Archive for the ‘Ambiguity’ Category

Annals of commercial naming: Boy Smells

June 16, 2021

Smells like queer teen spirit.

Ads for the Boy Smells company have been popping up with some regularity in my Facebook feed — no doubt because I posted a while back on some fragrances for men, one of the two scented product lines the company offers, the other being candles. A third line is underwear, all of it explicitly labeled by the company, “This comes unscented”, but in an ad for Boy Smells products, it’s hard not to think of pungent teenager skivvies. Some ads combine the boy image of actor Tommy Dorfman with an Extra Vert Candle. Ad copy:

Discover the intimate world of Boy Smells with unique candles, fragrances & underwear. 10% of Proceeds From The Pride Collection Will Be Donated to Support the Trevor Project [providing suicide prevention efforts among LGBT+ youth].


(#1) The boyish Tommy Dorfman, something of a queer, and genderqueer, icon — attired in jade


(#2) French vert ‘green’ (suggesting the green herb tones in the scent) + extravert / extrovert ‘an outgoing, expressive person’

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Sacrilegious puns for Pride Month

June 10, 2021

… on t-shirts from the Hear Our Voice on-line store (“empowering feminist clothing” — also clothing on Black, LGBTQ+, kindness, and disability rights themes), in a Facebook ad today (I believe the shirts are available from other sources as well). In the ad, a complex pun (both verbal and visual) on the song title “Proud Mary”; and then, elsewhere on the site, a pun on the religious exclamation amen.

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Bizarro cannibalism

June 8, 2021

The Bizarro strip from 5/30, which reminds us of the bizarre in 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.)

A grotesque pun that turns on the ambiguity between the common noun peanuts (referring to a food item commonly offered as a snack by airlines) and the proper noun Peanuts (referring to the Charles Schulz cartoon and the characters in it). Instead of honey-roasted peanuts, the attendants are offering honey-roasted Peanuts — Lucy, Charlie Brown, Linus, and so on.

Now, Charlie Brown and the gang are only cartoon children, but they are children, and #1 is a cartoon with human characters, which makes the scene look a lot like cannibalism, in fact cannibalism to satisfy routine snack hunger, not even cannibalism to avoid starvation, or as part of a cultural ritual — so that it inspires revulsion. And some very uneasy laughter.

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Pandering to the bass

June 6, 2021

About a Wayno/Piraro Bizarro from 5/29, which turns on the title phrase pandering to the bass being understood as a pun:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)

We are to understand pandering to the bass as a pun on pandering to the base (which has become a stock expression in political contexts), and, given the image and text of the cartoon, as involving bass (/bes/ rather than /bæs/) ‘someone who plays the bass guitar in a rock band’ (rather than in one of 7 or 8 other possible senses).

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Customer care and the holiday weekend

May 28, 2021

(Includes discussion of sexual acts in very plain terms, with an illustration, so totally not for kids or the sexually modest.)

A message on 5/25 (anticipating the US holiday Memorial Day) from an American company, edited so as to avoid identifying the company or its nature:


(#1) The crucial phrase in the mailing — look at the small print — is for all of your servicing needs, because of the ambiguity in the verb service in it

Being the sort of person that I am, I first read this (with considerable enjoyment) as using the sexual verb service, so I was dismayed that from May 29th though the 31st the company would not be available to provide me with the sexual attentions I might crave; its website would scarcely suffice as a replacement for personal care.

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Getting validated

April 24, 2021

A Nathan Pyle (of Strange Planet) cartoon passed on by Jeff Shaumeyer on Facebook yesterday:


(#1) JS: This is my reaction every time I use my credit card. I crave the validation.

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Baxter on language

April 22, 2021

Three more cartoons from the Glen Baxter collection Almost Completely Baxter, all having to do with language in one way or another: the study of vowels as religious observance in the abbey of the fabled town of Brocklehampton; the tragedy of empty speech balloons; and smoke signals pressed into service to spread higher literary culture.

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The columnist

April 15, 2021

Today’s Zippy strip, with an unconventional sense of columnist:

(#1)

Not someone who writes a column for publication, but a collector of columns, the architectural features — like a philatelist, but with pillars.

But then the suffix –ist is extraordinarily multifunctional.

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gay therapy

April 13, 2021

An ad in my Facebook feed for a Gay Therapy Center, which briefly gave me pause because of an ambiguity in the Adj + N composite gay therapy. Now, Adj + N composites, like N + N compounds, are notoriously open to multiple understandings, even if we restrict ourselves to general patterns for the semantic relationship between the two parts. In this case, I had a moment of deep unease that gay therapy was to be understood as a treatment composite, parallel to treatment compounds: pain therapy, flu therapy, cancer therapy, etc. ‘therapy to treat condition or disorder X’. Thus viewing homosexuality as a disorder, which would make gay therapy here a synonym of the now-conventional label conversion therapy, for a scheme that proposes to treat homosexuality and cure it.

But, whew, no. The Gay Therapy Center in San Francisco (with a satellite center in Los Angeles) offers “LGBTQ therapy to help LGBTQ people love themselves and each other” — with the composite gay therapy understood as ‘therapy for gay people, to help / benefit gay people’. Indeed, the Facebook ad offered brief videos showing male couples embracing affectionately (other ads have female couples as well). A still from one of these:

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smouldering

April 11, 2021

Recently received: Almost Completely Baxter: New and Selected Blurtings (New York Review Comics, 2016), a collection of absurdist cartoons by the artist Glen Baxter. There will be more drawings from the volume; today, one (p. 30) about smouldering:

(#1)

From NOAD on the verb smolder / smoulder:

[no object] [a] burn slowly with smoke but no flame: the bonfire still smoldered, the smoke drifting over the paddock. [b] show or feel barely suppressed anger, hatred, or another powerful emotion [AZ: notably including sexual desire and sexual invitation]: Anna smoldered with indignation | (as adjective smoldering): he met her smoldering eyes. …

Clearly, #1 illustrates sense a, but some might see the burning as also an eruption of a powerful emotion (sense b) — and, since Hank is a handsome young man putting on this display for an assortment of cowboys, rough older men, you might see that emotion as sexual (and some commenters on the cartoon have seen it as camp humor).

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