Archive for the ‘Languages’ Category

Briefly: exocentric V + N

September 20, 2022

(Warning: a vulgar term for the primary female sexual anatomy will end up playing a big role in this posting.)

Where this is going: to an alternative name for an American President (#45, aka TFG); and to an alternative name for a classic American novel (by J.D. Salinger) — both names being exocentric V + N compound nouns, the first in English, the second in French. (I’ll call them exoVerNs for short.)

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Knuckle macaroni

August 17, 2022

Yesterday’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, at the grocery store:


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

So: let’s start with elbow macaroni and go on from there.

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cogedores

August 10, 2022

(Warning: the posting quickly descends into various kinds of vulgar, unsavory slang.)

From Kyle Wohlmut (from Twitter) on Facebook this morning, with the comment “good morning fuckers’:


(#1) A set of three plastic kitchen scoops, in a package designed to hang on a supermarket display hook; note the notch at the top of the package, for slipping over the hook; the back of the package has the name of the item in four languages, from four countries, the countries identified by flags (in tiny, muddy, b&w images), and as you go down the list, the referents of the names — names evidently supplied by some translation software — drift rapidly away from a kitchen scoop and get raunchier and raunchier: ‘scraping, scratching’, figurative ‘son of a bitch’ (literally ‘son of a whore’), figurative ‘fucker’ (referring to a contemptible or stupid person; to any man, to a guy; or to some unspecified object)

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Cats, names, art

August 5, 2022

The cats prowl through ancient Rome, Egypt, and India — and modern Russia, Estonia, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Leaving their names and (in the work of graphic artists and cartoonists) their images. All of this triggered by the appearance — my copy came yesterday — of Bob Eckstein’s latest book:


(#1) As noted in my posting yesterday, which was unadventurously entitled “The Complete Book of Cat Names”, my name is in the book, in a list of people who suggested cat names to Bob

On reflection, I might have suggested any or all of the names of My Three Cats (now starring in a heart-warming bird and fish comedy shown on a loop throughout the day on The Cat Channel) to Bob, though none of them made the cut: Koshka the Russian cat, Marjarah the Sanskrit cat, and Kurniau the Estonian cat (kurniau is what cats say in Estonian — it’s a purr and a meow — so it would definitely be a candidate for Bob’s “names you would think your cat can pronounce” category). Yes, I know, Marjarah and Kurniau are obscure — arcane and professorial — but Russian кошка (fem.), transliterated as koshka, is just everyday ‘cat’ (specifically female if sex is relevant, but also used for male cats; a tomcat is қот (masc.), transliterated as kot).

That was yesterday. Today I’ll take you to one section of Bob’s book, on “Roman cat names” (which, the Roman Empire having been what it was, also takes us to Egypt), with two cartoons; and to Donald Brun’s famous Swiss thread-cat poster, depicting the cat Silken Zwicky (which will take us also to the Cat Museum in Amsterdam). So, a tour of Eurasia, from Nederland to Bharata.

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The cadenza and the coda

April 29, 2022

Morning names for today (4/29), set off by a cadenza in a Mozart piano concerto that was playing when I got up just after midnight for a brief whizz break. The word cadenza led me immediately to coda, both musical bits coming at the end, also both sounding sort of Italian (which, in fact, they once were), indeed sounding very similar at their beginnings (/kǝd/ vs. /kod/) — but it turns out that though their etymologies both go back to Latin, a cadenza is a falling (or, metaphorically, a death) and a coda is a tail.

(#1) A tv ad: Help me! I’m in a cadenza and I can’t get up!

(#2) A linguistic Tom Swifty: “Coda, my ass! That’s a coati or a koala, I don’t know which”, quoted Cody in Kodiak.

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The Z of death

March 12, 2022

From Andras Kornai on Facebook today:

AK: As they say on Sesame Street: brought to you by the letter Z!


(#1) A tank (Andras says it’s a Pantsir missile system) with the glyph Z on it — not a letter in the Cyrillic alphabet (in which both Ukrainian and Russian are written) and now symbolizing the Russian iron fist of death

Livia Polanyi [pursuing the Sesame Street theme]: Zombie zombie zombie starts with Z

AZ > LP: The letter Z long ago became part of my identity, a symbol of who I was. Now it’s become the equivalent of a swastika, and I feel that I have personally been assaulted, dirtied, and shamed. (I manage to surmount Z is for Zombie as just a piece of cultural silliness. But the Z on the tanks is, literally, dead serious.)

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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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Nobody expects the Yinglish interjection

September 29, 2021

An e-mail exchange on 9/28 between Richard Vytniorgu and me, thinking out loud together on various topics, including the prejudice within the LGBT community against  the twinkish, the sexually receptive, the submissive, and the effeminate amongst us queers — all, apparently, on the grounds that such men are wanting in conventional masculinity and so are defective even as queers; they’re just too gay-acting, in the view of some of our number. Richard is an effeminate submissive sexually receptive twink, so he’s got a huge emotional investment in the matter; I am merely a bottom by preference, but I’ve been becoming increasingly militant and outspoken in this arena, moving towards the view that Richard and his kind should be seen as central to the larger community, not as peripheral misfits.

But that’s not what I’m after in *this* posting. Instead, it’s what happened in this exchange between us:

RV: I feel for Tannor [Reed] as I do for all twinks in the [gay porn] industry. Gays can be so hypocritical sometimes: they love to watch us, but will publicly punish or shame us when it suits them. You may have heard of [twink X; his story isn’t the point here, just his being treated with contempt]

AZ: Oi.

RV: What does this mean?

Here’s where I need to remind you that Richard is British and I am American.

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9/9: not a non-event

September 9, 2021

(Astonishingly, this silly posting will devolve into references to male pubes (NOAD entertains both /pjúbìz/ and /pjubz/ as pronunciations, by the way, so do as thou wilt) and photos of hunky young men stripped down to them, so it’s not to everyone’s taste.)

It is once again Negation Day, a festival for semanticists, also customarily the day for the annual convention of No Joke, aka the Society for Language Play.

This year, the semanticists will gather en masse at the Square of Opposition, where a statue of Larry Horn, caught in mid-smile, will be unveiled; and in collaboration with the No Joke meeting, there will be staged performances of Monty Python’s “Argument Clinic” sketch. Then, as usual: a clinic for those suffering from overnegation and undernegation; and a bazaar where shoppers can rummage for negative polarity items and reinforcements for their everyday negatives. (Just Don’t Do It: because of ugly incidents in the past, metalinguistic negatives have been banned from the festival site.)

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Harry’s Jockstrap

August 19, 2021

(Well, yes, jockstraps, depicted and described, with attention to their contents, so not to everyone’s taste.)

In a comment on my 8/15 posting “Jock Robin” (a posting about jockstraps in beautiful colors, masculinity, and sexuality), Mike McManus  noted the relevant novelty song “Harry’s Jockstrap” (a jock that’s pale blue, suggesting that Harry is a fairy),  a burlesque on the French nursery rhyme (and round) “Frère Jacques”. I had somehow missed “Harry’s Jockstrap”, but here it is, in all of its pale blue fairy glory:

Harry’s jockstrap, Harry’s jockstrap
It’s pale blue, it’s pale blue
They say that he’s a fairy. But Harry is so hairy
So are you, so are you

(Call this verse HJ.) The burlesque goes on and on through many more verses; I’ll give you a transcription and a recording of the whole thing — but first, some background. (more…)