Archive for the ‘Ambiguity’ Category

Three comic rabbits for December

December 1, 2019

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit on the first of the month. The Mother Goose and Grimm from 12/30, with a textbook attachment ambiguity. The Rhymes With Orange for today, with an updated version of a classic tongue twister. And the Bizarro for today, with a Mr. Potato Head  wielding a terrible slang pun.

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Complimentary bread

October 17, 2019

In the 10/21 New Yorker, this sdf (Seth Fleishman) cartoon, hinging on an ambiguity in the adjective complimentary:


(#1) complimentary ‘praising, approving’ vs. ‘supplied free of charge’

It’s not just that it’s complimentary; it’s also that it’s complimentary bread.

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Unaccompanied

October 13, 2019

This touching Sara Lautman pun cartoon from the 10/14 New Yorker:


(#1) “You know, sooner or later we’re going to have to let her go out unaccompanied.”

It all depends on what you mean by unaccompanied.

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The verb of the American moment

October 12, 2019

The verb is depose — actually two homophonous verbs, with very different senses (though they share a history). Currently in the US news in one sense because of Helmet Grabpussy’s shrieks that movements towards impeaching him are attempts at a coup, attempts to overthrow him, depose him from office; and in another sense because House committees have been summoning witnesses to give sworn testimony, to be deposed formally.

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Suit and tie

October 7, 2019

The One Big Happy for September 8th, which came by in my comics feed recently:

(#1)

Miss Avis gives Ruthie career advice, and once again, Ruthie is up against the sense of a word — here, suit, roughly ‘costume in a masquerade’ — that she’s most familiar with, as against another sense — in the conventional collocation suit and tie, roughly ‘business apparel for men’ — that’s the most frequent one in the larger culture. A bunny suit for play, especially at Halloween, is a familiar part of her everyday world; she’s certainly seen men in suits and ties, but they’re from a different world, one that she merely sometimes observes from the outside, in much the same way that she views suits of armor.

Of course, becoming acculturated in the conventional adult world around her means learning that the default sense of suit has to do with business wear, especally for men, and that the costume-play sense is restricted to certain special social contexts.

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Revisiting 33: the ambiguity of the truffle

September 5, 2019

Just popped up on Facebook, this old (1/30/07) Bizarro cartoon:

(#1)

See my 8/22/19 posting “Sexy Dark Swiss”, with its section on truffles, fungal and chocolate.

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Ten to one

September 4, 2019

The One Big Happy from 8/7:

Ah, the ambiguity in ten to one, turning on two dfferent uses of to. Ruthie’s grandfather intends one sense, Ruthie gets another (closer to her everyday experience).

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Annals of error: water canons

September 1, 2019

In recent tweets from Hong Kong about protests and the governments attempts to put them down, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof repeatedly writes water canon instead of water cannon (both with /kǽnǝn/) — not an uncommon sort of spelling error, but somewhat surprising from an experienced journalist, and one that introduces an unintended misinterpretation, since it happens that CANON is the spelling of an English word (a number of different English words, in fact) distinct from CANNON. And that opens things up for little jokes about what a water canon might be. On Facebook I was responsible for one such joke, a bit of musical foolishness:

The reference is of course to the round “By the Waters of Babylon”. Though I doubt it’s effective against throngs of protesters.

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bricks ˈnˈ mortar

August 31, 2019

Roz Chast in the September 2nd New Yorker:

(#1)

An exercise in the semantics of N + N compounds, exploiting an ambiguity that might not have occurred to you:

in the semantics of the modifying N, N1 (here, the coordinate N bricks and mortar);

in the semantics of the head N, N2 (here, the understood N store);

and in the semantics of the relation between N2 and N1  (here, ‘N2 for N1, (specifically) N2 selling N1’, in this case ‘store selling bricks and mortar — rather than the ‘N2 (made) of/from N1’ relation in the familiar conventionalized compound brick(s) and mortar store ‘store (made) of/from bricks and mortar’.

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Locatives, inalienability, and determiner choices

July 31, 2019

All this, and more, in two recent One Big Happy cartoons, from 7/2 (I broke a finger — the determiner cartoon) and 7/4 (Where was the Declaration of Independence signed? — the locative cartoon). Both featuring Ruthie’s brother Joe.  I’ll start with the locatives.

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