Archive for the ‘Semantics’ Category

Up in every way

February 13, 2018

“Nothing can stop me, I’m all the way up”, the song goes, and it manages to pack a whole bagful of uses of up into a few verses.

(#1) “All the Way Up”, with drugs, bitches and hoes, sex (“I’m that nigga on Viagra dick”), bling, success

And then Mountain Dew (the soft drink) extracted just a bit of the song for its own purposes.

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He meant to say “supine”

February 11, 2018

Wilson Gray on ADS-L on the 6th:

“She was lying on her back, when she was stabbed, in the prone position.”

He meant to say, “in the supine position,” of course.

There’s no “of course” here. No, that is almost surely not what the speaker meant to say; I’d wager he intended to say exactly what he did say. It’s just not what Wilson thinks the speaker should have said. (Or he’s mocking people who talk this way, though I failed to detect any raised eyebrows in what he wrote so briefly and dismissively.)

We have here a widespread vulgar confusion, a failure to distinguish

between inadvertent errors, things that are “wrong” for the person who produces them, and advertent errors, things that are ok so far as the producer is concerned but “wrong” from the point of view of at least some other people. (Faced with [the first], you call in the psycholinguist; faced with [the second], you call in the sociolinguist.) (Language Log link)

On top of that, Wilson has the sociolinguistic facts wrong, through a confusion between ordinary language and technical language: supine is a technical term for a bodily postion (lying flat on one’s back), used in certain specific domains (anatomy, sport, and shooting, in particular); in those domains, its counterpart (referring to lying flat on one’s belly) is prone, but in ordinary language, outside these specific domains, prone can refer to lying flat in general, and supine isn’t used at all.

The mistake here lies in assuming that technical, domain-specific (medical, botanical, technologcal, etc.) vocabulary is the true, correct, uniquely valid scheme for naming. From my 7/27/15 posting “Misleadingly named animals”, on zoological names:

The terminology “true fly” and “true bug” (etc.) here arises from the attitude that the naming practices of biologists are the only valid (true) naming schemes — what I’ll call technicalism. In the case of fly and bug, technicalism is remarkable from the historical point of view, since the specialized use of these nouns represents a decision to use perfectly ordinary vocabulary as technical terminology by drastically restricting its reference.

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tooken by the senses taker

January 4, 2018

The 12/5/17 One Big Happy, which came by in my comics feed a few days ago:

(#1)

Three things here: Ruthie’s eggcornish reshaping of the unfamiliar word census (ending in /s/) as the familiar senses (ending in /z/); her tooken as the PSP of the verb take; and (in the last panel) her use of take ‘tolerate, stand, endure’ (here with the modal can of ability and also negation; and with the pronominal object this).

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they kitchen-kissed again

December 23, 2017

A Xmas data-gift from Larry Horn, from a novel (Sylvia Brownrigg, Pages for You (2001)) about an affair between an undergraduate and her universty TA. The two excerpts Larry sent are, in his words,

separated by various (recoverable) activities, but the reader is expected to remember what had gone on between the lovers on pp. 93-94 [They kissed in the lit kitchen] when she gets to pp. 99-100 [They kitchen-kissed again].

So, in the latter: the verb to kitchen-kiss, either a 2pbfV (a 2-part back-formed V) based on the (well-attested) synthetic compound kitchen-kissing ‘kissing in the kitchen’ or a verbing of the (also well-attested) N + N compound kitchen-kiss ‘a kiss in the kitchen’. It turns out that kitchen-kissing and kitchen kisses are a (sociocultural) thing, which has attracted websites, Pinterest boards showing the activity, and the like — so it’s no surprise that there’s a one-word (compound) verb referring to the activity.

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Jerry Fodor

December 21, 2017

In the NYT on 11/30, an obituary by Margalit Fox, “Jerry A. Fodor, Philosopher Who Plumbed the Mind’s Depths, Dies at 82”, beginning:

Jerry A. Fodor, one of the world’s foremost philosophers of mind, who brought the workings of 20th-century computer technology to bear on ancient questions about the structure of human cognition, died on Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 82.

The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease and a recent stroke, his wife, Janet Dean Fodor, said.

More of the obit below, then a few personal remarks, and an extended discussion of an early influential work by Jerrold Katz and Jerry Fodor, The Structure of Langage: Readings in the Philosophy of Language (1964).

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Is that all there is? Just platypi and clichés?

December 19, 2017

Today’s Zippy has our Pinhead hero trading diner thoughts with a Pinhead named Nesbitt:

For two panels, Zippy spouts the idea that nothing represents, or stands for, something else; things are what they are, and that’s all there is. Meanwhile, Nesbitt runs through two idioms that he thinks of as clichés (rock s.o.’s world, takeaway), and the pair ping-pong plural platypi.

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The news for mammoths: toy stories

December 18, 2017

Previously on this blog — in #9 in a 12/16 posting “A tale of a bed: from removal to revival” — we met the stuffed woolly mammoths I called Mammuthus Major and Mammuthus Minor on the headboard of my new bed. Elsewhere in my bedroom there are two more toy mammoths, much bigger than these: a once-“animaltronic” hulk with a dark brown rubber-like plastic skin; and a somewhat smaller and more fanciful stuffed toy with a purple, blue, and yellow cloth skin — creatures I call Fey and Butch, shown here (in their native teak and blue habitat) in a somewhat impressionistic photo:


(#1) Fey and Butch, bathed in yellow light

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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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Ruthie verbs

December 5, 2017

The One Big Happy in today’s comics feed:

(#1)

Ruthie’s taken the predicative idiom in cahoots (with) — Dad is in cahoots with Joe, Dad and Joe are in cahoots — and extracted from it (by back-formation) a noun cahoot, which she then verbs, to get an activity verb cahoot with rather than the stative be in cahoots with.

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The leafy N + N compounds of fall

November 24, 2017

leaf slime and leaf sludge — appearing in a NYT story on the autumnal travails of the Metro-North Railroad, “The Dirty Side to Changing Leaves: Leaf Slime on the Region’s Rails” by Jonathan Wolfe (on-line on the 22nd; in print, “On Train Tracks, a Hazard Born of Autumn’s Beauty” on the 23rd).

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