Archive for the ‘Ordinary vs. technical lg’ Category

From the great Anatomic War

November 8, 2017

Q: Did they ever have anatomic war?
A: Have you never heard of the great Anatomic War and one of its signal encounters, the 1346 Battle of Extremities, in which the Phalanges, with their long bones, overwhelmed the armored Carpals and Metacarpals?

(#1) Phalanges shooting down the Carpal and Metacarpal forces

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The X-Bulbs, plus Greek Sword

October 27, 2017

It started a while back with a pair of morning names: Ixia and Sparaxis. Two showy bulbs, united by the letter X. They led to (in alphabetical order) ChionodoxaCyanixia, Hesperoxiphon, Ixiolirion, Oxalis, Xenoscapa. And from Hesperoxiphon, through its sword-bearing component (Gk. xiphos ‘sword’), to Xiphion, which we know now in its Latin version Gladiolus.

Along the way, some reflections on categorization and labeling in the plant world.

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Fungus gnats

August 13, 2017

Appearing around the drain of my bathroom sink on Friday, a small swarm of tiny black flies, which fled from my investigations by running, rather than flying, away. Ah, fungus gnats — usually found in soil, as around houseplants, rather than in household drains, but there probably was organic material in the trap for them to feed on.

A shot of bleach, followed by flushing with hot water, cleaned up the infestation.

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Another phenomenally bad idea

March 29, 2017

(Mostly about food, but there’s a mansex interlude, so be warned.)

A couple days ago it was (thanks to Margalit Fox) the hologram-bunny (a hollusion) that comes to life to decorate homes and parties. I’m not quite sure why the idea struck so many people (including Margalit and me) as disturbing, but it was. Now comes an edible counterpart, but this time I think I understand the source of the unease that it arouses.

Reported by Kim Darnell, this is Delighted By (sometimes: delighted by) dessert hummus. On the grocery shelf:

(#1)

It comes in four flavors: Brownie Batter, Snickerdoodle, Orange Dreamsickle, Vanilla Bean.

Thing is, hummus is a savory food, and these flavors are all sweet (apparently, achingly so).

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Taking the job description literally

September 17, 2016

Two recent Dilberts:

(#1)

(#2)

 

First Dilbert and the quality assurance guy Alan, then the pointy-haired boss and Alan.

Standard dictionaries don’t seem to have the technical use of assurance in quality assurance, though there is a techie Wikipedia entry on quality assurance that relates the expression to the verb ensure, rather than to the verb assure that the literalist Alan sees in it.

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Smell vocabulary

February 25, 2015

Previously on this blog: a Calvin and Hobbes (of 2/16/15) in which we learn that (at least in comic strips) tigers have an extensive vocabulary for smells. In a comment on that posting, Steve Anderson noted the paucity of smell (and taste) vocabulary other than via analogical descriptions (“tastes/smells like old socks”). But now comes a paper from the recent AAAS meetings in San Jose. From the 2/21 Economist, the story “Scent off: Culture, not biology, rules the relation between smell and language”, which I’ll post here in its entirety, in case readers can’t get access to the Economist site.

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Technically

February 10, 2015

The xkcd from January 19th (thanks to Ann Burlingham)):

Um, technically, that sentence begins with well, not technically. But let that pass.

Technically serves to announce that some expression — like the word bug — is going to be used in a specialized technical sense, not in its ordinary-language sense, and that information is rarely useful in context; usually it just functions as one-upmanship.

Naming, in perpetuity

November 30, 2014

From the NYT on the 28th, a piece by Sam Roberts, “With Naming Rights, ‘Perpetuity’ Doesn’t Always Mean Forever”, with some serious linguistics in it:

After Philippe de Montebello agreed at breakfast two decades ago to name the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Roman Sculpture Court, in perpetuity, for the philanthropists and antiquities collectors Leon Levy and his wife, Shelby White, Mr. Levy predictably, but politely, posed an impertinent question.

“Aware that sometime in the future, Philippe’s successor would probably be making the same promise to some donor not yet born,” Mr. Levy later recalled, “I asked him, How long is ‘in perpetuity’?”

“For you, 50 years,” Mr. de Montebello, the museum director, replied.

They went on to further negotiate the time span.

How to understand “in perpetuity” in this context?

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Word errors

November 9, 2014

From Kristin Bergen on Facebook:

a wonderful eggcorn from a FB teaching discussion group: a colleague reports a senior seminar paper in which the student describes something happening “right from the gecko”

A delightful error (evoking an entertaining image), and surely a type of classical malapropism (CM) — a type I’ll label a Ruthie (after the character of that name in the comic strip One Big Happy) — but not an instance of the subtype of CM known in the error literature as an eggcorn, though to be fair to Kristin it’s significantly similar to eggcorns.

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Hipster chronicles

October 31, 2014

An illustration: the cover of the 11/3/14 New Yorker, Peter de Sève’s “Hip Hops”, with a hipster doing a beer tasting in a hipster bar:

More on the artist and the story behind this illustration later. But first, on hipster.

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