Archive for the ‘Conversion’ Category

The mirror of the manatee

August 5, 2021

In today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro — Wayno’s title: “The Mammal in the Mirror” (a play on the song title “Man in the Mirror”) — a manatee primps at his vanity, yielding the vanity + manatee portmanteau vanatee, and crossing genders as well as words (masculine manatee — “Man in the Mirror”, addressing himself as handsome, bristly body — at a conventionally highly feminine item of furniture, a vanity table, for applying makeup in the bedroom):


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

I’ll start with the two contributors to the portmanteau and follow them where they lead, which is many surprising places.

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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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Two cartoons on the 30th

January 30, 2021

… in today’s comics feed, both connecting to earlier postings on this blog: a Rhymes With Orange on an ambiguity in the verbing to dust; and a Zippy on Magritte’s painting The Son of Man.

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Buzz me, baby

March 19, 2020

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes re-run strip, on Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs (CFSBs), which offer “100% of the daily recommended allowance of caffeine”:


(#1) Just in case you had a fleeting moment of wondering about it, there is no caffeine RDA (recommended dietary allowance — recommended by the US National Research Council); the RDAs are for nutrients, and caffeine is not a nutrient

C&H Sugar Bomb strips. Hummingbird metabolism. The getting-high sense of the noun buzz and its verbing. The near-instant buzz of concentrated caffeine. Adalbert Stifter’s 1845 novella Bergkristall.

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Usage notes from the kitchen

January 1, 2020

Two familiar phenomena in English usage illustrated from food and cooking: a partially conventionalized t/d-deletion in scramble eggs for standard scrambled eggs; and the use of stainless (for stainless steel) in stainless bowl and stainless flatware — a beheading.

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The signs of speechlessness

December 7, 2019

What do you say to convey that you can’t find any words to describe your state of mind? What’s the verbal equivalent of the speechlessness emoji 😶 ? (Which literally has no mouth, indicating an inability to speak.)

Some people have conventional expressions for this purpose. Here’s one of them, homina, in today’s Mother Goose and Grimm:

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As a cartoon bonus, we get the (metonymic) conversion of an expression evincing some state of mind — homina evincing bewilderment, surprise, or shock to the point of speechlessness —  to a measure noun denoting a degree of the evinced state of mind — homina as a unit of bewilderment etc. A special sort of nouning, generally available for interjections:

I give that experience three eeks / ughs / ewws / ouches / …

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Fried pickles with ranch

October 28, 2019

The Zippy of 10/26, on the wisdom of potato-chip owls, especially those offering fried pickles with ranch:


(#1) Wise Potato Chips, a local company in my childhood days in eastern Pennsylvania, though now all over the place; also now with a product whose name is a little festival of morphological beheadings

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Heavenly POP

October 18, 2019

It’s been about ten days since the last POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau) here — a 10/9/19 posting “Two old cartoon friends”, with doctors without border collies — so, on the theory that regular POPs are good for the mind and the spirit, today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro collabo, at the very gates of heaven:

pearly gates + gate-crasher

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

Appreciating the cartoon requires that you be familiar with the pop-culture story (whose source is the Christian Bible) of St. Peter at the pearly gates to heaven; that you be familiar with the belief (spread by an 1989 animated movie) that all dogs go to heaven; that you know the idiomatic synthetic compound gate-crasher; and that you know the idiomatic nouning plus-one. That’s a lot of cultural stuff.

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Present at the creation: the weaponization of sarcasm

September 25, 2019

A Mick Stevens Caveman cartoon in the 9/30/19 New Yorker (about to arrive in the mail), memorializing a signal moment in the cartoon Stone Age:


(#1) The weaponization of sarcasm in prehistoric times

The later history of weaponized sarcasm is vast, but certainly reaches one of its high points in 1970 in the career of British gangster Doug Piranha. During a period of perhaps 70 years sarcasm has spread to become, in the view of some cultural critics, absolutely pervasive in modern society, at least in the Anglophone world.

Meanwhile, the idea that elements of culture can be weaponized — used like bludgeons not just against individuals, but also to aggressively serve social or political purposes — has recently become fashionable.

(And then, of course, there’s the question of the semantic work that the derivational suffix –ize does in converting various groups of lexical items to verbs (as in N weapon > V weaponize).)

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Am I a bird?

July 4, 2019

The 7/3 Rhymes With Orange takes us to the Home for Aged Superheroes, where Superman is unsure of the volant creature he sees in the mirror and fears he’s going blind, or slipping into dementia (an unusually poignant theme for a cartoon):


(#1) In the land of the caped superheroes

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