Archive for the ‘Language and race’ Category

A book for the professor

October 22, 2018

On Facebook yesterday, this message from the J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor of Linguistics and the Humanities at Stanford University, my excellent colleague John R. Rickford:

Last night (Oct. 20), I experienced one of the most moving, memorable events of my academic career! After giving a keynote talk at the 47th annual conference on New Ways of Analyzing Variation in language, at New York University, I was presented with a festschrift (book) containing 47 articles and 9 vignettes by faculty colleagues and former students from around the world. It was a surprise gift to mark my retirement (last Stanford class is Jun 2019). Tears flooded my eyes more than once, beginning with the moment I saw all 4 of our children and 6 grandchildren in the huge audience, and ending with editors Renee Blake and Isa Buchstaller presenting me with four bound pre-print volumes and the contributors and family members coming on stage. The book, entitled “The Roundtable Companion to John Russell Rickford,” will be about 588 pages when printed (May 2019). This was truly one of those life-moments that “take your breath away.”

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Fly formulaicity

October 8, 2018

… in the 10/3 Wayno/Bizarro collab entitled “Off the wall”:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 5 in this strip — see this Page.)

A little festival of formulaicity. In the title, the (informal) idiom off the wall and an allusion to the idiom fly on the wall. In the interviewee’s remark, the (colloquial) idiom fly in the buttermilk and perhaps an allusion to the song “Ole Buttermilk Sky” [10/9: but see the comment below on “Skip to My Lou”]; an allusion to a family of “Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup” jokes; and the idiom fly in the ointment. Plus a pair of excellently anthropomorphic houseflies on a tv talkshow; if it’s a late-night show, it could be Fly By Night (with the idiom fly-by-night).

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The Rickford plenary address

October 2, 2018

Tomorrow at Stanford, John Rickford is doing a dry run for his plenary address at the NWAV (New Ways of Analyzing Variation) conference later this month:

Class and Race in the Analysis of Language Variation and the Struggle for Social Justice: Sankofa
John R. Rickford, Stanford University
Abstract for NWAV-47 plenary, NYU, 10/20/18

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Brush away the blue-tailed skink

September 4, 2018

From Chris Zable on Facebook on August 3rd, a photo from her family’s holiday in Florida, with her comment:

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“Spotted this little lizard with a bright blue tail on a fence rail at the Tallahassee Museum. Much of their space is a zoo of local native species in generously-sized enclosures that are just fenced off bits of native habitat. We saw pumas, red wolves, and foxes among other critters.”

As good a photo of a blue-tailed skink as any you can find on the net. To come: on skinks; on the “Blue Tail Fly” song; and on my gay highjacking of the song, as “Blue Tailed Skink” (with skink as a portmanteau, skank + twink) — taking things far from Chris’s original child-friendly travel report.

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Book flash: New Work on Speech Acts

August 16, 2018

What looks to be an excellent report on work in semantics/pragmatics on speech acts, from OUP:

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Mud, shit, and chocolate

July 30, 2018

Caught on re-run tv yesterday, in the Law & Order S19 E10 episode “Pledge” (from 1/21/09):

Your entire case rests on this girl’s testimony. If her only impetus to cooperate is greed, you’re in trouble. Who dangled money in front of her in the first place?

The cops. They knew she was in debt, so they pressed her pretty hard.

It’s going to look like we bought her testimony. What a mud sandwich this is turning into.

And only a few months before that, in an emotional  9/29/08 speech on the floor of the U.S. Congress by Rep. John Boehner in support of the TARP bill bailing out big banks:

None of us came here to have to vote for this mud sandwich!

(You can watch it here.)

Yes, mud sandwich. A euphemism for shit sandwich.

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That bastard mongrel half-breed, the tromboon

July 25, 2018

To yesterday’s posting “Hybrid referent, portmanteau name” (mostly about the flumpet, with a bit on the fluba), Robert Coren added a comment about Peter Schickele / P.D.Q. Bach and his invention, the tromboon:

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The tromboon is a musical instrument made up of the reed and bocal of a bassoon, attached to the body of a trombone in place of the trombone’s mouthpiece. It combines the sound of double reeds and the slide for a distinctive and unusual instrument. The name of the instrument is a portmanteau of “trombone” and “bassoon”. The sound quality of the instrument is best described as comical and loud.

The tromboon was developed by Peter Schickele, a skilled bassoonist himself, and featured in some of his live concert and recorded performances. Schickele called it “a hybrid – that’s the nicer word – constructed from the parts of a bassoon and a trombone; it has all the disadvantages of both”. This instrument is called for in the scores of P. D. Q. Bach’s oratorio The Seasonings, as well as the Serenude (for devious instruments) and Shepherd on the Rocks, With a Twist. (Wikipedia link)

Here I’m focusing on that’s the nicer word: just what did Schickele think (in 2008) was a less nice, more offensive, way to refer to a hybrid (more specifically, to someone of mixed race, which is probably where the insult vocabulary for hybrids is going to come from)? Specifically, what does an old white guy addressing a mostly white audience think might be a more offensive way to refer to hybrids? (A young black guy would probably insult a half-black half-white guy by calling him white.)

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Food and sex for the 4th

July 6, 2018

Running a bit late, but here are four (US) Independence Day items: two pieces of watermelon news (just food); phallic hot dogs (food and sex); and a go-to guy for holiday gay porn (just sex). The last two items involve men’s bodies and mansex discussed in street language, so aren’t suitable for everyone.

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punks

May 30, 2018

Or: new adventures in sexuality slurs. Brought to my attention by “Is Punk the New F Word?: The word has been used to bully gay black boys for decades” by Charles Stephens in The Advocate issue for June/July 2018:

… Of all the homophobic slurs thrown around, being called a punk is the one I recall the most vividly. It cut the deepest. I don’t remember the first time I was called a punk, but I do remember the faces of those who hurled the curse my way. I can still see how their mouths contorted as they pronounced the slur and the contagion that followed — poisonous words polluting the air, followed by the deafening silence of teachers and other adults watching passively. I learned two things from this: (1) adults don’t want to be punks either, and (2) you can fight back or run away, but no one will protect you.


(#1) Bikini boys: punks defiantly giving off “In yo’ face, bitch!”

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Bits of culture

March 29, 2018

… and truncated expressions. From Sam Anderson’s “New Sentences” column in the NYT Magazine on the 20th (on-line) and 25th (in print), “From Morgan Parker’s ‘There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé’”, about ‘Summertime and the living is extraordinarily difficult’:

Every culture is a vast carpet of interwoven references: clichés, fables, jingles, lullabies, warnings, jokes, memes. To be a part of that culture means that it only takes a few words, the tiniest head fake, to set your mind racing along a familiar track. You can lead a horse to. There once was a man from. When the moon hits your eye. If you liked it then you shoulda.

One trick of art is to constantly invoke — and then manipulate and complicate — these familiar mental scripts. The artist sets your mind on a well-worn road, and then, just as you settle into that automatic groove, yanks you suddenly in another direction. It’s the same trick as a crossover dribble. Great art is always, if you will, breaking your mind’s ankles.

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