Archive for the ‘Pragmatics’ Category

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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this

December 28, 2020

A Boxing Day cartoon by Wayno (with Dan Piraro at Bizarro studios North):


(#1) Wayno’s title:”New Year, New Symbol: Introducing the Pipe of Ambiguity”

Here, this picks out, or points to, the image just above it, which is indeed a symbol. In general, this has no fixed meaning, instead gaining its meaning from the context it’s in.

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Knowing how vs. knowing that/what

December 22, 2020

The grilling of the One Big Happy kids on their social / cultural knowledge as evidenced in their language use continues in the 11/30 strip (previous episode: my 12/20/20 posting “What question are you asking?”):


(#1) Note the context. One person could ask another whether they used sarcasm, just as chat or small talk, but that’s not what’s going on in the strip. This is some kind of test — note the dad’s laptop — and Joe is perfectly aware of that, though he has no idea what’s being tested.

Then there’s something of a trap in the question “Do you use sarcasm?” It’s perfectly possible to know how to use sarcasm without knowing that the contemptuous verbal practice you’re engaging in is in fact called sarcasm: you know how, but you don’t know what it’s called. As turns out to be the case for Joe: he can wield sarcasm just fine — he uses a sarcasm-devoted linguistic form in Like I know what X is, conveying that you don’t know what X is and expressing contempt for someone who expects that you should.

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What question are you asking?

December 20, 2020

The 11/27 One Big Happy strip, which came up in my comics feed recently:

The father’s question, asking for a choice, appears to be an opinion-seeking question, of a sort that adults often exchange amongst one another to make pleasant small talk or as a kind of game. But note the father’s open laptop: the opinion-seeking question is being used here as a form of test question, in which the kids are supposed to display their knowledge of culturally significant people. And the kids are perfectly aware that the exercise is some kind of test.

There is, unfortunately, another variable here: the father’s question offers choices at two points: what person (that’s the question he’s intending to ask) and living or dead (which the father intends to be clarifying the range of persons that could be possible answers, but which the kids take to be the question at issue.

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