Archive for the ‘Semantics’ Category

Towards the high end of the hardness scale

August 4, 2020

(All I need to tell you is that this posting takes off from a line of Cumdump jockstraps offered by the Breedwell company in deliberately provocative ads, and you should see that it’s totally not for kids or the sexually modest.)

A Daily Jocks ad from 11/4/19 shows us the jock in red, with a model presented faux-naturalistically as a tough working-class guy in a blue-collar setting (a railyard, shipyard, or truckyard). Ad copy for the jock:

The new Breedwell Cumdump Jock [available in white, black, red, yellow, and blue] is a take on the classic, old-school woven jock.

Features a black centre patch with the Breedwell logo and signature “Dirty By Choice” motto. The back of the jock features ‘Breedwell’ across the entire back.

(more…)

Before or after?

July 26, 2020

In the 9/14/19 One Big Happy, Ruthie wrestles with a workbook question, apparently something along the lines of “Does 4th Street come before 6th Street or after it?”:

(#1)

There’s a lot packed in here. Crudely. the strip is about what before conveys, and that turns out to be dependent on the context. Ruthie takes before to refer to the ordering of a particular 4th and 6th Street in her own actual neighborhood, taking herself to provide the point of view for the spatial ordering (every spatial ordering via before rests on some point of view). But what’s the point of view of a workbook exercise? Who’s asking the question? For what purpose?

Now we’re out in the pragmatic weeds. Crucially, Ruthie has to understand that the workbook question is not an attempt to elicit useful information from her, but instead aims to get her to perform in a test of her sociocultural knowledge.

(more…)

Smearing and taunting

June 17, 2020

(Adapted and expanded from a Facebook comment of mine a while back. Some coarse sexual language, notably from American newsmakers, but also enough about sexual bodies and mansex from me to make the posting dubious for kids and the sexually modest.)

Every so often, MSNBC commentator Ali Velshi tartly notes — alluding to the Imperator Grabpussy’s smears of President Barack Obama as a Muslim born in Kenya — that he is a Muslim who was born in Kenya (though he grew up in Canada).

There’s a linguistic point here, having to do with relevance and implicature. Why does Velshi say this? Yes, it’s true, but then “The freezing point of water is 32F” is true, but if Velshi had said that it would have been bizarre, because it would have been irrelevant in the context. So Velshi’s religion and nativity are relevant in the context. Cutting through a whole lot of stuff, I would claim that Velshi is implicating something like “Being one myself, I know from Muslims born in Kenya, and I know that Barack Obama is no Muslim born in Kenya”. And THAT brings me to a piece I’ve been wrestling with some time, about Grabpussy Jr. jeering at Mitt Romney, taunting him by calling him a pussy. (I have a Velshian response of my own to that.)

Hang on; this will go in several directions.

(more…)

Annals of the AIC: the African American vote

June 14, 2020

Ali Velshi, on MSNBC on 2/23 (yes, yes, I am absurdly far behind in my posting, maybe irretrievably; life has been very hard), talking about:

(a) … the African American vote, and what is motivating them in the coming elections [in South Carolina]

African American vote is understood here as ‘the vote of/by African Americans’, and African Americans is what the later anaphoric personal pronoun them refers to, though the noun African American(s) doesn’t occur in the example, only the adjective African American. So the example would once have been seen as a violation of a purported condition on grammatical well-formedness, the Anaphoric Island Constraint (AIC) — but in fact, in the context, it seems scarcely problematic, if at all.

(more…)

If a man does it, …

June 11, 2020

(A number of jokes, but also some seriously technical linguistics.)

A joke going the rounds on the net recently, here from a exchange posted on Facebook on 3/24 (yes, yes, I am incredibly far behind on my postings; life has been very difficult):


(#1) Anaphoric do it : ‘(a man) sleeps with 10 men’ (the gay reading) vs. ‘(a man) sleeps with 10 women’ (the Don Juan reading)

In a similar vein, this Stone Soup cartoon of 6/17/11:


(#2) Anaphoric do the same, with at least three readings (discussed below), one of them gay

The phenomenon at play here is called sloppy (vs. strict) identity. The gay readings above involve strict identity.

(more…)

South Cackalacky

June 10, 2020

Today’s morning name: South Cackalacky, mildly derogatory slang for South Carolina (suggesting crudeness, rusticity, and remoteness: the boondocks). And Cackalacky, for the Carolinas taken together, with the same associations. (Sorry,  Charleston, Charlotte, and Research Triangle.)

Then, of course, such associations can be inverted, to connote local pride, down-hominess, and the like. As has happened in this case.

(more…)

tribute time

June 7, 2020

Annals of pandemic vocabulary: the N + N compound tribute time ‘a time (moment in a day) for tribute’, specialized for a specific form of tribute (largely, clapping) to a specific group of tributees (medical workers). The practice has been around for several months, but the label seems to have emerged more recently (I don’t have the resources to track these things down), and now it figures in today’s wry Doonesbury cartoon, about Zonker Harris and his nephew Zipper:

(#1)

(more…)

Death trap

June 5, 2020

The 5/27 Wayno/Piraro Bizarro collabo brings us two Grim Reapers confronting what might be a trap for them:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

If you want to catch Death in a trap, what do you use as bait? Obviously, not the conventional chunk of cheese, but dead cheese: moldy cheese. (Moldy cheese is, of course, not actually dead; in fact, the cheese is alive with the swarms of microbes.)

The cartoon nicely exploits an ambiguity, between the semantics of the conventionalized compound death trap / deathtrap, and the semantics of a compound Death trap, parallel to mouse trap / mousetrap.

(more…)

The voice of authority

June 3, 2020

Yesterday on FB a query from my friend P (exchanges edited to remove personal chitchat):

A company is creating an outgoing voice message and they have come to blows over sentence structure. My suggestion to them is to fight bigger battles — but, alas, here we are.

They are going to the mat on “how can I” vs “how I can.”

Given your expertise, which is better?

“Thanks for calling COMPANY. Please tell me, in detail, how CAN I help you?
OR
“Thanks for calling COMPANY. Please tell me, in detail, how I CAN help you.”

(more…)

Minnesota hotdish

May 7, 2020

Today, Alex [Alessandro Michelangelo] Jaker (posting from Toronto) on Facebook:

So unfortunately I can’t go home and visit my family in Minnesota 🚗🚗🚗🛣🏡 because of the virus, so I decided to just go ahead and make my own hotdish 🍄🥕🍅.

… Although actually, it’s sort of a hybrid between hotdish and lasagna 🍅🧀🇮🇹.


(#1) Jaker Hotdish (photo from the author)

… [about hotdish] Apparently it is what people from other places call a “casserole”. In the present case, I used ground mutton 🐑, onions, celery, carrots 🥕, a leek, tomatoes 🍅, mushrooms, a can of cream of mushroom soup 🥫, parmesan cheese 🧀, and noodles. And beans. First stir fry all the ingredients except the noodles, and boil the noodles separately, then combine into a baking dish and bake for ~40 minutes.

(more…)