Archive for the ‘Language and religion’ Category

Ancient of days

October 7, 2018

My morning name on the 5th, a line from a familiar hymn (“Come Thou Almighty King” / “Come, Thou Almighty King” / “Come Thou, Almighty King”), sung to the tune known as Moscow, Trinity, or Italian Hymn. Surely not by accident, an album of familiar hymns was playing on my iTunes when I woke up — but “Come Thou Almighty King” had not been played. Yet. While I was checking the playlist on my computer the hymn came up. So I seem to have been prescient.

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The rose and the flames

June 3, 2018

(After some extended moments of reflections on religious belief, this posting will venture into the sexual wilds, and the later material will not be suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

Two design drawings by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky (from a set available to the public in an Instagram file): one a rose window (alluding indirectly to such images at Stanford’s Memorial Church, which serve as potent Christian symbols); and one suggesting tongues of flame / fire (alluding to those that figure in the Christian religious holiday of Pentecost, which fell this year on Sunday, May 20th). Two religious symbols, with associated linguistic expressions (rose window; tongues of flame/fireto speak in tongues).

First, things: the rose, and flames.

Then, these things serving as symbols in Christian ways of thinking (actually, each can have several different symbolic values, even within this specific sociocultural context).

Then, these symbols, with these values, deployed in art, music, film, and fiction, and even in food and in plant names.

Then, the original things — rose and flames — serving as symbols in other sociocultural contexts: in particular, as sexual symbols, for body parts and for sexual acts.

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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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The 6-fold way

May 19, 2018

A fabulous design from Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky yesterday:

(#1) “6-fold” (or: “The 6-fold Way”)

To come. On 6-fold symmetry: snowflakes (natural and in paper), many monocot flowers, Kekulé’s carbon ring for benzene, the major colors of the color wheel (reproduced in the rainbow flag for Gay Pride).

Then on number, color, and gender parallelisms, which will give us 6 as purple and queer. And how the opposition of the secondary hues green with purple in #1 parallels the opposition of the primary hues blue with red (and, in the background of #1, the opposition of the primary hues red with yellow).

And on the name 6-fold way, adapted from the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism and Murray Gell-Mann’s adaptation of the idea (under the name The Eightfold Way) to a theory organizing subatomic particles.

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Fenwick the semi-generic

May 14, 2018

Just posted on this blog, this Zippy:

(#1)

Zippy-God as the psychiatrist, a very Zippy-like generic Pinhead as the patient; he’s given the name Fenwick in the third panel. The artist is fond of Fenwick.

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Psychiatrist Meme Day

May 14, 2018

… at King Features Syndicate, or so it seems. In my feed today, three cartoons (of my five regulars from King) with a psychoanalyst and his couch: a Bizarro/Wayno with an empty couch; a Zippy with Zippy on the couch; and a Mother Goose and Grimm with the dog Grimm on the couch.

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Watercolor journeys

April 3, 2018

Yesterday morning, a visit to a specialized museum in the far south of Palo Alto: The Foster Watercolor Exhibitions of Wilderness Journals. Open to the public, free, with generous daytime hours.

Bonus: a free-standing mosque in the neighborhood which opened in 2015. I had been unaware of the Foster and also of the mosque.
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Deviant Passover rites

March 30, 2018

A follow-up to my posting of the 28th, “Deviant Last Suppers”, about queer travesties of Leonardo’s Last Supper, a painting of the communal meal (celebrated on Maundy Thursday, yesterday this year) that Christians understand as the origin of the eucharist, or communion, ritual (take, eat, this is my body; take, drink, this is my blood). Now after sunset today, the Jewish ritual communal meal, the Passover seder, with its symbolic retelling of the Jews’ liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt. So, Bill Stewart wondered in a comment on this blog, what about a queer seder?

Well, sort of.

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Three Saturday lingtoons

March 24, 2018

A portmanteau (fishwich), a perfect pun (on the lam / lamb), an imperfect pun (bar / bark mitzvah):

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nameless sodomites

March 21, 2018

(There will some be free verse that is flagrantly sacrilegious and violently carnal, and there will be some outrageous art, and, yes, this posting’s about oral and anal sodomy between men, though with a mostly historical and literary cast  — so you might want to exercise your judgment.)

It began with Penn State academic librarian (and my friend) Christopher (Xopher) Walker coming across a Facebook posting that began with the words “nameless sodomites”, which seized his attention. It was a publisher’s blurb for a new book in Italian on men’s sexuality and criminal behavior:

When I searched for the expression, I unearthed a reference (by the Cambridge Medievialist William Burgwinkle) to (Saint) Peter Damian seeing nameless sodomites through the confessional curtain. I then suspected that the phrase might have had some currency as a fixed expression — but in any event it’s a poetically arresting phrase, with the rather antique sodomite paired with an allusion to the medieval custom, in some places, of burning sodomites at the stake after priests had taken anonymous confessions of their mortal sins. Later custom, in the U.K. and the U.S. at least, was for sodomites to be named and shamed in court and then publicly hanged.

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