Archive for July, 2014

POP goes the taxi

July 31, 2014

Yesterday’s Rhymes With Orange:

A POP — phrasal overlap portmanteau — combining the clipped compound mani-pedi (a manicure plus a pedicure; see here) and the compound pedicab ‘pedal-operated taxi’.

More Zippy playful morphology

July 30, 2014

Yesterday’s Zippy:


Another chapter in Zippy’s playful morphology, notably with -ityseriosity and goofiosity. (The names Mrs. Decaf and Mr. Groundnuts are a bonus.) The laughter uh-hyuk is true cartoonish Goofiness: a quote from the Disney character Goofy.



July 29, 2014

A recently reprinted Calvin and Hobbes:


The strip exploits the ambiguity of toast as a noun (delightfully, to my mind). But, astonishingly, the two nouns (though clearly quite distinct in modern English, as are the corresponding verbs) have a common historical source. The tale is one of those stories that might make you believe in any damn fanciful etymology.



July 25, 2014

Today’s Zippy, with the recurrent theme of nostalgia for dead tree media:

Much to appreciate here, including “the artist known as William Shakespeare” (featuring Baby Huey) and Latvia invading New Jersey (both Baby Huey and Latvia appear every so often in Zippy the Pinhead). And in the last panel, a dead tree comic strip called Willy-Nilly.


On the word analysis patrol

July 25, 2014

Today’s One Big Happy, with Ruthie and Joe seeking meaningful word parts:

The kids have found /fri/, apparently the item free, in frittata, which leaves them with the mystery — but presumably meaningful — element tata. A demi-eggcorn on the hoof.

David Borchart

July 25, 2014

Earlier today: a David Borchart New Yorker cartoon with an entertaining ambiguity, #2 here. Borchart’s first appearance on this blog, though he’s a prolific cartoonist. Now another Borchart with some linguistic interest, plus one that just tickles me.


Cartoon ambiguities

July 25, 2014

A recent One Big Happy, with Ruthie alarmed by her understanding of legal size (paper); and a David Borchart cartoon from the latest (July 28th) New Yorker that turns on the multiple meanings of the verb see:

(#1) (#2) (more…)

Jane spends our money

July 24, 2014

(Not about language, but another entertaining quotation from Jane Austen, passed on to me by Chris Ambidge.)


From a letter of April 18, 1811, from Jane to her elder sister Cassandra.

hash browns, home fries

July 22, 2014

Two potato preparations often offered as alternative side dishes for breakfasts in American diners and the like: Would you like hash browns or home fries with that? Both have idiomatic names, names that in fact are easily confused: both are browned by pan-frying, so the words browns and fries have some motivation in their names, while hash and home are simply puzzling.


Peter Mendelsund

July 21, 2014

From the August 2014 issue of Details magazine, the piece “The Cover Artist” by Timothy Hodler:

You may not know his name, but chances are you already own some of Peter Mendelsund’s work. The 46-year-old designer of iconic book jackets for top-shelf authors both living (Martin Amis) and dead (James Joyce) is celebrated in this month’s Cover (powerHouse, $60; out August 5), a retrospective of his greatest hits. He’s also publishing his first book, What We See When We Read (Vintage, $17; out August 5), a philosophical exploration of the literary imagination. Here, he shares the stories behind some of his standouts.

An example of Mendelsund’s work, the cover for The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus:

Despite the title of the Details piece, the creators of book covers are not referred to as artists, at least in art circles, where they are designers or illustrators. They provide artwork (art for short) — designs or illustrations — for commercial purposes and so they are normally outside the world of art criticism and art exhibits (“Art art”, you might say), except on special occasions, when applied (as opposed to fine) art, craftwork, folk art, street art, outsider art, etc. are granted attention in shows, catalogs, and the like.