Archive for the ‘Morning names’ Category

Deux clouseauismes

August 11, 2019

Morning names from early this past week: fondly remembered quotations from Peter Sellars’s Inspector Clouseau character in The Pink Panther (1963) and the series of movies following it. Both involve a bold effort by Clouseau to fix or remedy some situation, resulting of course in devastation — and clueless insouciance on the inspector’s part.

Besides the absurd situations, there’s Sellars’s deft timing and his control of the physical comedy, and, delicious cherry on top: his way-eccentric Clouseau-franglais syntax and phonetics (with pronunciation governed largely by a rigid constraint against back vowels, especially rounded back vowels, though even [ʌ] is affected, as in monkey > minkey). The transcripts below are in standard English orthography, so you should listen to the film clips.

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Minimal pears

August 8, 2019

The morning name for Thursday was a linguist’s joke, the punning name minimal pear. In the morning, visions of sugar-pears danced in my head — cute little Seckel pears, specifically. Along with the linguists’ minimal pairs, like seat – sheet for /s/ vs. /š/ in English. (And, since there’s always someone who thinks of this when minimal pairs are mentioned: small testicles or breasts.)

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Why is he calling her his thesaurus?

May 28, 2019

Today’s morning name was the Italian phrase il mio tesoro, and there’s no mystery where it came from: on my overnight iTunes, the 1959 Carlo Maria Guilini recording of Don Giovanni had reached Luigi Alva singing “Il Mio Tesoro” just as I woke. What was odd was that my still sleep-addled brain was puzzling over why Don Ottavio was calling Donna Anna his thesaurus.

Attribute it to an overactive mental-association apparatus connecting It. il tesoro ‘treasure’ (but also ‘darling, honey, dear’) to Engl. thesaurus referring to a specialized type of dictionary (derived ultimately from Greek). In this case, one reproducing a historical connection between It. tesoro ‘darling’ and It. tesoreria ‘thesaurus’, which are, etymologically, second cousins, more or less.

After this, on to the aria, with performances by Alva, Araiza, and Domingo.

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Two moments of iridaceous naming

April 7, 2019

Moment one, the name game: this photograph of a plant in bloom, presented as an identification quiz by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky on Facebook yesterday:


(#1) EDZ’s hint: “neither roses nor daffodils”. Guesses from readers: jonquils, tulips, crocuses, and, finally bingo!

Moment two, today’s morning name: montbretia, which turns out to be a name for Crocosmia hybrids, like this one:


(#2) Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’

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Lilo & Stitch

March 23, 2019

Today’s morning name. I really have no idea why. I haven’t even seen the movie and was only vaguely aware of its theme. Maybe the sound-symbolic values of the names, the contrast between the /l/s of Lilo, voiced liquids, symbolically flowing; and the /s t č/ of Stitch, all voiceless obstruents, symbolically spiky and aggressive. And the /aj/ of Lilo, long and with a low nuclear F2; versus the /ɪ/ of Stitch, quite short and with a very high F2. Lilo is female, human, and family-oriented; Stitch is male, alien, and destructive.

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le naufrage, le naufragé

March 16, 2019

A dire nautical theme in today’s morning names: le naufrage ‘shipwreck, sinking’ and le naufragé ‘shipwreck victim, castaway’, powerful elements of popular culture and frequent subjects of news stories, books, and films.

I was first taken to le naufrage de l’Andrea Doria, an event that vividly evoked the summer before my junior year in high school; then (among the innumerable fictional representations of shipwrecks and castaways, going back to the Odyssey and before) to Tom Hanks in the appalling Cast Away; and, then, through the whimsicalities of googling, to Le naufragé (English title Stranded), a 2009 short comedy-drama film — about which I can find virtually nothing of substance.

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The lives of the French artists

March 13, 2019

(About art, and the lives of (French) artists. Vanishingly little language-related stuff, muscular naked men and a pair of naked women bathers for gay interest (though nothing more than that) — but lots of straight people hooking up, as they are inclined to do, randy, licentious beasts that they are.)

Today’s morning name — I have no idea of why — was Puvis de Chavannes, who of course led me to Susan Valadon.

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The great work begins

February 24, 2019

(two morning names, of very different type)

Yesterday morning I came to consciousness slowly slowly, as a voice filled my head with the exulting declaration:


(#1) Society6 art print: The Great Work Begins by Maxfield and Madison

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Seasonal thanks

December 24, 2018

A juxtaposition of two sets of greetings for the season, each expressing thanks for the recipient’s work.

Item A, two pieces of e-mail to Emily Menon Bender, from completely unfamiliar organizations, thanking her for her publications in computational linguistics: some new cross between holiday cards from commercial associates (maintaining the business relationship) and what Margalit Fox calls “demented p.r. releases”, what amount to cold calls (by electronic means or ordinary mail) soliciting the recipient’s business.

Item B, a brief e-mail to me from a complete stranger thanking me for my blog postings. Thanks to the fact that the sender has a name even rarer than mine, I was able to verify that he was not only a real person but a very interesting scholar — and the note moved me far more than he could have imagined, coming after a long dispiriting week. (What’s more, it turned out to latch onto my morning name from the 18th, (Lady) Ottoline Morrell.)

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A Picardy morning

December 4, 2018

Yesterday’s morning name was Picardy, no doubt because the song “Roses of Picardy” played on my iTunes while I was sleeping (as I discovered when I got up). This will eventually take us from northern France in the Great War to the Ireland of “Danny Boy”.

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