Archive for July, 2015

Dingburg names

July 31, 2015

Today’s Zippy, with two sets of names to savor:

(#1)

First, there are the preposterous Dingburger names: Flexo Sodafiber, Glassine Bookpaper, Flemish Spindleplunger. Then there are the products, their mascots, and their names. Commerce and pop culture.

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PSP synthetic compounds

July 31, 2015

From Ned Deily on Facebook, this report in the Advocate of the coming-out of Lutheran Bishop Kevin Kanouse at a youth conference:

Kanouse recounted the experience in a letter to local leadership, which was published online this week. In the document, he wrote he was “Holy Spirit-moved to tell my own story publicly, for the first time,” after hearing the emotional stories recounted by young people at the conference, concerning the role of God in their lives.

The point of linguistic (rather than gay) interest here is the PSP synthetic compound Holy Sprit-moved ‘moved by the Holy Spirit’, with the PSP in passive function.

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Going for High Attachment

July 30, 2015

Passed on by Steven Levine on Facebook on 7/23, this headline for a story that day by Quinn Foley:

Children’s Choir Surprised Their Teacher With Cancer

The intended reading was that their teacher with cancer should be parsed as a constituent, a NP understood as ‘their teacher who has cancer’ — that’s Low Attachment (LA) for the modifier with cancer, and LA is the default parsing for such modifiers (see other postings in the “Attachment” Page on this blog). Despite that, it’s very hard not to understand the modifier as having High Attachment (HA), modifying surprised their teacher, a reading that’s both ludicrous and distressing.

For the moment, I’m just puzzled by this fact.

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A military-industrial complex

July 30, 2015

Yesterday’s political cartoon by Matt Wuerker:

A play on the ambiguity of the noun complex.

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Morning name: rajas

July 30, 2015

Presumably the name rajas ‘slices’ was in my head from seeing it on the menu at Reposado in Palo Alto (where it ocurs four times, but not in any dish I can recall having ordered). And then it’s in the name of a popular Mexican dish that’s not on Reposado’s menu, Rajas con crema ‘poblano pepper slices with cream’ or ‘creamy poblano pepper strips’,

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Name play in the comics

July 30, 2015

Two cartoons this morning with plays on proper names: a Mother Goose and Grimm playing on Simon & Garfunkel, a Bizarro playing on the Big Bang theory and possibly also The Big Bang Theory:

(#1)

(#2)

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in #2 — Don Piraro says there are 2 of them — see this Page.)

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Raced and gendered (and classed)

July 30, 2015

On the 27th, in Charles M. Blow’s op-ed column in the NYT, “At Sandra Bland’s Funeral, Celebration and Defiance”:

Bland didn’t demur and knuckle under. Some have criticized her for her stance during the traffic stop, suggesting that if she had behaved differently, with more respect for the officer, she might have avoided arrest.

Maybe. But, it must always be remembered that the parameters of “respectable behavior” are both raced and gendered. The needle moves to differing positions for different people. That is, I believe, one of the reasons that this minor traffic stop so quickly escalated.

How dare a woman not present as a damsel? How dare a black person not bow in obsequiousness?

I was of course familiar with gendered, but the parallel raced was new to me, though it seems to have considerable currency among politically aware social critics. And, yes, there’s also the parallel classed.

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What’s wrong with this verb?

July 29, 2015

From July 18th, Jon Lighter in ADS-L:

[1] A television journalist with an English accent reports from Jordan that after the Tennessee gunman “came back [to the U.S.], he drunk drove.” This reveals the deadly seductiveness of the New Syntax: “drive drunk” takes no longer to say and is arguably more euphonious.

Lighter has a long history of scornfully criticizing innovative back-formed verbs like this one (to drunk drive / drunk-drive). His plaint is that in general there’s no justification for innovating new verbs when we already have a way to express the meaning, though the innovation might be defended if it provided a briefer alternative to the existing expression, which is not the case here; moreover, he assumes that the reason people innovate such verbs is merely to sound fashionable, a motive he deprecates.

There’s a lot to be said in response. I’ll start with some background about syntax and morphology and then move to the functions of innovative morphology and some sage observations by Larry Horn.

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Data postings

July 29, 2015

A new feature in the set of “Linguistics notes” Pages on this blog: data postings, two so far. Each of them has three parts: an inventory of postings on the topic (from Language Log and this blog); “raw data” (a collection of numbered notes on examples (jottings on examples, observed on the fly or taken from e-mail, mailing lists, or blog postings); and an index to the examples, keyed to the numbered notes. All three types of material will be regularly updated.

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Going on in Antwerp

July 28, 2015

This week in Antwerp, Belgium, the 14th International Pragmatics Conference. A giant conference, the 26th through 31st, with eight plenary speakers, a variety of panels, a great many lectures, and poster sessions.

I will have a small presence on the program, thanks to a paper my colleague Elizabeth Closs Traugott will be presenting:

Derailing Default Interpretations: Investigating the My Hobby webcomics by Randall Munroe (ECT in collaboration with AZ)

Click here to view the slides: IPrA handout