Archive for the ‘Inflection’ Category

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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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:

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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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pair of jockstrap

January 19, 2021

(Well, men’s underwear, so men’s bodies play a significant role, but nothing raunchy. Look at #1, just below, to get a feel for the content and your comfort level; this is about as racy as things get in this posting.)

Passed on to me by Sim Aberson a few days ago, with the comment “Pair?”, this jockstrap ad from the men’s underwear company TBô (sometimes T-Bô):

(#1)

Not just “pair”, but “pair of jockstrap”, with SG jockstrap.The ad will take this posting  in many different directions, sometimes inconclusively, so the posting will proceed as a collection of very loosely connected mini-essays.

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Lay, goosie, lay

December 30, 2020

Liz Climo’s cartoon for today, 12/30, the 6th day of Christmas (“Six geese a-laying” — that is, laying eggs):

(#1)

Prescriptively incorrect, but extraordinarily widespread, lay down (in an imperative to the geese to lie down).

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/ol/ vs. /old/

December 16, 2020

In the One Big Happy from 11/23, recently appeared in my comics feed, Ruthie and her grandfather spar over the choice between /ol/ and /old/ as the PST form of the verbs STEAL and TELL and the BSE/PRS forms of the verb HOLD.

There are, as it turns out, two quite different phenomena here, one having to do with the choice of an inflectional form (the PST of STEAL), the other having to do with the omission of word-final /d/ in casual pronunciations in connected speech (in the PST of TELL and the BSE/PRS of HOLD).

Ruthie’s grandfather, however, treats the two phenomena as comparable, and also, unreasonably, treats the casual pronunciations as requiring correction.

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Crossed folk stories

September 9, 2020

Yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro cartoon:


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

The strip explicitly refers to the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, but also alludes to the Piper’s son as having stolen a pig. This is baffling unless you know a particular English nursery rhyme, so we have another exercise in cartoon understanding.

Ok, let’s assume you get that. Then the cartoon is a kind of conceptual portmanteau, a cross between the Piper legend and the Piper’s son nursery rhyme. Then set in a modern law-enforcement context, juxtaposing some (stereotyped) version of the real world with the world of these two folk stories. Cool.

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August flora and fauna

August 9, 2020

… mostly fauna, the birds and creatures, squirrels especially. From the little world that I see in my long confinement (now into its sixth month), on the narrow patio outside the big window by my work table. The view from that window on 6/27:


(#1) From the inside of the house: the bird feeder, attached to the outside of the window; in the foreground, succulents (notably a silver Echevaria); a planter with tall-standing calla plants; and an assortment of cymbidium orchid plants; with an ivy-covered wall in the background

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Eat me

July 25, 2020

Well, maybe not. A lot depends on how squick works for you. What I’m talking about here are some chocolate candies, innocent enough, but in the shape of an anus, maybe now a challenge. I came across these Edible Anuses — their trade name — entirely by accident, in a search for something utterly unrelated.

A single (milk) chocolate:

(#1)

Now, it’s not hard to view this as an abstract art form (and delicious chocolate). It’s certainly not especially realistic in appearance, despite the fact that it was molded from a specific human body — though few people have in fact ever had such a close-up view of an anus (gay men who are into anuses being an obvious exception).

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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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A regular festival of ambiguity

November 20, 2019

(Later in this posting there are a couple of raunchy men’s underwear ads, and some cautiously worded references to men’s bodies and mansex, so some readers might want to exercise caution.)

Ruthie and Joe in the One Big Happy from 10/9:

(#1)

Three senses of (ir)regular in just four panels. All traceable ultimately to the Latin noun regula ‘rule’, with rule understood as in NOAD:

noun rule: 1 [a] one of a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct within a particular activity or sphere: the rules of the game were understood. [b] a principle that operates within a particular sphere of knowledge, describing or prescribing what is possible or allowable: the rules of grammar. …

The range of senses of regular is impressively large, and illustrates a whole variety of mechanisms of semantic change; the three senses above are a microcosm of this greater world.

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