Archive for the ‘Semantics’ Category

How does Wilderrama sleep at night?

September 4, 2021

From the tv series NCIS, Season 14 Episode 6, “Shell Game”, an exchange between the NCIS-Agent characters Tim McGee (played by Sean Murray) and Nick Torres (played by Wilmer Valderrama, whose name I am forever telescoping into the portmanteau-like Wilderrama) that turns on joking with senses of the interrogative adverb how — in McGee’s question “How do you sleep at night”, intended to convey modal + means how ‘by what means is it possible?’; and Torres’s response “On my back. Naked.”, conveying truth-functional + state how ‘in what state?’.


(#1) Torres and McGee in the NCIS episode “Love Boat”, Season 14 Episode 4

Then I turn to WV the man, as a hunk with a wonderful smile (two things I post about on a fairly regular basis), and as a performer with a notable actorial persona.

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But what does his chest hair MEAN?

August 22, 2021

On 8/19, a posting about the novelty song “Harry’s Jockstrap” from 50+ years ago — a jock that’s pale blue, suggesting that Harry is a fairy:

Harry’s jockstrap, Harry’s jockstrap
It’s pale blue, it’s pale blue
They say that he’s a fairy. But Harry is so hairy
So are you, so are you

… [The verse] suggests that Harry’s hairiness shows that he couldn’t be queer, presumably because, the singer believes, significant body hair is a sign of masculinity, and that’s incompatible with homosexuality. The whole thing is silly beyond belief; the world is rich in hairy fairies … Though I do understand that hairiness as a litmus for straightness is a widely held folk belief, a consequence of the powerful folk theory that homosexuality is literally sexual inversion, so that gay men are, by definition, feminine, in fact a species of female.

So far, some folk associations; there will be more:

— 1 a man’s wearing pale blue clothing (or, more generally, pastel clothing), especially underwear, especially a jockstrap, INDICATES homosexuality

— 2 heavy body hair on a man, especially on the chest, INDICATES high masculinity, which in turn INDICATES heterosexuality

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Where is your bathroom?

June 20, 2021

A comic gem from the very first episode (“Give Me a Ring Sometime”) of the American tv show Cheers (S1 E1 9/30/82).  An exchange (call it the D&C exchange) between the character Diane — at this point, merely a patron sitting in the bar Cheers — and Coach, the bartender on duty:

Diane to Coach: Excuse me. Where is your bathroom?

Coach in response : Uh, next to my bedroom.

The character Coach  turns out to be empathetic and warm-hearted, but regrettably slow and defective at calculating people’s intentions in speaking as they do. In this brief exchange with Diane, Coach is faced with several linked tasks in understanding deictic elements: the locative deixis in where, the person deixis in your.

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Annals of commercial naming: Boy Smells

June 16, 2021

Smells like queer teen spirit.

Ads for the Boy Smells company have been popping up with some regularity in my Facebook feed — no doubt because I posted a while back on some fragrances for men, one of the two scented product lines the company offers, the other being candles. A third line is underwear, all of it explicitly labeled by the company, “This comes unscented”, but in an ad for Boy Smells products, it’s hard not to think of pungent teenager skivvies. Some ads combine the boy image of actor Tommy Dorfman with an Extra Vert Candle. Ad copy:

Discover the intimate world of Boy Smells with unique candles, fragrances & underwear. 10% of Proceeds From The Pride Collection Will Be Donated to Support the Trevor Project [providing suicide prevention efforts among LGBT+ youth].


(#1) The boyish Tommy Dorfman, something of a queer, and genderqueer, icon — attired in jade


(#2) French vert ‘green’ (suggesting the green herb tones in the scent) + extravert / extrovert ‘an outgoing, expressive person’

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Phosphorus and Hesperus

June 2, 2021

(Folded into this posting there will be some discussion of male-male sexual acts, and paintings of these, so the posting isn’t suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

🐇🐇🐇 To greet the new month — Pride Month, though that’s no doubt an accident — my Facebook ads on 6/1, yesterday, included one new to me, for art.com, offering giclee or canvas prints of Evelyn De Morgan’s 1882 painting Phosphorus and Hesperus:

(#1)

An embodiment of complementarity: two half-brothers (sharing their mother, Eos), one (Phosphorus) lighter haired, eyes open, facing up, bearing a flaming torch aloft; one (Hesperus) darker haired, eyes closed, facing down, holding a cold torch pointing down; with their arms intertwined and their bodies aligned complementarily, in a 69, or sideways astrological Cancer, or yin-yang pattern (with Hesperus as yin, Phosphorus as yang).

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The Raw and the Cooked

May 30, 2021

The title of the first book of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s monumental 4-volume work Mythologiques — a title that served as the model for the title of my posting yesterday, “The hairy and the smooth” (referring to male body types) — one of three conceptual oppositions treated in that posting, the other two being raw – refined (referring to crudeness, naturalness, or simplicity vs. artfulness, in the presentation of these bodies in underwear ads) and authentic – synthetic (referring to natural materials, like leather, vs. various imitations, mostly based on plastics, in the garments the models are wearing).


(#1) A cover for a French edition

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The hairy and the smooth

May 29, 2021

(Much attention to men’s bodies, wearing nothing but what’s billed as fetishwear / kinkwear. Not over the raunch line, but possibly not to some readers’ tastes.)

It starts with some photos of ensembles of bulldog harness plus jockstrap, all in high-macho black, but differing in significant details — of the model’s body, the way his body is displayed in the photos, and the garments he is wearing. With respect to the oppositions

hairy – smooth
raw – refined
authentic – synthetic

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Reversed meanings

May 19, 2021

In the One Big Happy strip of 4/25, Joe is being grilled by his father on the meanings of words — “defining words” being a common task for schoolchildren — and, on being challenged by the word /tæktɪks/, whose meaning is unclear to him, he proposes to break the word down into recognizable meaningful parts, from which the meaning of the whole can be predicted. A perfectly reasonable strategy, but one that is stunningly often useless.

(#1)

Joe appears to have isolated the parts /tæk/, /tɪk/, and the plural /s/, but didn’t identify the first as any item spelled tack or the second as any item spelled tick; instead his attention was caught by the combination /tæktɪk/, so similar to /tɪktæk/, the trade name Tic Tac.

And went on to assign some meaning to the reversal of the two parts, reasoning (apparently) that reversing the order should correspond, iconically, to reversing (in some way) the meaning of Tic Tac. What would be the reverse of a breath mint? Well, the function of a breath mint is to sweeten the breath, to make it smell good —  so the reverse function would be to make the breath smell bad.

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trade and trick

April 16, 2021

(About the language of sex, with plenty of discussion of sexual acts, some of it in very plain terms, so not for kids or the sexually modest.)

Sexual vocabulary day, inspired by my puzzling about the syntax of the item trade (in examples like He’s looking for trade to service and He’s trade), which led me to a 2004 e-mail exchange — yes, still relevant — with a colleague about this item and its sexual lexical cousin trick.


Ajaxx63 Rough Trade t-shirt, on offer on the DealByEthan (men’s fashion shopping) site

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gay therapy

April 13, 2021

An ad in my Facebook feed for a Gay Therapy Center, which briefly gave me pause because of an ambiguity in the Adj + N composite gay therapy. Now, Adj + N composites, like N + N compounds, are notoriously open to multiple understandings, even if we restrict ourselves to general patterns for the semantic relationship between the two parts. In this case, I had a moment of deep unease that gay therapy was to be understood as a treatment composite, parallel to treatment compounds: pain therapy, flu therapy, cancer therapy, etc. ‘therapy to treat condition or disorder X’. Thus viewing homosexuality as a disorder, which would make gay therapy here a synonym of the now-conventional label conversion therapy, for a scheme that proposes to treat homosexuality and cure it.

But, whew, no. The Gay Therapy Center in San Francisco (with a satellite center in Los Angeles) offers “LGBTQ therapy to help LGBTQ people love themselves and each other” — with the composite gay therapy understood as ‘therapy for gay people, to help / benefit gay people’. Indeed, the Facebook ad offered brief videos showing male couples embracing affectionately (other ads have female couples as well). A still from one of these:

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