Archive for the ‘Lexical semantics’ Category

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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Extended 69

March 16, 2018

(Heavily sexual topic, some racy — just barely not X-rated — images, and extended discussion of sexual acts. So not suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

Well, extended 69 — the term, not the act.

The story begins with what is probably a one-off use of the sexual slang 69, in You could hug 69, conveying ‘you could hug each other for mutual pleasure’; hug 69 here is a V + V compound, lit. ‘to 69 by/in hugging’, a generalization of the customary sexual 69, preserving only the semantic components of mutuality / reciprocity and pleasure in the act.

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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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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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Taking it easy

November 17, 2017

Today’s Bizarro, on the opposite of easy chair:

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

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