Archive for the ‘Inflection’ Category

An ambiguity you might not have noticed

February 26, 2017

A poster for the latest Star Wars movie:

Is that the last Jedi warrior (sg) or the last Jedi warriors (pl)? You can’t tell for sure, since the noun noun Jedi ‘Jedi warrior’ is the same in sg and pl, as in these two examples from the Wikipedia page on them:

[pl] The Jedi … are the main protagonists in the Star Wars universe.

[sg] A Jedi’s ideology and strict way of life as a worthwhile challenge to live up to is a recurring theme in the Star Wars universe.

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More holiday food

February 8, 2017

From Barbara Partee on Facebook, a posting about a recent celebration of Maslenitsa she and Volodja had with friends (blini made by Volodja). Start with the food:

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(shown here with sour cream and two kinds of caviar).

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The Insolence and the Ecstasy

July 18, 2016

(Not for kids or the sexually modest.)

Today’s Daily Jocks ad, offering 2eros Black Label items (with my caption):

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The Insolent Brothers
Offer themselves
On the altar of Eros to
Needy faggots

Buddy White more
Welcoming, Bro Black more
Contemptuous; off work they’re
Tight with one another but
Certain they’d never ever
Switch teams to join

The Ecstatic Sisters, the way those
Queers Mikey Bono and
Lennie Vance did

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Tom Toro

June 9, 2016

Caught in the May 9th New Yorker, this Tom Toro cartoon:

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A little slideshow on time adverbials and the times they refer to, understood figuratively.

Toro hasn’t appeared on this blog before, but he’s a prolific cartoonist with an ear for language and an inclination to play with classic cartoon memes (like the desert island or, as below, penguins and their discriminability).

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Raining subjunctives

May 2, 2016

Today’s Zippy dips into morphosyntax:

The three panels are far from parallel. Adjective and Adverb are the names of major syntactic categories, while Past Subjective and Present Subjunctive are (intended to be) the names of infectional forms of Verb words: the Present Subjunctive in things like

(1) I insist that Sandy be promoted.

and the Past Subjunctive in things like

(2) Were Sandy my friend, I would be proud.

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Hillary’s emoji

March 28, 2015

The cover of the March 30th New Yorker, “Clinton’s Emoji” by Barry Blitt:

From the cover story by Mina Kaneko and Françoise Muhly:

“Where would we be without emoticons, emoji, and sideways winky faces typed out of punctuation marks?” Barry Blitt, the artist behind this week’s cover, says. “Seriously, how does anyone understand anything that’s written with only letters?” he continues. “I feel sorry for the alphabet. I’m waiting for the first original novel to be composed solely with emoticons. Oh, and Hillary Clinton.”

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Lexeme confusion

January 5, 2015

Some time ago, John Wells reported on Facebook:

Friday’s London Evening Standard, reporting on the inquest into a fatal collision between a bus and a cyclist: “[The] bus driver … told police ‘As he started to turn, the bike slipped from under him. I broke … and he went under. I could feel him. I broke and put the handbrake on…'”.

There’s a confusion here between the lexemes BRAKE and BREAK, which are homophonous in their BSE/PRS forms. But not in their PST forms: BRAKE with regular PST braked, BREAK with ablaut PST broke.

The homophony leads to spelling confusions, usually with the much more common verb (break) prevailing over the less common (brake). In the Evening Standard quote, this confusion extends to the morphology, with the PST of break prevailing over the PST of brake (in both speech and writing).

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Conjugal visit

January 4, 2015

Today’s Bizarro:

(See this 5/6/11 posting for cartoonist Scott Hilburn’s take on conjugational visits, with information on the adjective conjugal and on conjugal visits.)

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The curious morphology of Canada

December 28, 2014

Ann Burlingham writes from Canada to report two non-standard verb forms she found there:

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And she asked: are Canadians regularizing verbs faster than USAns?

Well no, but she’s noticing the verb forms more when she’s away from home (western New York state): a version of the Local Color Illusion.

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The plural of Miss Subways

October 24, 2014

In the current (10/27/14) New Yorker, an entertaining “Where Are They Now Dept.” feature by Michael Schulman, “Underground Beauties”, beginning:

Long before Dr. Zizmor and Poetry in Motion, beauty on the subways came in the form of the Miss Subways competition, which ran from 1941 to 1976. The idea, hatched by the New York Subways Advertising Company, was to prettify the train cars while drawing eye traffic to the surrounding ads for chewing gum or cigarettes. Every few months, a new glamour shot would appear on posters underground, along with a few lines describing the winner’s hobbies (“modern dance, piano and ceramics”) and aspirations (“plugging for B.A. but would settle for M.R.S.”). Nearly two hundred women claimed the title.

Over the years, nearly two hundred women served as Miss Subways. So there were nearly two hundred Miss Subwayses? No that can’t be right: Subways is already plural. The obvious solution is a zero plural, with only one realization of plural inflection: nearly two hundred Miss Subways. And that’s the solution in the New Yorker piece.

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