drama that originally ran on the Fox network for eight seasons, from November 16, 2004 to May 21, 2012. The show’s main character is Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), a drug-addicted, unconventional, misanthropic medical genius who leads a team of diagnosticians at the fictional Princeton–Plainsboro Teaching Hospital … in New Jersey.

The show is formulaic, tying medical drama (with the team running through a series of diagnoses in the face of baffling symptoms) into the seriocomic soap-operatic drama of the characters’ lives.


Briefly noted: emphatic prenasalization

October 27, 2013

A commercial for Fiat of Burlingame that goes past me with some frequency ends with the name of the firm blared out emphatically — with strongly prenasalized [mb] in Burlingame.

Prenasalized stops do occur sporadically for some American English speakers, most notably in monosyllabic renditions of ‘bye (goodbye), with [mb], and ‘kay (OK), with [ŋk].

Voicemail deadlock

October 27, 2013

Today’s Pearls Before Swine:

I’d suggest voicemail deadlock or voicemail standoff.