Archive for October, 2021

The scent of a pumpkin

October 17, 2021

It’s that time of the year again, you can smell it in the air: Pumpkin Spice Season. For some, a keenly arousing moment, as in this e-card (#1 in my 10/26/17 posting “Three more pumpkin-spicy bits”):

(#1) A POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau): verb pumpkin spice up = noun pumpkin spice + verb spice up  ‘make more interesting or exciting’


Masculinity comics 6

October 16, 2021

A fresh installment in this series on boys and (normative) masculinity, in this case illustrating Michael Kimmel’s first rule of the Boy Code and the Guy Code: that “[normative] masculinity is the relentless repudiation of the feminine” — in the One Big Happy comic of 9/19:

(#1) The ignominy of having to use the women’s room

Public restrooms in the U.S., especially large ones (in shopping malls, airports, and the like) can be daunting places for children, so it falls to caregivers to help them use the facilities, until they are large enough and experienced enough to cope on their own. Since caregivers for small children in our society are very predominantly women, it falls to women to do this work in most circumstances (family outings being one notable exception).

The consequence is that female caregivers will take a boy into women’s restrooms until the boy objects (as Joe does above) or she decides that he can go it alone (while, typically, she hovers fretfully outside the mensroom). Sites for mothers are packed with agonizing about the situation, and sites for parents in general are packed with complaints about how drastically unaccommodating public toilets are for children.


A gruop of proofreaders

October 15, 2021

In The Guardian of 2/20/21: “Tom Gauld suggests some literary collective nouns – cartoon”:

(#1) The last collective noun — gruop — excited a certain amount of appalled attention from some readers, who seem not to have gotten the joke

Not just collectives, but terms of venery.


Desert Island spelling

October 15, 2021

A wrenchingly funny E. S. Glenn cartoon in the latest (10/18/21) issue of the New Yorker:

(#1) The usual tiny cartoon Desert Island now has two neighborhoods: the customary grassy tropical island, plus a small beach zone, suitable for message-bearing  bottles to wash up on

Side notes: the castaway is shoeless, shirtless, and gaunt, his  makeshift cutoffs worn and patched — clearly, in a bad way. Meanwhile, Glenn has contrived to identify the castaway as Black (without shading his skin, as he did for the castaways in an earlier DI cartoon, reproduced below). Further, the cartoon imagines messages in bottles to be a kind of marine postal service, in which specific senders and receivers exchange messages in slow motion over great distances.



October 14, 2021

(Warning: moderately technical linguistics ahead — tailored for the non-specialist, but unsparing with crucial concepts and their accompanying terminology.)

Watching aimless tv recently, I came across this example, from NCIS: New Orleans, Season 6 Episode 16:

Hardin doesn’t have a criminal record, but he has been scandal-adjacent more than once. (from the transcript)

It was the Adj scandal-adjacent (of the form N + Adj) that caught my eye: literally ‘adjacent to scandal’, but here in an extended sense, roughly ‘(closely) associated with scandal’, suggesting that the association is uncomfortably close.

I then discovered that scandal-adjacent (sometimes spelled scandal adjacent) was reasonably common, and fraud-adjacent was too.  And recalled a posting of mine on an extraordinarily euphemistic occurrence of adult adjacent with adult referring to sex.

It turns out that the compound Adj pattern X-adjacent ‘adjacent to X’ is an open one, with a variety of examples in OED3 (Dec. 2011). Except that OED3 incorrectly characterizes the pattern as involving postmodification rather than compounding.


Converse all-stars

October 13, 2021

The story starts with an instance of semantically reversed impervious (to) — a converse use of a predicate adjective. From Anat Shenker-Osorio, the founder of ASO Communications, interviewed on 10/11 on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. From the transcript:

… What we find in experiment after experiment is that when people have already cemented a world view, they in essence have a frame around what is occurring, then facts are simply impervious to it. They bounce off of it, right?

… And so it`s precisely as you said. If they have an existing story line about, quote, unquote, what Democrats do and how they behave, then facts are pretty much impervious to it.


Office zombies

October 12, 2021

The New Yorker daily cartoon for 10/11 by Navied Mahdavian and Asher Perlman commits an unusually long POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau):

“We both have work in the morning.”


Sapphires for two

October 12, 2021

From yesterday’s posting “This day”, mostly about my man Jacques and me (October 11th being the day we had chosen as our wedding-equivalent anniversary), on contemplating gifts for a 45th anniversary — the sapphire anniversary, if you’re hawking gems — for a male couple:

J and I were indeed fond of sapphires (and rubies and emeralds too), but never conceived of accessorizing with them (or with the much more affordable spinel imitations). (Our wedding-equivalent rings were hematite and — when the hematite ones kept getting shattered — plain steel. I know, so butch.)

Ah, negotiating fabulous + butch. J was leanly muscular and athletic, but far too sweet and engaging to project as butch. Meanwhile, I was pretty good at being outrageous, but no damn good at projecting fabulosity; other gay guys sometimes accused me of being deliberately straight-acting, of putting it on, and so of mocking them, with their more flamboyant presentations of themselves.

Still, back in the last century, we had masculine jewelry, though nothing quite like some of the things I found on a net search yesterday



October 12, 2021

Announcement from the Linguistic Society of America on Friday the 8th (right before a 3-day weekend holiday in the US, which is why this has only come to me this morning):

The LSA is delighted to announce that Kirby Conrod has been selected as the inaugural winner of the Arnold Zwicky Award. This award is intended to recognize the contributions of LGBTQ+ scholars in linguistics, and is named for Arnold Zwicky, the first out LGBTQ+ President of the LSA, who was elected in 1992. Dr. Conrod is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Linguistics at Swarthmore College.

Kirby Conrod, LSAZ1


This day

October 11, 2021

This is the day. It’s the 2nd Monday of October: Indigenous Peoples’ Day / Columbus Day in the U.S.; and Thanksgiving in Canada. And it’s October 11th: National Coming Out Day; and Jacques and Arnold’s Anniversary (celebrated) — the actual moment would be 45 years in December.

Mostly this posting will be about J&A Day, with affection, silliness, and a certain amount of playful raunchiness (just to warn you, there will be tiny chocolate penises, in Pride Flag rainbow wrappings). I will have a few words on Columbus Day, Thanksgiving holidays, and NCOD, before the main event. But to establish the main context, here’s the Robert Emery Smith photograph of Jacques and me after having been declared domestic partners by the city of Palo Alto on Valentine’s Day in 1996:

(#1) The two husband-equivalents, in their cymbidium garden (the plants themselves being gifts of love)

The third, and most emotionally significant, of our domestic partnerships. The first two were administrative procedures, at Ohio State and Stanford, while this one, though entirely symbolic, was designed to be as much like a conventional wedding as possible: there was a public ceremony and a celebration in front of City Hall, with friends and family in attendance; people wept with happiness; and the city issued a certificate. More below.