Archive for the ‘Context’ Category

Bits of culture

March 29, 2018

… and truncated expressions. From Sam Anderson’s “New Sentences” column in the NYT Magazine on the 20th (on-line) and 25th (in print), “From Morgan Parker’s ‘There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé’”, about ‘Summertime and the living is extraordinarily difficult’:

Every culture is a vast carpet of interwoven references: clichés, fables, jingles, lullabies, warnings, jokes, memes. To be a part of that culture means that it only takes a few words, the tiniest head fake, to set your mind racing along a familiar track. You can lead a horse to. There once was a man from. When the moon hits your eye. If you liked it then you shoulda.

One trick of art is to constantly invoke — and then manipulate and complicate — these familiar mental scripts. The artist sets your mind on a well-worn road, and then, just as you settle into that automatic groove, yanks you suddenly in another direction. It’s the same trick as a crossover dribble. Great art is always, if you will, breaking your mind’s ankles.

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after-SPARs

December 20, 2017

A SPAR message from reader Josh Bischof, with this bulletin from the internet:

From Ragan’s PR Daily “Ultimate grammar cheat sheet” by Brendan Brown on 12/6/17:  “6 grammar errors that can affect your story telling”

At issue is the interpretation of the PP = after + NP here, after a long day at school; the grammar tip presupposes that this PP is, in my terms, a SPAR, a subjectless predicative adjunct requiring a referent for the missing subject — I’ll refer to this as the Referent (for the SPAR) for short —  in which case general principles predict that the missing subject is the dog, which is both the nearest NP to the SPAR (the Nearest Rule) and the subject of the main clause the SPAR is adjunct to (the Subject Rule).

But PPs with the temporal P after don’t generally count as SPARs; only certain ones do — those with an NP object denoting a time span (as above) — and then those SPARs are subject to the complexities of interpretation that attend all SPARs, according to which factors of syntax and discourse context come into play (making the Subject Rule only a default and not a hard constraint).

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Ruthie falls into the deontic-epistemic pit

December 12, 2017

The One Big Happy cartoon from 11/4, in today’s comics feed:

You can’t sell candy without a license.

Compare: I can’t talk.

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Rat and Pig in Santa Rosa

October 20, 2017

Yesterday’s Pearls Before Swine:

(#1) 10/19/17

My comment on Facebook: “A double doleful “Awww”. One for panel 3, one for panel 4.” Pig cries out for help in the third panel, Rat sympathetically stands with his friend in the fourth.

Then discussion took us to Lucy and Charlie Brown in Peanuts (and incidentally to Calvin and Hobbes in their eponymous strip), and so to Peanuts artist Charles Schulz, and so to Santa Rosa CA, where Schulz lived and worked from 1969 until his death in 2000, and so to the geographical and cultural regions of northern California (the North Coast / Redwood Empire, the Wine Country, and the North (San Francisco) Bay), in all of which Santa Rosa is by far the biggest town.

Santa Rosa is in the news because of the devastation there in the current spate of wildfires in northern California. The Charles Schulz Museum there was spared, but the family house (with all of its memorabilia) was completely incinerated. The cartoon in #1 is pretty clearly Pearls artist Stephan Pastis’s homage to Schulz in these terrible times.

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re-up syntax

December 28, 2016

From Jon Lighter on ADS-L early in the month:

CNN advises us … to “get re-upped on” our MMR [measles / mumps / rubella] vaccinations. I.e., join the crusade against vaccine avoidance: get the kids their booster shots, you nut-case parents!

And W Brewer recalls the connection to

re-up ‘to re-enlist’ (U.S. military slang), with possibility of getting a re-enlistment bonus

The military usage we’ve looked at on this blog. It goes back over a hundred years, with early cites having especially simple syntax: no object, either direct or oblique, but interpreted as having an oblique object referring to a branch of the service: to re-up understood as ‘to re-enlist in/with (branch of service)’, with the specific branch understood from context. Call this the objectless re-enlistment use.

My earlier posting was primarily focused on the issue of external vs. internal inflection for this verb (PST re-upped vs. re’d-up). Here I’m interested in the syntax and semantics of the verb, getting from the objectless re-enlistment use to the oblique-object renewal use in get re-upped on.

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“an infamous pincher of ladies’ bottoms”

December 28, 2016

(Eventually about a set of social practices and the vocabulary — mostly transparent — referring to them.)

A standout phrase from a moving, and also wryly funny, Gail Collins op-ed column in the NYT on the 22nd, “The Senate Bathroom Angle”. The infamous pincher in question is the monstrous Strom Thurmond, a stridently anti-black and anti-gay politician and notorious sexist pig, also the U.S. Senator from South Carolina for 48 years.

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Annals of cartoon understanding

November 28, 2016

Here’s a cartoon I once came across:

“If the recount doesn’t work, it’s up to us.”

How do we understand what the cartoon is about?

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deontic+, deontic-

July 28, 2016

(On the semantics and pragmatics of deontic should.)

I have a real-life example in mind here, from the NYT Magazine on the 17th, but I’m going to inch up to it, starting with these simpler examples:

(1) I should talk to my father.

(2) I should have talked to my father.

Both examples have the modal verb should, in its deontic sense, indicating obligation, duty, or correctness, incumbent upon some person, persons, or human institution; this is to be contrasted with its epistemic sense, indicating grounds for a judgment of truth — compare (1) and (2) with

(3) A sample this size should weigh about 10 kilograms.

(There are various ways to represent this difference, but that’s not my concern here.)

Then it turns out that deontic should can be used in (at least) two ways.

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Ambiguity and vagueness

May 25, 2016

… in the comics. Specifically in today’s revival of a Calvin and Hobbes strip:

Just what sort of description is called for? It depends on the context.

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Your money’s no good here

March 16, 2016

Today’s Bizarro, exploiting an ambiguity in pragmatics, use in discourse contexts:

(#1)

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

Your money’s no good here has a use as a pragmatic idiom, conventionally conveying that at this moment it’s of no use in the context because the services or goods it’s being offered for are being supplied for free, are complimentary, are “on the house”. But in the cartoon, the bartender is speaking literally, saying that the customer’s money is no good here because it’s not in fact legal tender.

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