Archive for the ‘Language and music’ Category

Pandering to the bass

June 6, 2021

About a Wayno/Piraro Bizarro from 5/29, which turns on the title phrase pandering to the bass being understood as a pun:

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)

We are to understand pandering to the bass as a pun on pandering to the base (which has become a stock expression in political contexts), and, given the image and text of the cartoon, as involving bass (/bes/ rather than /bæs/) ‘someone who plays the bass guitar in a rock band’ (rather than in one of 7 or 8 other possible senses).


Annals of appalling food, dessert division

August 28, 2018

My most recent appalling food posting — 6/20/18, “Annals of appalling food” — looked past the regrettable food of fast-food restaurants to other regrettable savory food (chicken fried bacon, in that case) for home cooking. There’s a whole subgenre devoted to appalling things to do with hot dogs. And another subgenre devoted to regrettable salads, typically combining sweet and savory elements in an uneasy union, as in the “Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise” of William Bolcomb’s satirical song.

Then there are appalling desserts, which reach beyond the usual components of sweet pastry, cake, pastry creams, jams, fruit, nuts, and sweet dessert sauces (chocolate, caramel, butterscotch) to the playful incorporation of ingredients like breakfast cereal, candy, marshmallows, Jello, whipped topping, pudding, and nut butters.

Which brought me, some weeks ago, to a recipe on the YellowBlissRoad site for, omigod, Twix Apple Fluff Salad (hat tip to Kim Darnell).


Hybrid referent, portmanteau name

July 24, 2018

On the NPR word game quiz show Says You! broadcast by KQED-FM on Sunday afternoon (the 22nd): a “bluff round” over the word flumpet. One team of panelists is offered three definitions for the word from the other team, in this case (paraphrasing, since I can’t find the podcast of the original):

1: a lard-based dumpling (no doubt suggested by the /ʌmp/ and the /l/ in flumpet and dumpling)

2: a frowsy (or frowzy), loose woman, and by extension flowers that are wilted, no longer fresh (no doubt suggested by a rhyming association of flumpet with strumpet)

3: a musical instrument combining a flugelhorn and a trumpet (a portmanteau of the words flugelhorn and trumpet, which share the letter U in their spelling: FL – U – MPET)

The three panelists on the other team were each given a card; one card had a definition for flumpet from some reputable source, and the other two said BLUFF. These panelists were given some time, during a musical interlude, to make up plausible definitions. Then the first panel had to decide which definition was the right one.


Punk piano

February 7, 2017

Today’s Zippy:


A natural pairing, Zippy and the Ramones.


The dobro

January 3, 2013

NYT obit (by Bill Friskics-Warren) for Mike Auldridge on the 1st:

Mike Auldridge Dies at 73; Lent Dobro Fresh Elegance

Mike Auldridge, a guitarist who became one of the most distinctive dobro players in the history of country and bluegrass music while widening its popularity among urban audiences, died on Saturday at his home in Silver Spring, Md.

Ah, the dobro. I assumed that it was originally a folk instrument, from some Slavic land, with a name in the local language. Well, not quite, as the obit went on to explain:

A resophonic (or resonating) acoustic guitar, the dobro produces sound by means of one or more spun metal cones instead of a wooden sound board. (The instrument’s name is a contraction of Dopera and brothers. Dopera was the surname of the Slovak-American brothers who patented an early version of the instrument in 1928.)

The name is what Ben Zimmer has labeled an acroblend, a combination of acronym and portmanteau (Ben uses blend to cover intentional combinations as well as inadvertent ones), for which I’d prefer the label acromanteau, or — naming the type from a prominent example — Nabisco (originally from National Biscuit Company)


Bear music

July 25, 2010

Joan Armatrading was on NPR’s Morning Edition Sunday today, which got me reflecting on her song “Eating the Bear”, from the 1981 album Walk Under Ladders. That led me to follow up the music of ruin (here) by attending to bear music, in particular the source of yet another formula (la, sir, how you do go on!), the one in:

Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you.

(roughly ‘win some, lose some’, but with more of an edge), as in the title of the 1974 album by rock/folk singer Ian Matthews (in a variant with and between the two clauses).

In Armatrading’s version, the clauses are inverted and put in the future:

Some days the bear will eat you, some days you’ll eat the bear.

offering the hope of triumph; in fact, in Armatrading’s song the singer eats the bear, hence the title.


The music of ruin

July 23, 2010

I was checking my iTunes to see if I already had a version of the “Turkish March” from Beethoven’s incidental music to The Ruin of Athens, Op. 113 (I’ll get to why I was engaged in this search later). Turns out I had four tracks with ruin in the track name or the album name:

“Ruint”, by Johnny Hodges with Duke Ellington, from Side by Side (see my ruint posting);

“Ruiner”, by Nine Inch Nails, from The Downward Spiral

“Don’t Ruin Our Happy Home”, from the “Odds & Ends” volume of Guilty: 30 Years of Randy Newman

“Ruination Day (Part 2)”, by Gillian Welch, from Time (The Revelator) (Have I mentioned how wonderful I think Gillian Welch is?)

And now one recording of the “Turkish March”, with more to come.

But five tracks scarcely scratch a micrometer into the surface of the ruin phenomenon; it turns out that the word is just huge in the music world.


Lyrics with variable slots

July 22, 2010

Two sources for this posting: my recent piece on this blog on, among other things, The Mikado; and my recent piece on Language Log (“Back on top”), on my return to the top of the authors’ list there, after some time as Zwicky Arnold, at the bottom.


“Oh, X the flowers of spring!”

July 20, 2010

Back in June, my grand-daughter (age 6) went, with her mother, to her first adult stage production (that’s ‘stage production for adults [as opposed to children]’, not ‘stage production with sexual content or taboo language’): Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado, as done to a treat by the Lyric Theatre of San Jose, in the Montgomery Theater  in San Jose (note theatre/theater ‘theatrical company’ and ‘building for theatrical productions’). We were worried that she wouldn’t be able to sit still and reasonably quiet — she is a very active, and sometimes noisy, child — out of boredom or incomprehension and expected that she would then just fall asleep as the rather long operetta continued into late hours.

But no. Opal was transfixed. Delighted, all the way through — except for Katisha’s lament, “Alone, and yet alive” in Act II, which she thought was stupid and boring and went on too long (I have to say I’m sympathetic to her view). Granted, Elizabeth had given her some prep for the event, including practice on “a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block” (which is not only lots of fun to say or sing, but also is satisfyingly gruesome). Still, it was a great success, and now Opal listens to recordings of the songs, sings some of them, has figured out that (thanks to the intentions that she and Henry, son of our friend Jason, have to get married when they grow up) she is Jason’s daughter-in-law elect, and generally bathes in a happy and spirited G&S glow.

Elizabeth and I have done our best to induce her to join us in watching at least one of the DVDs of the Mikado that I have — the second of these will bring me, eventually, to my point — but she has firmly resisted, without explanation, though I expect that for her anything other than the Lyric Theatre, live, would be like a re-make, and we all know that re-makes are almost never as good as the originals. (We’ve tried explaining that musical productions and plays aren’t like movies, that people perform — not re-make, perform — the good ones over and over again, but she’s had enough experience with re-done versions of classic children’s books to be deeply suspicious of some new version of the Mikado.)


The pig’s daughter

July 18, 2010

Another cartoon for the weekend, this one another Zippy in which Bill Griffith draws on references to 20th-century poetry (on other occasions, art), especially with a pop slant:

Even without the “Beatnik Poetry Day” caption, I would have recognized this as beatnik poetry. But echt-beatnik or Griffith-style faux-beatnik? Some of it sounded familiar enough to be the genuine article, and by now I’ve come to expect Griffith’s pop-culture references to be mostly right on target and not inventions.

I leave it to someone else to work out all the references, homing in instead on the one that clanged loudest in my memory, marrying the pig’s daughter.