Archive for the ‘Syntax’ Category

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.)

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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

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The logic of syntax

March 27, 2022

I had two postings in preparation about moments of great joy from yesterday: one from the music that greeted me on awakening in the morning; the other from the plants in Palo Alto’s Gamble Gardens, visited yesterday morning on my first trip out in the world for many weeks.

Then fresh posting topics rolled in alarmingly, and a search for background material led me by accident to a great surprise, a link to a tape of a public lecture (a bit over an hour long) at Iowa State University on 4/11/90, 32 years ago. Title above. The subtitle: Thinking about language theoretically.

I listened transfixed as the lecturer, speaking to a general university audience, took his listeners into the wilds of modern theoretical syntax, along the way deftly advancing some ways of thinking that guided his own research. An admirable bit of teaching, I thought. With some pride, because that lecturer was, of course, an earlier incarnation of me.

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Two cartoons on familiar themes

March 24, 2022

In my comics feed recently: a One Big Happy (from 4/6/10) on masculinity for boys; and a Wayno / Piraro  Bizarro (from 4/23) with an Ahab and the whale cartoon (but with a whole lot more packed into it).

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Four approaches to sucking someone’s socks off

February 4, 2022

(Full of linguistic expressions referring to genitals and sexual acts, but not depicting these acts or treating them as cultural practices.)

A heavy-linguistics follow-up to my 11/5/21 posting “I want to suck your socks off”, which told the moving tale of a sexual encounter between the characters Alex and Jake, the center of which is a sub-episode beginning with Jake declaring to Alex:

I want to suck your socks off (A)

conveying, roughly, ‘I want to give you enormous satisfaction by fellating you to orgasm’, that is, ‘I want to give you a truly fabulous blow job’ — a vow that Jake then proceeded to make good on.

This posting isn’t about raunchy acts like Jake’s — I hope to, um, flesh out the tale of Jake and Alex in another posting — but about English VPs like the one underlined in (A), Jake’s raunchily colloquial

suck your socks off (B)

Call VP (B) syoso for short; I’ll have a lot to say about syoso. It turns out that it’s at least four-ways ambiguous, though in the sex-drenched context of the Jake and Alex story, you’re probably going to recognize only sense 4, sexual syoso.

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The teen fugue

January 11, 2022

Yesterday’s (1/10) Wayno/Piraro Bizarro revives plays on fugue and minor (exploited in a 2012 Bizarro), plus (in the title FUGUE IN A MINOR) a clunky play on A the name of a musical key vs. a the indefinite article (which are visually identical in all-caps printing):


(#1) The cartoon figure is a version of the classic portrait of the late Beethoven — the Beethoven of the Grosse Fuge — looking stormily rebellious in a Romantic red scarf, tempered by an image of Johann Sebastian Bach — the great master of the fugue as a musical form — in the powdered wig characteristic of the 18th century (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

The word plays are on fugue, musical (“this piece”) or medical (“drifted aimlessly”); and minor, musical (“A minor”) or chronological (“my early teens”, “a minor”).

A look back at the 2012 posting, which had a different play on minor (the minor of music or the minor of significance), and so provided no justification for Wayno’s title for #1, “The First Emo”, with its allusion to emo kids / emos, who stereotypically are sensitive, socially dissociated, rebellious teenagers. And then some reflection on the cartoon composer in #1.

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Converse all-stars

October 13, 2021

The story starts with an instance of semantically reversed impervious (to) — a converse use of a predicate adjective. From Anat Shenker-Osorio, the founder of ASO Communications, interviewed on 10/11 on MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. From the transcript:

… What we find in experiment after experiment is that when people have already cemented a world view, they in essence have a frame around what is occurring, then facts are simply impervious to it. They bounce off of it, right?

… And so it`s precisely as you said. If they have an existing story line about, quote, unquote, what Democrats do and how they behave, then facts are pretty much impervious to it.

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Flipping with the cowboys

October 3, 2021

(Substantial section on English syntax and semantics, but even that is about raunchy sexual vocabulary — so it’s pretty much wall to wall about sex between men, in street language, with photos: absolutely inappropriate for kids or the sexually modest)

What got me into this was the cover of a CockyBoys gay porn DVD Flipping Out (#1 below, after the fold), showing two men engaged in the variety of anal intercourse known as Asian Cowboy. More descriptively, Squatting Cowboy: the receptive man rides the insertive man’s penis roughly the way a cowboy rides his horse, by sitting on it — in this case, from a squatting position. In plain Cowboy, the receptive guy lowers himself onto his ride while kneeling, so in more descriptive terminology, that’s Kneeling Cowboy.

I was struck by the photo because the Cowboy sex positions hold a special resonance for me, and because I’d been looking for Cowboy illustrations in which the insertive guy is sitting up (in a chair or on a sofa), a position that invites the men to kiss, the way my man Jacques and I did when we enjoyed Cowboying together. The cover of Flipping Out gives me just what I was looking for, in an especially attractive and wonderfully intimate composition of bodies.

Then, as a linguistic bonus, there’s the verb to flip-fuck, played with in the DVD’s title.

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Bang!

September 29, 2021

(Men’s bodies and sex between men, sometimes in street language, so not for kids or the sexually modest)

Back in July, I started a piece that combined the celebrations of the Fourth of July in my country and a personal celebration on having an award for LGBTQ+ linguists named after me. The two parts of the piece take off from the same introductory material, a Falcon Big Bang 2021 sale ad (reproduced below).

Alas, the rigors of these pandemic times and of the twilight of my life being what they are, I wasn’t able to finish the first part of this posting, the Arnold Zwicky Award part, until 9/21. Now comes the second, the vulgar slang bang ‘to have sex’, part.

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Guest posting on “How does he sleep at night?”

September 21, 2021

Back in my 9/4 posting “How does Wilderrama sleep at night?”, I appealed to my colleagues in semantics:

Dictionaries seem not to do a lot of sense differentiation for how — NOAD boils the relevant OED2 entry down to ‘in what way or manner; by what means’, all as one sense — and I don’t know anything in the semantics literature that covers this territory (but then I’m basically pig-ignorant of the semantics literature [this is hyperbolic, meant to be entertaining, but the truth is that what I know of semantics is unsystematic and patchy, things I’ve picked up as a syntactician outsider], so I’m sketching  a treatment improvisationally here. I would be happy to be illuminated.

And got a fine thoughtful response from Hana Filip (Professor of Semantics in the Dept. of Linguistics at Heinrch-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf), in several installments, which I will incorporate (lightly edited) below, with her permission, as a guest posting.  I induced her to agree to release this material, despite its being preliminary and far from publication style, with this appeal:

The point would be not that [you and I are] hammering out an answer, but that we’re thinking things through. My readers are mostly not linguists, so they don’t get to see linguists at work, before things turn into published material. In particular, they don’t get to see us using a conceptual apparatus (and the technical vocabulary to go with it) to try to make sense of the world; we don’t inject that technicality into the discussion just for show — but much of it is really necessary to get past the point of just accumulating judgments and examples from texts.

That will involve  my contributing explanatory text at various points, to fill in things that Hana and I take for granted (on her side, she’s not a specialist in syntax, but shares a considerable body of conceptual background with me in syntax). The result is then something like a public conversation between us, with me turning to the audience every so often with commentary on the proceedings.

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