Archive for the ‘Naming’ Category

A stay in medical Antarctica

August 4, 2017

Yesterday’s medical adventure, set off by my shortness of breath during exertion, especially in hot weather (which we’ve been having a lot of; my symptoms became worrisome on a weekend in May when the temperature in Palo Alto reached 107 F). I was referred to a cardiologist; alarmed, she set up yesterday’s myocardial perfusion imaging (MPI) test, specifically via single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). Details to follow.

The test involved hours at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, much of it sitting around between its parts. The actual imaging parts of the test took place in astonishingly icy rooms — which I came to refer to as medical Antarctica — so that I was shivering with cold when I left after 5 hours.

In the sitting-around parts of the event, I read through most of the latest (August 7th and 14th) issue of the New Yorker. To leaven the stark medical details, I’ll report on one of the pieces (Lauren Collins’s “Identity crisis: Notes from a names obsessive”), one of the cartoons (by Joe Dator), and a set of “spots”, small illustrations by Nishant Choksi sprinkled throughout the issue.


Non-standard sex talk

May 26, 2017

I’ll start with the steamy gay sex talk from an on-line messaging site — sensitive readers are hereby warned about this content — and then go on to focus on a non-standard syntactic construction in this exchange, what the YGDP (the Yale University Grammatical Diversity Project: English in North America) calls the Needs Washed construction (using as a label an instance of the instruction), involving a PSP complement of a head V.


Naming rights

August 6, 2016

A recent Calvin and Hobbes re-run:

The general principle is that whoever discovers (or invents or even just promulgates) something has naming rights, and there are a number of circumstances in which these rights are recognized, though in some — the binomial nomenclature of biology, for instance — there are official bodies that oversee the naming.

It turns out that it’s not very common for someone to name a place, concrete object, idea, product, whatever after themselves, as Calvin and Hobbes both do in the cartoon; descriptive names are much more common, and even in the world of eponymy, naming in honor of someone or something is much more common than naming for oneself . In addition, when something is named after someone, the naming is often done by someone other than the originator.


Naming names: the cocktail beat

July 29, 2016

In the New York Times Magazine on Sunday the 24th, an entertaining “Drinks” column by Rosie Schaap, about cocktail names, with special attention to the cocktails created and named by Jill Dobias, of the East Village restaurant Joe and Misses Doe. Two of her works, Eye of the Komodo and Clam in a Can:



Our playful entomologists

July 25, 2016

In the August 2016 Funny Times, a wonderful piece “The Name Game” by M.K. Wolfe, about binomial nomenclature for living things, but with special reference to the taxonomic names of insects (there are, after all, so very many of them). A copy of the piece (which you should embiggen for easier reading):


An entertaining tour of playful, even silly, names that have been adopted. As far as I can tell, these are all entirely accurate, even the insects  Agra vation, Lalsapa lusa, Pison eu, and Vera peculya.


Two cat cartoons

July 9, 2016

Not quite what you think. Two cartoons: a Mother Goose and Grimm from yesterday, today’s Bizarro:



To appreciate #1, you need to know about the custom of putting out a cat for the night (V + Prt put out ‘put sth. outside (a house)’), and you need to recognize the piece of heavy earth-moving equipment in the room, with brand names Caterpilllar and (clipped) Cat.

To appreciate #2, you need to know that Zeus / Jupiter is the mythological hurler of thunderbolts, and you need to recognize Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat (with one of his accompanying Things) and to see that the figure in the cartoon is a hybrid of Zeus and Dr. Seuss’s Cat, a combination conveyed by the portmanteau name Dr. Zeuss.


When was this place founded?

March 15, 2016

In the NYT yesterday, a cute piece “Resolving the Nagging, if Minor, Mysteries of New York City”, looking at two of these little mysteries: When was this place founded? Is the lagomorph in the Alice fountain in Central Park the White Rabbit or the March Hare? The first of these is in significant part a linguistic question: what does founded mean?



October 31, 2015

I woke to the sound of the famous theme from Schubert’s incidental music for the play Rosamunde, a tune to which a friend had been taught a rhyme in grade school that was supposed to help kids fix the theme and its creator in their minds:

Franz Peter Schubert,
Kind and gentle spirit,
Wrote with his quill pen
Melodies like these.

A performance (rather slow for my taste) by the Neue Orchestra under Christoph Spering:

This little melody will take us far afield, eventually to the “Beer Barrel Polka” and the brewpubs of San Francisco.