Archive for the ‘Derivation’ Category

Fiberglass football

November 14, 2021

The Zippy strip of 11/8, in which our Pinhead confronts the hulking fiberglass figure of Football Man (looming in front of the Moreland Tire Co., whose products Football Man is presumably exalting:


(#1) Whatever Moreland products Football Man is hawking, he’s also exalting football as quintessentially American — so if Zippy is no fan of the game, he’s no American either — and as a (dark) metaphor for life (next up in the game of life: brain damage)

Having spent 29 years as a college professor in Columbus OH, I have a lot to say about football, very little of it pleasant, but this is probably not the time to air my grievances.

So put that aside, and ask the questions that almost every Zippy strip provokes: who are these guys? what is this place?

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Reader, Writer, Arithmeticker

April 20, 2021

The 3/24 One Big Happy, in which Ruthie’s brother Joe (rebelling against school, after his discovery of appalling “chapter books” — all words, no pictures!) goes on a spree of –er words:


The extremely versatile N-forming derivational suffix –er, with N bases like arithmetic and V bases like read (including, in the last panel, the problematic base tidy up, a V of the form V + Prt)

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The columnist

April 15, 2021

Today’s Zippy strip, with an unconventional sense of columnist:

(#1)

Not someone who writes a column for publication, but a collector of columns, the architectural features — like a philatelist, but with pillars.

But then the suffix –ist is extraordinarily multifunctional.

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All about -ette

March 28, 2021

Diminutive, feminine (in some sense), both. In the One Big Happy strip of 3/4, in my comics feed on 3/36:

(#1)

In modern English — that’s important — the suffix -ette has two relatively productive — that’s also important — functions: as a literal diminutive, referring to a small version of the referent of the base to which –ette is attached (“diminutive” suffixes can have a variety of other functions, notably as expressing affection towards this referent); and as a literal feminine, referring to a female version of the referent of the base to which –ette is attached (“feminine” suffixes can have a variety of other functions, notably as markers of grammatical gender (ggender), as opposed to natural, or sex, gender (ngender); English doesn’t have ggender).

The big generalization about modern English is that –ette attached to bases with inanimate reference (like disk) tends to have the literally diminutive function (diskette), while attached to bases with human (or, more generally, higher-animate) reference (like usher), –ette tends to have the literally feminine function (usherette). Novel formations follow the generalization: a spoonette would be a small spoon, not a spoon in female shape, or a spoon intended for use by girls and women; while a guardette would be a female guard (perhaps viewed dismissively or derogatorily), not a miniature guard.

Ruthie’s brother Joe apparently fails to appreciate the big –ette generalization, and takes a bachelorette to be a miniature bachelor, rather than the female counterpart of a bachelor (in Joe’s terms, a grown-up girl — a woman — who isn’t married yet).

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Scientific and non-scientific -ist

March 10, 2021

Yesterday, in my posting “And you thought -ize was complicated”, a Tom Gauld cartoon showing the great semantic versatility of the suffix –ist. And now, from the 2020 collection Department of Mind-Blowing Theories: Science Cartoons [from New Scientist magazine] by Tom Gauld, –ist as used for names of scientific fields vs. for a variety of other meanings (while showing considerable morphophonological variety in these words).


(#1) The cover of Mind-Blowing

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And you thought -ize was complicated

March 9, 2021

… but that was before you looked at –ist. The spur for this observation is Tom Gauld’s cartoon “The Characters in my New Play”, originally in the Guardian on 3/14/15, since reprinted in his 2017 collection Baking With Kafka:

Gauld starts with the play-relevant term protagonist, then moves to the falsely analogous term antagonist, then takes off on a flight of fancy through the vast –ist world.

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departmentalized

March 1, 2021

From the Stanford Daily (the student newspaper) on 3/1/21: “‘The work is not done’: Students react to AAAS departmentalization recommendation” by John Okhiulu, Kemi Oyewole and Darion Wallace:

On Feb. 22, the Framework Task Force recommended Stanford’s African and African-American Studies program be departmentalized. Following a half-century of student activism, Black undergraduate and graduate students share their reactions to the news.

This is departmentalize ‘make departmental, give departmental status to, make into a department’ — which ought to be a perfectly ordinary causative use of this verb, but struck me as a use I hadn’t experienced before. And possibly I hadn’t, to judge from the evidence of an assortment of dictionaries, none of which reports this use.

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All they will call you will be “escapees”

September 13, 2020

Well, maybe also “escapers”, or even “escapettes”, as in this One Big Happy cartoon from 8/17, which taps into a much-studied phenomenon in English morphology:

(#1)

From my 1/9/15 posting “-ee” (warning: this goes, unavoidably, pretty deep into the technical weeds of syntax and semantics):

The great resource on [the English derivational suffix] –ee is a 1998 paper by Chris Barker in Language (74.695-727), “Episodic -ee in English: A thematic role constraint on new word formation” (stable URL here), which uses a database of “fifteen hundred naturally occurring tokens of some five hundred word types” to analyze the semantics of the suffix; it also has a full bibliography of relevant literature on the subject.

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The goblet with the hobbit has the wine that is fine

May 13, 2020

Yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro, about gobs and goblets:


(#1) Wayno’s title: “Liquid Economics” (if you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

Start with the straightforward stuff: goblet vs. gob, with goblet playfully treated here as if it were gob + diminutive –let.

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Quick shot: a job title

April 17, 2020

Background: MSNBC now has a regular feature with a report from Dr. Calvin Sun, a native New Yorker who works as an ER doc in NYC, going to a different hospital each day, filling in wherever he’s needed; on MSNBC, he describes the situation at the ER of the day.


Dr. Sun on tv: earnest, passionate, compassionate, and terribly, terribly weary

Above, I used the familiar, everyday English job title for Dr. Sun: he’s an ER / E.R. doctor, ER doc for short. The formal job title is emergency physician (who practices emergency medicine, in an emergency department).

Meanwhile, I didn’t know any AmE name for a physician who filled in for other doctors as needed.

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