Archive for the ‘Ordinary vs. technical lg’ Category

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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Putrid in context

October 27, 2014

Back on the 15th, I posted about the appearance of the adjective putrid in a NYT feature story. From that posting:

Natto for breakfast. From the NYT Magazine on the 12th, in “Rise and Shine: What kids around the world eat for breakfast” (photographs by Hannah Whitaker, text by Malia Wollan) … [in the section on a Japanese breakfast that included the fermented soybean dish natto]

I was taken aback by putrid [for natto], which struck me as much too negative in the context. [in fact, the article had “putrid soybean goop”]

In a comment on this posting, Steve Anderson wrote:

I don’t know whether you’ve ever eaten (or tried to eat) natto, Arnold, but in my opinion ‘putrid’ [meaning ‘rotten’, and by extension, ‘very unpleasant, repulsive’] is precisely descriptive.

Two comments here. First, note the “in this context” in my posting. I meant that seriously. My objection to putrid was to its use in the specific context of the NYT piece, not to its use in any context whatsoever (specifically, not to its use in a description of personal tastes). Second, a note on my own experiences of natto. I’ll reserve for another posting a (lengthy) discussion about rotten or rotted food, fermented food and drink, and related topics — a domain in which ordinary English is poor in vocabulary.

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Architectural notes

June 13, 2014

Today’s Zippy:

(#1)

cornice, soffit, fascia, frieze board, dentil — technical terms of architecture that get Zippy off (so much so that he uses soffit, fascia, frieze board as a mantra).

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Tenses here, tenses there

May 12, 2014

Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky offers this passage from the Ask a Manager blog of the 12th:

Managers and the possessive tense

I have a new manager who has placed his desk in the middle of the room, and conducts all of his conference calls in a rather loud fashion. In doing so, he constantly refers to the employees (myself and my peers) as “his” — e.g. “my team,” “my testers,” “my people.”

Am I wrong to feel a bit demeaned that my new manager is placing himself as a king among the common employee? His self-placement of prominence above those that he rules is causing quite a bit of resentment amongst “we the people.”

Elizabeth reports that this is otherwise an excellent blog (offering good advice on managing), but possessive tense is nonsensical as a technical term of grammar.

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Average

January 28, 2014

Yesterday’s Dilbert, on average:

 

The cartoon uses average as a technical term — mean or median — and also as an ordinary language term, meaning ‘mediocre’, invidiously.

quinoa

August 18, 2013

Two questions: How is the name of this foodstuff pronounced in English? Is it a grain?

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crescendo

July 31, 2013

In the NYT on the 29th, an op-ed piece “A Crescendo of Errors” by Miles Hoffman (the violist of the American Chamber Players and a music commentator for Morning Edition on NPR), which begins with a cry of pain over a usage:

Fitzgerald did it. Can you believe that? And in “Gatsby,” no less. It sent me reeling. The historian James M. McPherson did it in “Battle Cry of Freedom.” Twice. George F. Will, William Safire and countless other prominent journalists have done it, as have Southern writers, Northern writers, writers of science and of science fiction, novices and old pros.

All these people, and so many others — oh my goodness, so very many others — have “reached,” or have described events or emotions “reaching,” crescendos.

… But here’s the thing: as God — along with Bach, Beethoven and Mozart — is my witness, you cannot “reach” a crescendo.

… The one thing crescendo does not mean, … and never has meant, is “climax.”

Barbara Partee has responded to Hoffman’s piece on Language Log, in a piece entitled “Reaching a crescendo?”.  Here I’ll be repeating some of Barbara’s points and some of the discussion in comments on it, trying to bring out several points that tie to themes in my postings.

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Wallyjargon

July 28, 2013

Today’s Dilbert has Wally shamelessly slinging technical jargon to his boss:

Everything in “Advanced scripting structure for internetwork optimization of SQL datases” is genuine (SQL stands for Structured Query Language, for instance), but it’s a real challenge to make sense of the whole.

Three sex workers

July 14, 2013

(Warning: very plain talk about man-man sex; no X-rated images, but several right on the line.)

The immediate impulse for this posting is the death of three very popular, hunky pornstars in the last year (each with his own sad story), which has led me to think about the term sex worker (as applied to men) and its penumbra of reference to men who make a living from their bodies. And about the challenges of a life in porn.

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