Archive for the ‘Phonology’ Category

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.

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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.

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The snow border collie

September 1, 2021

🐇🐇🐇 It was 8/30, and the comic strip Mother Goose and Grimm went POP!, exploded in a phrasal overlap portmanteau, the one in the title:


(with the snow-sliding dog seen doing an airborne trick in the second panel of the strip).

Not your everyday POP, because it works straightforwardly in pronunciation but works only imperfectly in spelling:

snowboarder + border collie = snow border collie

Distinct spellings, boarder vs. border, homophones in both AmE and BrE (but see below).

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Harry’s Jockstrap

August 19, 2021

(Well, yes, jockstraps, depicted and described, with attention to their contents, so not to everyone’s taste.)

In a comment on my 8/15 posting “Jock Robin” (a posting about jockstraps in beautiful colors, masculinity, and sexuality), Mike McManus  noted the relevant novelty song “Harry’s Jockstrap” (a jock that’s pale blue, suggesting that Harry is a fairy),  a burlesque on the French nursery rhyme (and round) “Frère Jacques”. I had somehow missed “Harry’s Jockstrap”, but here it is, in all of its pale blue fairy glory:

Harry’s jockstrap, Harry’s jockstrap
It’s pale blue, it’s pale blue
They say that he’s a fairy. But Harry is so hairy
So are you, so are you

(Call this verse HJ.) The burlesque goes on and on through many more verses; I’ll give you a transcription and a recording of the whole thing — but first, some background. (more…)

Ethical Surrealism

February 2, 2021

An antic cartoon by Tom Gauld in the latest New Scientist magazine. combining surrealist images with a famous ethical dilemma from the philosophical literature:

(#1)

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David Stampe

June 26, 2020

A preliminary death notice for David Stampe, an old friend and hugely influential colleague in my work in linguistics. A first pass, deficient in many of the customary details about academic careers, reproducing the death notice on Facebook from David’s son John (with some amendments in square brackets):

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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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Iscariot

October 23, 2019

In the 9/26 One Big Happy, Ruthie and Joe cope eggcornishly with the biblical name Iscariot (as in Judas Iscariot), attempting (as they so often do, quite reasonably) to make some sense of an unfamiliar and opaque name:

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Exception-triggered alternation

August 25, 2019

Exhibit A: the joke routine That’s Good / That’s Bad from an Archie Campbell comedy sketch — discussed in my 7/22/19 posting “Oh that’s good”.

Exhibit B: the principles that predict when a N + N compound in English has primary accent on the first (modifier) N (front stress, or forestress) and when that accent falls on the second (head) N (back stress, or afterstress) — discussed in my old paper “Forestress and afterstress”, (OSU Working Papers in Linguistics, 1986, viewable on-line here).

From a sufficiently abstract point of view, these two phenomena can be seen to be manifestations of a single scheme, which I’ll refer to as exception-triggered alternation.

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Minimal pears

August 8, 2019

The morning name for Thursday was a linguist’s joke, the punning name minimal pear. In the morning, visions of sugar-pears danced in my head — cute little Seckel pears, specifically. Along with the linguists’ minimal pairs, like seat – sheet for /s/ vs. /š/ in English. (And, since there’s always someone who thinks of this when minimal pairs are mentioned: small testicles or breasts.)

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