Archive for the ‘Synonyms’ Category


January 3, 2016

That’s for testicular photograph portmanteau, in a portmanteau.

The Steam Room Stories episode (very fit guys, gay and straight, clad only in a towel, in a steam room, talking about their bodies and about sex) of December 31st featured two of the steam room guys sitting side by side on the bench. I paraphrase their exchange:

Right asks Left how his vacation was. Fantastic, Left says, bragging that he took some great photographs. Left whips out his cellphone, pages through photos of gorgeous landscapes for Right, who admits that Left is a really good photographer, adding, however, that Left’s camera seems to be defective, because there are dark round blobs at the top of all the photos. Nothing wrong, dude, Left replies, those are my balls, don’t you know about nutscapes? Right is astonished, appalled. Left stands up, bends over, and shows how he snaps his testicles:


Right is even more appalled; of course he says that Left is nuts.


Choosing your words

October 15, 2014

Two recent items on word choice: a One Big Happy with a set of synonyms; and a NYT Magazine piece on children’s breakfasts around the world, with a reference to Japanese natto as “putrid”.


Thesaurus play

August 5, 2014

Today’s Zippy has our frazzled Pinhead hero reveling in the pleasures of synonyms:

On deploying Roget, see this Language Log posting on thesaurisizing (my preferred form) or thesaurusizing (Mark Liberman’s), with links back to 2004 postings.

Fathers Day Five

June 15, 2014

An unusually big crop of cartoons this morning, including one (a Rhymes With Orange) on stereotypes about men’s tastes (for Fathers Day). Plus another Zits with the stereotype of chatty teenage girls; another strip (a Mother Goose and Grimm) on Yoda’s syntax; a Zippy on synonyms for disapproving; and a Bizarro on the extension of metaphors to simulacra.


Word art

June 3, 2014

Now at the Jewish Museum in New York (through September 21st), an exhibition of Mel Bochner‘s recent conceptual art. From the NYT on May 2nd, in “Secret Power of Synonyms: Mel Bochner Turns Up the Volume in ‘Strong Language’ ” by Ken Johnson:

Words have been the subjects and primary constituents of the enigmatic yet acerbically provocative paintings Mel Bochner has been creating over the past 12 years. “Mel Bochner: Strong Language,” an elegantly produced exhibition at the Jewish Museum, gives them their due and traces their roots back to text-based works that Mr. Bochner created in the ’60s and early ’70s, when he was one of New York’s pre-eminent Conceptual artists.


Choosing words

June 29, 2013

In today’s Zits, Sara disses Jeremy’s body type and Jeremy defensively objects to her word choice:

From NOAD2’s thesaurus under skinny:

his extreme height made him look especially skinny: thin, scrawny, scraggy, bony, angular, rawboned, hollow-cheeked, gaunt, as thin as a rake, skin-and-bones, sticklike, emaciated, waiflike, skeletal, pinched, undernourished, underfed; slim, lean, slender, rangy; lanky, spindly, gangly, gangling, gawky; informal looking like a bag of bones, anorexic; dated spindle-shanked.

No wiry there; instead, the synonyms are heavily negative. But in the other direction, the thesaurus under wiry, we get skinny (among mostly positive synonyms):

a wiry man: sinewy, athletic, strong; lean, spare, thin, stringy, skinny.


June 7, 2013

Heard in television ads for cancer treatment centers, the phrase investigational drugs. From an FDA site on “Access to Investigational Drugs”:

Investigational or experimental drugs are new drugs that have not yet been approved by the FDA or approved drugs that have not yet been approved for a new use, and are in the process of being tested for safety and effectiveness.

This passage treats investigational and experimental as synonyms in the drug context — but then the site goes on to use investigational exclusively. This specialized use of investigational (as opposed to the transparent general use ‘of or relating to investigations’) seems to be fairly recent — recent enough that it’s not in the dictionaries I’ve consulted. It seems to have replaced experimental as the appropriate technical term for drugs undergoing testing, perhaps because some people in the relevant community had come to feel that experimental no longer sounded sufficiently technical, but had become part of ordinary language.


nothing special

April 2, 2013

Today’s Zippy:

A flood of synonyms: mundane, quotidian, ordinary, normal, neutral, commonplace, typical, middling, average, and in the title, okay (conveying ‘just okay, nothing special’). You can only get so much into a three-panel strip, but there are a number of other possibilities.