Archive for the ‘Lexical semantics’ Category

respite space / area, area of respite

June 23, 2022

It’s Midsummer Eve, the day before St. John’s Day and Midsummer Night, on which we can dream about reveling with the fairies. High summer, fiercely hot — I’ve been poleaxed by the heat for several days and trying to write this before today’s shimmer fells me once again — and Stanford (the edge of which is, like, six blocks from the Palo Alto house I’m writing this in) is in day 3 of a PG&E power outage crisis (my electric power is supplied by Palo Alto Utilities, which has so far coped with the heat demands and the occasional small fire, though it all seems distressingly tenuous to me).

Stanford has shut down everything it could and told staff and faculty to stay away if at all possible. But there are all those students in university housing, which is without power for cooling, for lighting, for charging electronic equipment, for opening (keycard-controlled) doors. For them, the university has provided places — spaces or areas — that have emergency power sources and can provide temporary relief in the form of cooling, lighting, and charging. What to call such places?

Stanford’s solution was expressions using the noun respiterespite space, respite area, area of respite — which were new turns of phrase for me, though they probably have a history I’m ignorant of. They have the advantage of being general (cooling station, which has been used in other public heat-crisis emergencies, covers only one of the students’ needs), but not so general that it’s uninformative (as, say, emergency area would be), and not, at least yet, associated specifically with the excretion of bodily wastes (as expressions with the nouns rest, comfort, and relief have become). (Not that excretion is irrelevant in a power outage; the lighting supplied in respite areas lets people see what they’re doing in bathrooms / toilets there, and that’s a very good thing. Meanwhile, back at the dark stifling dorms: flashlights.)

(more…)

Extended cisgender

June 19, 2022

A physician writes to the NYT Magazine‘s ethicist about a patient who used a racist slur (the N-word) to his Black nursing staff and a homophobic slur (probably the queer F-word, but maybe the queer D-word) to his receptionist, and contemplated ways to support these staff members as an outsider, explaining in the letter that he’s “a Hispanic, cisgender male”.

The first identifier, Hispanic, is a racial / ethnic identifier, counterposed to Black, White, API, Indigenous, etc. The second identifier, cisgender, is clearly intended to be counterposed to homosexual / gay / queer, terms that refer to same-sex (rather than other-sex) sexual orientation; but that looks like some kind of category mistake, since the standard usage of cisgender (with the prefix cis– ‘on this side of’, opposed to trans– ‘on the other side of’) is for a sexual identity that aligns with birth sex (and so is opposed to transgender) — a matter that’s orthogonal to sexuality / sexual orientation. Indeed, most same-sex-oriented people are cisgender; I myself am a cisgender queer, one of millions, though we’re hugely outnumbered by the cisgender straights, who are all over the place. And while some transgender people are sexually oriented towards their own sex, some are oriented towards the other sex. (more…)

Prone, splayed, and humped up

June 13, 2022

(Warning: this posting starts out being about food, but quickly shifts into man-on-man sex, in very plain anatomical and interactional language, so it’s not suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

The morning name from 6/7: spatchcock. From NOAD on spatchcock:

noun: a chicken or game bird split open and grilled. verb [with object] [a] split open (a poultry or game bird) to prepare it for grilling: these small spring chickens can be bought already spatchcocked. [b] informal, mainly British add (a phrase, sentence, clause, etc.) in a context where it is inappropriate: a new clause has been spatchcocked into the Bill. ORIGIN late 18th century (originally an Irish usage). [but in any case, the cock in question refers to poultry and not to penises]

Illustrated on the Fifteen Spatulas site, in “Spatchcock Chicken” by Joanne Ozug on 12/7/18:


(#1) [from the site:] Spatchcock Chicken roasts in half the time of a whole trussed chicken, and also cooks more evenly. … Once you spatchcock, you don’t go back to roasting whole chickens.

I had two visceral responses to the photo: one, as an umami-loving carnivore, my mouth watered in pleasurable anticipation of consuming that spatchcocked chicken; and two, as a hookup-loving pedicant, my sexual parts all tingled in pleasurable recollection of past encounters in which I was that spatchcocked chicken. On my belly, legs apart, buttocks in the air. Or, more briskly: prone, splayed, humped up. (You have to make some allowances for the anatomical differences between your typical roasted chicken and me in heat, so that drumsticks ≈ buttocks.)

(more…)

The compounds of commerce and the comics

June 3, 2022

A little study in N + N compounds in English, their great utility and versatility (they pack a lot of content into two-word expressions), and their consequent massive potential ambiguity (so that divining the intended meaning can require vast amounts of background knowledge and appreciating details of the context in which the compound is used). You can have (great) brevity, or you can have (great) clarity, but you can’t have both at once.

From the world of commerce, the compound dog spot (which many of us will not have encountered before, or will take to be a reference to the coat pattern of Dalmatian dogs). From the comic strips, two compounds that have conventional interpretations but can also be understood in fresh and unconventional ways: from One Big Happy, dancing school; from Bizarro, cowboy.

(more…)

What do we want? Change!

May 31, 2022

The Mother Goose and Grimm strip for 1/29

turns on an ambiguity in the VP, which is of the form:

want/need + NP1 + in NP2

The ambiguity appears more generally, in VPs of the form:

 want/need + NP + PredicativeComplement

The ambiguity involves two different constituent structures for the VP, with concomitant differences in the argument structures, and indeed, in the semantics of the primary verbs of desire, want and need: desiring a thing — the much more common semantics, seen in Mother Goose’s assertion:

I want that dress in the window

— versus desiring a change of state (an inchoative ‘I want that dress to be in / get into the window’ or causative ‘I want that dress to be put into the window’ reading), presupposed by Grimmy’s objection:

But that dress is in the window

(more…)

Bingo!

May 16, 2022

Today’s morning name, which led me back to an onomatomanic Zippy strip from 7/3/21 (yes, I work extremely slowly):


(#1) Zippyesque repetitive phrase disorder, aka onomatomania, fixated on exploding magic bingo bombs

This being a Zippy strip, exploding magic bingo bombs are a real thing; Bill Griffith doesn’t just make up stuff like this.

(more…)

In the menswear ROJ

May 15, 2022

As in yesterday’s posting “Romper buddies”, about an ad for Romperjacks: not RAJ the land of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh, but ROJ the land of rompers, overalls, and jumpsuits. With a photo gallery. To whet your interest, two Romperjacks items:


(#1) The floridly beautiful Jungle Print romper


(#2) The elegant White Chateaux romper

(more…)

Romper buddies

May 14, 2022

Taking off from a delightful ad for Romperjacks on Facebook back in November and December:

Here I give you the ad photo, and inventory some of the things it inspires me to write about in future postings (several being themes from earlier postings on this blog).

(more…)

Now serving at the Raven Cafe

May 11, 2022

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm, with the POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau) Edgar Allan Po’ Boy = Edgar Allan Poe (the American writer and poet) + po’ boy (the superb New Orleans submarine sandwich):


(#1) Edgar Allan Po’ Boy is a N1 + N2 compound N, understood as having the head, N2, semantically associated with the modifier, N1, by (the referent of) N2’s being named after (the referent of) N1 — parallel to the Woody Allen Sandwich (a tower of corned beef and pastrami) at NYC’s Carnegie Deli

(Plus the allusion to Poe’s poem The RavenQuoth the raven, “Nevermore” — in Grimm’s, “I had it once, but… nevermore”.)

If you were a betting person, you would surely put some money on this MGG strip as not being the first to use this particular POP — of course, that would be fine, it’s all in how you develop the joke — and you would win.

Just on this blog, in Zippy postings from 2016 and a Rhymes With Orange posting in 2017.

Plus bonuses: a texty with a pun turning on the ambiguity of /póbòj/ as either po’ boy or Poe boy; and two cartoons turning on Edgar Allan Poe / Po’ Boy understood as a Source or Ingredient compound (parallel to shrimp po’ boy) — yes, Edgar Allan Poe in a po’ boy, in it, good enough to eat.

(more…)

The discovery of smoke

May 8, 2022

A Mick Stevens cartoon from the New Yorker of 4/18:


(#1) The giant black cloud of smoke, largely obscuring its discoverer, made me laugh out loud when this issue arrived last month

But I didn’t post about the cartoon because it seemed to have neither a linguistics point nor a gender & sexuality point (nor to engage with other of my passions — music, art, food, plants, animals, mathematics, men’s bodies, shapenote singing, Switzerland, my medical conditions, and so on).

Ah, man of little faith. There is almost always a linguistics point to be found; and, if I’m willing to exercise some ingenuity, a gay point too. And so it is here.

(more…)