Archive for the ‘Beheading’ Category

Stilettoed on the balcony

August 3, 2022

The killing of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri by a targeted U.S. drone strike (taking him down as he stood on a balcony) over the weekend in Afghanistan was described by an MSNBC commentator yesterday morning as

a stiletto strike:  with the N1 + N2 compound N stiletto strike ‘sudden (military) attack resembling a stiletto (in being very narrowly focused lethal weaponry)’; the sense of the N2 strike here is NOAD‘s 2 [a] a sudden attack, typically a military one

Possibly it was stiletto airstrike; it went by very fast, I haven’t seen another broadcast of it, and it’s not yet available on-line, so I can’t check — but I am sure of the N stiletto and the N strike and the intent of the commentator to commend the pinpoint accuracy of the operation.

It seems that the metaphor has been used occasionally in military circles for some years, but very rarely outside these circles, so that it came with the vividness of a fresh, rather than conventional, metaphor — but while it worked well for me (evoking the slim, pointed, lethal daggers of assassins), it might not have been so effective with others, whose mental image of a stiletto is the heel of a fashionable women’s shoe (slim and pointed,  but alluring rather than lethal).

Yes, the two senses (plus a few others that I won’t discuss here) are historically related, with the dagger sense the older and, in a series of steps, the source of the shoe sense. But of course ordinary speakers don’t know that, nor should they be expected to (such information is the province of specialists, historical linguists and lexicographers); what they know is how stiletto is used in their social world, and that’s likely to involve trendy footwear rather than medieval weaponry.

(more…)

non-profits

April 4, 2022

Today’s morning name, the C[ount] noun non-profit, as in this real-life example (lifted from this very blog):

Partners of the Common Cents Lab are tech companies, banks, credit unions, non-profits, and government organizations

And in this NOAD entry:

adj. nonprofit [AZ: very frequently non-profit]: [attributive] not making or conducted primarily to make a profit: charities and other nonprofit organizations. noun mainly North American a nonprofit organization: I spent the next six years working for small nonprofits.

(With clearly C noun occurrences boldfaced)

(more…)

When the palm trunks

March 5, 2022

Report on Facebook today from Sim Aberson (in South Florida) about his “daily constitutional” with his husband, where they encountered:


Copernicia macroglossa, petticoat palm, a very slow-growing species

Sim wrote:

When they eventually trunk, the old fronds produce a beautiful petticoat.

Yes, the noun trunk ‘stem of a tree’, verbed, to yield intransitive trunk ‘(of a tree) produce a trunk’.

For a moment, I thought that Sim had salted the verbing in there just for me to find — he knows my tastes — but then I realized that this is the way palm people talk (Sim and Mike are serious plant guys) — because the verb is a genuinely useful one for growers of palms.

An old story: people go around promiscuously nouning and verbing, occasionally for cleverness (and there’s nothing wrong with that), but usually because in one of their worlds — often a very specialized world — the innovative form is a good thing to have to hand.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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

(more…)

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).

(more…)

STIR FRYS

January 12, 2018

From the recent Linguistic Society of America meetings in Salt Lake City, via Mike Pope, this sign in the window at the downtown restaurant Mollie & Ollie:

(#1)

Of linguistic note: the spelling STIR-FRYS — rather than STIR-FRIES — for the plural of the C[ount] noun STIR-FRY (most commonly spelled as hyphenated STIR-FRY, but occasionally solid STIRFRY or separated STIR FRY). This spelling preserves the identity of the base word FRY and so treats the noun STIR-FRY as an inviolable unit.

(more…)