Archive for the ‘Lexical semantics’ Category

Ruthie misunderstands

February 21, 2021

Two One Big Happy cartoons recently in my comics feed. Originally from 1/29, a strip in which Ruthie misunderstands “Randi with an “I””, taking it to be “Randi with an eye”. And originally from 1/25, a Sunday strip in which Ruthie misunderstands “pole dance”, taking it to be “Pole dance”.

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Lobster bands, and other restraints

February 19, 2021

(The kinky sense of band — ‘restraint’ — in the Rhymes cartoon drifts into some hard-core sex between men, so that partway through, this posting becomes no longer suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

The Rhymes With Orange cartoon from yesterday (2/18) has two lobsters arranging a hookup for some kinky sex with lobster bands:

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The elastic bands in question are rubber or silicone bands referred to commercially as lobster bands. They function as restraints on the lobsters’ ability to use their claws — so that they’re roughly analogous to the cuffs / bands / restraints of bondage sex, hence the kinkiness in the cartoon.

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Ambiguities, identities, and bullshit artistry

February 17, 2021

A while back on Facebook, the following exchange — call it X1 — appeared out of the blue:

Dennis Lewis: In Hyacinth’s defense, I doubt many natives of Britain know the Super Bowl is being played tomorrow.

It’s like Mrs. Bucket’s American counterpart asking if the World Cup [AZ: the World Cup, the soccer contest, has a trophy, but it’s not in the form of a cup] has hand-painted periwinkles [AZ: flowers suitable as decorations on teacups].

Hyacinth Bouquet > Dennis Lewis: Sheridan has a large collection of sports cups.

I could recognize familiar stuff in there, but was also baffled by parts of it. Gamely, however, I responded to the developing discussion of ambiguities in cup:

AZ > Hyacinth Bouquet: sports cups (for insertion in an athletic supporter / jockstrap) are rarely made of bone china, for obvious reasons. Sometimes, beauty must give way to practicality.

So I’ll start with that.

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Two from the 2/8/21 New Yorker

February 4, 2021

… both about N + N compounds: about weather bar in a Roz Chast cartoon, (implicitly) about bear hug in a wordless Will McPhail cartoon.

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Two cartoons on the 30th

January 30, 2021

… in today’s comics feed, both connecting to earlier postings on this blog: a Rhymes With Orange on an ambiguity in the verbing to dust; and a Zippy on Magritte’s painting The Son of Man.

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Garment vocabulary

January 25, 2021

What do you call an outer garment covering the body from the waist to the ankles, with a separate part for each leg? The referentially and socioculturally least restricted lexical item for this purpose, in both AmE and BrE, is the plural noun trousers. (The gloss in my first sentence is in fact the definition of trousers given, without restriction, in NOAD.)

It’s then remarkable that the Quite Interesting Twitter account maintained on 8/14/18 that

The Victorians thought the word ‘trousers’ so vulgar and rude that they used euphemisms such as ‘sit-upons’, ‘inexpressibles’, ‘unutterables’ and ‘unwhisperables’ instead.

The result of such an attitude would have been that there was literally no everyday expression to refer to such a garment — even one originating as a euphemism but naturalized as ordinary vocabulary — as has been the case for white meat as a replacement for (chicken) breast, for some speakers, and in many other cases.

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A lexical surprise

January 5, 2021

Yesterday, a very rare occurrence for me: in non-technical writing for a general audience — specifically, on yesterday’s (1/4/21) New York Times opinion page — a lexical item (one of sufficient currency to appear in the one-volume New Oxford American Dictionary) that I don’t recall ever having experienced before.

The find, in Kara Swisher’s “My Tech Predictions for 2021”:

I have never thought, as many have, that [REDACTED] should have been de-platformed during his term as president. As flagitious as he can be, [REDACTED] has been a legitimate news figure and thus, what he had to say should be aired.

(But Swisher goes on, after January 20th, no more.)

Yes, flagitious.

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The lexicon of masturbation

December 30, 2020

(A spin-off from today’s posting “Manual labor”. Obviously inappropriate for kids and the sexually modest: it’s all about sex, and a lot of it is raunchy.)

This is a compact summary of usages, confined here to male masturbation (all participants are men), in particular such acts involving men who have sex with other men.

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Once more with the mice

December 29, 2020

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm cartoon has the cat Attila appealing to the Pied Piper for his help in the mice-delivery business:

mice-delivery business is a N+N compound with first element mice delivery — itself a N+N compound, with first element mice. And mice is quite clearly a plural form.

It then turns out that compounds of the form mice + N (with a clearly plural first element) have a certain degree of fame in linguistics.

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long / tall

December 25, 2020

A recent Strange Planet cartoon by Nathan Pyle has the aliens not quite getting the English distinction between long and tall:

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— while introducing the subsidiary theme of tall people graciously accepting the social function of fetching items for their shorter companions (as someone who’s lost 3 inches in height over the years, I am grateful to those who’ve been willing to take on this role).

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