Archive for the ‘Etymology’ Category

News for bears: cities of bears

December 8, 2018

On the 5th here, postings on the patron saint of bears and on Swiss saintly dogs (with a bow to the city of Bern(e)). Now: more on Bern; on the movie BearCity; and on two California cities of bears, Big Bear City in San Bernardino County and Los Osos in San Luis Obispo County.

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A grotesque word

November 29, 2018

Tuesday’s Zippy:

(#1)

Another chapter in word attraction: Zippy’s (and Griffy’s) enjoyment of “funny words”. Here, gargoyle, which Zippy, absurdly, analyzes as a compound of the nouns gar (referring to a kind of sharp-toothed fish) and goyle (a rare, mostly dialectal, term for a deep trench) — so, roughly ‘fish ravine’. Turns out the actual etymology of gargoyle is entertaining enough on its own.

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croquet monsieur

November 26, 2018

Tennis, anyone? Croquet, monsieur? Croquette, madame?

I begin in medias res, with croquet monsieur, as used in this announcement on the specials board recently at the King’s College Cambridge servery:


(#1) (photo by Bert Vaux, of King’s, posted on Facebook today)

The staffer who made up the board was presumably unfamiliar with the croque part of the food name croque-monsieur, so they went with the closest thing they knew: croquet.  (Well, it was all French to them.) Go With What You Know is the eggcorning strategy of Ruthie in the cartoon One Big Happy, reported on regularly in this blog.Here it is in an adult variant.

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Annals of word retrieval: in promiscuous positions

November 4, 2018

(Warning: embedded in this posting is a bit of — just barely euphemized — taboo vocabulary and the image of a hunky guy in his underwear.)

From Sim Aberson on 10/29, from WSVN, channel 7 in Miami FL:

BSO deputies arrest Dania Beach man in child porn case

Dania Beach, Fla. (WSVN) – Deputies have arrested a Dania Beach man on numerous child pornography charges.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office arrested 66-year-old Roger Aiudi on Thursday following a months-long investigation by the agency’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force. Investigators said Aiudi had 13 pornographic images of children and dozens of other images showing children in promiscuous positions.

Well yes, not promiscuous ‘having or characterized by many transient sexual relationships’, but provocative ‘arousing sexual desire or interest, especially deliberately’ (NOAD definitions). This is a very likely sort of word retrieval error, since the words are similar phonologically (sharing the accent pattern WSWW and sharing the initial syllable /prǝ/) and morphologically (both ending in Adj-forming suffixes, –ous vs. –ive) as well as semantically.

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Use skate in a sentence

October 23, 2018

The One Big Happy in today’s comics feed, from 9/26:

(#1)

Ruthie is faced with the task of demonstrating what a word means by using it in a sentence — a task often assigned to children as a test of their understanding of word meanings. But choosing effective example sentences is a challenging art for professional lexicographers, and children are not particularly good at it.

In this case, “the word skate” could be a verb (‘move on ice skates or roller skates in a gliding fashion’ (NOAD)) or any one of several nouns, but, on hearing about her tightwad great-aunt, Ruthie fixes instead on the otherwise opaque /sket/ portion of the compound cheapskate ‘tightwad, miser’ (which she analyzes as a composite nominal cheap skate).

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He shot the serif

October 6, 2018

Today’s Wayno/Bizarro collab:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

A play on the

NO SHOES / NO SHIRT / NO SERVICE

sign in some restaurants. Here enforced by a maître d’ who’s a (serifed) uppercase B. Suitably serifed uppercase diners  fill the seats, while a shirted and shod but sans-serif uppercase T realizes he won’t be served.

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Swiss steak

July 13, 2018

First, it’s American.

Second, it’s simple, homey food, designed to use tougher and cheaper cuts of beef.

Third, it’s unclear where the modifier Swiss comes from.

Fourth, its preparation involves two cooking techniques that are used in other dishes. One of these is tenderizing and flattening by pounding, a technique also used in the preparation of elegant dishes of veal, beef, pork, or chicken in the Schnitzel / Milanesa family.

Fifth, the other technique is braising: searing meat and then cooking it very slowly with liquid (and, usually, vegetables) in a closed container. Sharing this technique makes Swiss steak and pot roast of beef culinary cousins.

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He meant to say “supine”

February 11, 2018

Wilson Gray on ADS-L on the 6th:

“She was lying on her back, when she was stabbed, in the prone position.”

He meant to say, “in the supine position,” of course.

There’s no “of course” here. No, that is almost surely not what the speaker meant to say; I’d wager he intended to say exactly what he did say. It’s just not what Wilson thinks the speaker should have said. (Or he’s mocking people who talk this way, though I failed to detect any raised eyebrows in what he wrote so briefly and dismissively.)

We have here a widespread vulgar confusion, a failure to distinguish

between inadvertent errors, things that are “wrong” for the person who produces them, and advertent errors, things that are ok so far as the producer is concerned but “wrong” from the point of view of at least some other people. (Faced with [the first], you call in the psycholinguist; faced with [the second], you call in the sociolinguist.) (Language Log link)

On top of that, Wilson has the sociolinguistic facts wrong, through a confusion between ordinary language and technical language: supine is a technical term for a bodily postion (lying flat on one’s back), used in certain specific domains (anatomy, sport, and shooting, in particular); in those domains, its counterpart (referring to lying flat on one’s belly) is prone, but in ordinary language, outside these specific domains, prone can refer to lying flat in general, and supine isn’t used at all.

The mistake here lies in assuming that technical, domain-specific (medical, botanical, technologcal, etc.) vocabulary is the true, correct, uniquely valid scheme for naming. From my 7/27/15 posting “Misleadingly named animals”, on zoological names:

The terminology “true fly” and “true bug” (etc.) here arises from the attitude that the naming practices of biologists are the only valid (true) naming schemes — what I’ll call technicalism. In the case of fly and bug, technicalism is remarkable from the historical point of view, since the specialized use of these nouns represents a decision to use perfectly ordinary vocabulary as technical terminology by drastically restricting its reference.

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Codpieces on Cellblock 13

July 23, 2017

(Men flaunting their junk, codpieces, prehistoric creatures, superheroes, language play, and more. Use your judgment.)

On the 21st, a posting on Cellblock / CellBlock / Cell Block 13 garments, featuring a young man in a commando harness (plus a jockstrap). Then in yesterday’s mail, a Daily Jocks ad with another remarkable CellBlock 13 costume (plus my caption):

(#1) X-Wing Harness and X-treme Hybrid Short, in red

Vic the Prick, cynosurus,
Caught every eye at the
Reptile Ball.

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Ruthie copes: Moses and the doggie bag

July 9, 2017

Two recent One Big Happy strips, in which Ruthie wades into interpreting unfamiliar expressions (bulrush, Israelite) and interpreting one familiar expression (doggie bag) in a non-standard way.

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