Archive for May, 2019

Ultimate spelling bee

May 31, 2019

A Bob Eckstein cartoon circulated today, on the occasion of an unprecedented event in the world of English spelling competitions:


(#1) FB note from Bob: “Can you use it in a sentence?”

Story in the New York Times today,  “National Spelling Bee, at a Loss for Words, Crowns 8 Co-Champions” (octo-champs, as one of them said) by Daniel Victor.

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Flirting with magenta

May 31, 2019

Visit to Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden yesterday, to enjoy the wild display of summer flowers, picking out three attractive plants I hadn’t previously posted about: Lychnis coronaria ‘Alba’ (a plant with — surprise! — white flowers); Montiopsis umbellata ‘Ruby Tuesday’ (from Peru and Chile, a rock garden plant with stunning deep purple flowers); and a Hebe hybrid (a small shrub with blue flowers). It turns out that the Lychnis usually has magenta flowers, and so does the Montiopsis; and the Hebe comes in lots of colors in the blue-pink-white range, including a magenta variant. So: no actual magenta, but three flirtations with it.

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Wisely seasoned

May 30, 2019

Today’s Rhymes With Orange crosses the Godzilla cartoon meme with the Wise Man cartoon meme, all for a tasty dinner:


(#1) A pun on wise man sage / culinary herb sage

Two Godzillans, with a poultry truck to cook for dinner (most Godzillans eat their vehicles raw, but these two appear to be refined monsters), contemplate using a little wise man — a little sage — as seasoning. (The appropriate sense of little (‘small in size, amount, or degree’) follows from the sense of sage: a wise man small in size, a small amount of the herb.)

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On the dog food watch

May 29, 2019

The 5/27 Wayno-Piraro Bizarro strip, set in the Land of Dogs:


(#1) (If you wonder about the secret symbol in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there’s just one in this strip — see this Page.)

A dog food with Quibbles in its name is of course not going to agree with you, in one sense of agree with. So you can understand the cartoon, and see that the pun on agree with in it makes it amusing — and still miss the extra joke that Wayno and Piraro threw in for you.

The cartoon would have been funny if the dog food had been named just Quibbles. But Quibbles and Fits is a lot funnier, because it’s another pun, on the name of the (actual) dog food Kibbles and Bits. But of course you have to know about this particular commercial product to get that joke.

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Semantics of compounds

May 28, 2019

The semantics of English modifier + head nominal composites — but especially of N + N compounds — is a recurrent topic on this blog; the array of semantic relationships exemplified in the data here is enormous, and might give the impression that things are just chaotic, though I’ve tried to pull out frequent patterns that dominate the data. One way to approach the matter in more nuanced fashion is to search for preferences for certain kinds of interpretations according to the semantics of the component elements.

And now, just appeared, we have “Systematicity in the semantics of noun compounds: The role of artifacts vs. natural kinds” by Beth Levin, Lelia Montague Glass, and Dan Jurafsky, in the De Gruyter journal Linguistics. Published online 5/16/19; I’ve found no volume, issue, and page numbers for the print version, but this is the DOI, and Lelia now reports that a pdf is freely available here. The abstract:

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Learnèd cowboy joshing on the dusty plains

May 28, 2019

Cowboy cuisine you were probably unaware of, from the tv Western Rawhide S7 E8 “Damon’s Road: Part II” (first aired 11/20/64), in a short bit in which the drovers on a cattle drive are treated to a fancy brunch out on the dusty plains (literally on the trail), with the trail boss Gil Favor (played by Eric Fleming) getting his own table (white tablecloth, nice glassware, and all). The cook, assuming the role of a French chef, appears with a dish made specially for Favor: eggs à la Robespierre!. He removes the lid from the silver serving dish to reveal what Favor confirms is indeed eggs à la Robespierre, explaining wryly:

eggs in the shell with their heads cut off

(as I took the words down on the fly). And the brief scene comes quickly to a close, with everyone returning to the main story line. Nothing draws attention to the line, which goes by in an instant. Snap.

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Why is he calling her his thesaurus?

May 28, 2019

Today’s morning name was the Italian phrase il mio tesoro, and there’s no mystery where it came from: on my overnight iTunes, the 1959 Carlo Maria Guilini recording of Don Giovanni had reached Luigi Alva singing “Il Mio Tesoro” just as I woke. What was odd was that my still sleep-addled brain was puzzling over why Don Ottavio was calling Donna Anna his thesaurus.

Attribute it to an overactive mental-association apparatus connecting It. il tesoro ‘treasure’ (but also ‘darling, honey, dear’) to Engl. thesaurus referring to a specialized type of dictionary (derived ultimately from Greek). In this case, one reproducing a historical connection between It. tesoro ‘darling’ and It. tesoreria ‘thesaurus’, which are, etymologically, second cousins, more or less.

After this, on to the aria, with performances by Alva, Araiza, and Domingo.

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Follow-up: John Rechy

May 26, 2019

Yesterday’s posting “High 5 from a bison”, all about number(s), ended with some exposition of John Rechy’s 1967 novel Numbers, about a male hustler collecting lots of tricks — numbers of numbers — on the streets and in the parks of Los Angeles. Now two follow-ups: Soft Cell’s (“Tainted Love”) musical tribute to the novel, and notes on Rechy’s life and career, still going at 88.

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High 5 from a bison

May 25, 2019

(After the cartoons and the lexicography, John Rechy will take this posting into the world of mansex, in some detail and in very plain talk; that section is not for kids or the sexually modest, but I’ll warn you when it’s looming on the horizon.)

Two bison greet each other in a John Baynham cartoon with a wonderful pun:

(#1)

That’s numbers (roughly ‘amount’, but as a PL C noun) — and indeed large numbers of buffalo did once roam the plains of North America — vs. numbers referring to physical models, or simulacra, of symbols for certain abstract mathematical entities — in this case, the natural numbers. Such physical models are also familiar: think of the letters in the HOLLYWOOD sign, or the numbers on the building at 666 Fifth Ave. in NYC (with its own kind of fame as a Jared Kushner property). But people don’t walk around with, much less inside, giant versions of such models. That’s deliciously absurd.

Looking at the lexical items involved will take us deep into the lexicographic weeds and then to the secret places of mansex, starting with the dim recesses of Griffith Park in Los Angeles.

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Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin

May 25, 2019

From ace penguin-spotter Martin Mulligan, a link to First Dog on the Moon cartoons by Guardian Australia’s Andrew Marlton (a list of his cartoons is available here): dense but wry text on political issues, often featuring the character Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin, as in this 5/8/19 strip “Throwing eggs is satisfying but is it right? Quite possibly”:

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