O happy day! Annals of hypallage 2018

Three bulletins on hypallage on the net: a Page on this blog; a review of some net and media discussion from 2007-09; and recent Facebook discussion of a class of cases that I’ll refer to as food-source hypallage.

First, from the archives, in a 10/21/13 posting “Two cartoons”, image #1, a Bizarro with play a little guitar:

hypallage … with a VP adverbial (here, a little) converted to a modifier of a N: play guitar a little > play a little guitar.This particular hypallage has become conventionalized: play some / a lot of / occasional / etc. guitar.

The Page. Links to postings, with annotations. All but the first on this blog. And the first is this LLog posting of mine from 12/4/07, “Extramarital toes”:

From the Dec. 1, 2007 Economist: “As British political scandals go, this one is not particularly juicy. No honours seem to have been sold, no politician’s Parisian hotel bills picked up, no extramarital toes sucked.”

2007-09 discussion. Jan Freeman (Boston Globe“The Word” column, 8/24/08) quoted my extramarital toes example and also a wonderful free-range mayonnaise example (from Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words column):

(Quinion) I was at a meeting on Thursday that included a sandwich lunch. Mine was Italian Chicken, whose other ingredients were Italian pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, freshly-ground black pepper, and free-range mayonnaise. It was sad to think of those cute little mayonnaises, running around unconstrained and happy until it was time for them to join the rest of the ingredients in my sandwich.

And concluded:

But not all hypallage is funny, or even striking. Try sleepless night (it wasn’t sleepless, you were), joyous dawn, a happy event, or Shakespeare’s “rainy marching in the painful field.” Or Thomas Gray’s line from “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”: “The ploughman homeward plods his weary way.”

We all use hypallage, whether or not we know its name.

Next up was Ben Zimmer on his Visual Thesaurus “Word Routes” column of 11/3/09, “Hyping Hypallage”, on distracted driving and drunk driving, citing Jan Freeman, Michael Quinion, me, and Martha Barnette (co-host and co-producer, with Grant Barrett, of the language podcast A Way With Words):

On a flight yesterday, I ran into another example. A sign in the lavatory read: airsick bags. Gee, I hope not.

Food-source hypallage. Then, much more recently, exchanges on a friend’s private Facebook group about a series of food-source hypallages starting with grass-fed gelatin ‘gelatin from grass-fed cows, cows that are fed grass’ — it’s the cows that were grass-fed, not of course the gelatin — which is deeply mysterious if you don’t know that gelatin is a protein made from collagen, itself derived from animal parts (originally from cattle hooves, now mostly from pork skins, pork and cattle bones, or split cattle hides).

As discussants noted, grass-fed gelatin is entirely parallel to grass-fed milk and grass-fed beef. If there’s a problem with the gelatin, that has to do with real-world knowledge.

The exchange then turned to cage-free eggs ‘eggs from cage-free chickens’ and free-range eggs ‘eggs from free-range chickens, chickens that were allowed to range freely in feeding’. The eggs themselves, of course, were not in risk of being caged, nor were they allowed to range freely.

And then in one further step from this, free-range mayonnaise ‘mayonnaise made with free-range eggs’, that is, ‘mayonnaise from eggs from chickens that were allowed to range freely in feeding’.

It’s the hypallage two-step. Also seen in my 8/7/10 posting “Names and occupations”, treating

organic donuts ‘donuts made from organic grain’ (modifier transferred from the grain to the foodstuff made from the grain)

< organic grain ‘grain grown organically, without use of artificial agents’ (adverbial modifier of grown transferred to an adjective modifying the thing grown)

This use of organic has, however, become lexicalized; see NOAD‘s

adj. organic: 2 (of food or farming methods) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents.

so organic donuts isn’t quite as much of a stretch as free-range mayonnaise.

(I’m imagining a free-range potato salad: potato salad made with mayonnaise made with eggs from chickens that were allowed to range freely in feeding.)

4 Responses to “O happy day! Annals of hypallage 2018”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    Hypallage is a new word for me – OED2 pronounces it almost like hype-allergy (sorry, don’t have IPA at my fingertips, though there’s a bottle of it in the fridge) in four syllables. (I guess “OED2 pronounces it” is a hypallage.)

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    I’m not sure if it counts exactly as hypallage, but the dual possible interpretations of “a little” result in one of my least favorite mistranslations, namely Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik into “A Little Night Music”. Kleine cannot ever mean “a small amount of”.

    Of course this is mostly Stephen Sondheim’s fault.

Leave a Reply