Archive for the ‘Lexical semantics’ Category

homeworks

May 21, 2019

A facebook exchange back on the 6th, between Andrew Carnie (professor of linguistics and dean of the Graduate College at the Univ. of Arizona) and Karen Chung (associate professor at National Taiwan University, teaching courses on linguistics and English).

Andrew: [Student], who only came to class less than 50% of the time, and turned in a bunch of assignments (really) late: These homeworks are way. too. hard. It’s unfair.

Karen: “Homework” as a countable noun? Is he/she a native speaker of English?

Academics will recognize Andrew’s note as the plangent lament of a professor facing the grading tasks at the end of a term, confronted with a self-entitled student who believes they are really smart, so preparation outside of class shouldn’t take much work (and they should be able to ace the final without much studying).

But what Karen picks up on is the use the noun homework as a C(ount) noun, clearly so because it occurs in the plural form homeworks here; for the M(ass) noun homework, the usage would be: This homework is way. too. hard. Or else: These homework assignments are way. too. hard.

Much as I sympathize deeply with Andrew’s lament — having had nearly 50 years of similar experiences (fortunately far outweighed by students who were a delight to teach) — what this posting is about is the C/M thing. There’s a fair amount to get clear about first, and then I’ll have some analysis, some data, and some reflections on larger matters (language use in particular communities of practice, the tension between brevity and clarity as factors in language use).

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Is Timmy in trouble?

May 16, 2019

The Wayno/Piraro Bizarro from the 14th shows us Lassie trying to deliver a message about Timmy:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

Ah, a variant of the Lassie-Timmy cartoon meme. With a play on the senses of be in trouble. From various dictionaries:

(i) ‘in a problematic situation or state of hardship’
(ii) ‘in peril, danger’
(iii) ‘subject to or due for punishment’
(iv) (euph.) ‘pregnant and unmarried’

In the usual cartoon meme, Timmy is in trouble in sense (i) or (ii) — classically, he has fallen down a well — but in #1, it’s sense (iii). I haven’t found an instance of the meme that bends gender to take advantage of sense (iv), but it’s certainly imaginable. (And for a possibility torn from the headlines, if you’re in trouble in sense (iv) and get an abortion, in Alabama you’re now in trouble in sense (iii).)

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All ˈlaundry ˈis a ˈblur of ˈstatic ˈcling

April 28, 2019

(This message is brought to you by Frolic, Romp, Frisk, Gambol, Cavort, Caper, & Prance, Ltd.,  purveyors of iambs and orgies.)

Today’s playful Zippy:


(#1) Drying clothes engaged in an orgy of cavorting and gamboling, playfully, sensually sliding against one another: inhale the freshness!

With one satisfying line of enigmatic iambic pentameter:

All ˈlaundry ˈis a ˈblur of ˈstatic ˈcling

Words to live by. If you can only divine their deeper lesson.

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She got pinched in the As … tor Bar

April 16, 2019

A celebrated example of word breaking or splitting (from the 1959 movie High Society), giving a joke turning on an ambiguity in how the the first part of the split word is to be understood: on its own, giving the off-color She got pinched in the ass; or as merely the first part of the split word, giving the less risqué She got pinched in the Astor Bar (in one or another sense of pinched).

Then I note that the first understanding has the in of body location, the second the in of event location — a distinction I’ve explored in three previous postings. This is the fourth, with some illumination in it, I think.

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Science, charity, and adverbial ambiguity

April 5, 2019

Through a chain of people on Facebook, who passed it from one hand to another, this painting (captioned by an unknown wag):

(#1)

Ah, in a different genre of art, a version of this joke that I’ve posted on a couple of times:


(#2) A One Big Happy strip

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Vasodilation

March 8, 2019

(References in later sections to men’s bodies and mansex, sometimes in plain terms; that material is not suitable for kids or the sexually modest. First, though, some pressure music and some stuff about blood pressure.)

Two things that happened to come together: my blood pressure readings of 97/59 on Wednesday, 105/57 yesterday; and an Out magazine story “Lucille Ball Did Poppers to Ease Chest Pains, Says New Show” by Mathew Rodriguez yesterday. The connection being that poppers trigger a (temporary) signficant drop in blood pressure.

If you don’t know what the poppers in question are (maybe you’re thinking of fried stuffed jalapeño peppers), don’t be alarmed; it will eventually become clear.

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Another 100k spams

March 5, 2019

… just came up on this blog. Since I last reported on the crowds of spam comments here, in my 10/20/18 posting “Numbers and names” (“The number of pieces of comments spam on this blog … passed 5.5 million a little while ago”).

Well, on the 3rd, when I first checked, some 5,600,601  had accumulated since this blog started in December 2008. At the moment, there’s an attack underway from a site with a clever strategy for evading spam recognition programs, so I’m getting more than a thousand new spam comments a day..

Meanwhile, there’s a certain amount of entertainment in the ebbs and flows in the views of postings on this blog — which will lead me eventually to some remarks on location expressions in the world’s language.

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individuals, people, persons

February 13, 2019

From a mail pointer to a 1/30/19 article in the journal Psychological Science, “Similarity Grouping as Feature-Based Selection” by Dian Yu, Xiao Xiao, Douglas K. Bemis, & Steven L. Franconeri:

Individuals perceive objects with similar features (i.e., color, orientation, shape) as a group even when those objects are not grouped in space.

Point at issue: individuals rather than people, a mark of a consciously formal, “scientific” way of writing, appropriate (some believe) for reporting on research in psychology.

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Cowboy casserole

February 4, 2019

On Pinterest this morning, this Crock Pot Cowboy Casserole:


(#1) Two stages in preparation and the final product

Ah, the N + N compound cowboy casserole. Clearly not an Ingredient compound (‘casserole made from cowboys’), but instead a Use compound, roughly ‘casserole for cowboys (to use)’, or — most likely — an Object compound, roughly ‘casserole of the sort that cowboys (like to) eat’.

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Nighthawks on New Year’s

January 2, 2019

A memorable New Yorker cover for the New Year: an Owen Smith parody of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (one of a great many such parodies):

(#1)

Three things: Nighthawks parodies, Owen Smith, and party hats.

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