Archive for the ‘Lexical semantics’ Category

19th-century Swiss steak

July 16, 2018

Who put the Swiss in Swiss steak? In my July 13th posting “Swiss steak” I deprecated the popular idea that a verb swiss lies behind this usage and suggested reverting to the simple proposal that Swiss is just the nationality Adj, but that the composite Swiss steak is not predicational — Swiss steak is not Swiss, but American — and is instead relational, entailing only that Swiss steak is related to or associated with Switzerland in some way (perhaps by virtue of the ingredients or techniques involved in its preparation).

But investigating any proposal about the origin of the expression requires assembling much more evidence than I had available to me in my searches on the net: many more, and earlier, examples, with rich information about the cultural context surrounding them.

A notable step in this direction has now been made by Peter Reitan, who has access to large newspaper archives and experience in using these resources. He reported on his initial explorations in a short posting to ADS-L yesterday, a note suggesting that 19th-century occurrences of Swiss steak indicate that the term might have originated along the Ohio River in southern Indiana, in an area where Francophone Swiss settled in the early 19th century.

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Swiss steak

July 13, 2018

First, it’s American.

Second, it’s simple, homey food, designed to use tougher and cheaper cuts of beef.

Third, it’s unclear where the modifier Swiss comes from.

Fourth, its preparation involves two cooking techniques that are used in other dishes. One of these is tenderizing and flattening by pounding, a technique also used in the preparation of elegant dishes of veal, beef, pork, or chicken in the Schnitzel / Milanesa family.

Fifth, the other technique is braising: searing meat and then cooking it very slowly with liquid (and, usually, vegetables) in a closed container. Sharing this technique makes Swiss steak and pot roast of beef culinary cousins.

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Sticks and cubes

July 4, 2018

It’s all about measuring butter. I said to Kim (who was preparing for a grocery run tomorrow) that I could use a stick of butter for cooking, and she was surprised: “I thought you’d say cube, not stick.” Me: “I don’t think I’ve ever said cube of butter in my life. It sounds weird to me.” So of course we went searching, and found considerable confusion.

Quite a few people asked what cubes of butter were; that means they’d somehow come in contact with the usage. They got two very confident, but very different, answers:

cube-1: a synonym of stick, where stick is as in this NOAD definition (essentialy the same as OED3’s):

noun stickUS a quarter-pound [4-oz.] rectangular block of butter or margarine.

cube-2: a quarter-stick of butter, hence (at least roughtly) a 1-oz. cube of butter

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World UFO Day

July 3, 2018

… celebrated yesterday. From Wikipedia on UFOs:

Fanciful illustration of alien spacecraft (Chris Clor / Getty Images / Blend Images): saucer shape, ring of lights on the rim of the saucer, searchlight projecting from the bottom of the craft as it hovers

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contractions

June 7, 2018

The One Big Happy from May 11th, in which Ruthie discovers that there are contractions and then there are contractions:

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Two from Fairbanks

May 20, 2018

Two cartoons recently passed on to me by Chris Waigl in Fairbanks AK: a Cheer Up, Emo Kid (CUEK), about technical uses of words; and (actually from Alaska) a Tundra, about point of view in the interpretation of compound nouns.

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slugs

May 7, 2018

The One Big Happy from 4/10:

Ruthie runs aground on two facts that are sad but true: lexical ambiguity is everywhere, especially for short, common words; and though Ns and Vs frequently come in related pairs, there are a great many gaps in the pairings: not all Ns have been verbed or Vs nouned.

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Lusty days

May 5, 2018

(Sexual plain talk, in street language. Later, some gay porn described in plain terms. Mostly not for kids or the sexually modest.)

John Baker, in a comment on my posting yesterday “Then, if ever, come lusty days” (about the month of May), catches the reference to the musical Camelot’s song “Lusty Month of May”:


(#1) The scene from the 1967 movie; you can listen to Julie Andrews sing the song here

This is about lusty.

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jam

May 4, 2018

The readings for today: from the Old Texts, Lewis Carroll; and two from the New Texts, P.G. Wodehouse and Rihanna.

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V-headed compounds

March 27, 2018

I’ll start with the seasonally relevant compound verb to snow blow / snow-blow / snowblow and go on from there to an animus, in some quarters, against such V-headed compounds (on the grounds that they are unnecessary innovations, because the language already has syntactic means for expressing their meanings — in this case, to blow (the) snow away from).

(#1)

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