Archive for the ‘Metonymy’ Category

With knitted brows

May 3, 2021

(Significantly about sex between men, often in street language, so thoroughly unsuitable for kids and the sexually modest.)

On 5/1, e-mail from HUNT magazine (which hawks gay video porn) featuring a new bareback release, Show Hard, all about t-room / tearoom sexual encounters — a recurrent theme on this blog (there’s a Page on postings about sex in public, especially focused on t-room sex). I’ll take up the flick (and its name) later in this posting.

But on viewing the still from the first scene of Show Hard in the mailing — muscle hunk Beau Butler getting pronged on a mensroom sink by equally hunky Sean Maygers — what really caught my eye wasn’t the sexual action, arousing though that is, but the expression on Butler’s face. One that is so common that we have a name for it in English: knitted / knit (eye)brows. It turns out that there’s more than one physical gesture that is so called; and also, unsurprisingly, that this family of gestures can convey a variety of affects. Also that there are a number of other closely related gestures, with a collection of vocabulary that refers to them; it’s a rich domain of meaning.

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Tramp stamps

March 30, 2021

and odalisques (with their erotic lumbar regions, aka lower backs) and rhyming disparagements (like tramp stamp and slag tag). It starts with the Zits comic strip of 3/26:


(#1) The rhyming (and disparaging) idiom tramp stamp had passed by in the fringes of my consciousness, but this strip foregrounds it

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Tom Stoppard speaks to the meat

March 24, 2021

In the New Yorker, “Tom Stoppard’s Charmed and Haunted Life: A new biography enables us to see beneath the intellectual dazzle of the playwright’s work” by Anthony Lane, in the print edition of 3/1/21:

In 2007, the playwright Tom Stoppard went to Moscow. He was there to watch over a production of his trilogy — “Voyage,” “Shipwreck,” and “Salvage,” collectively known as “The Coast of Utopia.” The trilogy had opened in London in 2002, and transferred to Lincoln Center in 2006. Now, in a sense, it was coming home. The majority of the characters, though exiled, are from Russia (the most notable exception being a German guy named Karl Marx), and, for the first time, they would be talking in Russian, in a translation of Stoppard’s text. Ever courteous, he wanted to be present, during rehearsals, to offer notes of encouragement and advice. These were delivered through an interpreter, since Stoppard speaks no Russian. One day, at lunch, slices of an anonymous meat were produced, and Stoppard asked what it was. “That is,” somebody said, seeking the correct English word, “language.”

Since this is a blog mostly about language, you have no doubt seen where that answer came from.

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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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murals

June 6, 2020

A usage that was new to me, suddenly George Floyd-prominent in the news. Two examples, with the usage boldfaced:

— “Watch: ‘Black Lives Matter’ mural painted on streets leading to White House”, caption for an NBC News video accompanying the story “D.C. Mayor Bowser has ‘Black Lives Matter’ painted on street leading to White House: The act was intended to honor protesters who had peacefully assembled earlier this week” by Rebecca Shabad and Dartunorro Clarkon on 6/5/20.

— from the Valley News Live site (KVLY-TV, Red River Valley News in Fargo ND): “DC paints huge Black Lives Matter mural near White House”, with this photo from CNN:

(#1)

Murals usually go on walls. This one — surprise — is on a roadway.

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Scatological advice

June 3, 2020

(Consider the title; perhaps not to everyone’s taste.)

Recently, a message from Steven Levine, adding to my stock of euphemisms in the Gray Lady, as we know the New York Times. The paper is famously meticulous about avoiding taboo vocabulary, to the point of doing its best to eschew even asterisking (on the grounds that that’s virtually spelling out the offensive words). Their circumlocutory euphemisms are sometimes entertaining, but often baffling. (See the Page of postings on Taboo vocabulary on this blog, which tags avoidance discussions, including many from the Gray Lady.)

Steven’s exemplar: From the NYT on 5/30, “In Days of Discord, a President Fans the Flames”:

The turmoil came right to Mr. [REDACTED]’s doorstep for the second night in a row on Saturday as hundreds of people protesting Mr. Floyd’s death and the president’s response surged in streets near the White House. While most were peaceful, chanting “black lives matter” and “no peace, no justice,” some spray painted scatological advice for Mr. [REDACTED], ignited small fires, set off firecrackers and threw bricks, bottles and fruit at Secret Service and United States Park Police officers, who responded with pepper spray.

Yes, yes, scatological advice. I guessed this was SHIT ON [REDACTED], which is certainly scatological, but not in fact any kind of advice: it looks like an imperative, exhorting people to defecate on Grabpussy, but is in fact a derogatory dismissive, a more obscene version of (THE) HELL WITH [REDACTED] (admittedly, perhaps by suggesting that putting feces on him would be justly deserved).

But no. Shit was not involved.

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This is a pipe

May 2, 2020

No doubt inspired by my 4/29/20 posting “Magritte by Banksy”, Mark Mandel commented yesterday on my 8/19/17 posting “Magrittean disavowals”:

I have never — well, not for many years — considered the “Magrittean disavowal” in “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”

(#1)

at all paradoxical. It’s quite accurate. That is not a pipe, but rather a painting of a pipe.

It’s a shame that the technical term oxymoron has come to be used for a figure of speech involving an apparent contradiction, since etymologically it’s ‘sharp’ + ‘foolish’ and would be just the label we’d want for claims like Mark’s above: superficially clever, but deeply foolish.

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Tod und Verklärung

April 18, 2020

Yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro takes a literary and anatomical turn:


(#1) literary: Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” / anatomical: the uvula, a tissue structure in the oral cavity (relevant here because of its involvement in snoring)

To make the allusions even denser, on his Facebook page, Wayno supplied the title “Mystery and Respiration” for #1, echoing the Paschal [that is, Easter] Mystery and Resurrection [of Jesus Christ], and alluding to the apparent resurrection of the body buried beneath the floorboards. And then this Death and Resurrection theme led me to Richard Strauss’s tone poem Tod und Verklärung, a secular (but still transcendent) story of death and transfiguration. Meanwhile, “Mystery and Respiration” also, of course, echoes the snoring theme.

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Predicative / locational

January 26, 2020

(In the illustrations section below, there are some racy images; just a warning for the sexually modest.)

From the annals of ambiguity: the Mother Goose and Grimm from the 20th:

(#1)

Both terms of the ambiguity are of interest on their own: short-form location names (as in Men’s Fragrances in Meet us in Men’s Fragrances, with the PP in Men’s Fragrances functioning as a VP adverbial, referring to the place of the meeting) vs. (subject-oriented) predicative adjuncts (as in Meet us without a shirt, with the PP without a shirt functioning to denote some characteristic — here, shirtlessness — of the referent of the subject).

Mother Goose intended the VP location adverbial reading of in Women’s Dresses, where Women’s Dresses is the name of a department in a department store (readers are expected to know, even these days, what department stores are and how they are organized and labeled). The dogs Grimm and Ralph understood instead the predicative adjunct reading of in women’s dresses, and so they appeared wearing women’s dresses, outré though that might be.

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