Archive for the ‘Lexical semantics’ Category

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.


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.


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:


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).


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).


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.)


Environmentally responsible derivation

November 13, 2017

It starts with an ordinary noun source and an ordinary verb sustain and eventually works its way to the adverb sustainably as a modifier of a verb source, strikingly in the split infinitive construction to sustainably source, which Wilson Gray reported in an ADS-L posting on the 11th, citing a General Mills ad in which to sustainably source oats figures prominently.


A processed food flavor

October 20, 2017

That’s from the NYT on the 17th (on-line), Frank Bruni’s op-ed column “Will Pumpkin Spice Destroy Us All?”:

(#1) In the labyrinth of pumpkin spice

It’s invention run amok, marketing gone mad, the odoriferous emblem of commercialism without compunction or bounds. It’s the transformation of an illusion — there isn’t any spice called pumpkin, nor any pumpkin this spicy — into a reality.

Pumpkin on its own is bland. What to do, if you’re not fond of bland? Pumpkin pie can get some pizazz from spices — especially cinnamon and nutmeg, also used to flavor eggnog, for similar reasons.

Such spice mixtures have been around for centuries, but only in recent years has pumpkin (pie) spice achieved commercial superstardom. Leading to Bruni’s comic savaging above, and to a Kaamran Hafeez cartoon (yesterday’s daily cartoon for the New Yorker).


Ruthie on meanings

October 19, 2017

Two recent One Big Happy strips:

(#1) What does /sǽtǝn/ mean?

(#2) What does anaphoric do that refer to?

#1 plumbs Ruthie’s knowledge of the English lexicon (satin is unfamiliar to her, so she does the best she can with it from what she knows), #2 her ability to use anaphoric elements in context (she’s an ace at wielding “sloppy identity”).


Wrinkle cream

October 13, 2017

Today’s dialogue between Mother Goose and Grimm:


It’s all about the semantic relationship between the two Ns in the N + N compound wrinkle cream.


Performance ambiguity

October 10, 2017

A recent One Big Happy plays on play:

Play the Moonlight Sonata. Play the piano. Play the Moonlight Sonata on the piano.