Archive for the ‘Grammatical categories’ Category

Technical terms

March 13, 2017

A recent One Big Happy, in which Joe faces a test question on the term collective noun:

Joe hopes that he can use what he knows about the verb collect and its derivatives to guess at what the grammatical term collective might mean. Ah, a mail carrier collects the mail (from a mailbox) and delivers it (to a mailbox), so mailbox must be a collective noun. BZZT!

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Tom Toro

June 9, 2016

Caught in the May 9th New Yorker, this Tom Toro cartoon:

(#1)

A little slideshow on time adverbials and the times they refer to, understood figuratively.

Toro hasn’t appeared on this blog before, but he’s a prolific cartoonist with an ear for language and an inclination to play with classic cartoon memes (like the desert island or, as below, penguins and their discriminability).

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data

August 10, 2015

A recent PHD Comics:

C (Count) — and PL — or M (Mass) — and SG — that is the question. But, yes, you need more than one data point.

[Addendum: I have added a Page about postings on C/M, here.]

Dead Tongues

July 15, 2015

News from the 2015 Linguistic Institute (at the University of Chicago), from Stephanie Shih: a performance yesterday by Dead Tongues, the (un)official band of Stanford Linguistics. Plus a stunning Lingstitute2015 logo for the band by Stephanie:

(#1)

Cue the Rolling Stones.

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The news for penises, Norwegian edition

June 27, 2015

Passed on by Chris Hansen on Facebook, this story of 6/23 from thelocal.no (“Norway’s news in English”), “Is this the worst summer job ever?”:

A nineteen-year-old in Norway has been hired by a sexual health charity to play a giant penis who surprises passers-by by spraying them with golden confetti.

“I thought it was hilarious. If I can do a good thing for others, just by being a dick, there is nothing better,” Philip van Eck, the man inside the penis costume, told Norway’s Tønsberg Blad newspaper.

It’s all about STDs.

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“Hash Brown Built-In”

February 9, 2015

On Facebook, this photo:

(#1)

Jeff Shaumeyer wondered:

(1) Does “hashbrowns” really have a common singular form, and is this it?

(Bob Boutwell amplified on this, saying that “Hashbrown potatoes” is commonly used on menus, but he’d never seen “hashbrown” used as a singular noun.)

And Robert Coren asked:

(2) And what’s a “hash brown built-in”, anyway?

I’ll have answers, but there’s a good bit of background to get through.

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Data on xkcd

February 6, 2015

On Language Log, a posting of today’s xkdc, #1483 on Quotative Like, posted by Geoff Pullum under the title “Linguists get tough on promoting language change”. And then from Mike Pope, a pointer to an earlier xkcd of linguistic interest that I’d missed:

One of Randall Munroe’s cartoons on how to annoy people.

Tall guys

December 31, 2014

(About gender rather than language.) Today’s Dilbert:

Meanwhile, collected in real life at a local restaurant yesterday, one Silicon Valley tech guy to another, veering briefly from Valley Talk to personal matters:

Chicks dig tall guys.

In another context, this could have been framed as

Guys dig short chicks.

On height, there’s a strong tendency towards dissortative mating, the socially ideal pair having a man taller than his female partner.

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The definite article of fame

August 6, 2014

In the NYT yesterday, an August 1st  letter from Pamela Shifman and Gloria Steinem in response to a July 30th op-ed essay on “The Girls Obama Forgot”. The letter-writers are identified in the Times as follows:

Ms. Shifman is executive director of the NoVo Foundation, which focuses on girls’ and women’s rights. Ms. Steinem is the writer and activist.

Both identifcations are semantically (or pragmatically) definite, conveying uniqueness in this case. The first has an anarthrous (article-less) title: executive director of X ‘the executive director of X’; in fact, the executive director of X would have been an entirely acceptable alternative, but the anarthrous version is shorter.

The second has the definite article, in a context where an indefinite article would have been entirely acceptable;

Ms. Steinem is a writer and activist

is not only syntactically well-formed, but also true. Why the definite article?

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Tenses here, tenses there

May 12, 2014

Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky offers this passage from the Ask a Manager blog of the 12th:

Managers and the possessive tense

I have a new manager who has placed his desk in the middle of the room, and conducts all of his conference calls in a rather loud fashion. In doing so, he constantly refers to the employees (myself and my peers) as “his” — e.g. “my team,” “my testers,” “my people.”

Am I wrong to feel a bit demeaned that my new manager is placing himself as a king among the common employee? His self-placement of prominence above those that he rules is causing quite a bit of resentment amongst “we the people.”

Elizabeth reports that this is otherwise an excellent blog (offering good advice on managing), but possessive tense is nonsensical as a technical term of grammar.

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