Archive for the ‘Style and register’ Category

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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Hard-core gendering

September 12, 2020

Now visible on tv and on the net: Manly Bands, wedding rings and engagement rings for real guy guys: deeply masculine bands that avoid the mere prettiness of so many of the usual rings (and any possible associations with femininity) — and are advertised with over-the-top testosterone-steeped prose.

An ad from the net:

Need a wedding band that’ll make you wanna run up a flight of stairs to the Rocky soundtrack? These bestsellers’ll do the trick.

The content is about achieving great physical prowess, emulating a winning prize-fighter. The style of the text is studiously informal (that’ll, wanna, bestsellers’ll) and slangy (do the trick) — guy talk.

The copy on the company’s site is in fact much more elaborately gendered as masculine than this.

And then there’s the name Manly Bands.

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Onomatopoeia and program music

September 2, 2020

On 8/31, e-mail from fellow shapenote singer Peter Ross, asking

whether onomatopoeia might apply to songs like the City of New Orleans, Bill Staines’s song River, the Carter family song Winding Stream, etc., where the music fits the meaning of the lyrics

These are wonderful, incredibly moving songs, and I’ll write about them below, but what Peter’s talking about is a relationship between the form of pieces of music (including their lyrics) and the images or stories the music might evoke — while onomatopoeia is a specifically linguistic relationship, having to do with an association between linguistic elements — lexical items — and their referents, turning on the phonetics of the lexical items and perceptible characteristics of the referents.

So they’re clearly related concepts, but not the same thing.

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Let them eat cake

August 15, 2020

(Totally unsuitable for kids and the sexually modest.)

From the Raging Stallion gay porn studio, the 2020 flick Cake Shop, focused on cake ‘buttock’ and especially on cum as a culinary ingredient. The cover of the video, with the naughty bits fuzzed out:


(#1) At the top: Devin Trez, Jake Nicola, Wade Wolfgar — Trez and Wolfgar with long pendulous half-hard cocks you can view in an AZBlogX posting “Cake Shop” — and  below them, Beaux Banks and Donnie Argento, cupcakes in their mouths, their cakes (‘buttocks’) offered for fucking

There is much play on cakes ‘buttocks’ and on eating cum (that’s a queer thing).

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CORN/BEEF

July 14, 2020

Following up on NO PENGUINS (my 12/4/19 posting here), another adventure in food signage, also initially presented almost entirely without context. This one takes us into the mysteries of punctuation, t/d-deletion in English, and the food practices of modern America.

The impetus:

(#1)

This is available as a symbol conveying NO PENGUINS, meaning that penguins are not allowed in the signed area or will not be admitted to the signed area (under a penalty of some sort). The slash is the slash of exclusion.

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