A recent One Big Happy has Ruthie, once again, coping with an expression unfamiliar to her — the negative polarity item (NPI) have the vaguest idea, under the scope of negative n’t in doesn’t have the vaguest idea — by interpreting vaguest as a phonologically close item familiar to her from watching daytime television: Vegas, short for Las Vegas.:
Archive for the ‘Idioms’ Category
Two recent Dilberts:
First Dilbert and the quality assurance guy Alan, then the pointy-haired boss and Alan.
Standard dictionaries don’t seem to have the technical use of assurance in quality assurance, though there is a techie Wikipedia entry on quality assurance that relates the expression to the verb ensure, rather than to the verb assure that the literalist Alan sees in it.
A P.C. Vey cartoon in the latest (Sept. 5th) New Yorker:
Three things: the parallel between a steak on the grill and a book in progress; authorial anxiety over writing on something and completing it; and the pragmatics of the idioms in how’s it going? and how’s it coming?
Today’s Zippy takes us to Minneapolis MN, where people are flinging bowling balls, flinging them down Memory Lanes:
Two recent One Big Happy strips, one with Joe updating a nursery rhyme (with Ruthie’s help), one with Ruthie once again in the Land of Ambiguity:
Two recent cartoons turning on fixed expressions, compounds in fact: a Rhymes With Orange and a One Big Happy:
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):
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”.
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?