Archive for the ‘Language and religion’ Category

Every meme is better with a pumpkin in it

November 1, 2022

🐇 🐇 🐇 (NOVEM! NOVEM! N-O-V spells VON! Von who? No, No, that’s Doctor Von Who! Doctor Von Who’s on first? Doctor Von Who’s on first of November, oh god this is where we came in)

Bob Eckstein’s charming cartoon-trope cartoon (a new cartoon for Halloween this year @AltaJournal, also posted yesterday on Facebook along with a trick-or-treating story; and note that National Pumpkin Day went by on 10/26):


(#1) Three cartoon memes (I will no longer attempt to distinguish memes from tropes, given the extraordinary variation in the usage of the two terms): Sisyphus, Desert Island, Seeker and Seer

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On Facebook at Michaelmas

September 29, 2022

By happy accident, my Facebook feed is celebrating the day of the archangel Michael with food and drink artworks. Two in particular: a miniaturist composition I think of as Bisonini Doing Power Crunches:


(#1) From Greg Morrow on FB 9/24 (though it didn’t filter down to me until today), with his own work, which he describes as: “Die kleinenbüffel and their shy friend take a needed break for a snack” (see below; note German der Büffel ‘the buffalo’)

And this socially multilayered appreciation of coffee-sipping:


(#2) From Tim Evanson: “September 29 is #NationalCoffeeDay!!!”; TE says he’s had the image for years, doesn’t know its source

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The jaws of June

June 13, 2022

They are deadly, those jaws. Deadly sins. Gay deadly sins. Decked out in Red …… Orange ….. Yellow …. Green … Blue .. Purple . Omigod Gay Pride!

From Jeff Shaumeyer on Facebook today: the Life of Sharks cartoon for 6/1/22, to inaugurate Gay Pride Month:


(#1) The current menu of Seven Deadly Sins: Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath, Sloth; waiter, I’ll have Gay Gluttony for starters , Gay Lust for the main course, and Gay Sloth for afters

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Shouting songs

May 19, 2022

Continuing a series of recent postings on the music of joy, now specifically joyous praise to God, and even more specifically “shouting songs” from the Sacred Harp tunebook.

This is loud, passionate praise, rooted in the evangelical camp meetings of early 19th-century America (and England and Scotland before that), capable of seizing your body and sliding you towards ecstatic engagement with the message and the music. Somewhat tamed by being captured on the pages of a hymnbook rather than being created live in the fervor of a camp meeting, but still standing out as something special in the Sacred Harp.

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Angel Band

May 6, 2022

(At various points, there will be moments of plain talk about men’s genitals and man-on-man sex, so this posting is dubious for kids and the sexually modest.)

Yesterday in my posting “Joyous praise”, about joyous praise of God, joyous praise for military victory, and joyous praise for victory over death:

in this vein [of joyous praise of God] … is this exulting carol by Jeremiah Ingalls, “Glory to God on High”, Andrew Parrott leading the Taverner Choir and the Taverner Consort (Warner, 1989), link here. And it has angels: give me angels (muscular angels, angels of power, not delicate or cute angels) or trumpets (equally powerful) or both, and I’m in

The angels and trumpets then took me from the music of joy to music expressing a quite different emotion through similar means: the music of hope. Such music expresses longing for the release of death — release from the pains and tribulations of earthly life — and for the reward of eternal life in heaven with Jesus / God, this reward achieved by rebirth, by resurrection and transportation to heaven. This is gospel music.

And despite the fact that I don’t hold any of the beliefs that undergird gospel music, I am passionately attached to much of it, for reasons both narrative — the (metaphorical) stories that gospel music tells are wonderful stories, deeply satisfying emotionally (oh, to be carried away on the wings of angels to a world free from pain and full of delight!) — and musical — much of the music is fabulous, in both tune and text.

You get angels in both the music of joy and the music of hope, but they serve different functions: for joy, the angels announce the good news to you, as in the Ingalls fanfare; for hope, the angels provide a means for you to satisfy your longings, as in the gospel song Angel Band (which is what this posting is mostly about). In both cases, the angels are resplendent, bathed in light, and robust, loudly trumpeting the good news or sturdily bearing souls away. They are beautiful; they are powerful; they are intense, awesomely so. (Cue the archangel Michael.)

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Easter Morning redux

April 17, 2022

Some close analysis, and some reflections, on the Jacquie Lawson animated greeting card “Easter Morning”, that I posted about yesterday, in “Sheep grazing among the Paschal roses”. There I looked at purple hellebores (and some other other crucifixion-symbolic flowers) and at Bach’s aria “Sheep May Safely Graze” (a performance of which accompanies the animation).

Now about the details of the animation’s images (especially, but by no means only, the plants).

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LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS BLACK WOMEN

April 15, 2022

What I posted to Facebook on 4/8, on the occasion of Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court. My follow-up said that, yes, the reference was to Agee (the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, on which more below) and added:

 I can’t begin to say how pleasing KBJ’s appointment is to me.

To amplify a bit. This is not the Promised Land, but it is nevertheless a Big Fucking Deal. One of the things about my hero John Lewis that moved me especially was that he truly believed that we could reach the Promised Land in this life (not in an afterlife on Jordan’s other bank) — just not in his life, it would take some time. [More below on Lewis and this astonishing bit of faith on his part.] Meanwhile [Lewis believed], we have to keep moving on the path. KBJ is a highly visible step on the path, and that’s a big thing, a moment of joy.

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The self-rising mascot

March 13, 2022

(Considerable discussion of sexual practices in this posting — largely in cautious language, but some may find the topics — male masturbation and male-male sexual acts — distasteful.)

To understand the brilliant 3/11 Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, you need to marshal detailed information about the Pillsbury Doughboy, the Roman Catholic confessional, the language of male masturbation in English, and self-rising flour (I wonder what, say, a Japanese exchange student in the U.S. would make of the cartoon; there is just so much culturally specific knowledge needed to understand it):


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

You must recognize the central figure as Poppin’ Fresh the Pillsbury Doughboy (though you can’t see the Pillsbury label on his chef’s hat), the dough-creature mascot of the (American) Pillsbury baking brand since 1965; and you must recognize that he’s at the grill, or screen, separating the penitent from the priest in the confessional box of a Roman Catholic Church, where he is confessing his sins (seeking absolution from the priest); then you must understand that the particular sin he’s confessing is masturbation (stimulating his penis by hand to become erect — to rise — for the purpose of sexual pleasure), and that this is a grave sin, requiring confession; and finally, and crucially, you have to see that his reference to his masturbating as self-rising (metonymically causing himself to rise) is a play on words, the ordinary use of self-rising being to flour (available mostly in the US and the UK) with added ingredients that will cause dough made from such flour to swell — to rise — on its own.

What makes the cartoon so delightful is that all of this is woven together by the fact that Poppin’ Fresh is an anthropomorphic being — a male one, with the desires of a sexually mature male — made of dough.

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Follow-up: a regular genius

February 21, 2022

It starts with my 2/19/22 posting “A regular genius”, on quintessential regular (NOAD example: this place is a regular fisherman’s paradise), vs. run-of-the-mill regular (NOAD example: it’s richer than regular pasta).

Which elicited this Facebook comment from Joel Levin:

I get a sarcastic note from he’s a regular genius, in that one might so describe a person who had done something particularly doltish. I thought I might see a mention of that sense in the column.

And then AZ > JL:

In some contexts I get that note too, but I think that’s just an example of the generalization that any compliment can be used sarcastically, not a fact specifically about regular.

And then a comment from Ben Yagoda, making the Jewish connection: it’s probably relevant that JL’s Jewish and I’m, so to speak, Jewish-adjacent; we’re more inclined than a random person to detect a sarcastic or ironic tone in he’s a regular genius. The tone is available for anyone to pick up, but some of us are predisposed to detect it (and to convey it in our own speech).

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The SIN and GUILT of a LINGUIST

February 6, 2022

The admirable John Wells has made my Sunday morning by informing us on Facebook that the Sunday Times (of London) cryptic crossword contains the anagram

LINGUIST = GUILT + SIN

Secretly, linguists have known all along that each of us bears the stain of sin and guilt. Now that hard truth has been made bare via the lit(t)eral magic of anagramming.

We cry out to be shriven, to present ourselves for confession, penance, and absolution. Give us peace.

In the words of a hymn text by Charles Cole (1791), set to the tune Gospel Trumpet in the 1991 revision of the Denson Sacred Harp:

Thy blood, dear Jesus, once was spilt
To save our souls from sin and guilt,
And sinners now may come to God
And find salvation through Thy blood

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