Archive for the ‘Morphology’ Category

Nighthawks on New Year’s

January 2, 2019

A memorable New Yorker cover for the New Year: an Owen Smith parody of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (one of a great many such parodies):

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Three things: Nighthawks parodies, Owen Smith, and party hats.

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bait and tackle

December 27, 2018

A coordination of two nouns, conventionally paired in bait & tackle shop, referring to a store that provides supplies for sport fishermen. Like this place in Benicia CA:

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And elaborately played on in the Bizarro  from December 23rd:

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Peppernut Day

December 24, 2018

Having tackled the Christmas season as a whole, Sandra Boynton examines one specific day: on FB yesterday, with “A helpful tip on National Pfeffernüsse Day” (December 23rd):

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On peppernuts. And on the recipe register (here: Recipe Object Omission in roll thoroughly in confectioners’ sugar).

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Santa Jaws

December 22, 2018

(Minimal linguistic content. But it’s certainly seasonal.)

I have an admitted fondness for cheesy shark movies (which is almost all shark movies). But I don’t think I’ve been sufficiently clear about my distaste for almost all Christmas movies; I have a low tolerance for sentimentality. I recently re-watched Love Actually as an exercise in MST3K-style snark, which entertained me, but still left me sad that so many accomplished and engaging actors should have become enmeshed in the thing. (Yes, I know, the movie is wildly popular.)

The seasonal-sentiment component of today’s Christmas movie, Santa Jaws (a 2018 release on the Syfy Channel), is relatively small, and its preposterous-premise component is extraordinarily high (better to read the plot summary first, to get your guffaws out of the way ahead of time), but then cheesy shark movies as a genre have preposterous premises and incredible plots, so I can tell you that within the constraints of the genre this flick is well-done, with nice performances from the cast.

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Four Swiss rolls

December 17, 2018

My pursuit of Swiss X, for various nouns X, continues with four Swiss roll chapters, starting with a cake roulade and going on to a rolled hair style; roll short for bread roll; and roll short for roll-up (referring to a bread roulade).

Bonus: the cake roulade is appropriate to the season, since a Yule log or bûche de Noël is one, just dressed up for Christmas.

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Yoo-hoo, Aargau!

December 15, 2018

It started at the Peninsula Creamery in Palo Alto at breakfast (with Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky) this morning, quickly led to a chocolate beverage from northern New Jersey (and to manner-of-speaking verbs) and after a whirlwind worldwide beverage tour ended up with an echt-Swiss dairy soft drink from Canton Aargau, Switzerland (up north, on the flatlands near the Rhine).

The impetus for all this, a vintage advertising poster on the wall at the Creamery:


(#1) ASK FOR IT by NAME: Yoo-hoo

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Notes on PSP = PST

December 11, 2018

Follow-ups to my posting “A vernacular construction?” yesterday, about expressions like had went and had ran, non-standard counterparts to standard had gone and had run, respectively — which Ben Yagoda has characterized, misleadingly, as exemplifying vernacular constructions involving the inflectional category PST rather than the standard category PSP. Instead, I maintained, the constructions in question call for the PSP, period, but in some vernacular varieties, the PSP forms of some verbs are pronounced the same as the corresponding PST forms (while in the standard language these forms are phonologically distinct).

My posting noted that the vernaculars here extended an already very strong generalization, PSP = PST — that the PSP form is pronounced the same as the PST — so that it applies to almost all verbs, and a Facebook commenter emphasized the greater regularity of the resulting system vis-a-vis the standard array of forms. All true, but critics of non-standard varieties still manage to use these facts to disparage speakers of these varieties.

And then it occurred to me that Ben was viewing expressions like had went and had ran as if he had produced them himself, in which case they’d be inadvertent errors, substitutions of one inflectional category (PST) for another (PSP). But the expressions need to be seen from the viewpoint of the varieties they occur in — and there, they simply involve phonological realizations of the inflectional category PSP.

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A vernacular construction?

December 10, 2018

Ben Yagoda on the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Lingua Franca blog on 12/5/18, “Why Do I Really, Really Want to Say ‘Had Went’?”

… You see what [actor and director Jonah] Hill and [director Bryan] Fogel were doing, grammatically. They were using the preterite (ran, went) instead of the past participle (run, gone). This is by no means a new thing. Writing in 1781, John Witherspoon decried the “vulgarisms” had fell, had rose, had broke, had threw, and had drew.

Such constructions have long flourished in the American vernacular.

Standard English uses the PSP (past participle) form of a verb in the perfect construction and the passive construction (among other places). Ben says that some speakers and writers have different (syntactic) constructions here, using the PST (past, aka preterite — nothing hinges on the name) form instead of the PSP.

I maintain that Ben has seriously misunderstood the phenomenon here, and that Vern, the vernacular variety, doesn’t differ syntactically from Stan, the standard variety, with respect to the forms used in the perfect and the passive; it’s the PSP for both. It’s just that for some verbs, Vern pronounces the PSP differently from Stan; for Vern, the PSP form for these verbs is pronounced the same as their PST.

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Note: the insect apocalypse

December 2, 2018

In today’s NYT Magazine (on-line on 11/27), “The Insect Apocalypse Is Here: What does it mean for the rest of life on Earth?” by Brooke Jarvis: an alarming tale of scientists tracking huge declines in the insects in our environment: in raw amount of biomass, in numbers of species, in numbers of individuals in particular species.


(#1) The dramatic cover for the magazine

This is a note on the N + N compound insect apocalypse.

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Green flowers

November 30, 2018

It starts with this design by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky on her Instagram account on the 8th, with her comment “Not sure why I keep making flowers green”:

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And then it leads all sorts of surprising places, botanical, cultural, and linguistic.

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