Archive for the ‘Ambiguity’ Category

Great age

September 8, 2022

A note from my sister-in-law Virginia Transue (my (late) man Jacques’s (late) older brother Bill’s wife — Virginia and I are the survivors) on Facebook yesterday, in the matter of my 9/6 birthday, this year my 82nd:

VT: Funny how every single year you are 5 weeks ahead of me [her birthday is 10/12]. What a great age we have both reached.

AZ > VT: Yes, always those five weeks. What a great age we have both reached: I’d like to read that as having great ‘of ability, quality, or eminence considerably above the normal or average’ — at an apogee — but you might well just have meant ‘of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average’ — exceptionally large. Well, whatever, somehow we’ve gotten here.

A little lexicography, some personal history involving my first male lover (also a survivor), and it will end with Elaine Stritch singing.

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Three greetings for 9/6/22

September 6, 2022

For Woo(l)ly Mammoth’s #82: a fresh greeting formula, a morning hummer, and a fairy woodland bouquet. To which I’m adding some carrot cake and coffee ice cream: it’s not only my birthday, it’s also National Coffee Ice Cream Day, which I’m honoring all aslant (with coffee gelato), as I do so many things. To alter a family saying (If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly): If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing eccentrically (for other occasions: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing outrageously).

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The character of a creature

September 5, 2022

… as explored in the playful animal artwork of photographer Yago Partal, available for inspection in his 2017 book Zoo Portraits and for sale from his on-line site. The book cover, which shows a panda character holding a portrait of a koala character:


(#1) The portraits are meant to bring out characteristic features of a creature — not, however, as abstractions, but as embodiments in highly individual animal personages, with their own personal names: Bao the giant panda, Cooper the koala

Yes, I’m playing with two senses of character. From NOAD:

noun character: 1 the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual: running away was not in keeping with her character. … 2 a person [AZ: perhaps, better a personage / a figure / an individual] in a novel, play, or movie: the author’s compassionate identification with his characters.

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Breaking through the wall

August 30, 2022

Today’s Piccolo / Price Rhymes With Orange strip is a play on specific American tv commercials (with some gentle old-age mockery folded in), so will be baffling to any reader who doesn’t recognize the Kool-Aid Man mascot or know the wall-breaking “Oh Yeah!” tv ads featuring KAM:


(#1) There is, however, a hint to the reader in the “So not kool” (with kool instead of cool) in the title panel; note also the generational disparity reinforced by the GenX so there (see my 11/14/11 posting “GenX so“)

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Three peanuts meet in a bar

August 18, 2022

Today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, requiring a boatload of popcultural knowledge to understand:


(#1) The easy part: these are three anthropomorphic peanuts, M, M, F from left to right, and they are sitting at a bar, with drinks in front of them (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

Somehow the meeting of these three exemplifies the N1 + N2 compound N wingnut / wing-nut / wing nut (which has 4 senses in NOAD, plus a bunch more you can imagine). But how?

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Knuckle macaroni

August 17, 2022

Yesterday’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, at the grocery store:


(#1) Wayno’s title: Joint Replacement (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

So: let’s start with elbow macaroni and go on from there.

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The pickle slicer joke The pickle slicer joke

July 31, 2022

On this blog, a Bob Richmond comment on my 7/29 posting “Many a pickle packs a pucker”, with an old dirty joke that turns on the line “I stuck my dick in the pickle slicer” — with Bob noting, “I’m sure Arnold can provide an appropriate grammatical analysis”. The hinge of the joke is a pun on pickle slicer, which is ambiguous between ‘a device for slicing pickles’ and ‘someone who slices pickles (esp. as a job)’. You don’t need a syntactician to tell you that, but what I can tell you is that this isn’t some isolated fact about the expression pickle slicer, but is part of a much larger pattern that a linguist like me can bring to explicit awareness for you, so that you can appreciate something of the system of English that you (in some sense) know, but only tacitly, implicitly.

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Classic joke #444

July 22, 2022

We might as well just give them numbers. (This particular joke is 2/3 of a devil.) From Verdant on my Twitter on 7/15/22, this old Shoe strip:


(#1) Body-location (of the tattoo) vs. event-location (of the tattooing); Verdant provides this as a comment on my 2/27/19 posting “Body-location, event-location”, where #444 appears in a One Big Happy strip and is traced back at least as far as the antique Joe Miller’s Jest Book

To which Verdant adds yes-I-said-yes Molly Bloom’s:

confession when I used to go to Father Corrigan he touched me father and what harm if he did where and I said on the canal bank like a fool but whereabouts on your person my child

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Zippy, Elia, and Vilnissimo confront their stress

July 20, 2022

(There will be a just barely not-naked moose-knuckled underwear model, plus references to male raunchy bits and man-on-man sex in plain terms, so, alas, not suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

Three items on my computer screen this morning: today’s Zippy, in which the Pinhead totters from stress in a world of (historical) roadside seafood joints in New England, the last of which leads to today’s Daily Jocks swimwear ad for the Elia company; meanwhile, Zippy’s succumbing to stress leads to National Stress Awareness Day, and a Private Eye cartoon by Vilnissimo for the occasion (posted today on Facebook by John Wells).


(#1) Stressed-out Zippy shacking up with the shad, Chad going to the beach to spawn in Elia swimwear, Vilnissimo keenly aware of stress in Private Eye

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Take it from the man on the can

July 17, 2022

Another adventure in dubious commercial names and slogans. In the past few days the hyperkinetic tv pitchman Phil Swift — the id of the Flex Seal company, the Billy Mays of liquid rubber — has been assaulting my senses with a slogan that annoys me every time — just the way it was supposed to — because I get the sleazy sense of the commercial’s slogan

Take it from the man on the can

(‘from the guy sitting on the toilet (doing his business)’) instead of the innocent sense ‘from the man whose picture is on the label of the can (of Flex Seal)’. (In passing, I note the mini-festival of metonymy here: the man isn’t on the can, his picture is; well, not on the can itself, but on the label affixed to the can.) Let me start with a photo of an exemplary Flex Seal can:


(#1) You will note the absence, on the label, of a face of any person whatsoever, much less Phil Swift; as far as I can tell, the labels are all like that, and that’s no accident: Swift’s face is entirely beside the point — you’ll see that plenty in the commercials — because the ad’s all about taking your thoughts, memorably, into (or onto) the toilet

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