Archive for the ‘Formulaic language’ Category

Big Fag in a buzzcut

July 27, 2021

Two late July developments: the latest in a series of ever-shorter buzzcuts (with Kim Darnell wielding the clippers), finally reaching a minimal one that satisfies me thoroughly. Shorter than the crewcut that carried me through my late high school years, and requiring no stying. A bit shorter than the easy-care buzzcut my dad settled on in the last years of his life.


Huge hoary linguistics professor, wearied but smiling with pleasure — note the smile lines at the corners of the eyes — at his buzzcut and at the pink neon claim (both amiable and outrageous) to social space for his kind (photo by Kim Darnell)

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An adult adjacent industry firm

July 27, 2021

Ok, I’m leading with the meat of the story, the expression adult adjacent industry as a modifier of the noun firm ‘business company’ — an expression I believe was entirely new, and astonishing, to me (and so far seems to be attested only in the specific piece of e-mail, from what I’ll call the X Group, that brought the expression to me yesterday as a blogger and to at least one other blogger).

The expression is stunningly euphemistic, ultimately referring to a class of businesses that sell sex: adjacent is euphemistic for direct involvement in (it’s not merely near to, but digs right in with gusto), and the involvement in question is in the adult industry, a euphemism for the sex industry, in particular for the branch of it that supplies photographic and/or written pornography (hot stuff). (NOAD on the relevant sense of the adj. adult: … [d] sexually explicit or pornographic (used euphemistically to refer to a movie, book, or magazine).)

The point of the X Group’s mailing to me was to enlist my blog in a scheme of advertising and sales on behalf of the adult adjacent industry firm — call it Firm Q — with money to be made for me. The assumption of the mailing was that such transactions are the very purpose of blogging, and (to judge from the advice that the company now provides) WordPress seems to agree that blogging is all about making deals. In fact I get approached, on average, once a day — some days none, but some days three in a row — by a company that wants me to enter into some sort of advertising or sales deal with them. Nothing as spectacular as an adult adjacent industry firm (earlier today: advertise a site providing information on what to do in Wilmington NC in exchange for the site’s advertising my blog and so boosting my blog’s search engine score).

Note 1: I actually pay WordPress a fee to keep this blog free of advertising.

Note 2: I never respond to these overtures, even to say a polite no; my earliest experiences with these things was that if you replied at all, that merely encouraged the sender to think you might eventually be open to their invitation, so that they redoubled their efforts. Deletion and stony silence are the only way.

Not entirely irrelevant digression: I’m now taken with the phrase adult adjacent industry firm and have been chanting it as a tetrametrical mantra, aDULT aDJAcent INdustry FIRM (WS WSW | SWW S); repeat it three times for pleasure. It might also work to celebrate sturdy young men engaging in anal intercourse with one another on video — the sort of often-avowed interest of mine that presumably led the X Group to fix on my blog as one that might enter into an intimate relationship with the as-yet-unidentified Firm Q.

But, back to beginnings. Let me start with Margalit Fox.

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An allusion and a pun

July 1, 2021

🐇🐇🐇 The Mother Goose and Grimm strip from 6/30, with an allusion to an item of culture (the catchphrase “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition”, quoting from sketches from the Monty Python tv shows and recordings) and perpetrating a (fairly absurd) pun on the phrase:


(#1) The bull terrier Grimm and the cat Attila confront punishment for their household misdeed

So the ostentatiously playful allusion to the Spanish Inquisition is motivated by the situation in the strip.

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Pandering to the bass

June 6, 2021

About a Wayno/Piraro Bizarro from 5/29, which turns on the title phrase pandering to the bass being understood as a pun:


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

We are to understand pandering to the bass as a pun on pandering to the base (which has become a stock expression in political contexts), and, given the image and text of the cartoon, as involving bass (/bes/ rather than /bĂŠs/) ‘someone who plays the bass guitar in a rock band’ (rather than in one of 7 or 8 other possible senses).

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The elephant and plum

April 9, 2021

Not Frog and Peach, but Elephant and Plum, in a kid joke as told by Ruthie in the One Big Happy strip from 2/22 (in my comics feed on 3/21):

(#1)

Four things: kid jokes, of which the Elephant and Plum variant above is a particular clever example; the saying about elephants on which it depends; elephant jokes, of which the joke above is not the classic Elephant and Plum exemplar; and the ambiguity of “When did you laugh at it?”, which turns on the defining property of deictic elements like the interrogative when.

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Pig mistake

March 20, 2021

Headline in a brief box story (on Price controls in the Philippines) in The Economist of 3/6/21 (p. 35). An obvious piece of word play: the story is about a big mistake on pigs.

In this brief story (five paragraphs plus a captioned picture), there are five bits of language play: two imperfect puns (the title Pig mistake and the caption The sow must go on, an imperfect pun based on spelling — the show must go on — rather than pronunciation); plus three allusions to formulaic language:

— in the subhead (A) ham-fisted (decree is trampled by market forces)

— in (it will be some time before) those little piggies get to market

— in (If pork adobo … is to remain the national dish, the taxman will need to) go the whole hog

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Treading down the thorny path

March 16, 2021

Two evergreen topics in grammar and usage: so-called “split infinitives”, where some usage critics have insisted that they must always be avoided, however unnatural the results of this avoidance are; and modifier attachment, where jokes are often made about one of the potential attachments, however preposterous the interpretation associated with this attachment is.

The two topics are connected through their unthinking devotion to dogmas of grammatical correctness: avoid split infinitives, avoid potential ambiguity. A devotion that leads adherents down the thorny path of usage rectitude to using unnatural syntax and entertaining preposterous interpretations.

But first, the thorny path. The (tough) counterpart to the (easy) primrose path.

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Smell the roses in a field

February 26, 2021

Two cartoons in my comics feed on 2/25 (otherwise known as Yay! Pfizer1 Day! at my house) on language play: a Wayno/Piraro Bizarro playing on formulaic language (the metaphorical idiom / cliché stop and smell the roses), and a Piccolo/Price Rhymes With Orange with a play on the ambiguity of field.

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Hello, sailor

February 16, 2021

(This posting is about (real or fictive) sexual encounters between men, sometimes discussed in street language, so it’s not for kids or the sexually modest.)

The Daily Jocks ad from 2/15, under the header:


(#1) With the motor boat emoji (there’s a ferry emoji that might have done the job here, with a bad pun as a bonus)

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Slip and pipers

February 14, 2021

Today’s Bizarro offer some transposition (spooneristic) word play, involving the exchange of the initial syllables of the two accented words in the clichĂ©d expression pipe and slippers — giving the eminently depictable slip and pipers:


(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 9 in this strip — see this Page.)

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