Xmas Eve

For the day, a cartoon by Gemma Correll:

A play on the ambiguity of stir.

(Hat tip to Emma Moore.)

From NOAD2 on the verb:

1 [with obj.] move a spoon or other implement around in (a liquid or other substance) in order to mix it thoroughly: stir the batter until it is just combined.

2 move or cause to move slightly: [no obj.]: nothing stirred except the wind | [with obj.]: a gentle breeze stirred the leaves | cloudiness is caused by the fish stirring up mud.

ā€¢ (of a person or animal) rise or wake from sleep: no one else had stirred yet.

In “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, we have intransitiveĀ stir-2 ‘move slightly’. But in the cartoon we have stir-1 ‘move a spoon around in a liquid so as to mix it thoroughly’. Though stir-1 is transitive, like many transitive verbs its object can be omitted in context, and the verb is then “understood transitively” — as in the cartoon, where no creature (not even a mouse) was stirring something / anything.

(Object omission of this sort is often not noted in dictionaries, since it’s so systematic. As far as I know, dictionaries never note another sort of object omission, Recipe Object Omission (ROO), as in

Add the melted chocolate to the hot liquid and stir ___ thoroughly.

ROO is quite general, so that there would be no point in listing these superficially intransitive variants along with their transitive counterparts; that would just multiply dictionary entries pointlessly.)

Earlier on this blog: a Gemma Correll Xmas cartoon, “Season’s Greetings”.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: