Archive for October, 2017

Another gendered moment in the comics

October 28, 2017

On the 25th it was a Calvin and Hobbes on art by girls vs. boys. Then came this recent One Big Happy, featuring Joe, his dad, and gendered words:

Three beliefs contribute to Joe’s reluctance to deal with sweet and purse as spelling words:


The X-Bulbs, plus Greek Sword

October 27, 2017

It started a while back with a pair of morning names: Ixia and Sparaxis. Two showy bulbs, united by the letter X. They led to (in alphabetical order) ChionodoxaCyanixia, Hesperoxiphon, Ixiolirion, Oxalis, Xenoscapa. And from Hesperoxiphon, through its sword-bearing component (Gk. xiphos ‘sword’), to Xiphion, which we know now in its Latin version Gladiolus.

Along the way, some reflections on categorization and labeling in the plant world.


The Zwicky engine of Harringay

October 27, 2017

Late-breaking news from 110 years ago…

Via Google Alerts, this posting yesterday by contributor Hugh to the Harringay Online community website (in North London):


Swiss Engineer Jean Zwicky designed and hand-built this bleeding edge fire engine at the Tottenham Council works department in 1907. It cost, what was for the time an eye-watering £3,200.

Zwicky lived at 66 Chester Road in West Green [a neighborhood within Harringay].


Three more pumpkin-spicy bits

October 26, 2017

On the 23rd, “The pumpkin spice cartoon meme”, with a variety of developments of pumpkin spice ‘spice for pumpkin (pie)’ to concrete uses for the flavor of such spice and the scent of such spice and then to figurative uses ‘special, extraordinary’ and from there ‘top-grade’. Now, some further developments:

The possibility that Pumpkin Spice might be a Spice Girl (Michael Palmer asks on Facebook, “Which of the Spice Girls is Pumpkin Spice?”).

More generally, the rule of thumb: if spice, then pumpkin spice, as in this playful e-card:

(#1) The verb spice up > pumpkin spice up

And, as also illustrated in #1, the metonymical extension of pumpkin spice to ‘autumnal’ (thanks to the association of the spice with the fall).


Eggcornic verse

October 25, 2017

Passed along on Facebook, this work by Twitter poet Brian Bilston:



Revisiting 10: Dare, sweet spice

October 25, 2017

Once more unto the pumpkin spice, dear friends, once more. We’ve been there twice already in the past week, on the 20th in “A processed food flavor” (about pumpkin (pie) spice, hereafter ps) and on the 23rd in “The pumpkin spice cartoon meme”. Now, from Canada (via Chris Ambidge), comes this:

(#1) Dare cookies with ps cream / creme / crème filling

The allusion to pumpkin (pie) in the name of the spice mix locates ps as an autumnal flavor, suitable for foods (especially pumpkin pie) at Halloween and (American and Canadian) Thanksgiving and Christmas. But ps mix is suitable for flavoring sweet foods of many kinds, and should not be tied so closely to a season.

In fact, ps food doesn’t need to contain (any) actual spices, but could merely have the appropriate artificial flavors, mimicking some or all of nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and maybe allspice. The Dare company maintains that their ps cream cookies contain real pumpkin and actual spices, but of course no cream (though they do contain whey).

To come: Dare and their products (Canadian Whippets!), spice mixes (their ingredients and their names), and subsective (or not) compounds.


Gendered moments in the comics

October 25, 2017

Gender stereotype time: a recent Calvin and Hobbes re-play, with Calvin expounding on the art of girls vs. boys; and a classic Zits (in two parts), on gender differences in same-sex interactions:


(#2) Sara and D’ijon

(#3) vs. Jeremy and Hector


Mistered and Ma’amed

October 24, 2017

Today’s Zits:

Jeremy is mistered for the first time, Connie recalls being ma’amed for the first time.

The topic here is vocative (vs. referential) expressions, in particular the subtype of calls (vs. addresses), a domain in which it’s well-known that there are very substantial differences between the subtypes — between the expressions usable in each subtype and the social meanings they convey.


The pumpkin spice cartoon meme

October 23, 2017

From my 10/20/17 posting “A processed flavor”, this Kaamran Hafeez cartoon:

(#1) pumpkin spice ‘top of the line, top-grade, high-end’

The Hafeez is at the end of a series of mocking Pumpkin Spice cartoon memes, ranging from the most concrete (on pumpkin spice lattes, especially as a sign of the fall), through pumpkin spice more generally as a flavor (especially in foods that wouldn’t normally have such a flavor), and then just a scent (especially in non-food products), to the fully abstract sense in #1.

Note that though premium, or high-octane, usually names the top grade of gasoline in the US, in #1 pumpkin spice is used to name an extra-premium grade, a grade above even premium. This is what we might call grade expansion, a recurrent strategy in naming grades of products for the purposes of advertisement: if grande (lit. ‘large’) is used to name the largest size of coffee available, then, pretty predictably, new, even larger, sizes will be invented to go beyond grande — at Starbucks, first venti (lit. ’20’), then trenta (lit. ’30’). Gold or golden level, once the top of the line (above silver and bronze), will be out-done by even more excellent or desirable platinum, then maybe by still-better diamond.


Revisiting 9: ¡-ola!

October 22, 2017

A comment on the vulgar noun crapola in yesterday’s posting “A portmantriple”, from David Preston:

[cited by AZ] “-ola, a suffix used humorously to extend standard words.”

Wasn’t the original ‘ola’ the shoe-polish brand Shinola? Then it became humorous with the phrase “know shit from Shinola.”

Actually, playful -ola didn’t start with Shinola, though Shinola appeared fairly early in the history.