Archive for the ‘Figurative language’ Category

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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Fried eggs and fairy wands

June 18, 2018

Also blazing stars, gayfeathers, and wandflowers. All plants, colorfully named. Providing a little exercise in taxonomic names vs. common names.

The fried eggs come from Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky, who posted this on her Facebook page yesterday:


(#1) EDZ: “Portrait mode makes fried egg flowers even more absurd” (by erasing the flower stem, so that the flower appears to be floating in the air)

The fairy wands I came across at Palo Alto’s Gamble Gardens this morning:


(#2) Angel’s (fishing) rods, wand flowers, or fairy wands

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What happened in vagueness?

June 3, 2018

Available in a number of designs on the net:

(#1)

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s “Ambiguity” entry (edited by Adam Sennet, first published 5/16/11, last substantive revision 2/8/16):

Fun fact: the word ‘ambiguous’, at least according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is ambiguous between two main types of meaning: uncertainty or dubiousness on the one hand and a sign bearing multiple meanings on the other. I mention this merely to disambiguate what this entry is about, which concerns a word or phrase enjoying multiple meanings.

In the technical literature on these things, the first notion is known as (among other things) vagueness, while the second is known as (linguistic) ambiguity. Ouch.

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A chiastic bird

June 1, 2018

It’s been a while since I posted chiastic (transpositional, Spooneristic) wordplay, so here’s a Bizarro from 12/16/08:

  (#1)

The title To Kill a Mockingbird  –> To Mock a Killingbird by transposition (exchange, reversal), of kill and mock (the sort of exchange seen in Spoonerisms as inadvertent errors). Formally  of interest because the process “goes into” a compound word, to affect one of its parts (mocking), and also into an affixed word, to affect its base (mock). On the conceptual side, this particular kind of wordplay is shallow, thin, since only one of the two paired situations is represented in the cartoon: having served its purpose as base for transposition, the book To Kill a Mockingbird plays no further role in the proceedings.

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Dramatic exits

May 31, 2018

A Leigh Rubin cartoon from the 22nd, illustrating an exit and a dramatic exit:

(#1)

First, this is a play on the ambiguity of exit, as a N referring to a concrete object (a door, used for exiting) or an act (of exiting). Then there’s another ambiguity, in the  sense of dramatic in the nominal dramatic exit: it could be taken literally, as ‘pertaining to a play’, but here it’s used with a figurative sense ‘melodramatic, stagey, flamboyant’ (note the man’s gesture). In its second use, dramatic incorporates a figurative sense of the N drama seen also in the (originally US gay) slang compound drama queen.

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Syntactic phrase, compound word, portmanteau

May 24, 2018

(Gay sex talk in street language: use your judgment.)

Encountered today in reports of the slang of young gay men, three words for ‘male anus viewed as a sexual organ, male sexcavity, (figurative) vagina of a man’:

munt /mʌnt/; mussy /’mUsi/, bussy /’bUsi/ (bunt /bʌnt/ is not recorded, but has probably been coined on occasion)

These are portmanteaus derived from the compound nouns man / boy + cunt / pussy, as examined in my 7/26/13 posting on expressions for the male anus viewed as a sexual organ.

Three steps in the tightness of connection between the elements participating in an expression:

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Crude japery

May 24, 2018

(If the image and text in #1 make you uneasy, pass on to something else. Otherwise there’s only coarse humor here, of the sort that delights middle-schoolers.)

From Aric Olnes on Facebook yesterday, this bit of crude foolishness, to which Aric added the title “Get Lei’d!”:


(#1) Marilyn Monroe + oink (of a pig) = Marilyn Monroink (the hula-dancing pig)

Dancing on what appears to be a slab of Spam (the canned meat product made mostly from ham), from a roll of the stuff. Spam from pig meat, boned and processed.

Providing an opening for coarse sexual word play on bone and roll (in a context where sexual pig and pork lurk).

Of course, I wondered where the image and text came from, who composed them. Searching took me to a larger and much more complex page of crude japery (an ad for “Dickman’s Boned Rolled Pig: Institutional Meat Food”, from Dickman Rendering & Creaming Inc.), on Reddit, where it came from Imgur (without attribution, of course). I then found some of the components of the joke ad, and eventually the identity of its creator, the cheerfully crude graphic artist Cris Shapan.

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(I just) can’t stop (it)

May 22, 2018

From the May 21st New Yorker, this Harry Bliss cartoon:


(#1) “Get those things away from me–I can’t stop eating them.”

A translation of a scene (of snack-food addiction, in the universe of tv commercials) to a parallel metaphorical world (of rampaging Godzillas, in the universe of monster movies).

Some notes about such translations between worlds; about snack-food addiction in tv commercials; about people-eating in Japanese monster movies; and about some “can’t stop” music.

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