Archive for the ‘Figurative language’ Category

Through the centuries in the morning

September 10, 2018

The morning name for the 6th: Attraverso i Secoli, the title of an elementary Italian textbook from about 60 years ago. Not mine, but Ann Daingerfield Zwicky’s. No longer in my possession, after several years of the Great Library Divestment, but still I remember it, and it somehow surfaced in my dreamtime.

The title attraverso i secoli ‘(down) over / through(out) / across the centuries / ages’ is a PP with the very interesting P attraverso, which (historically) is itself a P + a N derived from a verb of motion (cf. the English V traverse).

And the expression as a whole is formulaic, a conventional way of referring to (all of) historic time.

As a bonus, there’s the book Il Quidditch Attraverso i Secoli by Kenilworthy Whisp.

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Ruthie faces literal ambiguity

August 28, 2018

In the 7/30 strip, on the ambiguity of the word letter; in the 7/31 strip, a play on the name of the letter Y:

(#1)

(#2)

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In Syntax Country

August 13, 2018

In a vivid linguistics dream in the am hours of the 10th, a page of linguistic data gold that (in the dream) I carefully saved to my computer — my dream computer, of course — so I could post about it triumphantly later in the day. Alas, later in the day my dream computer was off-line, so to speak, and all I had from that marvelous page of data when I woke briefly was this not entirely certain recollection:

We never stop(ped) rolling  over them / them over  in Syntax Country.

Two possible contributors to this dream message.

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Why choose when you can have both?

August 12, 2018

In my e-mail, more Pinterest boards combining sexually hot Sterek (Stiles + Derek) slash art and remarkable hot dogs, most of them hybrids as well, as in this contribution from The BakerMama | Maegan Brown website on 9/29/16, “Grilled cheese hot dogs”:

(#1)

A brilliant combination of two classics: grilled cheese and hot dogs! A buttery crisp hot dog bun filled with lots of melted cheese [Monterey jack and cheddar] and a juicy grilled hot dog. Why choose when you can have both [understood: in the same (hybrid) dish]?

In this case, the hybrid food sounds tasty, but sometimes the hybrid is (like the spork) less satisfying than either component on its own, or even (like SNL‘s Shimmer, a floor wax and a dessert topping) an unpleasant union of incompatible elements..

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Two texties, in two tonalities

August 7, 2018

Texties are cartoon-like compositions in which a pictorial component is entirely absent or merely decorative, not essential to the point of the composition — in effect, words-only cartoons; they can be intended as humor, like gag cartoons, or as serious commentary, like political cartoons.

Two have come to me via friends on Facebook recently — both funny, both taking off on specific registers in modern printed English: the lost and found poster (in the texty “FOUND:CAKE”, or F:C), and the amazing-fact texty on the net (in the texty “[plant facts!]”, or pf!). F:C is an elaborate translation, in detail, of an item of popular culture; pf! is an undermining of the amazing-fact texty form itself.

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Mud, shit, and chocolate

July 30, 2018

Caught on re-run tv yesterday, in the Law & Order S19 E10 episode “Pledge” (from 1/21/09):

Your entire case rests on this girl’s testimony. If her only impetus to cooperate is greed, you’re in trouble. Who dangled money in front of her in the first place?

The cops. They knew she was in debt, so they pressed her pretty hard.

It’s going to look like we bought her testimony. What a mud sandwich this is turning into.

And only a few months before that, in an emotional  9/29/08 speech on the floor of the U.S. Congress by Rep. John Boehner in support of the TARP bill bailing out big banks:

None of us came here to have to vote for this mud sandwich!

(You can watch it here.)

Yes, mud sandwich. A euphemism for shit sandwich.

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That bastard mongrel half-breed, the tromboon

July 25, 2018

To yesterday’s posting “Hybrid referent, portmanteau name” (mostly about the flumpet, with a bit on the fluba), Robert Coren added a comment about Peter Schickele / P.D.Q. Bach and his invention, the tromboon:

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The tromboon is a musical instrument made up of the reed and bocal of a bassoon, attached to the body of a trombone in place of the trombone’s mouthpiece. It combines the sound of double reeds and the slide for a distinctive and unusual instrument. The name of the instrument is a portmanteau of “trombone” and “bassoon”. The sound quality of the instrument is best described as comical and loud.

The tromboon was developed by Peter Schickele, a skilled bassoonist himself, and featured in some of his live concert and recorded performances. Schickele called it “a hybrid – that’s the nicer word – constructed from the parts of a bassoon and a trombone; it has all the disadvantages of both”. This instrument is called for in the scores of P. D. Q. Bach’s oratorio The Seasonings, as well as the Serenude (for devious instruments) and Shepherd on the Rocks, With a Twist. (Wikipedia link)

Here I’m focusing on that’s the nicer word: just what did Schickele think (in 2008) was a less nice, more offensive, way to refer to a hybrid (more specifically, to someone of mixed race, which is probably where the insult vocabulary for hybrids is going to come from)? Specifically, what does an old white guy addressing a mostly white audience think might be a more offensive way to refer to hybrids? (A young black guy would probably insult a half-black half-white guy by calling him white.)

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Swiss cheese isn’t Swiss

July 10, 2018

(And Swiss steak isn’t either, but that’s a topic for another posting.)


(#1) A wedge of American Swiss

But then the expression Swiss cheese is ambiguous. NOAD recognizes this, but not in the way you were probably expecting:

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Swiss spin-off: herringbone tweed

June 29, 2018

The thing about spin-offs is that they can take you way far away from where you started. In this case, the start point is in my 6/19/18 posting “A Swiss thread”, about the Swiss silk thread company Zwicky and its ad posters over the years, including, in #5 there, Otto Bamberger’s famous herringbone tweed coat Plakat (‘poster’) for the Swiss men’s clothing company PKZ:


(#1) An artwork, not a photo

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The wands, magic wands, and fairy wands of Pride

June 19, 2018

In yesterday’s posting “Fried eggs and fairy wands”, there were plants called fairy wands and wandflowers. How to get from (fairy) wands to the plants?

It’s another metaphorical trip. Wands are just rods or sticks (so a great many plants with spire-like flowers would qualify), but magic/fairy wands in particular frequently have a showy element (very often a star, 5-pointed, or sometimes 6-pointed) at its tip — so plants with showy flowers at the end of thin stems (like Dierama pulcherrimum and Sparaxis tricolor) can be seen as similar to such tipped wands.

Having noted that, for Pride month I’ll go on to look at simple wands and showily tipped wands done in rainbow colors: truly fairy wands.

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