Archive for the ‘Morphology’ Category

On the cheese ball watch

October 30, 2022

(There will be some digressions into vulgar sexual slang and explicit descriptions of sex acts, so some sections of this posting are not recommended for kids or the sexually modest.)

Adventures on Facebook that start with cheese balls and then branch to the coinages giggalicous and snickerfacient. So things are pretty much all over the map. I set things off on FB with this message, which mingles all three topics :

— AZ on 10/26: I find it giggalicious that some company is offering “dairy-free cheese balls”. But I am admittedly easily amused, to the point where I have always found “cheese balls”, all by itself,  to be snickerfacient.

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Appetizer boards

October 25, 2022

A follow-up to my 10/20/22 posting “The Funny Aperitif Board”, with its entertaining word confusion between appetizer and aperitif — but now getting serious about the two categories involved in the compound appetizer board:

the foodstuff category to which appetizers belong (call it SMALL-START-FOOD);

and the implement category to which food-service boards and platters belong (call it FOOD-SERVER-THING)

I’ll put off the funny part — the (intentionally) phallic appearance of the appetizer board in question — for a third posting in this series, taking off from my 9/11/22 posting “Plush life” (with its distinction between four modes of phallicity). But before we go on to ransack the modern English lexicon, let’s stop to appreciate the inspiration for all of this, the Grassooze appetizer board, laden with meal-preliminary foodstuffs:

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Where to door knock and cold call

October 19, 2022

… and, eventually, how to abracadabra things out of sight. Yes, it’s Verbing Day on AZ Blog!

Politics and real estate: to door knock. It started on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC on 10/11, with the cite presented here in its larger context:


(#1) to door knock / door-knock ‘knock on doors’ (in political canvassing): a N + V verb, whose origin lies in a back-formation from the synthetic compound door knocking / door-knocking

The semantics / pragmatics of the synthetic compound is specialized — not merely knocking on doors, but doing so in specific sociocultural settings (political canvassing and door-to-door solicitations by real estate agents, in particular) — and this specialization is shared by the 2pbfV (two-part back-formed V)

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Outrageous POP

September 30, 2022

🐅 🐅 🐅 tiger tiger tiger for ultimate September; tomorrow the inaugural rabbits of October will bound in

In today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, set in the Schmancy auction house — think Christie’s or Sotheby’s — a Mötley Crüe cruet POPped (phrasal overlap portmanteaued) to  Motley Crüet (somehow the first röck döt got lost in the compression process):


(#1) Wayno’s title: “Tinny Aftertaste”, combining the metal of heavy metal with the taste of a cruet’s contents (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

To understand this, you need to know about fancy-schmancy auction houses and how they operate; about cruets and their function in dining; and about heavy metal music and the heavy metal band Mötley Crüe and their reputation for vulgarly outrageous behavior, which clashes with the civility of oil-and-vinegar dressings for salads, so yielding the humor of anomalous juxtaposition.

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On the interview watch

September 28, 2022

From recent American broadcast news interviews, yielding notable examples of familiar phenomena: the 2pbfV (2-part back-formed V) family-plan ‘do family planning’; and the phrase-final truncation of a formulaic expression, not give a rat’s ass ‘not care at all’, in the truncated not give a rat’s.

Both phenomena illustrate a drive towards brevity of expression (which makes life easier for the speaker), balanced against the hearer’s need for clarity of expression: to work out what the speaker intended to convey, the hearer must be able to supply crucial background knowledge (they have to know the compound noun family planning, with its specialized sense; they have to know the negative-polarity idiom (not) give a rat’s ass ‘not care at all’ and appreciate the zing in its vulgar minimizer rat’s ass), so the speaker must assess those abilities and craft their speech to suit their audience. It’s a complex dance, and like social dancing, it happens in the moment, on the fly, using practiced patterns while collaborating to make something new.

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The Monster and the Minotaureador

September 21, 2022

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro, with an instance of one of the house specialties — the Psychiatrist cartoon meme — rich in mythic resonances, and incorporating a bovine Nietzschean pun:


Not just any old ruminant on the couch, but the chimeric monster the Minotaur, reflecting guiltily on, oh, the young people sacrificed to him in the Labyrinth, and now confronted with a Theseus figure, in the form of his therapist (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)

Wayno’s title, another pun, but a perfect one this time: “Bull Session”.

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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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Who will be this year’s Schützenkönig?

September 14, 2022

I now attempt to advance on the the topic of Knabenschiessen, roughly Boys-Shooting, my previous approaches to the topic having foundered on Monday 9/12, as feelingly reported in yesterday’s posting “Knabenschiessen!” (inspired by a Frank Yellin Facebook posting on 9/12).

The basic facts, as assembled in a compact Wikipedia entry:

Knabenschiessen is a traditional target shooting competition in Zürich, held on the second weekend of September each year [the 2022 event started on Saturday 9/10 and ended on Monday 9/12].

The festival, officially held for the first time in 1889, is one of the oldest in Switzerland, dating back to the 17th century.

The competition is open to 13- to 17-year-olds who either reside or are enrolled in a school in the canton of Zürich. Originally reserved for boys (Knaben), the competition has been open to female participants since 1991. The shooting is with the Swiss Army ordnance rifle, SIG SG 550. The competition is held in the shooting range at Albisgütli to the south-west of the city center, on the slope of Uetliberg [and is organized by the City of Zurich Rifle Association in Albisgütli.] It is surrounded by a large fair.

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Mortal power

September 9, 2022

The 8/11/22 Rhymes With Orange, exploiting an ambiguity in the noun killer as the modifier N1 in N1 + N2 compounds, in this case in killer abs (literal ‘abs that are killers, abs that kill’ vs. figurative ‘abs that are killer / remarkable’):


(#1) In the worlds of advertisements featuring beautiful people, the health and fitness literature, and soft porn, figurative killer abs are commonplace; abs that kill, however, have (so far as I know) never once appeared on a police blotter

Wider topic: the figurative modifiers of mortal power — premodifying killer (killer abs, a killer app), postmodifying of death (the cruise of death, referring to a penetrating sexual facial expression).

Male body parts and sexual connections between men plus a ton of linguistic expressions in their social contexts, what more could I ask for?

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CalWord: the Calvin Theory of Word Use

September 1, 2022

🐇 🐇 🐇 (the commencement of September) The Calvin and Hobbes comic strip from 9/1/92, reprised in my comics feed on 8/30:


(#1) We can achieve intergenerational incommunicability! Yes we can!

Calvin articulates a view of word use, call it CalWord, which comes in two parts:

Endless lability. Any word can be used to convey any meaning. In the CalWord view, a word is merely substance — pronunciation or spelling — that can be put to any use.  So words are the stem cells of the linguistic world. From NOAD:

compound noun stem cellBiology an undifferentiated cell of a multicellular organism which is capable of giving rise to indefinitely more cells of the same type, and from which certain other kinds of cell arise by differentiation.

Social fencing. Socially distributed variants can serve as social fences, separating the Ins from the Outs and impeding the Outs’ ability to comprehend and communicate with the Ins — impeding, for example, one generation’s ability to comprehend or communicate with the generations after it. The fencing effect is very noticeable for lexical variants — different bits of substance for the same use (soda vs. pop, say); or, especially relevant here, different uses for the same substance (gay ‘lighthearted, carefree’ vs. ‘homosexual’ vs. ‘foolish, stupid, unimpressive’, say).

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