Archive for the ‘Ambiguity’ Category

Word play for 7-11

July 11, 2016

Three cartoons today (July 7th, or 7/11 in American usage; this will be important): a perfect pun (from Rhymes With Orange), using an ambiguity in local; a more distant pun (from Mother Goose and Grimm), linguistically and visually combining Bonnie and Clyde with Blondie ad Dagwood; and a Scott Hilburn (from The Argyle Sweater today) using the 50th anniversary of the Slurpee to float an almost-perfect pun
perches / purchase
(/z/ vs. /s/).

(more…)

Celebrations

July 7, 2016

The Daily Jocks ad for the 4th, featuring their very own patriotic underwear, worn by a decidely worried-looking model (with my caption):

Hank was always
Up for the
Hot-dog eating
Contest, but he was
Anxious about exploding
Fireworks in his pants

(more…)

Word times: two Ruthies, three Psychs

June 24, 2016

Annals of lexical confusions and innovations. Two word problems from Ruthie in the cartoon One Big Happy (two recent strips), a word confusion and two innovations from the tv show Psych.

(more…)

Morning spunk: same word, different word

May 27, 2016

In a sense, a re-play of an earlier posting, “spunk” of 3/16/11, which was about spunk ‘spirit, mettle, courage, pluck’ vs. spunk ‘semen, seminal fluid’. Now spunk appeared as a morning name for me a few days ago, along with the ‘pluck’ context of the interview between Mary Richards (played by Mary Tyler Moore) and Lou Grant (played by Ed Asner) in the first episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show: Grant: “You’ve got spunk … I hate spunk.”

That led me to NOAD2, where I found a single noun entry with three subentries:

1 informal courage and determination.
2 tinder; touchwood.
3 Brit. vulgar slang semen.

(Note: seminal spunk might be more common in BrE than AmE, but it is scarcely unknown in AmE, as a search will readily confirm.)

Speaking informally, this dictionary presents these three as a single word with three different uses (all of which ae available in my speech), while I would have thought these were three different words which just happened to be identical in spelling and pronunciation. What could possibly unite them?

(more…)

Ambiguity and vagueness

May 25, 2016

… in the comics. Specifically in today’s revival of a Calvin and Hobbes strip:

Just what sort of description is called for? It depends on the context.

(more…)

How long?

May 19, 2016

(The echo in the title is of the shapenote hymn traditionally sung to the tune NORTHFIELD, words by Isaac Watts, with the first line,”How long, dear Savior, O how long”.  More on the hymn below; here it’s enough to point out that the hymn is not really relevant to the cartoon in this posting, beyond the fact that its first line begins with an instance of degree how (which figures significantly in the cartoon).

The One Big Happy cartoon for today, featuring Ruthie and her brother Joe:

The subordinate clause is two-ways ambiguous, with two constituent structures and, in synch with these, two different adverbs how. For  (1) how long babies:

(1a)  [ how long ] + [ babies ]  (with degree how)
VERSUS
(1b)  [ how ]  + [ long babies ]  (with manner how)

Structural ambiguity (ambiguity in phrase structure aka constituent structure) without lexical ambiguity, and lexical ambiguity (ambiguity as to the lexical items involved in an example — specifically, different items how) without structural ambiguity are, of course, both well attested, but here they occur together.

(more…)

Monday language comics

May 16, 2016

Two Monday comics on linguistic topics: a Calvin and Hobbes with an unfortunate ambiguity (pitch the tent), and a Zits with a portmanteau for a combo sport (dodgebowl):

(#1)

(#2)

(more…)

binge-bingeing

May 7, 2016

The wonderful creation of Pierce in Zits:

binge-bingeing is the PRP form of a verb to binge-binge, which is an instance of one or the other of two different compound V constructions of the form to N + V, whose semantic and pragmatic differences are small enough to ignore here.

(more…)

icing

April 26, 2016

A Speed Bump cartoon from a little while ago, found on Pinterest:

The patient in the doctor’s office is — remember, this is Cartoon World — a gingerbread man, complaining of a sore knee. This sets things up for a play on the ambiguity of the verb form icing, related to either one of two verbs ice; one of them is related to the mass noun icing (in the U.S., parallel to frosting). From NOAD2 on this mass noun:

a mixture of sugar with liquid or butter, typically flavored and colored, and used as a coating for cakes or cookies

This substance mass noun icing and the verb ice ‘to decorate a cake with icing’ are in a very close synchronic relationship, so close that it’s hard to say which is basic and which derived (note: the verb could be back-derived from the noun); the history looks equally unclear, and the same relationships hold (in the U.S.) between the mass noun frosting and the verb frost (as in frost the cake). Somewhere in all of this is a metaphor relating the appearance of the cake-decorating substance to the appearance of accumulations of ice or frost.

The other verb ice, not well covered in the dictionaries I’ve looked at, is a at root a simple verbing of the noun ice referring to frozen water and meaning roughly ‘chill with ice’, but specialized in reference to ice therapy for sore muscles or joints. (I have joint problems all over the place, and so have cold packs to use for icing these joints.)

Cucumber soap

April 6, 2016

Today’s One Big Happy (from a bit earlier), in which Ruthie copes with the N + N compound cucumber soap, meant as a source compound (soap with cucumbers, or their scent, as the principal or most significant ingredient in it), while Ruthie takes it to be a use compound (soap used for (cleaning) cucumbers):

(#1)

(more…)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,046 other followers