Archive for the ‘Ambiguity’ Category

Ruthie on meanings

October 19, 2017

Two recent One Big Happy strips:

(#1) What does /sǽtǝn/ mean?

(#2) What does anaphoric do that refer to?

#1 plumbs Ruthie’s knowledge of the English lexicon (satin is unfamiliar to her, so she does the best she can with it from what she knows), #2 her ability to use anaphoric elements in context (she’s an ace at wielding “sloppy identity”).

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Performance ambiguity

October 10, 2017

A recent One Big Happy plays on play:

Play the Moonlight Sonata. Play the piano. Play the Moonlight Sonata on the piano.

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One-hit grinders

October 2, 2017

The Zippy from September 30th, featuring Mary’s Coffee Shop, which also offers grinders:

(#1)

Plays on several senses of grind, plus the idiom one-hit wonder (with its phonological play on /wʌn/).

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Ecstasy

October 1, 2017

Following up on yesterday’s posting “The archangel Michael” (focusing on the nature of angels and archangels, especially those represented in art as wingèd men), on to angelic music in the Sacred Harp hymnbook: on

angels, wings of love, robes of light, flying away, being carried away, ecstasy. With trumpets.

As before, I’ll start with the Christian context — of art yesterday, of music today — and move to sexual, in particular gay, interpretations of these works, finding in them homoerotic elements that were surely never intended. This move is straightforwardly sacrilegious, and therefore offensive to many, so I’m warning you now that after a respectful discussion of themes in hymn texts, I’ll turn to descriptions and depictions of flagrant mansex, but I’ll flag this shift, so you can bow out if you wish.

The connection is the ambiguity of the word ecstasy, an ambiguity that is rooted in a significant similarity between religious ecstasy and sexual ecstasy: being transported or carried away, in mind and body, by an experience.

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retainers

September 24, 2017

A recent One Big Happy:

There are retainers and then there are retainers, and the kids have good reason to know about one kind of them — the dental appliance —  but probably aren’t familiar with the others.

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Two from 9/8

September 23, 2017

… in the September 8th issue of the New Yorker. Both presenting the usual challenges to understanding — there’s a lot you have to know to make sense of them — and both playing on language.

(#1) by Jeremy Nguyen

(#2) by John McNamee

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freak shows

September 19, 2017

Today’s Zippy reflects on a bit of culture — a fascination with deformed and otherwise outrageous human beings — name-checks Lady Gaga, Anderson Cooper, and (indirectly) the current residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington — and exploits the ambiguity of the compound freak show:

(#1) At the menagerie / side show

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Reduced questions

August 30, 2017

A recent One Big Happy in my comics feed:

The woman with the little yappy dog offers Ruthie a casual-speech reduced question, here just a NP a good protector, plus an assent particle. Unfortunately, the reduction introduces a multiplicity of interpretations that would otherwise not be present: the unreduced form could be Is he a good protector? (the woman’s intention) or Are you a good protector? (what Ruthie understands, given her knowledge of the dog and his proclivities) or various other possibilities, like Do you want a good protector?.

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Solid Chet and lean Bo

August 28, 2017

Underwear ads again (from today’s Daily Jocks sale), with captions from me. Men’s bodies, mansex allusions, not for everyone.

(#1) Sweat with me, baby

Solid Chet the gym jock
Sweats hard
Lick the salt he’ll
Towel you off

(#2) Lowriders on the storm

Lean Bo the surf jock
Goes low pull him
Lower use your
Teeth those trunks are
Made for cruising

Sweaty Chet and lowball Bo.

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Revisiting 1: Will McPhail

August 25, 2017

Cartoons by Will McPhail, last seen here in three cartoons on 4/15/17, in particular a wordless cartoon (in which God slam-dunks in an angel’s halo). Now from the August 28th New Yorker, this complex exercise in cartoon understanding, drawing on several pieces of very specific cultural knowledge:

(#1)

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