Archive for the ‘Abbreviation’ Category

Today’s satiric artwork

July 24, 2023

Also today’s food art. From Bill Badecker on Facebook this morning:

[The Orange Menace]’s lawyers have assailed the Georgia case in their efforts to derail it ahead of any indictments. “It is one thing to indict a ham sandwich,” some of his lawyers said in a recent court filing. “To indict the mustard-stained napkin that it once sat on is quite another.” – NYT, July 22

With this portrait of Helmet Grabpussy, a.k.a. Mustard Staining Cheesy Ham Sandwich:

Fond as I am of my own mocking names — do not utter the true name of the demon, lest you invoke him — Helmet Grabpussy and The Orange Menace — I admire Mustard Staining Cheesy Ham Sandwich. It is, alas, unwieldy, though I suppose it could be initialized to MSCHS (which has a nice rhythm). Or condensed to MusChee.


SUMC moments: NPO

June 27, 2023

On the nurses’ board, under “diet”, it said NPO; and if you asked if you could have some juice or whatever, nurses would tell you no, you were NPO — and then maybe they’d explain that meant ‘nothing by mouth’.

Why should NPO be an abbreviation of Nothing By Mouth? If they’d once learned why, they’d forgotten, and now it was just medical jargon with this meaning, and many of them no longer realized that ordinary people might be baffled by the claim that NPO was an abbreviation for Nothing By Mouth (for which the alphabetic abbreviation would be NBM).

But it is an abbreviation. Of Latin Nil Per Os — more exactly, Nil / Nihil Per Ōs, where nil is a contraction of nihil ‘nothing’ (as in English nihilism) and ōs (the object of the preposition per) is the acc sg of the 3rd-declension ‘mouth’ noun with nom sg ōs and gen sg ōris (as in English oral).

But in any case, users of jargon — expressions associated with particular occupations or activities — are very often not aware of its in-group status and aren’t prepared to explain it to outsiders; it’s just the way you talk in this context.

Let Him take your load

June 15, 2023

Via various posters on Facebook today, country singer Marty Robbins performing his own gospel song “Kneel and Let the Lord Take Your Load” (1953) — meant earnestly and reverently, but eliciting reactions ranging from raised eyebrows to laughter and shock at the unsavory and sacrilegious potential of the word load in the title. The single:

(#1) You can listen to this recording here


Whizz Kid

May 17, 2023

That’s the punch line, right up front. I was going to post about the complex practices that attend my living in Urinal City in the Land of Diuresis, and maybe I’ll get to that some day, but today it’s pretty much just giggly stuff about English lexical items.



March 19, 2023

Phrasal Overlap Portmanteau time, starting with one from yesterday’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, which is (by accident) regrettably topical; and going on to a more complex one from cartoonist Leigh Rubin’s Rubes strip back in 2016 — complex because Rubin probably was thinking of the joke as a cute pun (I told you it was complex).

But first, yesterday’s Bizarro:

(#1) Drag queen meets legendary lumberjack: the POP RuPaul Bunyan = RuPaul + Paul Bunyan (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page)


Ruthie meets the challenge of the unfamiliar

February 24, 2023

It’s an old theme on this blog: 6-year-old Ruthie in the comic strip One Big Happy as a constantly entertaining source of efforts to cope with unfamiliar words and larger expressions by assimilating them, in one way or another, to things that are familiar to her. Some examples surveyed in my 2/3/19 posting “Ruthian lexical items in real life”; and then, yesterday, in the posting “Ruthie goes for the donuts”, she understands windchill as Winchell’s (donuts): the unfamiliar element is the technical meteorological term windchill. and Ruthie copes with it by replacing it with a phonologically similar item that’s familiar to her (she’s fond of Winchell’s donuts):

(#1) unfamiliar windchill / familiar Winchell’s

Over the past three years or so, I’ve been accumulating One Big Happy strips in this vein and am now disgorging six of them: a similarity case, in which Ruthie copes with unfamiliar material by treating it as phonologically similar familiar material (as with windchill / Winchell’s); two ambiguity cases, in which unfamiliar material is homophonous with familiar material, so she has to cope with her mistaken interpretation of what she hears; and three more complex cases (one involving portmanteaus, one involving orthographic abbreviations, and one involving Ruthie’s own analogical creation — Ruthie is indeed ingenious).


Hello, Dalí!

January 30, 2023

Today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro plunges us into a double play on words, plus a visual parody — offered on a platter — as well:

(#1) To understand the cartoon, you need to know about kosher delis (deli, short for delicatessen), and pastrami as a prominent offering in them; and about Salvador Dalí and his surrealist painting The Persistence of Memory (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

The egregious pun kosher deli > kosher Dalí in combination with a play on the title of a Dalí painting Persistence of Memory > Persistence of Pastrami (with a visual parody on the painting itself, offered on a platter by the waiter; hence, Wayno’s title, “Culinary Surrealism”).

Dalí’s name is most commonly Englished as /ˈdali/, like Dolly, and that makes the deli > Dalí pun particularly close ( /ɛ/ > /a/, otherwise perfect), but sometimes maintains the Spanish / Catalan iambic accentuation as /daˈli/, in which case the imperfect pun is more distant.


Seeker of wise spud, rudely rebuffed

December 30, 2022

The Wayno / Piraro Bizarro for New Year’s Eve Eve is a goofy amalgam of two different cartoon memes with an egregious pun; Wayno’s title is “Reclusive Russets” (russets being a type of potato). No, of course it doesn’t cohere; that’s what makes it delightful (remember that this strip is called Bizarro).

(#1) If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.

The Potato Head meme (all three characters are Potato Heads) and the seeker and the seer meme (one character is seeker, the other two seers), plus some CRAB / CARB play on the compound noun hermit crab, mountain-top seers being hermits who have removed themselves from ordinary life, and potatoes being carbs, specifically starches (complex carbohydrates )


In the mail: an 8-noun pile-up

December 4, 2022

Remarkable e-mail. Two days ago (12/2), a message on Sutter Health’s My Health Online site with the header:

Sutter Palo Alto Center Laboratory Patient Experience Questionnaire

This is an 8-noun pile-up — not by any means a record, but definitely notable, and absolutely baffling as an announcement of a request for feedback from patients using Sutter Health’s services, in particular the services of the laboratory at Sutter Health’s PAMF Palo Alto Center (which I use with regrettable frequency).

I am now going to complain, briefly but with great feeling, about a range of things, starting with Sutter’s extraordinarily user-unfriendly, intensely corporate-oriented on-line interface. That 8-noun pile-up is fine for corporate-internal use in labeling its files, but it’s no way to get people to do a favor for you, which is what filling out  an opinion survey for them is.

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s posting “In the mail: the sleep of reason produces snowmen”, on e-mail announcing the holiday issue of the New York Review of Books. Just notes on stuff that turns up in my e-mail.


The proverbial dead cat

October 12, 2022

The 10/10 Piccolo / Price Rhymes With Orange cartoon is delightful, but incomprehensible if you don’t know the proverb whose standard form is now Curiosity killed the cat:

(#1) If you see that the proverb is the key to understanding the cartoon, you’ll be able to appreciate the pun on curiosity — with one sense given explicitly in the cartoon (in curiosity shop), the other available only implicitly, through the proverb and the reference to killing in the cartoon

The two senses, from NOAD:

noun curiosity: 1 a strong desire to know or learn something: filled with curiosity, she peered through the window | curiosity got the better of me, so I called him. 2 a strange or unusual object or fact: he showed them some of the curiosities of the house.

Sense 2 gives us curiosity shop, a store (like the one in the cartoon) that offers curiosities for sale; and cabinet of curiosities, a collection of curiosities for display. And from sense 2 we get the noun curio for the sorts of thing (visible in the cartoon) on sale at a curiosity shop:

noun curio: a rare, unusual, or intriguing object: they had such fun over the wonderful box of curios that Jack had sent from India. ORIGIN mid 19th century: abbreviation of curiosity. (NOAD)