Archive for the ‘Blends’ Category

Another round of repropriation

October 27, 2012

In the last installment, we looked at an example of a verb repropriate intended to convey ‘reproduce, procreate’ — an error I suggested was an approximation to reproduce, probably blended with portions of other verbs. On ADS-L, Joel Berson proposed (not entirely seriously) a simple blend of reproduce and propagate — not a bad idea, but imperfect syntactically and phonologically. Garson O’Toole offered the image of a stew [amendment 10/28: Garson reminds me that Larry Horn used the image first, and that Garson picked it up from him], with ingredients from several different sources. And then, in a comment from Éamonn McManus:

“Make up your mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which you will say first.” It seems to me that squishing together reproduce and procreate would be enough, but We May Never Know.

So: just two contributors, but with their parts combined in complex ways, more complex than the bulk of blends. This turns out to be a very attractive idea.



October 25, 2012

Jon Lighter reported on ADS-L on the 22nd that:

A fellow opposed to gay marriage argued in All Things Considered a few minutes back that if you’re married to somebody of the same sex, “How can you repropriate?”

Well, it hadn’t been a good day for me, and as sometimes happens with these wrong-word examples, I couldn’t figure out what the speaker was aiming (unsuccessfully) at. I was thrown into a mild tip-of-the-tongue (TOT) state, came up with two possibilities that I knew were wrong (because they didn’t fit the context) — the verbs (re)appropriate and reciprocate — and appealed to the ADS-Lers for help.


Brief mention: an inadvertent blend

September 7, 2012

From a discussion yesterday with Elizabeth Traugott and Melissa Carvell (about linguistics in the comics), Elizabeth saying:

It’s a cycular process

and then pausing in confusion, and correcting cycular to cyclical. (And I of course took notes on the event.)

Cycular is an inadvertent blend, a combination of cyclical and circular, which were in competition with one another as Elizabeth was framing her sentence. The competition was especially acute because the alternatives are so similar to one another phonologically.

A couple more word blends in conversation from the past few years:

Jackstone Merlot (Jackson + Blackstone) (AMZ, 1/30/08)

It’s ledged in there. (lodged + wedged) (Ned Deily, 9/3/09)

In both, the phonological similarity of the competitors facilitates the error.


Calling resumptive pronouns

June 21, 2012

From Chris Waigl yesterday, a sentence from an article on the consequences of flooding at the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth MN:

[All but one of the animals in the barnyard exhibit — sheep, lambs, goats and the donkey — died in the flooding.] The zoo also lost a snowy owl and a turkey vulture and possibly a raven, which zoo officials can’t determine whether died or escaped.

Here we have relativization “from inside” a subordinate clause (in whether), yielding an “island violation”:

… which zoo officials can’t determine [ whether ___ died or escaped ]

Chris found this straightforwardly unacceptable, and I agree. But we can wonder how the writer ended up with this relative clause, especially when such island violations are usually rescued through the use of a resumptive pronoun:

… which zoo officials can’t determine [ whether they died or escaped ]

This strategy results in a semi-grammatical (but easily processed) clause, which I’ve calledResIsland (for Resumptive – Island) gapless relative. Examples are easy to find — so easy that I don’t collect all the ones that come past me.

So why go with a “zero subject” clause?


Zits language

June 12, 2012

Today’s Zits, in which Sara enchants Jeremy with her language:

It’s a triple play: the eggcorn cold slaw, the pronunciation ezackly, and the idiom blend Achilles’ tooth.


Excrescent ‘s

June 8, 2012

Back on May 21st, Victor Steinbok posted an example from a comment on Google+:

(1) Does anyone see what’s the tactic is?

noting that such things were common in comments and in speech, and observing that (1) could be seen as a blend of

(2a) … what’s the tactic?

(2b) … what the tactic is?

(If you’re dubious about (2a), hold that thought for a moment.)

Searching for more examples of the form {“what’s the * is”} was pretty much hopeless, thanks to the flexibility of Google searches, but I did pull up a large number of examples of the form:

 what’s the Expletive is

and then, more generally:

what’s/who’s the Expletive FormOfBE

and also

what’s the Expletive FormOfDO

which have no natural analysis as blends. Instead, the expletive examples look like they have an excrescent ‘s, reinforcing or emphasizing the WH interrogative word — as in non-standard how’s about, how’s come, what’s about, etc. mentioned here (section 11).


a long ago

November 15, 2011

From Ned Sublette’s “Cheaters’ Motel” (lyrics in my BlogX posting “Lounges and motels”, here):

We could never live together
We knew that a long ago

That’s a long ago as an alternative to a long time ago and long ago — possibly originating as a blend of those two expressions, but now apparently serving as an idiom on its own for some people.


Data points: idiom blends 9/24/11

September 25, 2011

From a 2006 episode of the tv series Psych, “Death is in the Air”:

Is she dead?
Shawn: As a bag of rocks.
Gus: That’s “dumb as a bag of rocks”.

(Or “dead as a rock/stone”. But not part of each.)

This idiom blend seems to be a genuine invention of Psych‘s writers. No other ghits for it.

Three classic idiom blends, illustrated here (with references): rocket surgery in “It’s not rocket surgery”, under the eight ball, another kettle of worms. A few more from net discussions of the phenomenon: by far and away, don’t take lightly to, add up the math, a kick in the bucket, knock the wind out of your sails. 

(Hat tip to Victor Steinbok.)


Remarks on anacoluthon

February 7, 2011

Following up on my “Combos” posting, an adaptation from a 2004 ADS-L posting of mine on anacoluthon:

I started with the discussion of anacoluthon, in the works of the famously stumbling U.S. presidents Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and George W. Bush, in Michael Silverstein’s Talking Politics: The Substance of Style from Abe to “W” — where I thought I pretty much understood the concept — and actually looked up the technical term anacoluthon in various specialized dictionaries, only to discover a high degree of fuzzy thinking and variability in use. I started with several on-line dictionaries but was so dismayed and puzzled by what I found there that I turned to heavier hitters.



December 11, 2010

From Lars Ingebrigtsen and Ned Deily, this blog comment with the puzzling expression run around the ringer (boldfaced in the quote):

(1) … it’s getting burned by these borderline deceptive tactics that drive small software companies to begin to take harder stances on things like this. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been run around the ringer for discounts, extra support, customizations, etc. only to suddenly not hear from the person anymore, or find out they went with someone else with absolutely no explanation. (link)