Archive for October, 2013

dirty tricks

October 22, 2013

In Sunday’s NYT Magazine, an interview by Amy Chozick, “Terry Lenzner on Tricky Dick and Dirty Tricks”, that made me think about the expression dirty tricks, which (surprise to me) seems to be only about 50 years old.


Zippy on the brain

October 22, 2013

Yesterday’s Zippy:

Neurology is different in Dingburg.

Then there’s the name Pons Varoli.


Two cartoons

October 21, 2013

Monday morning comics: A Bizarro with word play, A Pearls Before Swine with a slogan reworked:


Another kind of hypallage (see here), with a VP adverbial (here, a little) converted to a modifier of a N: play guitar a little > play a little guitar. This particular hypallage has become conventionalized: play some / a lot of / occasional / etc. guitar.


KEEP CALM — CARRY ON is an excellent slogan phonologically: good prosody, near rhyme (note calmon). PANIC — AND THROW A FUCKING FIT isn’t quite as compact as the model, but it has its own virtues (includling the alliteration in FUCKING FIT, plus panic – fit).


Swiss shirtlessness

October 21, 2013

From Amanda Walker, this link to a piece from The Local: Switzerland’s News in English, on “In Pictures: Shock! Farmers in underpants are models!”. Ok, it combines Switzerland (one of my two ancestral lands), shirtlessness, and underwear — three topics of interest to me personally. I have my shallow days.

A controversy has erupted after an annual calendar featuring buff Swiss farmers was exposed for showing “pretty boy” models in their place. Have a look at these pictures from the 2014 Schweizer Bauernkalendar and judge for yourself. Should they have used 12 genuine farmers instead?

The cover:


An item in the huge genre of Hunk Calendars — firemen, farmers, bodybuilders, male hustlers, what have you, in several languages and social contexts. Affording the pleasures of contemplating the male body. Some of them purport to present genuine members of the category in question, others (like the Boys Next Door) are obviously fantasy fodder using male models. The problem with Schweizer Bauernkalendar & Alpenboys is that it cuts across these lines (as you might have expected from Alpenboys).


Blessed relief

October 21, 2013

(About life on the net.)

Back on September 19th, I wrote:

By the end of the day, I will have accumulated 400,000 spam comments on this blog since it started. Meanwhile, spam e-mail has been accelerating; I’m now getting hundreds of pieces a day: spam in Chinese, lots of spam from Dr. Oz, huge amounts of penis enlargement spam, and much more. Fortunately, almost all of this comes via a Stanford server that will shut down at the end of the month. Meanwhile, it takes a lot of time just to find legitimate mail in this heap.

Then things got worse. The amount of spam e-mail — almost all of it for penis enlargement — increased by the day, until I was getting 300+ such messages a day. Appalling, since this junk was mixed in with mundane e-mail and things I really wanted to see.

This morning, I found 17 messages in the queue, instead of roughly 200. No penis enlargement ads at all. Oh blessed relief! (On the excellent hymn Blessed Assurance, see here.)

Mark Strand collages

October 20, 2013

(About art rather than language.)

Noted in several places, an exhibition of collages by poet Mark Strand. From the New Yorker of 9/24, “Mark Strand’s Playful Collages” by Rachel Arons:

Before Mark Strand became one of the great contemporary American poets, he trained as a painter. At Yale in the nineteen-fifties, he studied under the color theorist Josef Albers, and throughout his life he has continued making paintings, prints, and collages. In recent years, Strand, a former Poet Laureate of the United States and professor of literature, most recently at Columbia, has moved away from writing altogether to focus on art. A collection of his collages, made in Madrid and New York, is currently on display at the Lori Bookstein gallery, in Chelsea.


Al Hirschfeld

October 20, 2013

In the 10/21 New Yorker, in “Goings On About Time”, a retrospective on the artist/illustrator Al Hirschfeld:

Al Hirschfeld … began his career in motion pictures, but soon turned to Broadway, and, over the next eight decades, became an icon with his trademark swooping-line drawings. An ardent playgoer (his namesake theatre currently houses “Kinky Boots”), Hirschfeld specialized in drawing show-biz folks. Though he’s often labelled a caricaturist, his work conveys respect as well as capturing the essence of a performer’s virtuosity. He drew (including for this magazine) until his death, in 2003, six months before his hundredth birthday. This week, “The Line King’s Library,” a rich and glamorous history of twentieth-century theatre, opens at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.


Ungrammatical truncation?

October 20, 2013

From Gail Collins’s op-ed column in the NYT yesterday, “A Ted Cruz On Every Corner”, about recent looniness from Texas lawmakers:

The old center-right standard-bearer, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, is desperately trying to wipe out his reputation as a mainstream politician while he runs for re-election.

“I don’t know about you, but Barack Obama ought to be impeached,” he told a Tea Party gathering recently, with more fervor for the cause than for grammatical construction.

Collins doesn’t explain her objection, but I’m guessing she thinks that Dewhurst should have said:

“I don’t know about you, but I think Barack Obama ought to be impeached.”

(supplying the source of the opinion in the second clause). So she’s treating this case as (roughly) parallel to the truncation of as far as X goes / is concerned to just as far as, which has been widely reviled (for reasons I don’t fully understand).


Briefly noted: bird strikes and avian radar

October 19, 2013

In the NYT yesterday, in “Those Hazardous Flying Birds” by Eric Uhlfelder:

Planes hit birds all the time. That doesn’t typically mean captains have to glide crippled jets onto a river as Capt. Chesley Sullenberger III famously did in January 2009. But a number of collisions have led to crashes, with some deaths. … Over the past 23 years, bird strikes have forced an average of one plane a day to land prematurely, according to the F.A.A.

What caught my eye was the N N compound bird strike, with an unusual use of the head noun strike  — apparently a metaphorical use in which these collisions were viewed as like military attacks (though now strike seems to have become merely the conventional  way of referring to such events).

Uhlfelder’s recommendation for the hazardous bird problem is for “integrated avian radar systems”. Note the Adj N composite avian radar here; avian is an example of a type of non-predicating Adj often referred to as “pseudo-adjectives”; though they are adjectival in form, they are interpreted semantically by invoking a noun, in this case bird. That is, avian radar is bird radar, radar for detecting birds (just as weather radar is radar for detecting weather patterns).

Then there’s marine radar, radar for detecting ships and other objects at sea.

In the comics world

October 19, 2013

Today’s Zippy, on life inside the comics:


Two things here: the movie The Day the Clown Cried and the comic strips of Nick Dallis.