Archive for the ‘Pragmatics’ Category

Where is your bathroom?

June 20, 2021

A comic gem from the very first episode (“Give Me a Ring Sometime”) of the American tv show Cheers (S1 E1 9/30/82).  An exchange (call it the D&C exchange) between the character Diane — at this point, merely a patron sitting in the bar Cheers — and Coach, the bartender on duty:

Diane to Coach: Excuse me. Where is your bathroom?

Coach in response : Uh, next to my bedroom.

The character Coach  turns out to be empathetic and warm-hearted, but regrettably slow and defective at calculating people’s intentions in speaking as they do. In this brief exchange with Diane, Coach is faced with several linked tasks in understanding deictic elements: the locative deixis in where, the person deixis in your.

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Pictographs for dogs

April 28, 2021

A Mark Stivers cartoon from 4/20/19 (first encountered in the Funny Times for May 2021):

(#1)

Dogs also can’t interpret pictographs, certainly not such abstract ones as the slash of prohibition, the NO symbol (seen here in a non-standard orientation and missing part of its conventional accompaniments). It’s doubtful, in fact, that they can recognize dog pictographs, highly stylized representations of a dog — and incredibly doubtful that they can recognize a pictograph of a dog taking a poop, and understand that a prohibition against dogs pooping applies to them. In fact, it’s beyond doubtful that even if they recognize the sign above as a prohibition against dogs pooping, they understand that the sign is locationally deictic, applying not just to the spot where the sign is planted, but to some contextually (and socioculturally) determined area around the sign — in this case, applying to the whole strip of lawn on this side of the fence (but not to any larger area).

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Briefly: You couldn’t pick up a phone?

April 18, 2021

The 2/16 One Big Happy, in which Ruthie tries to make sense of an interaction between her grandmother and her Uncle Andy:

Several layers of indirection here, starting with

(1) You couldn’t pick up a phone?

instead of

(2) Couldn’t you pick up a phone?

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The elephant and plum

April 9, 2021

Not Frog and Peach, but Elephant and Plum, in a kid joke as told by Ruthie in the One Big Happy strip from 2/22 (in my comics feed on 3/21):

(#1)

Four things: kid jokes, of which the Elephant and Plum variant above is a particular clever example; the saying about elephants on which it depends; elephant jokes, of which the joke above is not the classic Elephant and Plum exemplar; and the ambiguity of “When did you laugh at it?”, which turns on the defining property of deictic elements like the interrogative when.

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Calvin becomes a personage

April 6, 2021

Two Calvin and Hobbes cartoons recently — yesterday and today (originally from 4/8 and 4/9/91) — in my comics feed, in which Calvin takes on a title (the epithet the Bold) and adopts illeism (referring to himself in the third person):

(#1)

(#2)

Yes, it’s all about linguistics.

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dildo, the insult

April 1, 2021

A Twitter comment on yesterday’s posting on dildos, the sex toys — entitled “Mitch is always DTF”  (Mitch is a dildo) — reminded me that the word dildo has developed a use as a slur or term of abuse, and that — despite this blog’s long-standing attentions to dildos as sex toys, to slurs in general, and to the development of vocabulary in the sexual domain into terms of abuse — I hadn’t previously recorded this development here. So here comes a gang of fuckin’ stupid dildos.

From GDoS:

1 a general term of abuse: a fool, an incompetent [clear examples are 20th century; in American slang dictionaries in the 1960s, e.g. College Undergraduate Slang Study 1967-8 Dildo A person who always does the wrong thing; 1998 what a pair of fuckin dildos] …

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Mitch is always DTF

March 31, 2021

(A lot about dildos and their uses, so probably not for kids or the sexually modest.)

The mail header on today’s Daily Jocks ad. DTF was new to me, but then I’m far from plugged into things — WTF I know, but DTF not, though I guessed the F is for fuck — so I had to look it up. From NOAD:

abbreviation DTF: vulgar slang down to fuck (used, typically on dating websites or apps, to indicate that a person is willing or eager to engage in sexual activity).

(Side query: how to tell when a use of fuck is narrow — a penis is inserted in a sexcavity — and when it is pragmatically broad, conveying (in the context of the moment) merely ‘engage in sexual activity’ — for which a frequent euphemism is ‘play’, which is easily understood too broadly, as covering things short of counting as sexual activity? It’s all a delicate verbal balancing act.)

Then there’s the fact that Mitch is a dildo, so it’s a bit of a stretch to talk about Mitch as always being enthusiastically ready to fuck.

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Zippo, the comic strip

March 25, 2021

The 3/14 Zippy strip shows Claude and Griffy (and eventually Zippy too) caught up in what seems to be affixoid attraction (similar to word attraction), an irrational appreciation of or enthusiasm for a particular word-part — in this case, the word-final element –o (whatever its source might be):


(#1) All of the panels except the fourth are framed as two-person exchanges, in which the second is a response to the first: offering a competing alternative (panel 1), trading insults (panels 2 and 3), or expressing appreciation (panel 5)

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It all depends on how you look at it

March 5, 2021

Yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro (Wayno’s title: “Arm of the Beholder”):


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)

Then, to appreciate what Wow Man says (and also to find one of the Bizarro symbols), consider this inverted version of his image:


(#2) Wow Man, upside down; now, you see what he sees

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Ambiguities, identities, and bullshit artistry

February 17, 2021

A while back on Facebook, the following exchange — call it X1 — appeared out of the blue:

Dennis Lewis: In Hyacinth’s defense, I doubt many natives of Britain know the Super Bowl is being played tomorrow.

It’s like Mrs. Bucket’s American counterpart asking if the World Cup [AZ: the World Cup, the soccer contest, has a trophy, but it’s not in the form of a cup] has hand-painted periwinkles [AZ: flowers suitable as decorations on teacups].

Hyacinth Bouquet > Dennis Lewis: Sheridan has a large collection of sports cups.

I could recognize familiar stuff in there, but was also baffled by parts of it. Gamely, however, I responded to the developing discussion of ambiguities in cup:

AZ > Hyacinth Bouquet: sports cups (for insertion in an athletic supporter / jockstrap) are rarely made of bone china, for obvious reasons. Sometimes, beauty must give way to practicality.

So I’ll start with that.

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