Archive for the ‘Figurative language’ Category

A New Yorker trio

October 23, 2020

Three cartoons from the 10/26 New Yorker: two of linguistic interest (by Amy Hwang and Roz Chast), one (by Christopher Weyant) yet another Desert Island cartoon.

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Parallelism, metaphor, chiasmus

September 25, 2020

On the slogan in my posting yesterday “Come a long way, long way still to go” (A), a chiastic formula conveying:

Things have improved, but still we’re far from the goal (and there are constant threats to take back the gains)

(A) is a poetically compressed version of (B):

We have come a long way, but we have a long way still to go

(which presents two metaphorical idioms in parallel, with their contrast between the opposed motion verbs come and go).

So there’s a lot of linguistic interest here.

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gone to seed

September 20, 2020

Today’s morning name, the PSP form of the English idiom go to seed, originally botanical, then metaphorically extended to use for people.

From NOAD:

go (or run) to seed: [a] (of a plant) cease flowering as the seeds develop. [b] [AZ: metaphorical extension of sense a] deteriorate in condition, strength, or efficiency: Mark knows he has allowed himself to go to seed.

Plus, a near-synonym, one sense (1d below) of one of the verbs bolt (the ‘rapid movement’ verb bolt). From NOAD:

verb bolt-2: 1 [a] [no object] (of a horse or other animal) run away suddenly out of control: the horses shied and bolted. [b] (of a person) move or run away suddenly: they bolted down the stairs. [c] [with object] (in hunting) cause (a rabbit or fox) to run out of its burrow or hole. [d] (of a plant) grow tall quickly and stop flowering as seeds develop: the lettuces have bolted. …

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Caterpillars spinning platters

August 5, 2020

Yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro, with songs you just can’t get out of your head:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)

A wonderful collision of worlds, set off by the idiomatic (and colorfully metaphorical) N + N compound earworm: the world of DJs — the ear world (disc jockeys providing sonic pleasures for the ear) — and the world of caterpillars — the worm world (caterpillars being one type of worm in colloquial English).

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Towards the high end of the hardness scale

August 4, 2020

(All I need to tell you is that this posting takes off from a line of Cumdump jockstraps offered by the Breedwell company in deliberately provocative ads, and you should see that it’s totally not for kids or the sexually modest.)

A Daily Jocks ad from 11/4/19 shows us the jock in red, with a model presented faux-naturalistically as a tough working-class guy in a blue-collar setting (a railyard, shipyard, or truckyard). Ad copy for the jock:

The new Breedwell Cumdump Jock [available in white, black, red, yellow, and blue] is a take on the classic, old-school woven jock.

Features a black centre patch with the Breedwell logo and signature “Dirty By Choice” motto. The back of the jock features ‘Breedwell’ across the entire back.

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Call it by its name

July 27, 2020

In the 9/24/19 One Big Happy, both Ruthie and her mother name fingers, but in different ways:

(#1)

Ruthie gives them (descriptive) nicknames — the proper names Hitchy, Pointy, Big Girl, Wiggles, Wee One — while her mother Ellen provides the common nouns referring to the five fingers: the thumb, the index finger, the middle finger, the ring finger, and the pinkie / pinky (aka the little finger).

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Please don’t eat the flooring

July 20, 2020

Jeremy Nguyen in the 7/20/20 New Yorker:


(#1) “This is the precise reason I didn’t want bamboo flooring.”

Everybody knows that pandas eat bamboo, but what they eat is bamboo-bamboo, the shoots (and sometimes leaves and stems) of several bamboo species, not items made from the stems or fibers of the plant — furniture, other household furnishings, fabrics, and, yes, flooring.

Yes, the joke turns on a systematic metonymy, an ambiguity between reference to a plant and reference to items created from parts of that plant.

So: pandas and bamboo and metonymy too.

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At the Paleo Cafe

July 15, 2020

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro strip (Wayno’s title: “Farm to Slab”):


(#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 combination of two cartoon memes: the familiar Caveman meme, plus  a Remarkable Restaurant meme that’s a specialty of the Bizarro strips.

Plus the portmanteau word play in filet magnon (filet mignon + cro-magnon). And a subtle play on a systematic ambiguity between raw and cooked understandings in certain food names, in particular for cuts of meat. You ask for a filet at the Paleo Cafe, you get a hunk of raw meat.

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A hose in your pocket

July 1, 2020

This is a piece of moderately raunchy silliness in a time of great difficulty. (I am trying, with increasing desperation, to write just one blog essay a day as proof that I’m Not Dead Yet, but I didn’t manage it yesterday, 6/30.) Most of it is directly or indirectly about penises, so some readers might want to avoid this posting.

A tv commercial for the Silver Bullet Hose proclaims:

Things that used to be big and bulky now fit in your pocket. Even your hose.

The commercial goes on about hoses and nozzles in gee-whiz fashion; it’s probably just enthusiastic salesmanship, but it would be hard to miss the playfully carnal subtext, of symbolic penises.

And the commercial extols the compact and easily portable, in the garden hose world — and, by extension, in the world of men’s bodies. As the possessor of a penis that fits comfortably into most trouser pockets, I applaud the attitude. All praise to the right-sized; let’s look to Michelangelo’s David.

A crucial part of the garden hose pitch is that the Silver Bullet expands to an impressive length when it’s called upon to perform its function. Oh. My.

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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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