Archive for the ‘Lexical semantics’ Category

Cartoon understanding in parallel worlds

November 10, 2018

Two cartoons that have come by me recently that work only if you have a fair amount of cultural knowledge in two dfferent domains, which are presented in the cartoon as parallel worlds equally present there. A Brevity strip by Dan Thompson from 4/27/18 (thanks to Joe Transue for help in identifying the strip); and a Wayno & Piraro Bizarro from yesterday:

(more…)

Chic peas and more

October 13, 2018

The fall special at Dan Gordon’s (on Emerson St. in Palo Alto), as it first appeared on the menu, about a month ago:

Summer Stew $16.95
smoked pork / cippolini onions / chic peas / prunes / red rice

(with the very notable spelling chic peas and with the misspelling cippolini for cipollini). But now the ingredients list reads:

smoked pork / cippolini onions / chickpeas / dehydrated plums / red rice

(with the notable dehydrated plums). Actually, all four ingredients have linguistic interest.

(more…)

Molesting and abusing ambiguously

September 2, 2018

The news stories are appalling, but this is about an expression in one of the stories:

(1) More needs to be done to protect children from molesting priests. (Gregory Ward in e-mail on 8/29, reporting on a WBEZ-FM (Chicago) news story)

Which led to the contemplation of the N + N compounds:

(2) child molester

(3) child abuse

All of them ambiguous, though all with a (dire) conventionalized sense.

(more…)

The nacho cart

August 13, 2018

Drew Dernavich in the August 20th New Yorker:


(#1) “Would you like to sample something from the nacho cart?”

An office cart conveying a gigantic heap of nachos, with hot cheese dripping over the side. Underneath are who knows what astounding toppings for the taco chips, your choice.

A demented dessert cart, transporting horror-movie foodstuffs. The fanciest of high-end dining  juxtaposed with low-end cheap thrills and street food, smelling of Mexican food trucks.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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

(more…)

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

(more…)

contractions

June 7, 2018

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

(more…)

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.

(more…)