Archive for the ‘Quotations’ Category

Two from 9/8

September 23, 2017

… in the September 8th issue of the New Yorker. Both presenting the usual challenges to understanding — there’s a lot you have to know to make sense of them — and both playing on language.

(#1) by Jeremy Nguyen

(#2) by John McNamee

(more…)

Husbands and wives

September 22, 2017

Three veins of spousal humor, starting in the early 19th century and ending in an edgily close-to-life comic stereotype realized in cartoons, tv shows, and movies.

(more…)

Revisiting 7: NL:W

September 17, 2017

Yesterday, a posting on the story of a joke (Not Lady: Wife, NL:W for short) whose canonical form is

A: Who was that lady I saw you with last night?
B: That was no lady; that was my wife.

The vector for the spread of the joke seems to have been the vaudeville team Weber & Fields, who allegedly used it in their stage routines over a century ago. But I found no first-hand reports, so I appealed to the hounds of ADS-L for attestations. This netted a clear occurrence from 1859, but embedded in a long and complex back story (though again with the stage German accent of W&F). And an earlier British antecedent.

Then Larry Horn chimed in with some astute observations on the semantics and pragmatics of NL:W.

All will be reproduced here.

(more…)

The NL:W punchline

September 16, 2017

The lead-in tag to my recent posting on marmots:

That’s no beaver, that’s my marmot!

A take-off on a punchline to a vaudeville joke from long ago, a line that’s been played with many thousands of times in the last century. The No Lady: Wife (NL:W) formula, in two common instantiations in a two-man exchange:

1 A: Who was that lady I saw you with last night?
B: She was no lady. She was my wife.

2 A: Who was that lady I saw you with last night?
B: That was no lady; that was my wife.

(more…)

More Zippy-O-Rama

August 15, 2017

Today’s Zippy takes us through three commercial establishments with (variants) of –orama names, while fretting ambivalently about American patriotism:

(#1)

Wein-O-Rama (Cranston RI), Billy’s Burg-O-Rama (Oxford MA), and Liquorama (stores with that name in many locations), plus Zippy’s own coining, Shrink-O-Rama. As it happens, Bill Griffith has used the imagery in #1 for at least one other strip, which I posted on Language Log on 1/20/07:

(more…)

Rodeos and sword dances

May 27, 2017

(Warning: there will be talk of penises and mansex.)

On The Hill site on 5/21, “Tillerson: ‘Not my first sword dance’ in Saudi Arabia”, by Jill Manchester:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that his sword dance the previous night in Saudi Arabia was not his first.

“I hadn’t been practicing, Chris, but it was not my first sword dance,” Tillerson told Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace.

Tillerson and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross linked arms during the dance with Saudi performers on Saturday night. [REDACTED] also took part, swaying to the music, and appeared to enjoy the ceremonial dance. The event took place on [REDACTED]’s first day visiting Saudi Arabia, his first stop on his first foreign trip as president.

(#1)

Ross and Tillerson sword-dancing among Saudis

(more…)

On the quote watch

April 14, 2017

An exchange on Facebook a few days ago, provoked by a 4/9/17 piece linking to 4/15/11 story “World’s languages traced back to single African mother tongue: scientists” on PRI (Public Radio International). Various annoyed responses, including, from Ben Zimmer:

No idea why this PRI piece has been making the rounds lately, but it’s about the old 2011 Science paper

My response:

On Facebook, everything old is new again.

— intending to use the boldfaced catchphrase (or cliché) to convey something like ‘fashions and trends are repeated or revived’. Then I wondered about the history of the expression, and found nothing useful in dictionaries of quotations, idioms, and clichés, at least for this wording used in this way. What I found were links to biblical quotations with different wording conveying rather different content; and then, from the 1970s on, a ton of examples of what was clearly recognized as a catchphrase / cliché, used much as I used it above.

As I note here every so often, I am not a lexicographer or a quotes investigator, and I don’t have the resources to pursue the history of expressions in their sociocultural context (though I do hang out with people who do these things, splendidly). So here I’m just setting the problem.

(more…)

Uneasy lies the head

April 10, 2017

You know about Jimmy Buffet Parrotheads, Wisconsin Cheeseheads, annoying dickheads, and musical Radiohead, and now New Yorker cartoonist Michael Maslin brings us PenguinHead:

(#1)

(Henry IV, Part 2: “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” Often quoted as the crown, as in the adaptation in #1.)

(more…)

No, they didn’t say that

March 31, 2017

A brief book notice for an admirable volume from the Quote Investigator Garson O’Toole. From Ben Yagoda’s excellent review on the CHE’s Lingua Franca blogHemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations on the sources of misattribution.

Garson’s book is not just a collection of misattributed quotes — there are lots of those — but an inquiry into the sources of, reasons for, mechanisms of these misattributions: ten of them.

(more…)

Two Ztoons on language use

February 27, 2017

The Zippy and the Zits in my comics feed today:

(#1)

(#2)

(more…)