Archive for the ‘Count & mass’ Category

Lemon is the vanilla of Italian ices

June 9, 2019

The 6/7 Zippy takes us to the Jersey Shore for some water ice in a squeeze cup:


(#1) At the Strollo’s Lighthouse Italian Ice shop in Long Branch NJ: Zippy (alarmed at climate change) speaking on the left, Claude Funston (who denies climate change) on the right

On the setting. On Strollo’s. On lemon as the vanilla of Italian ices. On the relevant C(ount) noun ice, the nominal Italian ice, and the compounds water ice and squeeze cup. On Italian ice and the family of similar confections.

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On the dog food watch

May 29, 2019

The 5/27 Wayno-Piraro Bizarro strip, set in the Land of Dogs:


(#1) (If you wonder about the secret symbol in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there’s just one in this strip — see this Page.)

A dog food with Quibbles in its name is of course not going to agree with you, in one sense of agree with. So you can understand the cartoon, and see that the pun on agree with in it makes it amusing — and still miss the extra joke that Wayno and Piraro threw in for you.

The cartoon would have been funny if the dog food had been named just Quibbles. But Quibbles and Fits is a lot funnier, because it’s another pun, on the name of the (actual) dog food Kibbles and Bits. But of course you have to know about this particular commercial product to get that joke.

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homeworks

May 21, 2019

A facebook exchange back on the 6th, between Andrew Carnie (professor of linguistics and dean of the Graduate College at the Univ. of Arizona) and Karen Chung (associate professor at National Taiwan University, teaching courses on linguistics and English).

Andrew: [Student], who only came to class less than 50% of the time, and turned in a bunch of assignments (really) late: These homeworks are way. too. hard. It’s unfair.

Karen: “Homework” as a countable noun? Is he/she a native speaker of English?

Academics will recognize Andrew’s note as the plangent lament of a professor facing the grading tasks at the end of a term, confronted with a self-entitled student who believes they are really smart, so preparation outside of class shouldn’t take much work (and they should be able to ace the final without much studying).

But what Karen picks up on is the use the noun homework as a C(ount) noun, clearly so because it occurs in the plural form homeworks here; for the M(ass) noun homework, the usage would be: This homework is way. too. hard. Or else: These homework assignments are way. too. hard.

Much as I sympathize deeply with Andrew’s lament — having had nearly 50 years of similar experiences (fortunately far outweighed by students who were a delight to teach) — what this posting is about is the C/M thing. There’s a fair amount to get clear about first, and then I’ll have some analysis, some data, and some reflections on larger matters (language use in particular communities of practice, the tension between brevity and clarity as factors in language use).

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Give Head for Christmas!

December 13, 2018

(Significant sexual content, not for children or the sexually modest.)

Making the rounds on Facebook, this photo from a store sportswear department, with a sign that appears to be exhorting Christmas shoppers to give head ‘perform oral sex’:

(#1)

Not that some prime seasonal head wouldn’t be a fine holiday gift — but the exhortation is, alas, only to give products of the Head company, which sells (among other things) sportswear.

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What do you have?

November 25, 2018

The One Big Happy from October 12th, a dialogue between Joe and James in which we experience a tiny bit of the fabulous flexibility of the English verb have:

(#1)

James seems not to have registered the noun hobby (‘an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure’ (NOAD)) and so takes hobbies in have hobbies to be the name of a disease, infection, or medical condition, like (the) mumps. For him, chickenpox and the mumps, but not hobbies is just an ordinary coordination, but for the rest of us, it’s prime-grade zeugma, like (I had) asthma and artistic inclinations — with the extra wrinkle that though both chickenpox and mumps end in a plural-resembling /s/ (and so superficially resemble the PL hobbies), both are grammatically SG:

chickenpox / (the) mumps once was / *were a common childhood disease, but vaccines have nearly eliminated it / *them [SG for subject-verb agreement and also for anaphor selection]

Two notes: on the morphosyntax of disease names; and on the extraordinary versatility of have (which just invites zeugmas and zeugmoids).

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Just a hijink

June 28, 2018

The Adam@home strip from June 5th (recommended to me by Robert Coren):

(#1)

It’s all about this hijink, with SG hijink, (roughly) ‘joke, bit of playfulness’. The usage is rare.

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Water source of questionable information

April 7, 2018

This New Scientist cartoon by Tom Gauld:

Five nominals of the form N1 of Mod N2. The first panel has the model for the other four: the metaphorical idiom family fount of all N2, where N2 refers to a kind of information. The last four are somewhat snide plays on this original. In effect, the cartoon supplies a template for generating fresh — in two senses —  metaphorical idiom families on the basis of an attested one.

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STIR FRYS

January 12, 2018

From the recent Linguistic Society of America meetings in Salt Lake City, via Mike Pope, this sign in the window at the downtown restaurant Mollie & Ollie:

(#1)

Of linguistic note: the spelling STIR-FRYS — rather than STIR-FRIES — for the plural of the C[ount] noun STIR-FRY (most commonly spelled as hyphenated STIR-FRY, but occasionally solid STIRFRY or separated STIR FRY). This spelling preserves the identity of the base word FRY and so treats the noun STIR-FRY as an inviolable unit.

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A processed food flavor

October 20, 2017

That’s from the NYT on the 17th (on-line), Frank Bruni’s op-ed column “Will Pumpkin Spice Destroy Us All?”:

(#1) In the labyrinth of pumpkin spice

It’s invention run amok, marketing gone mad, the odoriferous emblem of commercialism without compunction or bounds. It’s the transformation of an illusion — there isn’t any spice called pumpkin, nor any pumpkin this spicy — into a reality.

Pumpkin on its own is bland. What to do, if you’re not fond of bland? Pumpkin pie can get some pizazz from spices — especially cinnamon and nutmeg, also used to flavor eggnog, for similar reasons.

Such spice mixtures have been around for centuries, but only in recent years has pumpkin (pie) spice achieved commercial superstardom. Leading to Bruni’s comic savaging above, and to a Kaamran Hafeez cartoon (yesterday’s daily cartoon for the New Yorker).

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Pizza Boy outtakes

October 12, 2017

(About English, but in the context of a gay porn flick, with plain-language discussions of men’s bodies and mansex, so not for kids or the sexually modest.)

Two items of linguistic interest that came up in preparing a posting (soon to appear) on pizza boys as cultural figures, especially in gay porn, the great work of the genre being William Higgins’s 1986 The Pizza Boy: He Delivers. From scene 5 of the movie, the sexual slang canyon yodeling ‘anilingus’ and an occurrence of underwear as a plural count N.

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