Archive for the ‘Conversion’ Category

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:

(#1)

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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On the dog food watch

May 29, 2019

The 5/27 Wayno-Piraro Bizarro strip, set in the Land of Dogs:


(#1) (If you wonder about the secret symbol in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there’s just one in this strip — see this Page.)

A dog food with Quibbles in its name is of course not going to agree with you, in one sense of agree with. So you can understand the cartoon, and see that the pun on agree with in it makes it amusing — and still miss the extra joke that Wayno and Piraro threw in for you.

The cartoon would have been funny if the dog food had been named just Quibbles. But Quibbles and Fits is a lot funnier, because it’s another pun, on the name of the (actual) dog food Kibbles and Bits. But of course you have to know about this particular commercial product to get that joke.

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Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin

May 25, 2019

From ace penguin-spotter Martin Mulligan, a link to First Dog on the Moon cartoons by Guardian Australia’s Andrew Marlton (a list of his cartoons is available here): dense but wry text on political issues, often featuring the character Brenda the Civil Disobedience Penguin, as in this 5/8/19 strip “Throwing eggs is satisfying but is it right? Quite possibly”:

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homeworks

May 21, 2019

A facebook exchange back on the 6th, between Andrew Carnie (professor of linguistics and dean of the Graduate College at the Univ. of Arizona) and Karen Chung (associate professor at National Taiwan University, teaching courses on linguistics and English).

Andrew: [Student], who only came to class less than 50% of the time, and turned in a bunch of assignments (really) late: These homeworks are way. too. hard. It’s unfair.

Karen: “Homework” as a countable noun? Is he/she a native speaker of English?

Academics will recognize Andrew’s note as the plangent lament of a professor facing the grading tasks at the end of a term, confronted with a self-entitled student who believes they are really smart, so preparation outside of class shouldn’t take much work (and they should be able to ace the final without much studying).

But what Karen picks up on is the use the noun homework as a C(ount) noun, clearly so because it occurs in the plural form homeworks here; for the M(ass) noun homework, the usage would be: This homework is way. too. hard. Or else: These homework assignments are way. too. hard.

Much as I sympathize deeply with Andrew’s lament — having had nearly 50 years of similar experiences (fortunately far outweighed by students who were a delight to teach) — what this posting is about is the C/M thing. There’s a fair amount to get clear about first, and then I’ll have some analysis, some data, and some reflections on larger matters (language use in particular communities of practice, the tension between brevity and clarity as factors in language use).

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Where are you going with that?

April 30, 2019

The One Big Happy from 4/3, recently in my comics feed: the tough neighborhood kid James and his sledgehammer:

(#1)

What I hear in the first panel is an echo of a quotation with an ax, not a sledgehammer:

‘Where’s Papa going with that axe?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

One of the great first lines in English literature, just grips you right off, does E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web.

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