Archive for the ‘Semantics’ Category

More Magrittean disavowals

June 28, 2017

Today’s Zippy:

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One in a long series of Zippy strips about Tod Browning’s film Freaks, the characters in it, and the actors who played them (only some of them posted about here). Also one in a long series of strips referring to the Magrittean disavowal, a contradiction between text and image: in this case, the title of this comic strip, This is not a comic strip.

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Scalarity on the menu

June 27, 2017

From Roey Gafter on Facebook a few days ago, going Korean at the Flohmarkt (flea market) am Mauerpark, Berlin:

A little exercise in scalarity, in this case with respect to spiciness (German adjective scharf ‘sharp, spicy’, English adjective spicy, alternatively hot).

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The homely pigeon

June 23, 2017

Well, that’s the sense Ruthie (in One Big Happy) makes of an expression unfamiliar to her, and she’s indignant on behalf of the pigeon:

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Trailers

June 13, 2017

… in NOAD2’s third sense:

3 a thing that trails, especially a trailing plant.

The occasion was an errand-running walk in Palo Alto a little while ago with Kim Darnell, on which we came across a plant I identified as a fuchsia, remarking that they were often planted in hanging baskets, where their down-hanging flowers spilled attractively over the sides of the basket:

   (#1)

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Making fun of Batman

June 11, 2017

Two Batman cartoons have just come to me. Passed on by Chris Hansen, this uncaptioned (and unsourced) cartoon:

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Batman at a bustop with four old women: what to make of the scene?

And in today’s comics feed, this Bizarro:

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(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 13 in this strip! — see this Page.)

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An old resultative joke

June 8, 2017

From Wilson Gray on ADS-L on the 6th, in a discussion of a joke that turns on a structural ambiguity, a totally different joke of this sort:

A drunk is staggering along the sidewalk muttering to himself, “It can’t be done! I couldn’t do it!” A passer-by comments, “Damn, man, you all fucked up!, It must have been something terrible! What couldn’t you do?!” The drunk answers, “Drink Canada dry!”

The joke doesn’t quite work in print like this, unless you use all-caps, the way artist Richard Prince did in this “joke painting”:

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Untitled (Drink Canada Dry), acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, 1998

The joke of course also works fine in speech. (Early occurrences in print have only either Canada Dry or Canada dry, with text that points the reader towards the other.)

Two things: the joke and its history

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Memorial Saturday 4

May 27, 2017

Four recent cartoons in my feed that have to do with language: Mother Goose and Grimm (attachment ambiguity), Zits (greetings), Bizarro (labeling a bat(h)room), xkcd (knowledge about the referents of names).

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“Farley”, the dog said, “get me a slice”

May 23, 2017

Three cartoons in today’s feed: a Bizarro with a talking dog; a One Big Happy with a slice that OMG might grow into a pizza; and a Zippy riff on Farley Granger and They Live by Night:

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A failure of parallelism, sort of

May 22, 2017

In this headline from the 21st:

The crucial part is the NP

(PA) child- and gang-rapes

a reduced variant of the coordination child rapes and gang rapes — with rapes “factored out” of the full coordination, leaving the two-conjunct constituent child and gang. What gives this reduced coordination the whiff of non-parallelism is the difference in the way the factor rapes is semantically related to the two conjuncts child and gang: the first conjunct, child, functions as patient, or affected participant, with the factor rapes (like a canonical syntactic object; in a child rape, someone rapes a child), while the second conjunct, gang, functions as agent, or active participant, with this factor (like a canonical syntactic subject; in a gang rape, a gang rapes someone).

The coordination of patient with agent has a mildly zeugmatic flavor. It probably adds a bit of processing difficulty to this example — and it’s certainly enough to make a linguist like me take notice of the headline.

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missing it

May 13, 2017

Yesterday’s Mother Goose and Grimm:

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Ok, a simple ambiguity. The relevant subsenses of the transitive verb miss, from NOAD2, with my sense id codes:

— in the set of 12 failure-miss senses:
[1f] fail to attend, participate in, or watch (something one is expected to do or habitually does): teachers were supposed to report those students who missed class that day. [Mother Goose’s sense]

— in the set of 3 absence-miss senses:
[2c] feel regret or sadness at no longer being able to go to, do, or have: I still miss France and I wish I could go back. [Grimm’s sense, a willful misunderstanding of Mother Goose]

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