Archive for the ‘Childhood’ Category

Annals of phallicity: the Bezos rocket

August 27, 2021

(Well, the topic is phallicity, and there will be anatomical details — discussed with anatomical terminology rather than street language, but some might still find the posting edgy.)

The story is a month old, but interest in its central element, a rocket to space, is evergreen. And the imagery of this particular rocket, Jeff Bezos’s New Shepard, was fresh and noteworthy.

The symbolic resonance, of a rocket launch to active phallicity, to a penis rapidly tumescing and ejaculating, has been around ever since there have been rockets, but New Shepard makes a significant advance towards realism in this symbolic domain: the rocket looks a lot more like a penis than the rockets that have launched before it.

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The elephant and plum

April 9, 2021

Not Frog and Peach, but Elephant and Plum, in a kid joke as told by Ruthie in the One Big Happy strip from 2/22 (in my comics feed on 3/21):

(#1)

Four things: kid jokes, of which the Elephant and Plum variant above is a particular clever example; the saying about elephants on which it depends; elephant jokes, of which the joke above is not the classic Elephant and Plum exemplar; and the ambiguity of “When did you laugh at it?”, which turns on the defining property of deictic elements like the interrogative when.

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Learning culture

January 28, 2021

The One Big Happy cartoon from 1/6, recently up in my comics feed:

Ruthie and Joe are engaged in picking up elements of culture — American commercial culture, to be specific — beginning this particular bit of learning by reproducing material they’ve heard on tv, without much appreciation for what it means.

This is in line with kids’ learning of other bits of culture — song lyrics, joke routines, patterns of swearing and insulting, greeting and leave-taking routines, and much much more. At the same time that kids are picking up new words at a great rate, they are also incorporating those words into ways of performing the verbal bits of social life. (Meanwhile, they’re learning gestures, facial expressions, the physical elements of dances, games, and sports, and the rest of a vast universe of nonverbal behavior, which then has to be coordinated with verbal behavior.)

And much of this has to be picked up “on the fly”, from observing what people around you do, without being explicitly instructed — a fact that guarantees that their first efforts at performing these bits of culture will be decidedly imperfect and will have to be honed by practice.

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Smearing and taunting

June 17, 2020

(Adapted and expanded from a Facebook comment of mine a while back. Some coarse sexual language, notably from American newsmakers, but also enough about sexual bodies and mansex from me to make the posting dubious for kids and the sexually modest.)

Every so often, MSNBC commentator Ali Velshi tartly notes — alluding to the Imperator Grabpussy’s smears of President Barack Obama as a Muslim born in Kenya — that he is a Muslim who was born in Kenya (though he grew up in Canada).

There’s a linguistic point here, having to do with relevance and implicature. Why does Velshi say this? Yes, it’s true, but then “The freezing point of water is 32F” is true, but if Velshi had said that it would have been bizarre, because it would have been irrelevant in the context. So Velshi’s religion and nativity are relevant in the context. Cutting through a whole lot of stuff, I would claim that Velshi is implicating something like “Being one myself, I know from Muslims born in Kenya, and I know that Barack Obama is no Muslim born in Kenya”. And THAT brings me to a piece I’ve been wrestling with some time, about Grabpussy Jr. jeering at Mitt Romney, taunting him by calling him a pussy. (I have a Velshian response of my own to that.)

Hang on; this will go in several directions.

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I see London, I see France, I see Batman’s underpants

June 4, 2020

A postcard from Ann Burlingham back in March, from an exhibition at the Frick Museum in Pittsburgh, with this ghostly vision:


(#1) Nick Veasey’s Boxer Shorts (2008)

From Wikipedia:

Nick Veasey is a British photographer working primarily with images created from X-ray imaging. Some of his works are partial photomanipulations with Photoshop. He therefore works with digital artists to realise his creations.

Born in London in 1962, he worked in the advertising and design industries and pursued work in conventional still photography before being asked to X-ray a cola can for a television show. Veasey also X-rayed the shoes he was wearing on the day and upon showing the finished image to an art director was galvanised by the response it provoked.

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The taunt

August 8, 2017

Today’s One Big Happy has James reciting a piece of American childlore, the taunt “X is a friend of mine” (where X is a name, preferably a trochaic one, like Ruthie, to fit the trochaic tetrameter pattern of the verse):

  (#1)

A cornucopia of pop culture references.

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The Treasure of the Singlet Padre

June 30, 2017

Or: Happy Trails to You.

It starts with a Richard Oliva photo in Steathy Cam Men on the 28th, with the caption “Hello, sexy daddy man!”:

(#1)

In  leather singlet, displaying his furry pecs and treasure trail.

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Gendered stickers

June 18, 2013

Delivered in the mail yesterday, two big books of stickers from the Melissa and Doug company (I use a lot of stickers on the postcards I send out and on the collages I make): the Pink Collection and the Blue Collection, intended for girls and boys (ages 3+), respectively. Each has ten themed pages, with themes mirroring gender stereotypes for kids.

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Cul de Sac

April 30, 2013

From Lynne Murphy on Facebook, this Cul de Sac cartoon, which reminded her of her daughter Grover:

The child in the cartoon, Alice, is 4; she’s at the stage of bargaining about the exact choice of words.

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Parent and kid

December 20, 2011

(Not about language.)

Assembling a Christmas present for my grand-daughter, I’ve been unearthing and scanning in photos of her Zwicky grandmother. Like my Rice grandfather before me, Ann Daingerfield Zwicky died about 20 years before Opal was born, and Opal’s become curious about this person who was so important in her mother’s life and mine (small voice: “Tell me about my grandmother”). But in this case, there’s photographic evidence — and a great many stories, some of which I’ve been telling here. (There are no photographs of my grandfather Rice, and a very few stories, only via my grandmother, whose husband died when she was in her early 20s; she herself died 50 years ago.)

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