Archive for the ‘Language and culture’ Category

Knabenschiessen!

September 13, 2022

The introductory paragraph below was written in a moment of hope yesterday morning (9/12). But then I was consumed by medical problems triggered by last week’s extraordinarily high temperatures; by hours and hours of making arrangements for medical appointments (one this morning, others on each of the following mornings this week, some in the future); hours of doing work-arounds for the continuing non-renewal of my Adjunct Professor position at Stanford; and then, this morning (9/13), trying to cope — all afternoon, problem still far from fixed — with Gmail access on my computer (receiving and sending) disappearing entirely. I am crazed, distraught, angry, gasping for breath, afflicted by joint and muscle pains. But Not Dead Yet.

I did achieve my minimal goals for symbolic recognition of the two cultural holidays yesterday, but at 7 p.m. had to give up on explaining Knabenschiessen to you in a timely fashion. But I’m not sure when I’ll be able to craft a posting. Watch this space.

[9/12] In one part of my life, the Chinese-culture-friendly part, this is the third and last day of the Mid-Autumn Festival weekend, for which I will sacrifice a red bean mooncake as the sun sets. In another part, the Swiss-culture-friendly part, this is the third and last day of (as we would say it in English) Boys-Shooting weekend, for which I am wearing (by fortunate accident) my Swiss flag gym shorts (I have four handsome lightweight gym shorts I rotate through by the week — last week’s Pride Rainbow pair just came out of the washer). (I am also wearing a pink Gay as Fuck t-shirt, but that’s untethered to any immediately relevant gay-cultural occasion.)

 

The fish art of Ray Troll

December 15, 2020

An accidental find in preparing yesterday’s posting on Ray Troll’s 2011 political cartoon “Octopi Wall Street”: a whole vein of Ray Troll fish art, most of it silly or raunchy, full of bad puns and surprising references to fish (“The Da Vinci Cod”, featuring the Mona Lisa with a fish). Four examples from a great many…

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Before or after?

July 26, 2020

In the 9/14/19 One Big Happy, Ruthie wrestles with a workbook question, apparently something along the lines of “Does 4th Street come before 6th Street or after it?”:

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There’s a lot packed in here. Crudely. the strip is about what before conveys, and that turns out to be dependent on the context. Ruthie takes before to refer to the ordering of a particular 4th and 6th Street in her own actual neighborhood, taking herself to provide the point of view for the spatial ordering (every spatial ordering via before rests on some point of view). But what’s the point of view of a workbook exercise? Who’s asking the question? For what purpose?

Now we’re out in the pragmatic weeds. Crucially, Ruthie has to understand that the workbook question is not an attempt to elicit useful information from her, but instead aims to get her to perform in a test of her sociocultural knowledge.

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The clown facial

June 18, 2019

Today’s Rhymes With Orange, with a clown facial:

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From NOAD, the nouning of the Adj facial ‘of or affecting the face’:

noun facial: a beauty treatment for the face.

Then the noun facial ‘facial treatment (for beauty)’ serving as head in the N + N compound clown facial (for a pieing — a pie-in-the-face — involving a clown or clowns), which contrasts in interpretation with the compounds cum facial (for a sexual practice in which semen is ejaculated onto the face) and beauty facial (used to clarify that the ‘facial treatment’ sense is intended).

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The Chinese diner

June 5, 2019

Today’s Zippy takes us to a bit of now-vanished Camden NJ, the Elgin Diner Restaurant, and, next to it, a fantasy Chinese diner, an amalgam of two items of demotic culinary Americana: the classic diner (an Art Deco railcar where people meet to eat plain, familiar food); and the little Chinese (that is, American-Cantonese) restaurant:

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This will take us on the road to Ardmore PA, Wheeling WV, and Idaho Falls ID. For the trip, choose a diner classic — tuna melt, patty melt, club sandwich, meatloaf, macncheese — from column A; and a Chinese-restaurant classic — hot and sour soup, chow mein, garlic eggplant, General Tso’s chicken, sweet and sour pork — from column B. And then wok this way.

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Two cents, common sense, incense, and peppermints

March 27, 2019

The 2/26 One Big Happy, riffing on /sɛns/, in idioms with sense (common sense, horse sense, nonsense), in incense, and in cents (also in an idiom, two cents):

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Which, of course, leads us inevitably to the psychedelic days of 1967, with their whiff of incense and peppermints (plus some pot).

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Better than ABC order

February 2, 2019

Once again, Ruthie grapples with ABC order, in the January 6th One Big Happy:

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The larger context: test tasks for kids, and what they’re for. Eventually this will take us to queens.

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19th-century Swiss steak

July 16, 2018

Who put the Swiss in Swiss steak? In my July 13th posting “Swiss steak” I deprecated the popular idea that a verb swiss lies behind this usage and suggested reverting to the simple proposal that Swiss is just the nationality Adj, but that the composite Swiss steak is not predicational — Swiss steak is not Swiss, but American — and is instead relational, entailing only that Swiss steak is related to or associated with Switzerland in some way (perhaps by virtue of the ingredients or techniques involved in its preparation).

But investigating any proposal about the origin of the expression requires assembling much more evidence than I had available to me in my searches on the net: many more, and earlier, examples, with rich information about the cultural context surrounding them.

A notable step in this direction has now been made by Peter Reitan, who has access to large newspaper archives and experience in using these resources. He reported on his initial explorations in a short posting to ADS-L yesterday, a note suggesting that 19th-century occurrences of Swiss steak indicate that the term might have originated along the Ohio River in southern Indiana, in an area where Francophone Swiss settled in the early 19th century.

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Where is Gilroy?

September 5, 2017

Restrain the impulse to reply “Gilroy was here” (I’ll get to that below); the title is an echo of my 7/7/15 posting “Where is Ojai?”, which was about whether the city of Ojai, in Ventura County CA, is in California’s Central Coast region or in in the South Coast region (along with Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties).

Just so for Gilroy, a city in (far southern) Santa Clara county: is it in the Central Coast region, or in the Bay Area region on the northern California coast?

Ojai and the rest of Ventura County are in a cultural liminal zone, between central and south; and Gilroy and neighboring Santa Cruz county are in a cultural liminal zone, between central (with small cities, picturesque open spaces, and extensive rural or semi-rural areas) and Bay Area (mostly dense urban and surburban settlement).

I stumbled onto the Gilroy question through food, specifically through Original California Style Hot Pepper Sauce, made in Gilroy (but encountered on a table at the Peninsula Fountain Grill, here in Palo Alto), whose makers advertise:

Pepper Plant Pepper Sauce was developed by a lover of spicy peppers who wanted to enjoy their unique taste year round. Pepper Plant quickly became a favorite of the California Central Coast.

The Pepper Plant folks seem pretty clear that they’re on the Central Coast (along with Watsonville, Salinas, Monterey, and Carmel) — at the northern tip of the region, granted, but in it.

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Morning: spanakopita

February 23, 2017

Spanakopita was the morning name some weeks ago, and then this morning the bon appétit site offered instructions on how to “make spanakopita pie”, with a yummy photo:

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The full instructions, which are pretty complex, amount to:

make the spinach filling (using frozen spinach), prepare the phyllo pastry (using frozen phyllo), assemble, bake

The result, seen above, is spanakopita:

(in Greek cooking) a phyllo pastry stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. ORIGIN modern Greek, literally ‘spinach pie.’ (NOAD2)

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