Archive for the ‘Lexicography’ Category

High 5 from a bison

May 25, 2019

(After the cartoons and the lexicography, John Rechy will take this posting into the world of mansex, in some detail and in very plain talk; that section is not for kids or the sexually modest, but I’ll warn you when it’s looming on the horizon.)

Two bison greet each other in a John Baynham cartoon with a wonderful pun:

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That’s numbers (roughly ‘amount’, but as a PL C noun) — and indeed large numbers of buffalo did once roam the plains of North America — vs. numbers referring to physical models, or simulacra, of symbols for certain abstract mathematical entities — in this case, the natural numbers. Such physical models are also familiar: think of the letters in the HOLLYWOOD sign, or the numbers on the building at 666 Fifth Ave. in NYC (with its own kind of fame as a Jared Kushner property). But people don’t walk around with, much less inside, giant versions of such models. That’s deliciously absurd.

Looking at the lexical items involved will take us deep into the lexicographic weeds and then to the secret places of mansex, starting with the dim recesses of Griffith Park in Los Angeles.

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Two cents, common sense, incense, and peppermints

March 27, 2019

The 2/26 One Big Happy, riffing on /sɛns/, in idioms with sense (common sense, horse sense, nonsense), in incense, and in cents (also in an idiom, two cents):

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Which, of course, leads us inevitably to the psychedelic days of 1967, with their whiff of incense and peppermints (plus some pot).

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A small moment of lexicographic fame

March 20, 2019

Announced yesterday on Language Log, in a piece by Ben Zimmer entitled: “Frequency illusion” in the OED. It begins:

The latest batch of updates to the online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary includes a term that originated right here on Language Log, in a 2005 post by Arnold Zwicky. The term is frequency illusion, first attested in Arnold’s classic post, “Just Between Dr. Language and I.” Here is the OED treatment, an addition to the main entry for frequency:

frequency illusion n. a quirk of perception whereby a phenomenon to which one is newly alert suddenly seems ubiquitous.

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The didactyl anteater, Anteater D, aka The Antedater

March 3, 2019

It began five months ago, on ADS-L, the American Dialect Society mailing list, with a note from the compiler of the Yale Book of Quotations about a piece he’d recently published:

Fred R. Shapiro, Confessions of the Antedater. Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America 39.1.23-42 (2018).

An engaging and informative essay about finding earlier and earlier citations for English words and phrases. At the time, ADS-Ler Mark Mandel exclaimed:

At first I saw it as “Confessions of an Anteater”!

and Larry Horn chimed in:

Me too … Indeed, my mailer tells me that when I type “antedater” I really meant “anteater”.  Maybe someone should work on a logo

I seconded the suggestion, but then no one did anything until Fred’s piece came up again yesterday, and everybody made the same misreading again — and I came up not with a logo, but with a mascot, an Anteater With a D, the adorable little Silky Anteater didactylus.

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Use skate in a sentence

October 23, 2018

The One Big Happy in today’s comics feed, from 9/26:

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Ruthie is faced with the task of demonstrating what a word means by using it in a sentence — a task often assigned to children as a test of their understanding of word meanings. But choosing effective example sentences is a challenging art for professional lexicographers, and children are not particularly good at it.

In this case, “the word skate” could be a verb (‘move on ice skates or roller skates in a gliding fashion’ (NOAD)) or any one of several nouns, but, on hearing about her tightwad great-aunt, Ruthie fixes instead on the otherwise opaque /sket/ portion of the compound cheapskate ‘tightwad, miser’ (which she analyzes as a composite nominal cheap skate).

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The profane domain

May 7, 2018

… and pornlinguistics.

Recently on Facebook, from Dan Everett and then Rob Pensalfini, calls for research in what I’ll call the profane domain of linguistics:

Dan: How about a pop-up book on the interaction of pornography and linguistic relativity?

Rob: It’s about time for a revival of McCawley’s field of pornolinguistics (and scatolinguistics, while we’re at it).

Dan is a frequent presence on this blog; Rob is new (and I’ll introduce him below). Rob asks about the profane domain, under the name “pornolinguistics and scatolinguistics” (a label I seem to have been responsible for, in 1967, in a moment of careless playfulness). Dan asks about linguistic aspects of pornography (I’ll put pop-up books — they already exist — and linguistic relativity aside in this posting), a topic several commenters thought must be barren, though I’ve found quite a lot to say about it on this blog.

So: on the profane domain, other names for it, and resources on this blog about it. And then on pornography in a similar vein.

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jam

May 4, 2018

The readings for today: from the Old Texts, Lewis Carroll; and two from the New Texts, P.G. Wodehouse and Rihanna.

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The grandeur of Versailles commodes

March 23, 2018

In the print edition of yesterday’s NYT, an ad on p. A5 offers this astonishing piece of furniture:

Grandeur of Versailles

On the site of M.S. Rau Antiques – Fine Art – Jewelry, 630 Royal St., New Orleans LA, this description:

This monumental Boulle marquetry commode was crafted by Robert Blake (ca. 1820). Modeled after those made by Boulle for King Louis XIV. The entire ebony commode is covered in Boulle marquetry and doré bronze. A similar pair of commodes also marked [= signed] by Blake are part of the famed Frick Collection. Item No. 30-6334 : $398,500

My first interest here is lexicographic, having to do with the item commode (and its semantic development). Then on to marquetry, Boulle, and Blake.

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Words on the big outside place

November 18, 2017

At noon on Friday of last week (the 10th), this event at Santa Clara University, an Environmental Studies & Sciences seminar:

Faculty will attempt to describe their research using only the 1,000 most commonly used words in English. Should be fun!

(Each talk about 5 minutes long.)

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Word by Word

April 30, 2017

The title of a new book by Kory Stamper, subtitled The Secret Life of Dictionaties:

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About how dictionaries are made and the people who make them, and about English words.

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