Archive for January, 2015

Type names and individual names

January 31, 2015

Today’s One Big Happy turns on names of types vs. names of individuals, in the world of cars:

Mercedes and Lexus are the names of types (makes) of cars. But you can easily give individual cars their own “personal” names, as many people do. Nothing illegal about using the same (Mercedes) or similar (Lexus / Lexis) names in the two cases, but yes, potentially misleading. (On the other hand, the type names are count nouns, and occur with determiners — a Mercedes — while the individual names are anarthrous — Mercedes — so the syntax normally disambiguates the senses.)

Moving day

January 31, 2015

Bruce McCall’s cover for the February 2nd New Yorker:

The cover story:

“Last week, the staff of The New Yorker made its final preparations to leave 4 Times Square, its headquarters for the past fifteen years, to join the rest of Condé Nast, the parent company, down at 1 World Trade Center, the new megatower in lower Manhattan,” writes Nick Paumgarten in a Comment titled “Here.” The artist Bruce McCall pictures what it felt like to pack boxes while we were finishing the last issue in our old building.

A note on McCall, then some details from the cover.

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Doing the fandango, from Venango to Ilopango

January 30, 2015

In my posting on Padre Antonio Soler, I quoted a bit about

A fandango once attributed to Soler, and probably more often performed than any other work of his, is now thought by some to be of doubtful authorship.

and was reminded how much I enjoy the word fandango — a straightforward case of “word attraction” (the opposite of word rage). So I’ve gone on to play with the word.

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Another cross-comic allusion

January 30, 2015

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm:

(#1)

That’s obviously no groundhog, but some kind of crocodile, so the strip works at one level. But that’s not just any crocodile; it’s one of the crocodiles from Stephan Pastis’s comic strip Pearls Before Swine. What makes this especially entertaining is that Pearls itself is exceptionally rich in cross-comic allusions.

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Comfits

January 29, 2015

In today’s One Big Happy, Ruthie once again understands a rare and unusual expression (the word comfit) in terms more familiar to her:

  (#1)

I very much doubt that I knew the word comfit when I was 6.

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A syntactic blend

January 28, 2015

In gathering material for my posting on Zippy the Pinhead’s road trip to Kansas, I came across this sentence in the Wikipedia entry on Strataca, aka the Kansas Underground Salt Museum.:

There are 14 other salt mines in the United States, but none of which are accessible to tourists.

The intended meaning is clear, but the syntax is definitely off. The sentence looks like a blend of two different, though very similar, formulations of the idea:

(a) There are 14 other salt mines in the United States, none of which are accessible to tourists. [nonrestrictive relative clause]

(b) There are 14 other salt mines in the United States, but none of them are accessible to tourists. [conjoined independent clause with but]

Both are syntactically unproblematic (disregarding the disputed usage choice between none … are and none … is, which is identical for (a) and (b)). But it appears that the writer(s) began option (b), with the conjunction but, and then continued with the relative-clause syntax of option (a). A classic syntactic blend, it seems to me.

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Zippy’s in Kansas anymore

January 28, 2015

In today’s Zippy, our Pinhead takes a road trip to Kansas:

(#1)

Hutchinson, Goodland, Cawker City, Lawrence, Wichita.

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Sol LeWitt

January 27, 2015

(About art, not language.)

Caught recently, a gallery ad with a Sol LeWitt painting. On the artist, from Wikipedia:

Solomon “Sol” LeWitt (September 9, 1928 – April 8, 2007) was an American artist linked to various movements, including Conceptual art and Minimalism.

LeWitt came to fame in the late 1960s with his wall drawings and “structures” (a term he preferred instead of “sculptures”) but was prolific in a wide range of media including drawing, printmaking, photography, and painting. He has been the subject of hundreds of solo exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world since 1965.

Three examples follow:

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Snidely Whiplash

January 27, 2015

As I post here from time to time, I often wake up with a name stuck in my head, usually for no reason I can discern. Today it was Snidely Whiplash, a wonderful name for a villain. And villain he is.

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Academic freedom

January 26, 2015

In the January/February issue of Stanford magazine, “Watch Your Words, Professor: In 1900, Jane Stanford forced out a respected faculty member. Was he a martyr to academic freedom or a racist gadfly who deserved what he got?” by Brian Eule, beginning:

On a Tuesday afternoon in November 1900, Edward Alsworth Ross gathered several student reporters in his campus office. Ross, 33 years old and a Stanford economics professor of seven years, had joined the university just two years after its opening. He was a captivating sight, 6-foot-5 and nattily dressed in a suit that favored his athletic physique.

Ross was popular with students and esteemed in his field. David Starr Jordan, the university’s first president, had recruited him not once but twice. Plucked from Jordan’s former home at Cornell, Ross was emerging as a scholarly star. Now, his time at Stanford was coming to an abrupt end.

Ross held a lengthy written statement he had prepared for the San Francisco newspapers. He handed it to the students.

“Well, boys,” he said, “I’m fired.”

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