Archive for August, 2019

bricks ˈnˈ mortar

August 31, 2019

Roz Chast in the September 2nd New Yorker:

(#1)

An exercise in the semantics of N + N compounds, exploiting an ambiguity that might not have occurred to you:

in the semantics of the modifying N, N1 (here, the coordinate N bricks and mortar);

in the semantics of the head N, N2 (here, the understood N store);

and in the semantics of the relation between N2 and N1  (here, ‘N2 for N1, (specifically) N2 selling N1’, in this case ‘store selling bricks and mortar — rather than the ‘N2 (made) of/from N1’ relation in the familiar conventionalized compound brick(s) and mortar store ‘store (made) of/from bricks and mortar’.

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Come lay your carnal weapons by

August 31, 2019

… an arresting line from the Sacred Harp (1991 Denson revision), #404, Youth Will Soon Be Gone, suggesting perhaps:

OUR CARNAL WEAPONS

 

(#1)

adj. carnal: relating to physical, especially sexual, needs and activities: carnal desire. (NOAD)

But in SH404 it comes from St. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (KJV):

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh … For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal

And it all depends on what the compilers of the King James Version meant by carnal, which is evidently not what comes first to modern minds.

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Dream time: back to school

August 30, 2019

As the summer comes to an end, days shorten, and plants prepare for fall and winter, there also comes the beginning of a new school year. Local primary and secondary schools where I live are on various schedules, but most of them are now into the new year. Many colleges are already in gear; Stanford classes begin on Monday, September 23rd.

Then we find Andrew Carnie (at the Univ. of Arizona) reporting on Facebook today that

The beginning of the semester is always a time for stress dreams for me, and the most common stress dream I have is the packing dream. Usually there’s some combination of having too much stuff, not enough containers, and not enough time before the movers or the taxi or whatever arrives.

Aieee! I am unprepared!

Andrew is far from alone. I haven’t taught a class for years now, but the approach of fall still brings stress dreams with it every year. I had a particularly distressing one last night.

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79

August 29, 2019

As we slide into a US holiday weekend — leading to Labor Day, the first Monday in September, this year on the 2nd — my birthday (on the 6th) looms as well. Coming up is a prime-th birthday, the 79th, an auspicious number to my mind, just one short of the 80th, which many view (like the similarly vigesimal 20th, 40th, and 60th) as a landmark birthday, in this case the gateway into old age. But for the moment I’m prime, baby.

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with all the fixin’s

August 28, 2019

The One Big Happy from 7/28, all about fixin’s (also known as fixings):

(#1)

The cartoon turns on a culinary distinction between main, or principal — essential — ingredients and accompanying, or accessory – in principle, optional — ones, the fixin’s. Without the leafy greens it’s not a green salad (though it could be a chopped salad), but if it’s got the leafy greens and no fixin’s (with nothing else except dressing), it’s a green salad.

From AHD5:

noun fixings: Informal Accessories, trimmings: a holiday dinner with all the fixings.

The example here has the full conventional collocation, or stock expression, with all the fixings, usually pronounced as informal (esp. Southern) fixin’s (spelled with or without an apostrophe). Simplifying considerably: nominals in –ing (as in beatings and singings) do have variants in /n/ rather than /ŋ/, but these pronunciations are mostly characterstic of South Midlands and Southern speech, especially in informal speech.

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Annals of category labels: food from a hole in the ground

August 28, 2019

… or edible roots (with root covering any underground plant organ), or whatever you call the stuff. In the 7/30 One Big Happy, Ruthie, confronted with /hol fudz/, takes it to be just such a label, hole foods, when her mother is referring instead to a grocery store, Whole Foods:

(#1)

The conventional (semi-technical) label for the category in question is root vegetables.

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Revisiting 32: Exception-triggered alternation

August 27, 2019

The phenomenon, from my 8/25 posting “Exception-triggered alternation”, involves:

Two contrarily opposed states — good vs. bad [in a joke routine], forestressed vs. afterstressed [in the accentuation of N + N compounds] — for some phenomenon, with the choice between them determined by context, the choice flipping between the two as the context narrows more and more (with each flip, the contextually more specific choice overrides the contextually more general one).

“More specific overrides more general” is a familiar principle, known by many names; what the statement above emphasizes is that this overriding can cascade, through a number of iterations.

Now, as an addition to these two examples Larry Horn (Laurence Horn of Yale Univ.) offers another, from formal semantics: Sobel sequences. Here I’ll turn the floor over to Larry, for a guest posting on them. As background, the cover of David Lewis’s Counterfactuals book (in the paperback edition, much more visually exciting than the severe cover of the edition I once had):

In Larry’s words, from here on out:

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Greek eggs and lamb

August 27, 2019

He does like them; he will not eat them.

Scott Hilburn’s latest (8/26) foray into language play:


(#1) An Olympic parody

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shaker of salt

August 26, 2019

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro collabo:


(#1) A parade of unidiomatic prepositional alternatives (with the P of) to the synthetic compounds cheese grater, nutcracker, meat cleaver, egg timer

(Wayno’s title: “Rhyme & Punishment”; see comments below)

To understand the relevance of these nominals, you need to know not only who Jimmy Buffett is and that his most famous song is the notoriously ohrwurmisch “Margaritaville”, you actually need to know a crucial couplet from the song:

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Revisiting 31: That’s Good / That’s Bad

August 26, 2019

My 7/22 posting “Oh that’s good” looked at Archie Campbell’s That’s Good / That’s Bad joke routine from the tv show Hee Haw. Now Tim Evanson points out a somewhat later appearance of the routine, in an episode of The Simpsons.

(#1) From “Treehouse of Horror III”, The Simpsons S4 E5 (first aired 10/29/92)

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