Archive for the ‘Language play’ Category

Let’s just call it “grammar”

July 20, 2016

Yesterday’s Rhymes With Orange:

A visit to a theme park with a linguistic theme: it deals, at least, in onomatopoeia (rattle for the sound a rattlesnake’s tail makes), palindromes (expressions that read the same forwards and backwards, like the names Anna and Otto), and portmanteaus (like palindomedary, palindrome + dromedary) and their visual equivalents, like the palindromedary in the cartoon, a nice counterpart to Anna and Otto.

What to call a place that displayed such things — and anagrams and chiasmus and puns and limericks and knock-knock jokes and sports chants and ritualized insults and auctioneers’ patter and damning with faint praise and Cockney rhyming slang and all sorts of culture-specific phenomena that are manifested in a language (in this case, all are manifested in  English) but are not part of the system of that language, the way, say, Subject-Auxiliary Inversion is part of the system of English. Instead, they are things you can do with, or in, the language.

But we have no good word (or other fixed expression) for this rich assortment of language uses and rouitines, so (as in other cases) the poor overworked word grammar is pressed into service. And the theme park is called Grammar Land.

Morning name: Colquhoun

July 16, 2016

Today’s morning name was not one that came to me apparently from outer space, but had a clear basis in my recent experience — namely, watching the British detective drama Midsomer Murders episode “Blood Wedding” (S11 E1), in which a character with this name plays a significant role. As it turns out, the name (in one of its North American variants) has appeared on this blog before (on 4/21/15, “Verbatim letter”).

To come: the name, my previous posting, and the upper-class twit Randall Colquhoun in “Blood Wedding”.

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Word play for 7-11

July 11, 2016

Three cartoons today (July 7th, or 7/11 in American usage; this will be important): a perfect pun (from Rhymes With Orange), using an ambiguity in local; a more distant pun (from Mother Goose and Grimm), linguistically and visually combining Bonnie and Clyde with Blondie ad Dagwood; and a Scott Hilburn (from The Argyle Sweater today) using the 50th anniversary of the Slurpee to float an almost-perfect pun
perches / purchase
(/z/ vs. /s/).

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goober

July 10, 2016

Today’s Bizarro, with a terrible pun (and a large number of Dan Piraro’s symbols):

  (#1)

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Two cat cartoons

July 9, 2016

Not quite what you think. Two cartoons: a Mother Goose and Grimm from yesterday, today’s Bizarro:

(#1)

(#2)

To appreciate #1, you need to know about the custom of putting out a cat for the night (V + Prt put out ‘put sth. outside (a house)’), and you need to recognize the piece of heavy earth-moving equipment in the room, with brand names Caterpilllar and (clipped) Cat.

To appreciate #2, you need to know that Zeus / Jupiter is the mythological hurler of thunderbolts, and you need to recognize Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat (with one of his accompanying Things) and to see that the figure in the cartoon is a hybrid of Zeus and Dr. Seuss’s Cat, a combination conveyed by the portmanteau name Dr. Zeuss.

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The fallen V

July 6, 2016

In today’s Zippy, Bill Griffith continues his long exploration of American pop culture, especially roadside culture — diners, motels, and (very often) big fiberglass advertising figures:

  (#1)

(Note outrageous pun in the title, playing on Norse/nurse.)

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Rugrat regrets

July 2, 2016

The morning name from two days ago, a bit of language play, with the repeated pattern

r … gr … t  r … gr … t

apparently invented in my sleeping head rather than remembered from previous experience. The whole thing is a N + N compound, and as such, is capable of a range of interpretations — primarily in two broad classes: with an object interpretation of rugrats, ‘regrets about / over rugrats’, on various accounts; and with a subject interpretation of rugrats, ‘regrets of / by rugrats’, also on various accounts.

Then there’s the first element of the compound, itself a N + N compound, composed of rug + rat literally ‘rat located on, inhabiting a rug”, but with rat understood metaphorically (referring to small children as rat-like creatures) and rug understood metonymically (referring to household play surfaces more generally). The result is a colorful way of referring to toddlers, with the verminous connotations of rat apparently bleached out by playfulness.

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Gang of five

June 28, 2016

Comics and cartoons pile up. Here are four recent ones from my regular feeds, plus a Perry Bible Fellowship (“The Offenders”) sent to me by Jason Parker-Burlingham. Before that, a Bizarro with the slow-snail cartoon meme; a One Big Happy with an attachment ambiguity; a Rhymes With Orange on reduplicated names (like mahi-mahi); and a massively alliterative Zippy.

(#1)

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbol in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there’s just one in this strip — see this Page.)

The usual meme is about snails (with shells), but it works equally well for slugs (without shells).

(#2)

Simplifying the example, it’s I sketched a model in the nude. There are two scopes for the modifier in the nude — as a sentential (or VP) adverbial (the scoping for clauses with intransitive verbs, like I sunbathed in the nude), attributing nudity to the referent of the subject; or as a modifier within the direct object NP (note the passive A model in the nude was painstakingly sketched by the life drawing class). The first speaker intends the second, narrower scope, but Ruthie understands the first, wider scope, in which the artist is nude.

(#3)

English has a considerable number of names that are reduplicative in form, like the place name Bora Bora. Some of these are food names, like mahi-mahi and couscous. The diner is taking the reduplicative form to denote multiplicity (or extent), giving rise to a kind of back-formed noun, mahi or cous.

(#4)

Bill Griffith loves to play with the sounds of words. Having started with Fairchild Semiconductor (the company name) used as a personal name, the first panel explodes with F alliteration, which continues in the other two panels — pared with T alliteration in the second panel, S alliteration in the third.

And then to cartoon sound words in Perry Bible Fellowship, which range from conventional to inventive:

(#5)

Added later: More important, as commenter RF notes:

Note that Slur’s “problematic” fighting style results in sound effects that are racial slurs directed at his opponents.

This was clearly telegraphed by the name of the strip (“The Offenders”) and by the name of the central character (Slur). Somehow I missed this on a first reading. Many thanks to RF.

 

Leaving, in tears and a portmanteau

June 25, 2016

Passed on by Facebook friends (especially Arthur Prokosch), this Dan Wasserman editorial cartoon in the Boston Globe on the 16th:

Here we are in Portmantexia, a land of words in –exit, –leave, and –out, a land that people want to abandon. The leading family in Portmantexia is the Exits, especially the recently prominent Brexit, towering above cousins Grexit, Crexit, the infant Trexit, the black sheep Texit, and the newborns Nexit and Frexit.

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Annals of lexical inventiveness: sternum bush

June 23, 2016

From the tv series Psych (S1 E11), psychic investigator Shawn Spencer (played by James Roday) to Head Det. Carlton Lassiter of the Santa Barbara Police Dept. (played by Timothy Osmundson), on attracting women:

Chicks dig the sternum bush.

Translation from the very playful ShawnSpeak: ‘Women like chest hair’. That is, unbutton your shirt and show some chest hair. Standard sternum ‘chest, breastbone’ plus bush ‘luxuriant growth of hair’, especially in vulgar slang bush ‘a woman’s public hair’.

(The character Shawn is a high-energy, high-id showoff, but engaging: a big goofy kid.)

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