Archive for the ‘Figurative language’ Category

Political wagyu

October 13, 2017

The gustatory-political text for today:

Rage against the media is political Wagyu for the president’s base. (NYT, “[REDACTED]’s Attacks on the Press: Telling Escalation From Empty Threats” by Michael M. Grynbaum on 10/12/17 on-line)

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Noodling with formulaic language

October 6, 2017

Today is National Noodle Day. Yes, an event fabricated by people in the food indusry to showcase their products and sell them, on a date no doubt chosen only because it hadn’t already been claimed by any other food. But noodles are delicious, they’re multicultural, and they’re fun.

I celebrated the occasion at lunch with some porcini mushroom and truffle triangoli (stuffed ravioli, but triangular rather than square) from Trader Joe’s, with arrabiatta sauce (a spicy tomato sauce). Pasta in English food talk for Italian food, but  noodles in English food talk for Chinese (and other East Asian and Southeast Asian) food — so today they’re noodles to me. (I recommend a broadminded view on what counts as noodles.)

I also recommend that we adopt a symbolic figure for the occasion, something like the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Halloween pumpkins and witches, Pilgrims for Thanksgiving, the New Year baby, and so on. I suggest the Flying Spaghetti Monster, with his noodly appendages.

But first let’s get down to some recent noodling with formulaic expressions in the comics: One Big Happy (an idiom), Rhymes With Orange (a frequent collocation or an idiom, depending on who you read), and Mother Goose and Grimm (a proverb):

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The Amelioration formula

October 5, 2017

A recent instance, from Baltimore Sun copyeditor John McIntyre on Facebook today:

At the desk. Converting defective prose into the merely mediocre since 1980.

An earlier parallel, from Sigmund Freud’s Studies on Hysteria (1895) (co-written with Josef Breuer), as translated by Nicola Luckhurst (2004):

But you will see for yourself that much has been gained if we succeed in turning your hysterical misery into common unhappiness.

A snowclonic figure of speech, Amelioration of Awful to Ordinary (Amelioration, for short), of the form:

Transformation-Verb Awful (in)to Ordinary

(with transformation verb transform, turn, change, convert, make, rework, etc.)

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Two from 9/8

September 23, 2017

… in the September 8th issue of the New Yorker. Both presenting the usual challenges to understanding — there’s a lot you have to know to make sense of them — and both playing on language.

(#1) by Jeremy Nguyen

(#2) by John McNamee

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Nazis and neo-Nazis

August 21, 2017

Discussions on many Facebook pages about the use of the term neo-Nazis to refer to marchers in Charlottesville VA on August 12, with their swastikas, torch-marching, Hitler salutes, chanting anti-Jewish slogans and “Blood and Soil” (Blut und Boden) — plus specifically American touches like the Confederate battle flag, KKK hoods, and open displays of assault rifles. Some participants in these discussions maintained with some passion that they called the marchers Nazis, because that’s what they were.

I can’t of course legislate how people talk — but if you want both accuracy and punch, neo-Nazi is the way to go.

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cut the bill in half

August 20, 2017

Yesterday’s Mother Goose and Grimm:

An ambiguity in the verb cut, combined with two metonymically related uses of the noun bill.

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An urban jungle

August 19, 2017

Back on the 12th, I posted about the “War of the Weeds” in back of the Palo Alto downtown library, across the street from my house: a contest between common ivy, ailanthus, and golden bamboo for control of the territory. Now I have better photos, showing the whole length of the jungle, in three sections, without cars.

Meanwhile, at the Y where I go to my senior fitness class, there’s a whole rank of California peppertrees covered with red berries, and with leaves already turning for the fall.

All this caused me to delve into the notion of an urban jungle. Turns out different people have very different ideas about what that phrase refers to, and that exploration will take us to Hong Kong, Chongqing, urban gardening, and “wild” parks in various cities, including the Ramble in NYC’s Central Park — with Al Pacino in full gay cruise mode.

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Words as weapons, images as ideas

August 6, 2017

Illustrators go to war:

(#1) Hoover Memorial Exhibit Pavilion, Stanford, 4/5/17 – 9/2/17

Visited on July 19th, with Juan Gomez. Extensive report follows.

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Superficial oxymorons

July 21, 2017

A John Atkinson Wrong Hands cartoon:

An assortment of expressions (almost all Adj + N) that might at first glance seem to be internally contradictory — that is, oxymorons — but which are nevertheless sensical.

It would be a useful exercise to go through these examples and show how they gain their meaning.

(Note: there is now a Page on this blog on John Atkinson cartoons.)

More news not for penises

July 5, 2017

Start with this little poem, “Spurring him on”, which seems to be heavily sexual:

Hotspur Cockspur:
Thorny, horny, over-
Heated prick.
Spiky, showy dandy,
Sharply tipped.

Actually, this is a continuation of my 2/4/16 posting “Some news not for penises”, which was about senses of cock that aren’t about penises, and it’s mostly about plants, a whole hell of a lot of plants, some of them with sharp thorns (like spurs) that will prick you, some of them with showy spikes (like a rooster’s comb), all of them with cock in one of their common names. So, what with the noun cock, the phallic spurs, and the phallic combs, the topic fairly drips with male sexuality — but this posting is not about men’s bodies or mansex. It’s mostly about birds and plants, plus some vintage dandies and Sir Henry Percy.

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