Archive for the ‘Phonetics’ Category

Iddle-Do and Not Zarella

May 5, 2023

As a temporary diversion from some truly awful times in my life (which I will eventually post about), two reprised One Big Happy strips recently in my comics feed, in which Ruthie struggles to interpret language unfamiliar to her.

The strips.

(#1) The Iddle-Do Rule; which should lead us to reflect some on the distinction between circumstances in which “good enough for some purpose” — it’ll do — is the appropriate goal (the general case for most aspects of everyday social life) and the special cases in which a perfect performance is called for

(#2) Not Zarella cheese (with Not Zoball soup as a bonus); I note that Zarella is a fairly common Italian surname, which Ruthie (who is of Italian descent) might well be familiar with, so that  a cheese named after a Zarella wouldn’t be at all surprising



April 23, 2023

Let’s dive right in, with two disparate items: an old One Big Happy cartoon recently reprised in my comics feed; and Ta-Da!, a 2018 hardcover picture book by Kathy Ellen Davis (author) and Kaylani Juanita (illustrator):


Ruthie goes for the donuts

February 23, 2023

In my comics feed today, a One Big Happy originally from 1/6/03 (20 years ago, and that turns out to be important) in which Ruthie eggcorns the weatherman’s technical term windchill (factor) to Winchell’s (the name of a chain donut shop), which is more familiar to her — but not perhaps to most readers of the strip, even in 2003, when there were a lot more Winchell’s shops around than there are now. But the strip:

(#1) windchill / wind-chill / wind chill is a N + N compound meaning roughly ‘chill caused by wind’, but is in fact a technical term in metereology (and its connection to chill and wind might not be clear to someone who in passing hears tv reports mentioning the factor)

Especially the connection to wind, since pronunciations of wind chill in ordinary connected speech lack a [d].


Striking an AW into the beholders

February 14, 2023


Today’s Wayno / Piraro Bizarro (Wayno’s title “Pupper Love”) shows a teacup chihuahua deployed in a routine medical checkup:

(#2) Doctors ask you to say ah / ahh / aah so that you’ll open your mouth fully and they can then examine the back of the mouth, including the soft palate and the tonsils (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

We will then be taken into the world of exclamations, lexical ones (like hi and yikes) and paralinguistic ones (like uh-huh and unh-unh), and the sociophonetics of ah – aw — which happens to be a familiar topic in English dialectology, thanks to the cot–caught merger, also known as the low back merger or the LOT–THOUGHT merger.


Maternal shrillness on Zits

January 29, 2023

Today’s Zits strip manages to assemble three disparate bits of assumption about cognition into a joke about maternal shrillness:

(#1) So shrill — in particular, so high-pitched — that it takes a ladder to get up there and read what’s in the speech balloon

Whoa! You might not have subscribed to any or all of these cognitive stances built into the strip:

— conceptualizing speech and thought balloons as physical objects

— perceiving women’s speech as shrill — an impression that incorporates (among other things) sociocultural associations of high pitch and loudness with various personal and interactional states, and also the association of high pitch with femininity

— (metaphorically) associating high pitch with height above the ground



December 22, 2022

Two especially satisfying examples of the elfshelfism, a riddle form presented visually:

(#1) Image: a cute furry mammal clinging to a bone. Punchline: lemur on a femur. (note: like elf and shelf, lemur and femur are (perfect) rhymes; unlike elf and shelf, however, they’re rare and remarkable nouns)

(#2) Image: a buxom woman reclining provocatively on a pile of Mexican food. Punchline: Dolly [Parton] on a tamale. (note: for most American speakers, Dolly and tamale are perfect rhymes, but for a substantial minority of American speakers, and for many others, they’re half-rhymes)


Pronouncing my name

December 13, 2022

A little posting, something I can get done in the time I have. I should explain that since 7 pm yesterday, I have slept 14 hours (and it’s not yet 2 pm). I don’t feel feverish, don’t have a fever, do have periodic crippling joint pain and muscle cramps in my hands and arms, but mostly narcolepsy rules; as the days roll on, it is, however, becoming less ferocious and more bearable.

Meanwhile, in my waking moments, while I practice muscle relaxation, I’ve had time to think about stuff. Thoughts that have expanded today’s intended Big Posting, on name mockery and Benedict Cumberbatch, into something even more ambitious. And random thoughts inspired by stuff that’s come in my mail, including an old topic: what (American) English speakers do with the somewhat challenging pronunciation of my family name, especially that word-initial consonant cluster [zw].


The desert three-way

June 2, 2022

The 6/1 Wayno / Piraro Bizarro, a Desert Crawl cartoon in which the crawling man hallucinates a sexual oasis, where two saguaro cactuses offer to, umm, entertain him (Wayno’s title: “Prickly Playmates”):

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


Cool [ʍɪp]

May 9, 2022

Voiceless /hw/ (phonetically [ʍ]) in a surprising place (the name of the artificial whipped cream Cool Whip), a place where even W-WH contrasters like me never have it. Made into a standing joke on The Family Guy. Which will cause me to tell you more about voiceless /hw/ in English than you might have wanted to know.


The sequel to my allergic ass

May 1, 2022

🐇 🐇 🐇 pour le premier mai. A follow-up to yesterday’s posting “My allergic ass”, which was (mostly) about pronominal ass — possessive pronoun + ass, used of a person, to refer not to their buttocks but to that person: his ass ‘he, him’, your ass ‘you’, my ass ‘I, me’.

[Ambiguity may ensue: my ass is warm can mean either ‘my buttocks are warm’ or ‘I am warm’ (you have to figure out from context which was intended); while my ass is heart-shaped is probably about my buttocks (well, I might be Candy Man, shaped like a candy heart), and my ass is allergic is probably about me (though I might conceivably have buttocks afflicted by contact dermatitis).]

Now: through Facebook discussions, two different threads have emerged from that posting: one about material in a long citation in the 2006 Beavers and Koontz-Garboden paper on pronominal ass; the other about the source of the example — my allergic ass — that provoked my posting.