Archive for the ‘Etymology’ Category

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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Light, and sometimes mixed

May 25, 2017

It started with Chris Hansen posting this London bus ad on Facebook:

(#1)

On the bus:

IT’S SMOOTHIFIED.
WE’RE AMERICAN.
WE CAN MAKE UP WORDS.

NOW IN THE UK

So: about the morphology; about the advertising tactic; and about the beer.

Emily Rizzo then threw this into the mix:

(#2)

with chelada (a variant of michelada), a type of beer cocktail — that is, a mixed drink with beer as one of its ingredients.

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Chenillar moments, including frass and lepidopterism

May 14, 2017

Two caterpillar notes, an old one and a very recent one.

First, from a Language Log posting of mine from 6/2/06:

As for the oak moths, we’ve been exceptionally afflicted by them this spring at Stanford — a rain of caterpillars [California Oakworms, Phryganidia californica], then masses of cocoons, and now clouds of moths.  Ick.  Susie Fork [posting on the Elkhorn Slough site], however, sounds pretty pro-moth.  Well, the Elkhorn Slough staff seem to value all the organisms they study.  But then they don’t have to live with clumps of cocoons disfiguring the pieces in the New Guinea Sculpture Garden, the way we do.

(#1)

Then from a visit to Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden last week:

(#2)

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On the boulevard of broken dreams with Kip Noll

March 26, 2017

(There will be plain-talking discussion of men’s bodies and sexual practices of several kinds, so this is not for kids or the sexually modest.)

The boulevard in question is Sepulveda Boulevard (my morning name for Friday), part of which is a piece of the Pacific Coast Highway, the locus of William Higgins’s 1981 gay porn flick of that name (PCH), starring Kip Noll. Meanwhile, what we know of Noll’s life involves a substantial career in all kinds of sex work, including a lot of work as a dance hall boy, that is, a male stripper for men, and almost surely work as an escort for men, that is, as a male prostitute or stud hustler — two occupations that fit senses of the label gigolo (originally the masculine version of a French term for ‘dance hall girl’, and then ‘prostitute’). Which brings us to “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, a song that refers to “gigolos and gigolettes” — male and female prostitutes — strolling on a Parisian boulevard. (This is in France, and in a pop culture fantasy, two places where hustlers and hookers are regularly construed as picturesque rather than socially dysfunctional; a similar example, the movie Gigolette, is to come below.)

These investigations wil eventually take us to picturesque locations in Spain (where the Sepulvedas come from) and also to “the dark, underground world of a New York City gigolo”, as presented in Michael Lucas’s penis-heavy gay porn flick Gigolos (2007). A long distance from the sunny surfer beaches of southern California, but Noll eventually danced his dick off (and probably sold it as well) on the mean streets of New York.

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Morning: spanakopita

February 23, 2017

Spanakopita was the morning name some weeks ago, and then this morning the bon appétit site offered instructions on how to “make spanakopita pie”, with a yummy photo:

  (#1)

The full instructions, which are pretty complex, amount to:

make the spinach filling (using frozen spinach), prepare the phyllo pastry (using frozen phyllo), assemble, bake

The result, seen above, is spanakopita:

(in Greek cooking) a phyllo pastry stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. ORIGIN modern Greek, literally ‘spinach pie.’ (NOAD2)

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Bring out your lukewarm etymythologies

October 26, 2016

The instructions said to use lukewarm water, and Kim, being a linguist, wondered about the luke of lukewarm; we don’t, after all, have luke + anything else, even lukecool, lukecold, or lukehot.  I said that she wasn’t going to be satisfied with the standard story, and she wasn’t. A brief version, from NOAD2:

(of liquid or food that should be hot) only moderately warm; tepid. ORIGIN late Middle English: from dialect luke (probably from dialect lew ‘lukewarm’ and related to lee [‘shelter from wind or weather’]) + warm

This account is suppositious, and unclear on many points (what dialects, how, and why? and is lukewarm really etymologically ‘lukewarm’ + warm?). So it occurred to us to just invent more satisfying etymologies — or, better, to invite others to invent them, to devise etymythologies. This is that invitation: to suggest better stories than the truth (as far as we know the truth), IN A COMMENT ON THIS BLOG (I will disregard e-mail to me or Kim and comments on Facebook or Google+ or ADS-L or wherever else; I cannot possibly spend time amalgamating suggestions from half a dozen sources). But before you jump in, read the rest of what I have to say about lukewarm and about etymythology. And, eventually, some suggestions as to what you might use to play with for ideas about lukewarm etymythologies.

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