Archive for the ‘Idioms’ Category

Fixed expressions

August 7, 2016

Two recent cartoons turning on fixed expressions, compounds in fact: a Rhymes With Orange and a One Big Happy:




The 31-room elephant in the room

July 5, 2016

Today’s Zippy, with 19th-century novelty architecture:



Monday language comics

May 16, 2016

Two Monday comics on linguistic topics: a Calvin and Hobbes with an unfortunate ambiguity (pitch the tent), and a Zits with a portmanteau for a combo sport (dodgebowl):




Punch in the presence of the passenjare

May 15, 2016

About the British humo(u)r magazine (my cartoon/comics library has two anthologies from the publication; the second has the Ed Fisher cartoons I posted about yesterday) and about its long history (going back to 1841). The magazine was given to plays on the word punch, but so far as I can tell, not involving the quotation in the title of this posting — a 140-year-old meme, but a North American one.

To come: the magazine; uses of the word punch; and “Punch in the presence of the passenjare”.


Ain’t it the truth?

April 5, 2016

In today’s feed, this One Big Happy from 3/7:


The linguistic point: Ruthie’s mother’s “Ain’t it the truth?” — ain’t in the speech of someone who almost surely isn’t otherwise a user of this word. Instead, she’s playfully quoting a very widespread non-standardism, much as if she’d said “C’est vrai!” or “Veritable!”, in French, in the middle of an English conversation, conveying the equivalent of informal “That’s for sure!” or “You said it!”

The McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs (2002) has an entry for “Ain’t it the truth” as a conventionalized expression, both in non-standard varieties and as an importation into informal standard speech:

Rur. or Jocular That is true.; Isn’t that true? (Used to agree with a statement someone has made.) Jane: I swear, life can be a trial sometimes. Bill: Yes, Lordy. Ain’t it the truth?


Look who’s talking!

April 1, 2016

Interplay between the characters (Richard) Castle and (Kate) Beckett in a re-run from the show (season 1 epsode 8, “Ghosts”, originally broadcast 4/27/09) when they come across a suspect’s room littered with photographs of and clippings about another character:

(1) Look who’s stalking!

Ouch, the pun, on

(2) Look who’s talking!

— an expression that might remind you of the movie. From Wikipedia:

Look Who’s Talking is a 1989 romantic comedy film written and directed by Amy Heckerling, and stars John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. Bruce Willis plays the voice of Mollie’s son, Mikey. The film features George Segal as Albert, the illegitimate father of Mikey.


Your money’s no good here

March 16, 2016

Today’s Bizarro, exploiting an ambiguity in pragmatics, use in discourse contexts:


(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

Your money’s no good here has a use as a pragmatic idiom, conventionally conveying that at this moment it’s of no use in the context because the services or goods it’s being offered for are being supplied for free, are complimentary, are “on the house”. But in the cartoon, the bartender is speaking literally, saying that the customer’s money is no good here because it’s not in fact legal tender.


Ruthie v. idioms

March 10, 2016

Yesterday’s One Big Happy has Ruthie coping with idiomaticity:

The whole idiom here is (be) out of sorts (with two somewhat different senses), and Ruthie understands something of its meaning as a whole, but she’s also trying to understand it as to some extent compositional, with the parts out of and a noun sorts (whatever that refers to). There are several possible senses for out of; the one Ruthie’s fixed on is an opposite of in (but there’s at least one other sense she might have gone for).


butt/booty, dial/call

January 20, 2016

Yesterday’s Rhymes With Orange:

The nouns butt and booty overlap in their uses, and so do the verbs dial and call, and so do the related nouns dial and call. However… the compound nouns butt dial and booty call (also the related verbs butt dial and booty call) are both slang idioms, and they aren’t at all interchageable.



December 24, 2015

Heard in a tv commercial for Scratch-Aide:

Let’s face it: if you’ve got wood, you’ve got scratches.

Unintendedly, with an ambiguity in got wood: the literal ‘have wood’ and the idiomatic ‘have an erection’ (of the penis), ‘have a woody / boner / hard-on’.



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