Archive for the ‘Semantics’ Category

Tell me that you love me

October 21, 2021

Two very different occurrences from my experience.

The Fillmore plea. From the late 1960s, Chuck (Charles J.) Fillmore, tapped (as senior member of the linguistics department at Ohio State) to serve as acting chair of the department while Ilse Lehiste was on leave, hesitantly addressing the first faculty meeting of the year (I was one of those faculty):

(CJF) I can do this job if you all tell me, often, that you love me.

The Transue plea. From ca. 1990, my guy — my husband-equivalent — Jacques Transue, with some visible anxiety, pulling me aside for a moment of serious couple-talk, holding my hand, gazing into my eyes:

(JHT) I need you to tell me more often that you love me.

Two clearly different senses of the verb love (but both, of course, capable of different shadings in different contexts).

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Converse all-stars

October 13, 2021

The story starts with an instance of semantically reversed impervious (to) — a converse use of a predicate adjective. From Anat Shenker-Osorio, the founder of ASO Communications, interviewed on 10/11 on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. From the transcript:

… What we find in experiment after experiment is that when people have already cemented a world view, they in essence have a frame around what is occurring, then facts are simply impervious to it. They bounce off of it, right?

… And so it`s precisely as you said. If they have an existing story line about, quote, unquote, what Democrats do and how they behave, then facts are pretty much impervious to it.

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Flipping with the cowboys

October 3, 2021

(Substantial section on English syntax and semantics, but even that is about raunchy sexual vocabulary — so it’s pretty much wall to wall about sex between men, in street language, with photos: absolutely inappropriate for kids or the sexually modest)

What got me into this was the cover of a CockyBoys gay porn DVD Flipping Out (#1 below, after the fold), showing two men engaged in the variety of anal intercourse known as Asian Cowboy. More descriptively, Squatting Cowboy: the receptive man rides the insertive man’s penis roughly the way a cowboy rides his horse, by sitting on it — in this case, from a squatting position. In plain Cowboy, the receptive guy lowers himself onto his ride while kneeling, so in more descriptive terminology, that’s Kneeling Cowboy.

I was struck by the photo because the Cowboy sex positions hold a special resonance for me, and because I’d been looking for Cowboy illustrations in which the insertive guy is sitting up (in a chair or on a sofa), a position that invites the men to kiss, the way my man Jacques and I did when we enjoyed Cowboying together. The cover of Flipping Out gives me just what I was looking for, in an especially attractive and wonderfully intimate composition of bodies.

Then, as a linguistic bonus, there’s the verb to flip-fuck, played with in the DVD’s title.

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Bang!

September 29, 2021

(Men’s bodies and sex between men, sometimes in street language, so not for kids or the sexually modest)

Back in July, I started a piece that combined the celebrations of the Fourth of July in my country and a personal celebration on having an award for LGBTQ+ linguists named after me. The two parts of the piece take off from the same introductory material, a Falcon Big Bang 2021 sale ad (reproduced below).

Alas, the rigors of these pandemic times and of the twilight of my life being what they are, I wasn’t able to finish the first part of this posting, the Arnold Zwicky Award part, until 9/21. Now comes the second, the vulgar slang bang ‘to have sex’, part.

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Guest posting on “How does he sleep at night?”

September 21, 2021

Back in my 9/4 posting “How does Wilderrama sleep at night?”, I appealed to my colleagues in semantics:

Dictionaries seem not to do a lot of sense differentiation for how — NOAD boils the relevant OED2 entry down to ‘in what way or manner; by what means’, all as one sense — and I don’t know anything in the semantics literature that covers this territory (but then I’m basically pig-ignorant of the semantics literature [this is hyperbolic, meant to be entertaining, but the truth is that what I know of semantics is unsystematic and patchy, things I’ve picked up as a syntactician outsider], so I’m sketching  a treatment improvisationally here. I would be happy to be illuminated.

And got a fine thoughtful response from Hana Filip (Professor of Semantics in the Dept. of Linguistics at Heinrch-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf), in several installments, which I will incorporate (lightly edited) below, with her permission, as a guest posting.  I induced her to agree to release this material, despite its being preliminary and far from publication style, with this appeal:

The point would be not that [you and I are] hammering out an answer, but that we’re thinking things through. My readers are mostly not linguists, so they don’t get to see linguists at work, before things turn into published material. In particular, they don’t get to see us using a conceptual apparatus (and the technical vocabulary to go with it) to try to make sense of the world; we don’t inject that technicality into the discussion just for show — but much of it is really necessary to get past the point of just accumulating judgments and examples from texts.

That will involve  my contributing explanatory text at various points, to fill in things that Hana and I take for granted (on her side, she’s not a specialist in syntax, but shares a considerable body of conceptual background with me in syntax). The result is then something like a public conversation between us, with me turning to the audience every so often with commentary on the proceedings.

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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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