Archive for the ‘Compounds’ Category

gay therapy

April 13, 2021

An ad in my Facebook feed for a Gay Therapy Center, which briefly gave me pause because of an ambiguity in the Adj + N composite gay therapy. Now, Adj + N composites, like N + N compounds, are notoriously open to multiple understandings, even if we restrict ourselves to general patterns for the semantic relationship between the two parts. In this case, I had a moment of deep unease that gay therapy was to be understood as a treatment composite, parallel to treatment compounds: pain therapy, flu therapy, cancer therapy, etc. ‘therapy to treat condition or disorder X’. Thus viewing homosexuality as a disorder, which would make gay therapy here a synonym of the now-conventional label conversion therapy, for a scheme that proposes to treat homosexuality and cure it.

But, whew, no. The Gay Therapy Center in San Francisco (with a satellite center in Los Angeles) offers “LGBTQ therapy to help LGBTQ people love themselves and each other” — with the composite gay therapy understood as ‘therapy for gay people, to help / benefit gay people’. Indeed, the Facebook ad offered brief videos showing male couples embracing affectionately (other ads have female couples as well). A still from one of these:

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The St. Patrick’s Day spriticide

March 21, 2021

The event: the leprechaun has been murdered, with a porcelain figure. How to describe the event as concisely as possible? Today’s Rhymes with Orange strip shows us a police detective who can do it in three words. (And it’s been set to music!)

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Beheaded spots

March 3, 2021

In yesterday’s posting “The lost years for LGBT seniors”, about a Talk of the Town piece from the New Yorker, my attention was drawn to spot illustrations as a form of the cartoonist’s art and also to the term the magazine used to refer to a spot illustration: spot, an abbreviated version of the N + N compound, specifically a beheading of the two-word expression, in which the head element illustration is suppressed. (This sense of spot seems not to have found its way into standard dictionaries, but the magazine uses it consistently, in every issue.)

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The bull validates Peter’s family

February 7, 2021

Three more Bizarro cartoons from the past, from another crop on Pinterest, with: an allusion you need to catch to understand the cartoon; a complex pun; and laugh-inducing names.

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Two from the 2/8/21 New Yorker

February 4, 2021

… both about N + N compounds: about weather bar in a Roz Chast cartoon, (implicitly) about bear hug in a wordless Will McPhail cartoon.

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Once more with the mice

December 29, 2020

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm cartoon has the cat Attila appealing to the Pied Piper for his help in the mice-delivery business:

mice-delivery business is a N+N compound with first element mice delivery — itself a N+N compound, with first element mice. And mice is quite clearly a plural form.

It then turns out that compounds of the form mice + N (with a clearly plural first element) have a certain degree of fame in linguistics.

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Death trap

June 5, 2020

The 5/27 Wayno/Piraro Bizarro collabo brings us two Grim Reapers confronting what might be a trap for them:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

If you want to catch Death in a trap, what do you use as bait? Obviously, not the conventional chunk of cheese, but dead cheese: moldy cheese. (Moldy cheese is, of course, not actually dead; in fact, the cheese is alive with the swarms of microbes.)

The cartoon nicely exploits an ambiguity, between the semantics of the conventionalized compound death trap / deathtrap, and the semantics of a compound Death trap, parallel to mouse trap / mousetrap.

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This isn’t hospitality, this is animosity

January 24, 2020

Today’s Wayno/Piraro collabo, on the opposition of hospitality and animosity, which I take to be an homage to Terry Jones (of Monty Python’s Flying Circus), who was released from life’s afflictions three days ago:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 7 in this strip — see this Page.)

Wayno’s title for the cartoon is “Putdown Service”, a play on turndown service, and that‘s an allusion to the hospitality industry.

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On the rubber fowl beat

November 22, 2019

In my writing, it goes back a dozen years to a Language Log posting on rubber ducky, with further duck notes over the years; notable from the outset were items like the vinyl rubber ducky, a rubber ducky made of vinyl. And then today Bob Eckstein burst onto Facebook with a new Christmas item from the Archie McPhee company, a rubber chicken Christmas ornament — yes, a glass rubber chicken.

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Muscle Milk

November 21, 2019

(Yes, much about sexual meanings of this expression, so there will be much about men’s bodies and bodily fluids and man-man sexual practices, so not advisable for children or the sexually modest.)

Muscle Milk. A creamy sports protein supplement, with an entirely descriptive N + N compound name: ‘milk-like substance [a creamy drink] for (building) muscle(s)’. But as something of an enthusiast of both male genitals and semen, I immediately saw a sexual reading, ‘milk-like substance [semen] from a (metaphorical) muscle [a penis]’. Salacious smiles ensued.

I doubt that a sexual reading occurred to the makers of Muscle Milk, but then they didn’t reckon with people like me. (And in their defense, I should say that though the sexual senses of muscle and milk are both attested, the combination muscle milk seems to have been used only in the name of their product and not to be attested in a sexual semse.)

As a bonus, most of their original flavors are crèmes.

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