Archive for the ‘Ambiguity’ Category

wingman, winger

September 3, 2020

In a NYT Magazine piece on Grabpussy Jr., an arresting mid-page teaser quote:

I searched my mental banks for relevant senses of winger, working my way through wingman first, eventually discovering that the intended sense was the one I came to last. You really have to have the context: in particular, who is speaking, for what purposes.

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The three Ds: debased, degraded, and decadent

August 16, 2020

(Well, it’s about lexical semantics and the conventions of social life, but there will be, right at the outset, dips into references to mansex in very plain language, so not suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

It started with my 12/29/19 posting “The time of mildly debasing oneself”, about one of Nathan W. Pyle’s weirdly quirky Strange Planet cartoons looking forward to New Year’s Day:


(#1)  “Until then I will mildly debase myself” — “To maximize contrast”

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Hairy ice

August 2, 2020

Today’s Bizarro turns on an ambiguity in the verb shave:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 8 in this strip — see this Page.)

On to the ambiguity…

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The measure of a man: HTC

July 30, 2020

(Scantily clad men flaunting their bodies, so not to everyone’s taste.)

Two representations of the male body, head to thigh, celebrating masculine faces, masculine bare torsos, and the male genitals. HTC — head, torso, crotch — images.

Previously, in yesterday’s posting on this blog, “Portrait of man: the head and bare torso image”, about HT images:

the head and bare torso image: In a painting, a drawing, a sculpture, a photograph: the face projecting a persona, an identity, a character; the naked torso presenting this character as a carnal being: an embodiment of gender, a sexual object, and an assertion of vitality.

Now add to this the crotch, at least minimally clothed, but containing and hinting at the male genitals within — so substantially magnifying the sexual messages of the torso.

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Please don’t eat the flooring

July 20, 2020

Jeremy Nguyen in the 7/20/20 New Yorker:


(#1) “This is the precise reason I didn’t want bamboo flooring.”

Everybody knows that pandas eat bamboo, but what they eat is bamboo-bamboo, the shoots (and sometimes leaves and stems) of several bamboo species, not items made from the stems or fibers of the plant — furniture, other household furnishings, fabrics, and, yes, flooring.

Yes, the joke turns on a systematic metonymy, an ambiguity between reference to a plant and reference to items created from parts of that plant.

So: pandas and bamboo and metonymy too.

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At the Paleo Cafe

July 15, 2020

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro strip (Wayno’s title: “Farm to Slab”):


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

A combination of two cartoon memes: the familiar Caveman meme, plus  a Remarkable Restaurant meme that’s a specialty of the Bizarro strips.

Plus the portmanteau word play in filet magnon (filet mignon + cro-magnon). And a subtle play on a systematic ambiguity between raw and cooked understandings in certain food names, in particular for cuts of meat. You ask for a filet at the Paleo Cafe, you get a hunk of raw meat.

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Annals of ambiguity: I feel like making it rough for Schrödinger

June 24, 2020

Playing with ambiguity:

— a One Big Happy cartoon with: I feel like a tuna fish sandwich

— a domestic exchange about: I will make a dessert of my youth

— a Pearls Before Swine cartoon with: Tell me roughly

— a photograph, labeled Schrödinger’s Dumpster, of a dumpster with the signage: EMPTY WHEN FULL

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Ruthie tips cows

June 15, 2020

In today’s comics feed, this 5/24 One Big Happy strip:

(#1)

It’s especially charming that Ruthie first thinks of tipping the cow in dollars, then adjusts her scheme to something a cow might actually appreciate (there is such a thing as cattle kibble, by the way).

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If a man does it, …

June 11, 2020

(A number of jokes, but also some seriously technical linguistics.)

A joke going the rounds on the net recently, here from a exchange posted on Facebook on 3/24 (yes, yes, I am incredibly far behind on my postings; life has been very difficult):


(#1) Anaphoric do it : ‘(a man) sleeps with 10 men’ (the gay reading) vs. ‘(a man) sleeps with 10 women’ (the Don Juan reading)

In a similar vein, this Stone Soup cartoon of 6/17/11:


(#2) Anaphoric do the same, with at least three readings (discussed below), one of them gay

The phenomenon at play here is called sloppy (vs. strict) identity. The gay readings above involve strict identity.

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To Serve Man

June 8, 2020

Today’s morning name, the crucial expression from a famous Twilight Zone episode, crucially ambiguous.

“To Serve Man” is episode 89 (#24 Season 3) of the anthology series The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series). It originally aired on March 2, 1962 on CBS. Based on Damon Knight’s short story of the same title, the episode was written by Rod Serling and directed by Richard L. Bare. It remains one of the best known episodes from the series, particularly for its final twist. (Wikipedia link)

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