Archive for August, 2016

On foot patrol, part 1

August 31, 2016

(Foot patrol, also food patrol.)

Yesterday morning, two expeditions involving my feet: first getting a second pair of shoes (I was edgy having only one; a backup seemed like a good idea) and a replacement pair of slippers (the previous excellent UGGs having disintegrated), and then getting a pedicure (foot care being something I can’t manage on my own).

Part 1 took me to the Palo Alto Footwear etc. store, more or less across the street from two relatively recently opened places to eat, both with remarkable names: Sushirrito (at 448 University Ave.) and Umami Burger (at 452, next door)


Gorey the illustrator

August 31, 2016

Just posted on Pinterest by Terry Castle, a set of nine book covers by Edward Gorey, illustrating the range of his work for Doubleday Anchor Books. Two examples here of books Gorey might have been expected to feel some association with, but there are also a number of books the company apparently just passed on to him:




Annals of ellipsis

August 31, 2016

From the Murdoch Mysteries special episode “A Very Murdoch Christmas”:

Det. Murdoch: (1) Mrs. Rankin, someone wanted your husband dead.

Mrs. Rankin: (2) And succeeded.

We see here ellipsis of the complement of a main verb — in this case, the verb succeed. But what material do we supply for the complement of suceeded in (2)? Certainly, there’s no obvious overt antecedent in the context in (1), but still the script writers got away with (2), which we understand as something like:

(2′) And succeeded in killing my husband / him.

This is a remarkably far from the textbook paradigm in which an ellipsis matches with an antecedent constituent in the preceding context. Instead, we paste together an interpretation for the elliptical material from the content of the material in the context, plus commonsense reasoning, and perhaps background factual knowledge as well.


Annals of public art

August 30, 2016

(Mostly about art, of sorts, rather than language, though there are two puns.)

Yesterday’s Zippy took us to Tuscaloosa AL, home of Goldie:


From Roadside America:

Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Collapsed and half-buried on Woods Quad, “Goldie 1971” was built by University of Alabama alumnus Joe McCreary. The rusted humanoid was meant to symbolize the collapse of Alabama’s steel industry, particularly the shutdown of the Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham in 1972.

In fact, the 23-foot-long robot is made from scrap iron cast at the Furnaces by McCreary in 2009. The robot’s name was supposedly taken from graffiti left by a welder and discovered by McCreary while he was making the sculpture.

To us, Goldie looks a lot like the old Marx Toy “Big Loo” robot, which squirted water from its belly-button. But much more artistic, of course.


Briefly: a chain of misreadings

August 29, 2016

Caught out of the corner of my eye:

Queensland Monsoons

Hmm, I thought, I hadn’t heard of heavy rains in northeast Australia, so I looked a little more closely and got

Queensland Maricons

Well, yes, there are plenty of queers in QLD, but not all that many Hispanics, and anyway, shouldn’t it be maricones?

Then I actually focussed on the phrase and saw that it was

Queensland Maroons

which was even more puzzling.


Morning in Murfreesboro

August 29, 2016

The morning name on the 26th: Murfreesboro TN. The Court House downtown, with its notable clock tower and the statue of (Confederate Gen.) Nathan Bedford Forrest in front:


Basic facts, from Wikipedia:

Murfreesboro [30 miles southeast of Nashville, pretty much right in the center of the state] is a city in and the county seat of Rutherford County, Tennessee. The population was 108,755 according to the 2010 census … It is Tennessee’s fastest growing major city and one of the fastest growing cities in the country. Murfreesboro is also home to Middle Tennessee State University, the largest undergraduate university in the state of Tennessee


Osmunda, Königin des Waldes

August 29, 2016

Yesterday’s morning name, Osmunda (a genus of ferns), here understood as a central royal figure of an opera (like Die Königin der Nacht in Die Zauberflöte) or an operetta (like Die Csárdásfürstin, Gräfin Maritza, or Die Zirkusprinzessin).


The Penguin of Revenge

August 28, 2016

Passed on by Kim Darnell, a “desktop ally” from the goofy Red Rocket Farm (whimsical on-line site and store):


Iatrogenic grammar sickness

August 28, 2016

From 8/26 on Lithub, “How a Self-Published Writer of Gay Erotica Beat Sci-Fi’s Sad Puppies at their Own Game”, by M. Sophia Newman:

When I was a little kid, my mother would come into the bedroom I shared with two of my sisters each night and read us a book before we slept. Inevitably, a minor fight would erupt over whose bed beside which Mom would sit

Another WTF moment, to go along with the moment of failed anaphoric reference in my posting of the 26th. In this case, it’s hard to believe that the boldfaced relative clause comes from a native speaker of English, but it was, by a professional writer, in fact — and that’s surely the source of the problem. (In contrast, the source of the problem in the anaphoric reference example is almost surely that its writer was unpracticed at the task.)

In brief, Newman would never have committed the bizarre strangulated relative clause above — let’s call it Hern — if she hadn’t been subjected to rotten advice about how to write and taken it to heart: she was told that stranded P (“ending with a preposition”) is a grammatical disorder, which can, fortunately, be treated by a simple procedure, fronting the P. That is, the putatively malformed relative clauses

which/that/∅ Mom would sit beside

(in the Strand family) should be remedied by relocating the P beside (to the front of the relative clause) and using the (prosthetic) relative pronoun which to support it. The result of this procedure  is the appalling Hern, actually a bit of sick grammar caused by ill-advised therapy: iatrogenic grammar sickness.


Discourse referents in hypothetical worlds

August 26, 2016

The datum here comes from a posting on Facebook with an affecting plea from a young Australian man about same-sex marriage:

The set-up: I don’t have a boyfriend right now, with the indefinite NP a boyfriend, in the scope of negation, so we would ordinarily expect the NP not to establish a discourse referent that later anaphoric expressions could link to. But Hutson goes on with anaphoric he: but one day I would like to ask him to marry me. Definitely a WTF anaphoric reference.