Archive for the ‘Formulaic language’ Category

Every picture tells a story

October 28, 2020

(This posting starts with a homoerotic Daily Jocks ad — nothing close to the line visually or textually, but you might still want to exercise your judgment — moves through Doan’s pills and ends with musician Rod Stewart.)

… but what story? They’re just pictures, after all, subject to many interpretations. Even when the creator’s intentions are clear, there are often two (or more) intended stories for the same picture — typically, one literal and one allusive (consider still lifes with moral messages). In any case, other viewers are free to see stories the creator did not. And sometimes the pictures have no clear interpretation.

Which brings me to the Daily Jocks mailing of 10/26:


(#1) At the gym, two hunks eye each other’s crotches with facial expressions that would be heavy sexual cruises if exchanged face to face

Well, it’s a menswear ad, and comes with no explicit clues as to how it’s to be interpreted — maybe just as a generic homoerotic encounter (certainly homoerotic). But still you wonder: what’s their story? Are they an established couple, shown here appreciating each other’s bodies for the camera? Or did they just come across one another in the gym and are now setting up a trick? Or maybe merely complimenting each other through their gaze and facial expressions, each conveying that he thinks the other is really hot? (Nice body, buddy.)

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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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Crossed folk stories

September 9, 2020

Yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro cartoon:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page)

The strip explicitly refers to the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, but also alludes to the Piper’s son as having stolen a pig. This is baffling unless you know a particular English nursery rhyme, so we have another exercise in cartoon understanding.

Ok, let’s assume you get that. Then the cartoon is a kind of conceptual portmanteau, a cross between the Piper legend and the Piper’s son nursery rhyme. Then set in a modern law-enforcement context, juxtaposing some (stereotyped) version of the real world with the world of these two folk stories. Cool.

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cherchez la femme

September 8, 2020

Today’s morning name, a French expression whose literal meaning is straightforward, but whose uses in context are anything but.

From Wikipedia:

Cherchez la femme is a French phrase which literally means ‘look for the woman’. It is a cliche in detective fiction, used to suggest that a mystery can be resolved by identifying a femme fatale or female love interest.

The expression comes from the novel The Mohicans of Paris (Les Mohicans de Paris) published 1854–1859 by Alexandre Dumas (père) [an adventure story, not a detective story]. The phrase is repeated several times in the novel

… The phrase embodies a cliché of detective pulp fiction: no matter what the problem, a woman is often the root cause.

The phrase has thus come to refer to explanations that automatically find the same root cause, no matter the specifics of the problem.

Two plays on the phrase (from among many), below the fold:

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Donut alliteration

July 30, 2020

Today’s Zippy takes us to a perished donut shop (in Niceville FL), which gives him play for his well-known fascination with the sheer sounds of words:

(#1)

In panel 1, it’s alliteration with /d/: defunct donut dispensary with dismay. In the other two panels, with /ɛks/ (or with a more reduced vowel): examined the extent of extinguished excretions … not exasperated but exuberant. (In the latter case, the choice of vocabuary items is seriously strained, to get alliterative words.)

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Zippy for President

May 24, 2020

Am I elected yet? Am I re-elected yet? Zippyclone examples from the US presidential elections in 1984 and 1988. The big campaign poster from 1984, with the former variant:


(#1) Taco sauce in hand, Ding Dongs at the ready, Zippy throws his topknot into the electoral ring, challenging President Ronald Reagan and former Vice President Walter Mondale (Hat tip: Tom Frenkel)

It looks like Zippy is a perpetual independent candidate, but most of the campaign literature is in comic books, calendars, and posters, rather than in the strips. I’ve found one strip on his presidential runs, from 2012 (in the mainstream: incumbent President Barack Obama vs. former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney):

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What’s on YOUR shelf?

April 13, 2020

The bon appétit magazine mailing that came to me today: “Where to Order Your Favorite Pantry Staples Online: Your local grocery store is out of flour. The internet isn’t” by mackenzie fegan on 4/8/20:


(#1) An array of specialty staples to get you through sheltering in place

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A priest, a rabbit, and a minister

February 26, 2020

… walk into a bar. And into a Walk Into Bar joke, which then goes doubly meta. The rabbit brings a really big beer to the event. The joke has been around in print, in one form or another, for maybe 20 years. The image is a fantasist painting “Bunny with Beer” (from 2017) by the artist Omar Rayyan. The two joined in happy union by an unknown hand, during the past few days, in the form of a texty cartoon:

(#1)

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Timothy and Agrimony

February 25, 2020

(Plants, but also gay male life, with the latter focus leading to talk of mansex in street language (also with some deeply carnal (but fuzzed) photos of 69ing), so not for kids or the sexually modest.)

My morning names for 2/15: timothy and agrimony. A familiar crop grass (for grazing and hay) and a yellow-flowered bitter-tasting medicinal herb. Then these personified as two queer types: Timothy — called Timmy — the twink, a cute country boy, a hayseed, sometimes found with a stalk of grass between his teeth; and Agrimony — called Agro — the bitter old queen, jaded, sharp-tongued, largely disaffected with the queer community and feeling alienated from those in it.

The two men are of course unlikely to hook up, or even have anything to do with one another socially, but they share one bit of their sexual makeup: they both adore 69, find the exchange deeply satisfying. But characteristically, they prefer different positions for the act.

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