You shouldn’t have done that

Today’s Zippy, with Mr. Toad’s chide … deride … upbraid — a one-line poem and an exercise in lexical semantics:

(#1) Mr. Toad condescends to the counterman at the Nameless Diner

From the tiny poetry desk. chide deride upbraid. A moment of iambic trimeter, with short first foot, to give shorter before longer. And then:

/…čayd … rayd … bred/

The first two share their rhyme, /ayd/, but differ in their onsets; the last two share their bracketing consonants, /r … d/, but differ in their nuclei: first comes the rhyme, then comes the ablaut.

A tale of six verbs. It starts with threaten and ends with condescend, with four verbs from lexically rich domains in between: chide, deride, and upbraid, in a bunch, and then chastise. In the strip, all six are report verbs, denoting acts of speech, but four of them (threaten, condescend, chastise, and deride used for non-verbal mockery or mimicry) have non-report uses.

Briefly on the relevant senses of the flanking verbs, from NOAD:

verb threaten: [with object] express one’s intention to harm or kill (someone): the men threatened the customers with a handgun.

verb condescend[no object] [a] show feelings of superiority; be patronizing: take care not to condescend to your reader. [b] do something in a haughty way, as though it is below one’s dignity or level of importance: we’ll be waiting for twenty minutes before she condescends to appear.

Then on the central four, each in a cluster of lexical items that are (near-) synonyms in a semantic domain. The Merriam-Webster on-line thesaurus has entries for these domains, for each listing the principal synonyms in it and offering text discriminating between the synonyms, with illustrative examples. I’ve bold-faced M-W’s characterization of the semantics common to the domain.  I’ve also provided, in semi-technical English, a more detailed description of the argument structure for each domain.

As a bonus, for each of the four verbs from #1 I’ve provided a cartoon or comic strip that exploits that verb.

chide, from domain I.

(#2) The Bug Martini cartoon of 1/17/18 “The Chide of Frankenstein” by Adam Huber

I – speaker A adversely admonishes target B (for B’s action C, where C is in some way reprehensible); the M-W discussion:

reprove, rebuke, reprimand, admonish, reproach, chide mean to criticize adverselyreprove implies an often kindly intent to correct a fault. ⟨gently reproved my table manners⟩ rebuke suggests a sharp or stern reproof. ⟨the papal letter rebuked dissenting clerics⟩ reprimand implies a severe, formal, often public or official rebuke. ⟨reprimanded by the ethics committee⟩ admonish suggests earnest or friendly warning and counsel. ⟨admonished by my parents to control expenses⟩ reproach and chide suggest displeasure or disappointment expressed in mild reproof or scolding. ⟨reproached him for tardiness⟩⟨chided by their mother for untidiness⟩

deride, from domain II.

(#3) “Sideshow Bob Roberts”, from The Simpsons S6 E5 (1989); “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth! No truth-handler, you. Bah! I Deride your truth-handling abilities.”

II – speaker A laughs at target B (for some characteristic C of B, where C is in some way risible); the M-W discussion:

ridicule, deride, mock, taunt mean to make an object of laughter of. ridicule implies a deliberate often malicious belittling. ⟨consistently ridiculed everything she said⟩ deride suggests contemptuous and often bitter ridicule. ⟨derided their efforts to start their own business⟩ mock implies scorn often ironically expressed as by mimicry or sham deference. ⟨youngsters began to mock the helpless wino⟩ taunt suggests jeeringly provoking insult or challenge. ⟨hometown fans taunted the visiting team⟩

upbraid, from domain III.

(#4) The Dodge the Bullet comic from 5/17/19 by Steve Swanson

III – a further specification of I, in which the reproach is angry or abusive; M-W discussion:

scold, upbraid, berate, rail, revile, vituperate mean to reproach angrily and abusively. scold implies rebuking in irritation or ill temper justly or unjustly. ⟨angrily scolding the children⟩ upbraid implies censuring on definite and usually justifiable grounds. ⟨upbraided her assistants for poor research⟩ berate suggests prolonged and often abusive scolding. ⟨berated continually by an overbearing boss⟩ rail (at or against) stresses an unrestrained berating. ⟨railed loudly at their insolence⟩ revile implies a scurrilous, abusive attack prompted by anger or hatred. ⟨an alleged killer reviled in the press⟩ vituperate suggests a violent reviling. ⟨was vituperated for betraying his friends⟩

chastise, from domain IV.

(#5) Harry Bliss’s “To Chastise a Mockingbird”

IV – authority A punishes target B (for B’s action C, where C is in some way reprehensible) – note the close relationship to domain I; M-W’s discussion:

punish, chastise, castigate, chasten, discipline, correct mean to inflict a penalty on in requital for wrongdoing. punish implies subjecting to a penalty for wrongdoing. ⟨punished for stealing⟩ chastise may apply to either the infliction of corporal punishment or to verbal censure or denunciation. ⟨chastised his son for neglecting his studies⟩ castigate usually implies a severe, typically public censure. ⟨an editorial castigating the entire city council⟩ chasten suggests any affliction or trial that leaves one humbled or subdued. ⟨chastened by a landslide election defeat⟩ discipline implies a punishing or chastening in order to bring under control. ⟨parents must discipline their children⟩ correct implies punishing aimed at reforming an offender. ⟨the function of prison is to correct the wrongdoer⟩

And then the connection of I-IV to the final verb, condescend: for all those verbs, the subject denotes an agent A who assumes a superior position with respect to a target B, claims the right to reprove or mock B.



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