Archive for August, 2023

From the annals of political portmanteauing

August 25, 2023

(This is very much a Mary, Queen of Scots, Not Dead Yet posting — coming after two days in which I was almost totally felled by the humid heat we’ve been experiencing (though I did get in a much-needed shower at 2 in the morning yesterday), and barely functioned. All this sadly in utter solitude: not a word with another human being between two exchanges with caregivers, on Saturday morning and yesterday afternoon.)

… with a note on Stanley Kubrick’s directorial techniques.

First, Don Boorleone.


The Weaponized Cat

August 23, 2023

Very briefly noted: this photo on Facebook today from Dan Edmonds (but not of him, and he doesn’t know where he got it):

A guy wielding a Karabiner 98k Mauser rifle

In its kitten release, a dangerously hair-trigger firearm. But famously effective at ridding barns of mice.


Why do you ask?

August 23, 2023

The One Big Happy strip that came up in my comics feed on 12/7/18 — the Ramona St. posting mill grinds slowly, very slowly — is all about pragmatics, in particular what we take to be the point of questions we’re asked. In the strip, Ruthie asks her father what you can do to stop hiccups. Her father doesn’t inquire into why she’s asking, but assumes that she’s not merely asking an information question (she might, after all, be researching the matter for a presentation at school), and it never occurs to him that she’s asking a quiz question (to which she already knows the answer, but is checking his paternal competence at everyday medical care, should the occasion arise). Instead, he assumes that she has a personal interest in the answer to the question — this turns out to be so — indeed, that she has the hiccups and wants to know how to stop them — that’s a good guess, and it’s close, but it’s wrong — so instead of answering Ruthie’s question, by describing an appropriate remedy, he leaps to supplying the remedy himself:

(#1) A well-intentioned action misfire that follows from the various (literal) meanings of questions; practical reasoning about which ones are likely to be relevant to the situation at hand; the calculation of meanings that can be indirectly conveyed given a literal meaning — most pressingly the calculation of Ruthie’s intentions in asking this particular question, so that her father can respond to those intentions; and then his short-circuiting his reaction to all of this by dispensing with a verbal reply and going right to the action it would recommend

Why is she asking? That’s the crucial point, where it would be easy to go wrong.


The Jerk Fest

August 22, 2023

On jerk, jerky, and jerking (off), quoting (in full) two excellent surveys of this domain: from the Grammarphobia site in 2016; from The Ringer site last month — the second of these using research by lexicographer Ben Zimmer reported on his Wall Street Journal column (which is behind a paywall).


jack or jerk?

August 22, 2023

(It’s about vernacular masturbatory verbs, so it’s deemed not suitable for kids, and of course it’s not to the taste of the sexually modest.)

Why would anyone care whether a guy favors jack off or jerk off — or something else, like jag off or toss off or wank — as his masturbatory verb?

Street talk about sexual practices and unsavory bodily substances varies over time and place and context, differs from one speech community to another, just like all kinds of talk: wank and toss off are distinctly BrE, jag off distinctly AmE, and jack off and jerk off both seem to be originally AmE, though they’ve spread more widely; guys will have different preferences for vocabulary in this domain, mostly according to their personal experience with the verbs, and they’ll know that some guys use different verbs. Why doesn’t it stop at that?

Well, this is linguistic variation, and it pretty much never stops at that. There’s a general human inclination to believe that your own practices are the best ones, the right ones; and also a general human inclination to accept the practices of your community, which are likely to be supported by explicit teaching and advice, and even enforced with sanctions, as the best ones, the right ones.

So we find people deploring other people’s linguistic practices, often in extravagant terms (disgusting, ignorant, …), sometimes ascribing dubious or discreditable motives to other people’s choices (hypercorrection and varieties of avoidance are often cited, as are faddism, reflexive following of fashion, and misguided attempts to sound clever). Even for masturbatory verbs, where there’s no explicit teaching and no advice literature.

Now, one such example, in a recent Facebook exchange between Jeff Shaumeyer (a jerk-off user) and me (a jack-off user), which turns out to be surprisingly complex, because it involves a second-order effect, with responses to (first-order) critiques of the usage jerk off, that it’s too crude, too vivid (the imagery is of the jerking motion in masturbation, and in the jerking of the body in orgasm — jerk was used for ‘copulate with’ before it was extended to masturbation, and is still so used by some speakers). This critique has led to the idea that guys who use jack off do so (only) because they’re (fastidiously) avoiding the gutsy, authentically masculine jack off — a gratuitous attribution of motives that I stringently objected to.



August 21, 2023

In today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro: croissants as a characteristically French pastry; then pulling out the ANTS part of the spelling CROISSANTS (never mind how this word is actually pronounced, in either French or English) for a far-fetched pun, with two ants — the insects — exemplifying characteristics of the stereotypical Frenchman (Wayno’s title is “The French Bugs”):

(#1) Breton striped shirts, or marinières; berets; a pungent cigarette in a cigarette holder for Ant 1; a mustache (curled at the tips), French scarf, glass of wine, and baguette for Ant 2 (if you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page)


From the annals of NGN statuary

August 21, 2023

NGN: Not Genitally Nude, used for sculpture in which male genitals are not displayed — but just barely, usually in ways that call attention to the genitals. Surprisingly common in monumental and memorial statuary of earnest intent, and therefore easily found in the Washington / Baltimore area, which is pretty much blanketed by sculpture of this sort.

Today’s example — brought to my attention by Jeff Shaumeyer — is located in the very heart of memorial-historic D.C. It’s also a seriously crowded work of art, with eight different figures arrayed around it: the Battle of Gettysburg victor General George Meade as the central figure on the front, a winged male figure of War as the rear centerpiece, and six other allegorical figures in between these two. Detail of the Meade side:

(#1) Photo from Wikipedia


Double in-laws

August 20, 2023

About Virginia Bobbitt Transue — born 10/12/40 (a month after me) — the wife of a brother (Bill) of my husband-equivalent (Jacques). More succinctly, my husband’s brother’s wife, in effect my sister-in-law-in-law. Or, putting it in more abstract terms, my spouse’s sib’s spouse, my sib-in-law-in-law.

Here we have the equivalence of X’S SPOUSE’S SIB’S SPOUSE to X’S SPOUSE’S SIB (my brother-in-law’s wife treated as my sister-in-law) — an equivalence not recognized by some people, while for other people, it’s routine. It’s the way things work for Virginia and me; I refer to her as my sister-in-law, she refers to me as her brother-in-law.

There are other equivalences. The point of all of them is not merely selecting simple terms: the equivalences express feelings of familial closeness, caring, and even responsibility; they are emotionally potent.

Another double in-law equivalence (distinct from the Arnold-Virginia relationship, though parallel to it): of X’S SIB’S SPOUSE’S SIB to X’S SIB’S SPOUSE, again in effect X’s sib-in-law-in-law. For example, Keene Daingerfield’s wife Elizabeth (Libby) Walcutt Daingerfield’s sister Ann Walcutt Winn’s husband Jack Winn — Keene’s sister-in-law’s husband — treated by Keene as his brother-in-law.

Now, the background to all of this. (Some of this will be a bit repetitious; I’m trying to pull out some really cool abstract distinctions that take a while to appreciate, because what we know about them is pretty much all below the level of our consciousness, and we don’t learn anything about kinship relations in school.)


The vipers of Santa Clara County

August 19, 2023

I wrote on Facebook a little while ago:

Just heard on a tv public service announcement from Santa Clara County: … Watch for walkers and vipers. (Ah, that must have been: bikers. Fortunately, vipers are sparse in the county.)

Follow-up: there seem to be plenty of Dodge Vipers in the county, also Pit Viper Sunglasses. And we have the Silicon Valley Vipers quadball team. According to the US Quadball site: “quadball is a mixed gender contact sport with a unique mix of elements from rugby, dodgeball, and tag”. (Until 2022 it was known as quidditch. Yes, that quidditch. Players must have a broomstick between their legs at all times. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.)

Logo of the Silicon Valley Vipers quadball team


White does Black

August 19, 2023

(It’s Tom of Finland, with man-on-man sex, and — not shown, but plainly inferrable — penises of monumental size, all discussed in street language, so massively not suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

Well, that’s the straightforward reading of the page for August in my 2023 Tom of Finland calendar. And certainly White Guy is sliding his absurdly thick cock deeply into Black Guy’s ass, but a look at BG’s posture and facial expression suggests that if he had enough control of himself to speak, he’d be proclaiming something like “Damn, that’s fiiiine!”

So maybe WG is doing BG, and enjoying it, but he’s not fucking BG harshly and pitilessly, like an eagle taking a rabbit. Maybe he’s mostly doing it for BG, giving BG the fuck that he wants, even serving him, out of brotherly affection. Doing him a solid.