Archive for the ‘Ambiguity’ Category

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:

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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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You’re a linguist; where’s your tongue?

June 5, 2020

A tangled food story that started with a 5/25 quiz from Barbara Partee on Facebook:

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Here’s a quiz – what’s this? I’m not about to eat it – it’s on the table only because the light is better here than on the counter near the sink. Volodja [Barbara’s husband Vladimir Borschev] cooked something today that we ate some of for dinner and then sliced the rest for future lunches. We bought it at the farm. (Our farm raises both meat and vegetables.) This was left after Volodja “cleaned” it after boiling it. Expectation Americans like me wouldn’t recognize it. Georgians and Armenians would, and probably a number of people who grew up on farms.

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Death trap

June 5, 2020

The 5/27 Wayno/Piraro Bizarro collabo brings us two Grim Reapers confronting what might be a trap for them:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

If you want to catch Death in a trap, what do you use as bait? Obviously, not the conventional chunk of cheese, but dead cheese: moldy cheese. (Moldy cheese is, of course, not actually dead; in fact, the cheese is alive with the swarms of microbes.)

The cartoon nicely exploits an ambiguity, between the semantics of the conventionalized compound death trap / deathtrap, and the semantics of a compound Death trap, parallel to mouse trap / mousetrap.

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Higashi Day cartoon 5: hoods and newts

March 15, 2020

(Little kids, but I pursue them into the weeds of sexual anatomy, though without the photos or raunchy talk. Take appropriate cautions.)

The One Big Happy cartoon from 2/9:


(#1) Once again, about the kids finding a word (un)familiar in a particular sense: the apparel noun hood

And the OBH from 2/17:


(#2) And minute ‘extremely small, tiny’

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Spanish fetish all over the guy

March 10, 2020

(Extraordinarily steamy ad, Mr. Fetish Spain in nothing but a pageant banner, and raunchy mansexual talk, so dubious for kids and the sexually modest.)

Today’s Daily Jocks ad re-uses an earlier flagrantly NSFW image in an offer of “Spanish fetish brand Locker Gear” underwear. Well, besides the hot guys in the ad, there’s the parsing of the nominal expression Spanish fetish brand (as a modifier of the brand name Locker Gear).

And the text of the ad, with another significant bit boldfaced:

The DailyJocks Backroom hand picks the best fetish-wear brands from around the world & brings them directly to your inbox. [directly to your inbox was probably carefully chosen, but let that pass]

Check out our hottest new addition, Spanish fetish brand Locker Gear. Featuring a rugged, classic look on all of their products.

From jockstraps with an open pouch to chest harnesses or unlock your addiction with the zipper pouch jockstrap.

Then these two expressions triggered a chain of associations that led ultimately to the romantic comedy movie All Over the Guy.

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Where is the fishmonger?

March 8, 2020

(On facial expression and gaze in sexual negotiations between men, definitely mansexually raunchy, so not for kids or the sexually modest.)

Yesterday’s ad from Next Door Studios (specializing in regular-guy boy-next-door types — twinks and swimmer-body young men — enthusiastically engaged sexually with each other, covering a range of acts from vanilla mansex on out to moderately kinky stuff). In it, Dakota Payne is preparing to slip his cock (fuzzed out here) into a deliciously sling-bound Alex Tanner. But these next-door boys aren’t focused on each other; they are instead staring penetratingly into the eyes of their audience, who are pantingly stroking their dicks in appreciation of their performance. This particular image now exploited to illustrate a dialogue for learners of the Spanish language; the by-ways of kink are strange indeed.


(#1) Alex y Dakota, Diálogo 17: ¿Dónde está el pescadero?

Alex: ¡Ay caramba! / Dakota: No lo creo.
Alex: ¡Que desastre! / Dakota: No importa.
Alex: Pero te deseo, mi querido. / Dakota: ¡Vete a la mierda!

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Predicative / locational

January 26, 2020

(In the illustrations section below, there are some racy images; just a warning for the sexually modest.)

From the annals of ambiguity: the Mother Goose and Grimm from the 20th:

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Both terms of the ambiguity are of interest on their own: short-form location names (as in Men’s Fragrances in Meet us in Men’s Fragrances, with the PP in Men’s Fragrances functioning as a VP adverbial, referring to the place of the meeting) vs. (subject-oriented) predicative adjuncts (as in Meet us without a shirt, with the PP without a shirt functioning to denote some characteristic — here, shirtlessness — of the referent of the subject).

Mother Goose intended the VP location adverbial reading of in Women’s Dresses, where Women’s Dresses is the name of a department in a department store (readers are expected to know, even these days, what department stores are and how they are organized and labeled). The dogs Grimm and Ralph understood instead the predicative adjunct reading of in women’s dresses, and so they appeared wearing women’s dresses, outré though that might be.

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