Archive for February, 2019


February 28, 2019

(Mostly music. I know you’re thinking: Jesse Sheidlower wrote “The F Word”, and now it looks like I’m writing on “The F Sharp Word” — like the F word, only more pointed. But no. No sex, and barely anything to do with language. But you’ll have to endure Antonio Soler and Muzio Clementi.)

From the lgbt+ neighborhood on Facebook, in a discussion that started with ukuleles — there was actually some convoluted lgbt-relevance in that — and turned to accordions (plus some bagpipe stuff), whereupon I spoke approvingly of Astor Piazolla’s music as performed on accordions and even more of Antonio Soler’s keyboard music (in particular his sonatas for various keyboard instruments, including the organ) as arranged for accordion. Adding that Joseph Petrič has wonderful recordings of some of the sonatas on accordion (I have his 1997 CD).

Jeff Shaumeyer responded:

Oh, I particularly like the F♯ Major sonata — it strikes me as rather silly, and *who* writes in F♯ major anyway?

And that set me off.


Body-location, event-location

February 27, 2019

The One Big Happy from 1/31, expoiting a pervasive ambiguity in location adverbials, in this case the interrogative where:

(#1) Body-location where (Joe’s intended interpretation) vs. event-location where (Ruthie’s perceived interpretation)


Eat the sugar bomb for the beanie

February 27, 2019

A series of three Calvin and Hobbes strips (re-run on the 25th, 26th, and 27th) in which Calvin undertakes to eat four boxes of Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs to get a gee-whiz official beanie. A return to cartoonist Bill Watterson’s attacks on sugary breakfast cereals and the way they are marketed to children, especially through the stratagem of describing them as part of a healthful breakfast (in #2 below):


Inhaling pop culture

February 27, 2019

Today’s Zits, featuring teenage boys goofing off, but in a specific way:


Thereby presenting an exercise in cartoon understanding that’s a snap if you’re plugged into American pop culture of the past century, but is something of a challenge otherwise.


Annals of misreadings: the Cthulhu caper

February 26, 2019

From linguist Avery Andrews on Facebook:

(#1) Avery: “My first reading of this was ‘Cthulhu Towers’, indicating that whatever the top-down constraints on my linguistic processing may be, real world plausibility has at best a delayed effect”

To judge from my own misreadings — some of them reported on in the Page on this blog with misreading postings — real-world plausibility has virtually no role in initial misreadings; we tend to notice these misreadings, in fact, because they are so bizarre.

On the other hand, they sometimes clearly reflect material currently or persistently on the hearer’s mind — if you’ve been thinking about cooking some pasta for dinner, Italian pasta names are likely to insert themselves into your peceptions; if you’re a gardener, plant names will come readily to mind, even if they’re preposterous; and of course it’s common to see sexual vocabulary where none was intended —  but often they look like the welling-up of material from some deep chthonic place in memory, inexplicably in the context.


Grammar pirate

February 25, 2019

The title of this cartoon, which turned up yesterday in FB’s Our Bastard Language group:


The captain is both a pirate and (as it turns out, once you figure out what the man intends to say) a grammar nazi, bent on correcting his crew’s inferior (as he sees it) English — hence the portmanteau grammar pirate. So the cartoon is, primarily, about (stereotypical) pirate talk (which will take us to the West Country of England), but also about peeving.


Stanford SemFest 20 schedule

February 25, 2019

(with links to abstracts)

For enthusiasts of semantics/pragmatics in all their variety; the public is welcome

All sessions take place in the Barwise Room, CSLI (Panama St. at Campus Dr.)

Friday March 15, 2019

9:00-9:30: Coffee and welcome

9:30-10:00 John Beavers & Andrew Koontz-Garboden, “Two Types of Roots for Internally Caused Change-of-State Verbs”

10:00-10:30 Shiao Wei Tham, “Structural and Contextual Factors in Result Interpretations of Mandarin Locative Compounds”

10:30-11:00 Helena Aparicio, Roger Levy & Elizabeth Coppock, “How to Find the rabbit in the big(ger) box: Reasoning About Contextual Parameters for Gradable Adjectives Under Embedding”

11:00-11:30 BREAK

11:30-12:00 Gregory Scontras, Asya Achimova, Christian Stegemann & Martin Butz, “The Added Informativity of Ambiguous Language”

12:00-12:30 Eric Acton & Heather Burnett, “Markedness, ‘Truth’, and Rationality in Social Meaning Games”

12:30-2:00 LUNCH (and mentoring event w/lunch for grad students and some participants)

2:00-2:30 Arnold Zwicky,“A Natural History of Snowclones”

2:30-3:00 Tatiana Nikitina, “Semantic Maps in a Typologist’s Toolbox: The Challenge of Semi-lexical Networks”

3:00-3:30 BREAK

3:30-4:00 Sunwoo Jeong & James Collins, “Updating Alternatives in Pragmatic Competition”

4:00-4:30 Sebastian Schuster & Judith Degen, “Adaption to Variable Use of Expressions of Uncertainty”

4:30-4:45 BREAK

4:45-5:30 David Beaver, TBA

5:30 Drinks
6:00 Dinner (provided)
7:00-9:00 Party/band

Saturday, March 16, 2019

9:30-10:00 Coffee/breakfast

10:00-10:30 Ashwini Deo, “Identifying the Strongest True Alternative: Marathi =c and its Counterparts”

10:30-11:00 Stefan Kaufmann, “Worlds Are Not Enough”

11:00-11:30 BREAK

11:30-12:00 Sven Lauer & Prerna Nadathur, “Sufficiency Causatives”

12:00-12:30 Yingying Wang & Frank Veltman, “Varieties of Modal Predicates and their Semantic Interpretation”

12:30-1:45 LUNCH (provided)

1:45-2:15 Lelia Glass, “Experimental Evidence that Verbs Describing Routines Facilitate Implicit Objects”

2:15-2:45 Itamar Francez, “Markedness and the Morphosemantics of Number”

2:45-3:00 BREAK

3:00-3:30 Ciyang Qing, “Zero or Minimum Degree? Rethinking Minimum-standard Gradable Adjectives”

3:30-4:00 Judith Tonhauser & Judith Degen, “An Empirical Challenge to the Categorical Notion of Factivity”

4:00 Closing remarks

The great work begins

February 24, 2019

(two morning names, of very different type)

Yesterday morning I came to consciousness slowly slowly, as a voice filled my head with the exulting declaration:

(#1) Society6 art print: The Great Work Begins by Maxfield and Madison


A walk up Emerson St.

February 23, 2019

… in Palo Alto, this morning, for breakfast with Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky. Which took me past a fitness club that closed down a while back, but is now in the process of being replaced by an even trendier sort of fitness club, Rumble Boxing; to the Palo Alto Creamery for breakfast, where I picked up the weekend edition of the Peninsula Daily Post; which had a front-page story on the fate of the artwork Digital DNA, originally installed just a bit further up Emerson St.


Committing a McKean

February 23, 2019

Michael Covarrubias in a comment on my posting yesterday “In the land of supertitles”:

mckeans’s law at work in #4

Michael is pointing to Evidently they longer teach grammar in college, with its crucially missing no. As an instance of a phenomenon that’s been discussed under various names. The name I prefer is a McKean, from McKean’s law — just because I actually know Erin McKean.