Archive for the ‘Language and ethnicity’ Category

bunny ears

May 21, 2018

It started with a candid photo of people at a social gathering, with one person making a V hand gesture behind the head of the person next to them, much as in this photo of pro tennis players:

(#1) Swiss jock jokery:  Stan Wawrinka doing the ‘bunny ears’ gesture behind Roger Federer

Bunny-earing someone is a prank (NOAD on the noun prank: ‘a practical joke or mischievous act’), pranks being a very culture-specific form of play + humor that deserve analytic attention that I’m not able to provide, but will just take as a cultural given here.

To come: a bit of the history of bunny-earing; senses of the expression bunny ears (illustrating (mostly metaphorical) sense developments in many directions); and uses of the V hand gesture (illustrating symbolic functions of many different kinds; the gesture itself is “just stuff”, without intrinsic meaning, which can be exploited for many different symbolic purposes). The act, the meanings of the linguistic expression for the act, the cultural significances (or “social meanings”) of the act.

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Mayotoon

May 5, 2018

For National Cartoonists Day, this Bizarro/Wayno collaboration from 2010:

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

Ah, the Banana Peel trope. Get a cartoonist!

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The saguaro in bloom

December 7, 2017

Here in northern California, we’ve had some early rain — not very often and not a lot, but enough to turn the golden hillsides to bright new green. And enough to convince the cacti and succulents in Stanford’s Arizona Garden that Their Time Has Come, so they’re bursting with new growth and breaking out in flowers. Notably, a big ol’ saguaro cactus has thrown out huge creamy blossoms, much like these in this photo from the net:

(#1) The state flower of AZ; NM claims the yucca

Meanwhile, the saguaro serves as an anthromorphic symbol — a man with both arms in the air — and a phallic symbol (an interpretation encouraged by the fact that the cactus is, oh dear, prickly).

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He had an American name

October 8, 2017

Yesterday, on the Our Bastard Language group on Facebook, this entertaining item passed on by two members of the group from Thunder Dungeon’s page:

(#1)

Despite the fact that many Americans are accustomed to confronting, almost every day, names they don’t recall ever having heard before — well, most of us have ancestries from elsewhere, a lot of different elsewheres — there are still many names we recognize as “American”, even if we have some sense of the ethnic heritage of the bearers of those names. They might be perceived as English, Scots, Dutch, Irish, German, Jewish, Italian, Mexican-American, French, or whatever, but for us they count as American. And we are keenly aware of divergences from the set of typically American names, as above: Steve is an American personal name, Sleve is not; Dwight is an American personal or family name, Dwigt is not; Hudnutt is an American family name, Dugnutt is not; Gonzalez is an American family name, Bonzalez is not.

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This weekend’s tv hunk

February 25, 2017

… hails from New Zealand. Pana Hema Taylor (or Hema-Taylor), who I recently watched in the first season of the New Zealand detective series The Brokenwood Mysteries, in which he plays Jared Morehu. The man in a p.r. head shot:

(#1)

Hema Taylor has a sturdy physique, a powerful but attractive face, and a strong physical presence – definitely a hunk.

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X queen

December 19, 2015

I’ll be posting mostly about a family of snowclonelet composites of the form X queen, in which the queen component is a word going back to Old English, with the meaning ‘woman, wife’, though a lot of history has intervened. Eventually we get to things like

the gay partner-preference snowclonelet X queen, denoting ‘gay man who prefers Y men as romantic or sexual partners’, where Y is a class of people and where X refers to something, typically a food, associated with Y

— for example, rice queen, denoting a man, typically white, with a preference for partners who are East Asians or of East Asian descent (given that rice is a characteristic food of East Asians).

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Armenian days

April 27, 2015

Some time ago I came to consciousness in the middle of the night to intriguing music from WQXR (classical music from NYC): a collage of melodies, many hauntingly semi-familiar. Hmm, Charles Ives? Not any Ives I recognized, and quieter and less assertive than you expect from Ives. Unfamiliar and charming.

Symphony No. 50 Mount St Helens by Alan Hovhaness. And that took me to Armenians in the U.S., especially to the west of Boston (near where I lived when I was in grad school); to the Armenian diaspora; and to the genocide, a hundred years ago, that triggered the dispersal of Armenians.

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Note: ethnic names

April 19, 2015

In the NYT on the 17th an obit by Daniel Slotkin, “Ira Lewis, Actor and Playwright, Dies at 82”. Fascinating life in the theater, ending with this familial note:

Mr. Lewis, who lived in Westfield, N.J., is survived by two brothers, Marvin and Seymour.

Lovely: Ira, Marvin, and Seymour, three traditional American Jewish names. Times have changed. A couple of generations ago, such names went out of fashion, to be replaced by more generically “American” (gentile) names — for men, by a collection of Irish-derived names. So Ira, Marvin, and Seymour became Kevin, Sean, and Brady.