Archive for the ‘Ambiguity’ Category

1 Bizarro, 2 Bizarro

May 25, 2017

Yesterday’s and today’s Bizarro strips:

(#1)

(#2)

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoons — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in both strips — see this Page.)

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missing it

May 13, 2017

Yesterday’s Mother Goose and Grimm:

(#1)

Ok, a simple ambiguity. The relevant subsenses of the transitive verb miss, from NOAD2, with my sense id codes:

— in the set of 12 failure-miss senses:
[1f] fail to attend, participate in, or watch (something one is expected to do or habitually does): teachers were supposed to report those students who missed class that day. [Mother Goose’s sense]

— in the set of 3 absence-miss senses:
[2c] feel regret or sadness at no longer being able to go to, do, or have: I still miss France and I wish I could go back. [Grimm’s sense, a willful misunderstanding of Mother Goose]

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Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit: three cartoons for the 1st

May 1, 2017

It’s May Day, an ancient spring festival — think maypoles and all that — so, the beginning of the cycle of the seasons. (Everybody knows the Vivaldi. Try listening instead to the Haydn, here.) And it’s the first of the month, an occasion for still other rituals, including one that calls for everyone to greet the new month, upon awakening, by saying “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” (or some variant thereof). There’s even a Rabbit Rabbit Day Facebook community, with this page art (not attributed to an artist):

(#1)

The three-rabbit variant is the one I’m familiar with. (I got it as an adult from Ann Daingerfield Zwicky. Since she was from the South, I thought it was a specifically Southern thing. But today I learned, from an astonishingly detailed Wikipedia page, that that is very much not so.)

Today also brought a Facebook posting from my friend Mary Ballard, to whom the whole inaugural-rabbit thing was news, and, by good fortune, three cartoons from various sources: a Bizarro I’ve already posted about; a Mother Goose and Grimm with an outrageous bit of language play; and a Calvin and Hobbes reflection on the meaning of the verb read.

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The maiden, the monster, and the hero

April 15, 2017

In the LGBT precinct of Facebook recently, this Jim Benton cartoon (eventually this posting will be about Benton, but first the folktale scenarios):

(#1)

The basic scenario is Beauty and the Beast: a beautiful maiden (that is, a virgin), often a princess; and a monster, a grotesque creature, either literally an animal (a gigantic ape, a dinosaur, a mutant lizard, a dragon, whatever — but male) or a man animalistic in form, sometimes in nature as well. The monster desires the maiden: to devour her (literally), to despoil her (sexually), or merely to love her (romantically).

A third character, the Knight, figures in an extended scenario: a hero, a handsome and virile young man, often in armor, often a prince, whose role is to challenge the monster in battle and overcome him, thereby rescuing the maiden — for himself; she is his prize. In the extended scenario, two males are rivals for the maiden.

In Benton’s version, the hero challenges the monster, demanding that the monster deal with him rather than the maiden. And so the monster does. Sometimes in a love triangle, the rivals become lovers. (Combat between men is sometimes a route to mutual respect, male bonding, and friendship; in this case, the relationship goes one step further.)

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Uneasy lies the head

April 10, 2017

You know about Jimmy Buffet Parrotheads, Wisconsin Cheeseheads, annoying dickheads, and musical Radiohead, and now New Yorker cartoonist Michael Maslin brings us PenguinHead:

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(Henry IV, Part 2: “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Often quoted as the crown, as in the adaptation in #1.)

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Men swear about menswear

March 31, 2017

Today’s One Big Happy:

(#1)

Ah, a potential orthographic ambiguity, turning on word division: MENSWEAR as MENS WEAR ‘men’s clothing’ (what the store intends) or MEN SWEAR ‘men curse’ (what Ruthie reads).

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They are revolting

March 22, 2017

On ADS-L on the 20th, Quote Investigator Garson O’Toole wrote:

This post was made in response to [Fred Shapiro’s] request for famous quotes from comic strips. This topic is complicated enough that I think a separate discussion thread will be helpful.

The double-meaning of the phrase “The peasants are revolting” was featured in the comic strip “The Wizard of Id”. Here is a [11/8/64] piece in “The Philadelphia Inquirer” that mentioned the joke within an introduction to the comic before its debut in syndication.

(#1)

The ambiguity became closely associated with The Wizard of Id, as in the collection in #1, but of course it didn’t originate there. In Garson’s ADS-L posting, his focus was on antedating the joke — antedating is a preoccupation of the hounds of ADS-L — but my interest here is on other things: the comic strip itself and some entertaining examples of the joke, regardless of when they appeared.

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No whey in hell

March 6, 2017

On Pinterest this morning, along with a bunch of Gary Larson cartoons, this cartoon by Dan Thompson from some time ago:

(#1)

Ingredients: “Little Miss Muffet”; homophony (or near-homophony) of whey and way; the complex AmE idiom no way in hell. Bonus: Anne Taintor.

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On the N + N compound watch

March 6, 2017

Passed on by Ken Callicott, presumably from his browsing in supermarkets:

As I note from time to time, N + N compounds (like infant water) are always subject to multiple interpretations, even if we stick to interpretations that involve only the relatively small set of canonical semantic relations between the parts. Usually knowledge about the world and about the context in which a compound is used is sufficient to make one interpretation by far the most likely one. But that doesn’t stop  mischievous people from seeking out possible but unlikely interpretations and making antic hay out of them. (And cartoons often show henighted people fixing on possible but unlikely interpretations.)

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Adjunct or argument?

March 2, 2017

The most recent One Big Happy:

Joe’s version of Job 3:1 is the one I recall:

Job cursed the day he was born.

and it suffers from an ambiguity, between the day he was born as an argument (the direct object of cursed) and as an adjunct, or modifier (a time adverbial, in fact a bare NP adverbial, an alternative to the PP adverbial on the day he was born). The intended reading of Job 3:1 is the argument reading, but Joe got the adjunct reading.

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