Archive for the ‘Ambiguity’ Category

The sculpture garden

October 7, 2016

Today’s Rhymes With Orange, playing nicely on a small but significant ambiguity in the noun garden:

NOAD2 gives two relevant senses of garden:

[a] a piece of ground, often near a house, used for growing flowers, fruit, or vegetables.

[b] (gardens) ornamental grounds laid out for public enjoyment and recreation: botanical gardens.


Breaking bad

September 12, 2016

Today’s One Big Happy is mostly about Ruthie’s mistaking femur (a genuinely rare word) for fever (a common one):

But there’s also a crucial ambiguity in the verb break.


Feet in footage, pawns at the pawnshop

September 9, 2016

Two cartoons in my feed yesterday, both turning on ambiguities: a One Big Happy involving foot, a Mother Goose and Grimm involving pawn:




Two OBHs

September 4, 2016

Two recent One Big Happy strips, one with Joe updating a nursery rhyme (with Ruthie’s help), one with Ruthie once again in the Land of Ambiguity:




the Ving N

August 9, 2016

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm, with language play in honor of the Olympics:

V-PRP + N can be understood in several ways, sometimes subtly different, but potentially distinguished by accent pattern and often associated with ambiguities in the V. As with the opening ceremony here, with (roughly) the Olympic Interpretation ‘ceremony in which an event opens, that is, begins’ (with primary accent on ceremony) vs. the Can Interpretation ‘ceremony in which the top of something is removed to get at its contents’ (with primary accent on opening).

Fixed expressions

August 7, 2016

Two recent cartoons turning on fixed expressions, compounds in fact: a Rhymes With Orange and a One Big Happy:




Word play for 7-11

July 11, 2016

Three cartoons today (July 7th, or 7/11 in American usage; this will be important): a perfect pun (from Rhymes With Orange), using an ambiguity in local; a more distant pun (from Mother Goose and Grimm), linguistically and visually combining Bonnie and Clyde with Blondie ad Dagwood; and a Scott Hilburn (from The Argyle Sweater today) using the 50th anniversary of the Slurpee to float an almost-perfect pun
perches / purchase
(/z/ vs. /s/).



July 7, 2016

The Daily Jocks ad for the 4th, featuring their very own patriotic underwear, worn by a decidely worried-looking model (with my caption):

Hank was always
Up for the
Hot-dog eating
Contest, but he was
Anxious about exploding
Fireworks in his pants


Word times: two Ruthies, three Psychs

June 24, 2016

Annals of lexical confusions and innovations. Two word problems from Ruthie in the cartoon One Big Happy (two recent strips), a word confusion and two innovations from the tv show Psych.


Morning spunk: same word, different word

May 27, 2016

In a sense, a re-play of an earlier posting, “spunk” of 3/16/11, which was about spunk ‘spirit, mettle, courage, pluck’ vs. spunk ‘semen, seminal fluid’. Now spunk appeared as a morning name for me a few days ago, along with the ‘pluck’ context of the interview between Mary Richards (played by Mary Tyler Moore) and Lou Grant (played by Ed Asner) in the first episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show: Grant: “You’ve got spunk … I hate spunk.”

That led me to NOAD2, where I found a single noun entry with three subentries:

1 informal courage and determination.
2 tinder; touchwood.
3 Brit. vulgar slang semen.

(Note: seminal spunk might be more common in BrE than AmE, but it is scarcely unknown in AmE, as a search will readily confirm.)

Speaking informally, this dictionary presents these three as a single word with three different uses (all of which ae available in my speech), while I would have thought these were three different words which just happened to be identical in spelling and pronunciation. What could possibly unite them?