Archive for the ‘Style and register’ Category

Gross and flying penguins, Barsotti and flying squirrels

August 15, 2016

Unearthed in today’s clearing out of material piled up in a cabinet, two New Yorker cartoons: a Sam Gross (published in the 9/4/95 issue) in which a penguin achieves flight, a Charles Barsotti (published in the 8/12/96 issue) in which squirrels question whether they are in fact flying squirrels (there are tree squirrels, ground squirrels, flying squirrels, and questioning squirrels — TGFQ):



If you try harder, you might succeed; and if you give it a try, you might discover your identity.


Constructing a Voice of Authority through Persona

June 19, 2016

A highlight of Stanford’s graduation last Sunday for me was Andrea Lawson Kortenhoven’s “walking through” our departmental ceremony for her PhD in Linguistics, tentative title above. Something personal for me, since I had the pleasure of encouraging Angi when she was a BA student in Spanish at Ohio State (graduating 1995), before coming to Stanford. Her husband Matthew and their four kids were there to cheer her on; I wasn’t able to make it, but I was cheering.

First, a photo (courtesy of Lelia Glass) of Angi with her immediate academic family — her thesis advisers, sociolinguists Penny Eckert and John Rickford — then Penny’s summary of the dissertation, and then some remarks on Angi’s academic regalia in the photo (in black, green, gold, and red).



Rainbows and b8r bait

June 13, 2016

It’s Pride month, time for rainbow everything (as symbols of solidarity and resistance to oppression) and also time for defiant celebrations of same-sex desire, same-sex sexual acts, and social and personal motss-identification. All especially important in the face of explicit attempts to exterminate our community, like the monstrous wickedness in Orlando the night before last. As usual, I’ve sequestered the images of sexual body parts on AZBlogX (“The dick days of summer”, here, with three stirring photos for gay men), but I won’t be shy about talking about men’s bodies and the excellent sexual practice of masturbation, so this isn’t for kids or the sexually modest.


More participial urgency

June 5, 2016

In today’s Doonesbury, a new (and younger) audience confronts a stylistic quirk of some television hews reporting:

This time the participles (PRP, PSP) are pretty much a side issue, though their sense of urgency — I would say, rather, “immediacy” — appears right away, in panel 2.


WTF? headline omission

April 30, 2016

The original datum, from the SF Peninsula Daily Post for the April 30th weekend, on p. 1, printed here as a single line (rather than broken into three lines):

(1) Guard posted at crossing where woman killed

intended to convey something like

(1a) A guard has been posted at the crossing where a woman was killed

— where the omission in (1) of the underlined form of BE (in a subordinate passive clause) gave me an extended WTF? moment. Looking at parallel examples didn’t make me any happier. Maybe there are those for whom (1) and similar examples are unproblematic, but there is variation from speaker to speaker in all things, and in this case, (1) and its kin are problematic for me. Now, some background, then back to (1).


Lower bangs higher

January 28, 2016

(Some genuine language stuff in here, but in the context of serious man-man sex described in very plain language, so not for kids or the sexually modest.)

On the 25th, this ad (from a gay porn aggregation service using the name Genuine Lust), under the heading “Crossed Swords”, referring both to weapons and to penises:


This is serious role reversal, on (at least) three fronts: class, status, and race/ethnicity. Meanwhile, the text (in the dialogue above, and in some ad copy) is both bizarre and rife with errors (of various kinds) in English. The ad copy:

Beautiful themed movies with only the best actors shot with the best cameras the humanity ever known. Watch these sirs.


Cute-sounding ailments

June 9, 2015

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes:

We have a problem in style and register here. The vocabulary Calvin has for talking about what afflicts him comes from a kind of babytalk — owwy ‘painful’, boo boo ‘small injury’ — so doesn’t get taken seriously. (But note that Calvin’s internal monologue, like his talk to Hobbes on other occasions, is decidedly adult: ailments, sympathy.)

Reading out loud

May 18, 2015

In yesterday’s NYT Book Review, a set of reviews of audiobooks, including one by by Kathryn Harrison of Jo Nesbo’s Blood on Snow as read by Patti Smith. Harrison sees a mismatch between the novel’s protagonist Olav as she understands him and Olav in Smith’s speech style (which Harrison refers to as diction).


Judge Judy: the early days

May 14, 2015

Today’s Zippy, featuring Judge Judy and her hectoring courtroom speech style:

Judge Judy is something of a preoccupation in Zippy, often in combination with Donald Trump (for instance, #2 on 3/17/14, #1 on 5/26/14), sometimes with other pop culture icons (JJ, Howie Mandel, and Dr. Phil on 8/17/13).


Dinosaur connoisseur

April 23, 2015

Today’s Bizarro, with a portmanteau:

Dinosaur + Connoisseur. With some entertaining play on the style of wine writing.