Archive for November, 2017


November 23, 2017

A little (deeply inconclusive) exercise in judging the sociocultural status of a linguistic variant, in this case pillowslip (vs. pillowcase). On ADS-L today, Wilson Gray reported hearing pillowslip spoken by an Australian from New South Wales, commenting:

Mildly surprising. Pillowslip was the ordinary term that I used as a child, in East Texas. I have no idea whether this form is used anywhere else in the U.S., bedclothes not being a particularly common topic of conversation outside of the family. IAC [if anybody cares], it seems to me that pillowcase is the preferred term, in Yankspeak.

(Further information: Wilson is black and about my age, ca. 80.)

My own recollection is that pillowslip was the usual term among the working-class rural/suburban whites I grew up with in southeastern Pennsylvania, but that it was somewhat old-fashioned and was eventually eclipsed by the preferred commercial term, pillowcase.

But these are recollections (which might be skewed), of the usages in our personal experiences (which are tiny samplings of English usage at the time), colored by our impressions of more general usage (which might be completely off-base). So who knows what the actual story is?


Two Thanksgiving meals

November 23, 2017

… both non-standard.

One continues a recent tradition at my house that involves vermicelli Singapore-style from the local Hong Kong Chinese restaurant Tai Pan (this year accompanied by hot and sour soup).

The other is a recent tradition at the Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine CA, each year featuring a menu of inventive Mexican-based (sometimes quite distantly) dishes — among them, this year, turkeritos (foodmanteau alert!), incorporating seasoned beef, rice, and cheddar cheese, but apparently no turkey; the turkey’s contribution seems to be entirely verbal, in honor of the holiday. (It’s also possible that the turkeritos were tacos — folded corn tortillas — rather than burritos — wrapped wheat tortillas.)


Skip to the important bit

November 23, 2017

From reader Joshua Bischof in e-mail on the 21st (boldface highlights the example sentence, call it (1); italics and underlining mark off important elements in (1)):

I just got this email from the superintendent of my kids’ school district:

This is Superintendent Bill Hall calling to wish everyone a very happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving break. I would also encourage you to go to our website at and watch the video regarding our District’s recently released ranking for our Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment Scores. After watching the video, I know you will be proud of your child, our teachers, and our District.

Interesting how effortlessly we retrieve you as the missing subject of the adjunct despite its position in the complement clause.

The initial phrase (italicized above) after watching the video, call it (1a), would be deprecated as a “dangling modifier” by many — but as Josh noted, it is effortlessly (and correctly) interpreted as having the addressee of (1) (and not the speaker of (1)) as the person watching the video.


Mens Room Sausage

November 22, 2017

Via Facebook friends, a Seattle specialty that had somehow escaped my attention:

(#1) The studiedly suggestive logo for Uli’s Mens Room Sausage: red devil, tipped tails, and of course the pig for the pork (“Men are pigs, but then we like pork”)


Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart

November 22, 2017

It’s Thanksgiving Eve — or as some commercial folk now have it, Black Wednesday — which this year is November 22nd, St. Cecilia’s Day, a day to celebrate music (coverage here in a 11/21/11 posting, “Saint Cecilia”), but also JFK Assassination Day.

For Black Wednesday, I ordered a new bed, a floor sample at 50% off (technically, it’s a Christmas present to me), a firm and handsome replacement for my rather broken-down 40-year-old veteran.

The unfortunate concurrence of St. Cecilia and JFK comes by every year, always close to Thanksgiving, triggering a deeply uncomfortable mixture of emotions. Music is a balm:

When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down


Superhero supper

November 22, 2017

This morning I stumbled on an odd vein of art: superhero parodies of the Last Supper. Two examples:

(#1) by Michael Kozlov; note Thanksgiving turkey

(#2) by Luis M. Hernandez

The intersection of two genres, both of them substantial: art works in which superheroes are assembled in a group; and parodies of Leonardo’s Last Supper.


¡Albondigas! ¿No te dije?

November 22, 2017

“New Sentences: From Duolingo’s Italian Lessons” by Sam Anderson, in print in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday the 19th:

‘Gli animali rimangono nello zoo.’ (‘The animals remain in the zoo.’)

From Duolingo, a “science-based language education platform” available on Apple, Android and Windows smartphones and online.

Language-learning sentences are always slightly funny. They exist to teach you linguistically, not to communicate anything about the actual world. They are sentences that are also nonsentences — generic by design, without personality or ambiguity: human language in merely humanoid strings. [They are, as the philosophically inclined among us sometimes say, mentioned, not used.] The subtext is always just “Here is something a person might say.” It’s like someone making a window. What matters is that it’s transparent, not what is being seen through it.


??That is aliens for you.

November 21, 2017

From Mike Pope on Facebook a few days ago, this excerpt from Ian Frazier’s “New York’s Majestic Passage in the Sky: Revamping the Bayonne Bridge to make space for megaships” in the 11/13/17 New Yorker:


Mike wrote:

I can’t decide here whether this is weird. In the New Yorker, a sentence where I think I’d expect a contraction (“That’s xxx for you!”). Is this an editor bending the idiom to house style, or is this a not untypical variant?

Two things: the acceptability of the example (at best, it merits the stigma ?? of great dubiousness); and the circumstances that might have given rise to ??That is aliens for you (not at all clear, but advice on style and usage might be part of the story).


Xmas bell flowering maple

November 21, 2017


A plant masquerading as a gaudy glass Christmas ornament, or vice versa. Abutilon ‘Tiger Eye’, now blooming showily at the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, along with some other less spectacular flowering maples. It’s their season.


Pengaddendum: Xmas 2014

November 21, 2017

Three news bulletins for penguins on the 19th, and now, as we sink into the commercial Christmas season (which in the US began the day after Halloween but is conventionally inaugurated by Black Friday, the day after US Thanksgiving, this Friday), a combination of penguin news and holiday news: the 2014 John Lewis Christmas commercial, featuring a young boy, Sam, and his pet penguin, Monty:

(#1) You can watch the advert here