Archive for the ‘Compounds’ Category

The compounds of commerce and the comics

June 3, 2022

A little study in N + N compounds in English, their great utility and versatility (they pack a lot of content into two-word expressions), and their consequent massive potential ambiguity (so that divining the intended meaning can require vast amounts of background knowledge and appreciating details of the context in which the compound is used). You can have (great) brevity, or you can have (great) clarity, but you can’t have both at once.

From the world of commerce, the compound dog spot (which many of us will not have encountered before, or will take to be a reference to the coat pattern of Dalmatian dogs). From the comic strips, two compounds that have conventional interpretations but can also be understood in fresh and unconventional ways: from One Big Happy, dancing school; from Bizarro, cowboy.

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Now serving at the Raven Cafe

May 11, 2022

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm, with the POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau) Edgar Allan Po’ Boy = Edgar Allan Poe (the American writer and poet) + po’ boy (the superb New Orleans submarine sandwich):


(#1) Edgar Allan Po’ Boy is a N1 + N2 compound N, understood as having the head, N2, semantically associated with the modifier, N1, by (the referent of) N2’s being named after (the referent of) N1 — parallel to the Woody Allen Sandwich (a tower of corned beef and pastrami) at NYC’s Carnegie Deli

(Plus the allusion to Poe’s poem The RavenQuoth the raven, “Nevermore” — in Grimm’s, “I had it once, but… nevermore”.)

If you were a betting person, you would surely put some money on this MGG strip as not being the first to use this particular POP — of course, that would be fine, it’s all in how you develop the joke — and you would win.

Just on this blog, in Zippy postings from 2016 and a Rhymes With Orange posting in 2017.

Plus bonuses: a texty with a pun turning on the ambiguity of /póbòj/ as either po’ boy or Poe boy; and two cartoons turning on Edgar Allan Poe / Po’ Boy understood as a Source or Ingredient compound (parallel to shrimp po’ boy) — yes, Edgar Allan Poe in a po’ boy, in it, good enough to eat.

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The Merry Homomonth of May

May 3, 2022

(Men’s genitals, man-on-man sex, lots of street talk about them, entirely unsuitable for kids and the sexually modest.)

The Merry Homomonth of May on my two male calendars for 2022: the Tom of Finland calendar (which is mostly free of naughty bits) in my living room, where visitors (I do have an occasional one) can see it; the Cocky Boys / CockyBoys / Cockyboys calendar (which is all about the naughty bits) stashed away in my bedroom, where it can be viewed from my bed and so can provide me with an inspirational penis boost as called for by the exigencies of the moment.

So, in order: the ToF, which turns out to be primarily (though not exclusively) about gay men’s nipples, or tits, as we usually call them (metonymically); and then three months of CockyBoy cocks (April through June).

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The sequel to my allergic ass

May 1, 2022

🐇 🐇 🐇 pour le premier mai. A follow-up to yesterday’s posting “My allergic ass”, which was (mostly) about pronominal ass — possessive pronoun + ass, used of a person, to refer not to their buttocks but to that person: his ass ‘he, him’, your ass ‘you’, my ass ‘I, me’.

[Ambiguity may ensue: my ass is warm can mean either ‘my buttocks are warm’ or ‘I am warm’ (you have to figure out from context which was intended); while my ass is heart-shaped is probably about my buttocks (well, I might be Candy Man, shaped like a candy heart), and my ass is allergic is probably about me (though I might conceivably have buttocks afflicted by contact dermatitis).]

Now: through Facebook discussions, two different threads have emerged from that posting: one about material in a long citation in the 2006 Beavers and Koontz-Garboden paper on pronominal ass; the other about the source of the example — my allergic ass — that provoked my posting.

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X-adjacent

October 14, 2021

(Warning: moderately technical linguistics ahead — tailored for the non-specialist, but unsparing with crucial concepts and their accompanying terminology.)

Watching aimless tv recently, I came across this example, from NCIS: New Orleans, Season 6 Episode 16:

Hardin doesn’t have a criminal record, but he has been scandal-adjacent more than once. (from the transcript)

It was the Adj scandal-adjacent (of the form N + Adj) that caught my eye: literally ‘adjacent to scandal’, but here in an extended sense, roughly ‘(closely) associated with scandal’, suggesting that the association is uncomfortably close.

I then discovered that scandal-adjacent (sometimes spelled scandal adjacent) was reasonably common, and fraud-adjacent was too.  And recalled a posting of mine on an extraordinarily euphemistic occurrence of adult adjacent with adult referring to sex.

It turns out that the compound Adj pattern X-adjacent ‘adjacent to X’ is an open one, with a variety of examples in OED3 (Dec. 2011). Except that OED3 incorrectly characterizes the pattern as involving postmodification rather than compounding.

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Masculinity comics 1

October 5, 2021

[Proviso: this posting is mostly about cross-dressing, but it doesn’t pretend to be an essay on the very large number of forms and functions of cross-dressing, even in the modern U.S., much less in different sociocultural contexts around the world and throughout history.]

I’ve been accumulating comic strips having to do with boys and masculinity, in particular about what they’ve picked up about normatively masculine behavior and attitudes by the age of 8 or so: the age of the character Joe in the comic strip One Big Happy, who’s the older brother of Ruthie, age 6, who’s the central character of the strip. At the moment I have 5 strips (4 OBHs, plus a Zippy), covering a wide range of themes in normative masculinity for boys. To judge from the comics (and my recollections of boyhood), an 8-year-old has an extensive and pretty fine-grained command of the cultural norms of masculinity within his social group.

Example 1, the OBH of 4/16/21, on attitudes towards transvestism / cross-dressing:


(#1) The attitude here is that male cross-dressing — prancing around dressed in women’s clothing — is ridiculous, maybe pitiful, but in any case not compatible with ferocity, that is, symbolic masculinity ; this is one step in sophistication past the attitude that it’s against nature, therefore pathological and dangerous, though possibly usable as entertainment, in the theatre of ridicule

Two linguistic side issues here: the idiomatic slang says you, expressing disagreement with an interlocutor’s remark (from Joe, to Ruthie, in the last panel); and the 2pbfV cross-dress (a derivative of the synthetic compound cross-dressing). Before that, the background of the Boy Code.

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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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