Archive for the ‘Style and register’ Category

Fireworks! Bang!

September 22, 2021

This posting originally came in two parts, united in fact by a sheer accident of timing, that two celebratory — fireworks! bang! — things happened  during a July weekend in the US: the first is a personal celebration, of an honor from the Linguistic Society of America that marks me as officially a kind of famous faggot (I happily embrace faggot); the second is the 4th of July holiday, an occasion as American as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie, but capable of being hijacked for raunchy purposes. But in the interests of getting something posted while I still live, I’m putting the second part off, to appear as a separate posting (which will require a warning of  irredeemable raunchiness; this part dips into sexual topics with some frequency, no surprise, but needs, I think, no more severe a warning than that).

Notes: I do love fireworks, because there are occasions when only excess will really do the trick; but like a stereotypical queer, I am at best lukewarm on sports (though I have an enthusiasm for the San Francisco Giants when they’re in the World Series — go figure); I enjoy eating the occasional hot dog (for its taste and texture as well as its phallicity), but it has to be kosher (I had my ritual Independence Day Hebrew National wurst on the 3rd); and I also enjoy eating apple pie, but my preference is for Julia Child’s Tarte aux Pommes (another faggy enthusiasm).

The other thing about holidays, the Fourth of July notably among them, is that they are occasions for elaborate advertising campaigns hawking homoware: men’s premium underwear (including oh my, jockstraps), steamily presented, and gay porn videos (not to mention sex toys for gay men), all of these items that I view both as sources of deep personal satisfaction (which I am happy to talk about in detail, in the plainest of street language) and as objects of academic analysis, on several levels.

And then I have contrived to make a more than accidental connection between celebrating my recognition as an LGBTQ+ linguist and celebrating the Fourth of July, by selecting a holiday porn ad that turns on the ambiguity of N and V bang, as referring to noise-making or as referring to sexual intercourse: consider this exemplary text, the Falcon Big Bang 2021 sale ad (for gay porn) that came in my e-mail on July 2nd:

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The Triceramisu

August 24, 2021

A hybrid beast with a portmanteau name: Triceratops + tiramisu, that is, Tricera (tops) + (tira) misu:


(#1) A fine portrait of the beast, artist as yet unknown (it’s one of those cartoons that has been passed around on the net through many hands, with the artist’s identity suppressed; Google Images has been of no help, because it detects the tiramisu and then disregards everything else)

A fantastical creature with the body of a tiramisu and the extremities (head, tail, and four legs) of a Triceratops, the Triceramisu feeds from pools of espresso, fortified wines, and liqueurs in the fields of cocoa that abound in its native land of Portmantopolis; the creature lounges drowsily in the evenings in plate-like nests. The Triceramisu is irenic, amiable, and delicious, and has been known to offer itself as sustenance to other creatures in need of food. Because it’s inclined to spoil and to crumble, the Triceramisu is unfortunately (though gloriously) short-lived.

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Peter Mark’s clogged drain

August 13, 2021

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro, with a plumber who really knows how to sling synonyms:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 7 in this strip — see this Page.)

Hard to believe that any actual person ever uttered egress conduit for drain pipe, or saponaceous residuum for soapy residue — or, better, soapy gunk. So the plumber’s report on an ordinary household repair is absurd; it’s as if he’d been seized by a terrible fit of technicalism that left him unable to resist thesaurisizing.

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trouser trout

August 9, 2021

(It’s all about penises, with mildly raunchy playfulness in content and language, so not to everyone’s taste, but requiring (I think) no more warning than that.)

A Dog Named Trouser. It begins with jocular exchanges on Facebook on 8/6:

MV: If they’d just told me there was a job where you can meet a dog named Trouser, I’d have picked that sooner. [MV has been selling her drawings of dogs and cats]

RW: Does he pant? [Imagine everyone groaning at the pun on pants ‘short, quick breaths’ vs. pants ‘trousers’.]

CC: Is there also a snake named Trouser? [first playful slang: trouser snake ‘penis’]

AO: That’s a trout, I think. [shifting right to our topic: trouser trout ‘penis’]

AZ > AO : Snake, trout, eel, they’re all adorable trouser-dwellers… [trouser eel is also possible] Entertaining, easily available, and delicious. And the Trout is lyrical [allusion to Schubert’s music].

AO: Alliterative, even! [trouser trout, tripping on TRs]

AZ [shifting from the common noun trouser trout to a proper name, and slipping into journalist register] > AO: Breaking news: Trouser Trout, acknowledged master of moose-knuckle modeling, and oldest recorded practitioner of this niche craft, died in a freak runway accident yesterday at the age of 87, according to his management agency. Mr. Trout, born Regenbogen Forelle [Gm. ‘rainbow trout’] on the Gallatin River in Yellowstone Park [the Gallatin provides excellent trout fishing], assumed his professional name at the age of 17, when a photographer, coming across him on the street, recognized the man’s potential and featured him in a spread jointly published by Look and Physique. After a private memorial service, he will be returned to the Gallatin River for interment.

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I ween

April 24, 2021

In “When I was a lad”, from Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore (1878), Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty, sings:

Of legal knowledge I acquired such a grip
That they took me into the partnership.
And that junior partnership, I ween,
Was the only ship that I ever had seen.


A still from the 2017 Stratford Festival performance of this song; you can watch a YouTube video of the this performance here

It came by on my iTunes a couple days ago, causing me to realize that the only occurrences of the verb ween — meaning, to judge from the context, something like ‘think, believe’ — that I can recall having experienced were in parenthetical I ween in G&S operetttas.  Notably, in Pinafore, which I’ve been listening to (or watching, or assisting in productions of) for over 60 years, but also in this couplet in “Kind sir, you cannot have the heart”, from The Gondoliers, so memorable to me because of its potential for queer wordplay:

Oh, ’tis a glorious thing, I ween,
To be a regular Royal Queen

But what of this strange, stilted-sounding verb that seems to occur only in parenthetical I ween?

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The columnist

April 15, 2021

Today’s Zippy strip, with an unconventional sense of columnist:

(#1)

Not someone who writes a column for publication, but a collector of columns, the architectural features — like a philatelist, but with pillars.

But then the suffix –ist is extraordinarily multifunctional.

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OBH and xkcd

February 6, 2021

Two cartoons in my feed recently: a One Big Happy on Ruthie’s interpretation of an expression unfamiliar to her; and an xkcd with a new story of the Tower of Babel.

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An Obama periodic sentence

January 14, 2021

(Another item in my posting queue from a while ago.)

As suits his complex life history, Barack Obama commands a wide range of rhetorical styles and is adept at shifting from one to another according to the context: American “plain style” used to convey sweet (but lawyerly) reason, distinct echos of black pulpit style, and much more. Including, from a speech to students at the University of Illinois on 9/7/18, a striking periodic sentence. (The whole speech can be viewed on the media space Illinois site, “President Barack Obama Speech at the University of Illinois”.)

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A lexical surprise

January 5, 2021

Yesterday, a very rare occurrence for me: in non-technical writing for a general audience — specifically, on yesterday’s (1/4/21) New York Times opinion page — a lexical item (one of sufficient currency to appear in the one-volume New Oxford American Dictionary) that I don’t recall ever having experienced before.

The find, in Kara Swisher’s “My Tech Predictions for 2021”:

I have never thought, as many have, that [REDACTED] should have been de-platformed during his term as president. As flagitious as he can be, [REDACTED] has been a legitimate news figure and thus, what he had to say should be aired.

(But Swisher goes on, after January 20th, no more.)

Yes, flagitious.

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/ol/ vs. /old/

December 16, 2020

In the One Big Happy from 11/23, recently appeared in my comics feed, Ruthie and her grandfather spar over the choice between /ol/ and /old/ as the PST form of the verbs STEAL and TELL and the BSE/PRS forms of the verb HOLD.

There are, as it turns out, two quite different phenomena here, one having to do with the choice of an inflectional form (the PST of STEAL), the other having to do with the omission of word-final /d/ in casual pronunciations in connected speech (in the PST of TELL and the BSE/PRS of HOLD).

Ruthie’s grandfather, however, treats the two phenomena as comparable, and also, unreasonably, treats the casual pronunciations as requiring correction.

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