Archive for the ‘Syntax’ Category

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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How does Wilderrama sleep at night?

September 4, 2021

From the tv series NCIS, Season 14 Episode 6, “Shell Game”, an exchange between the NCIS-Agent characters Tim McGee (played by Sean Murray) and Nick Torres (played by Wilmer Valderrama, whose name I am forever telescoping into the portmanteau-like Wilderrama) that turns on joking with senses of the interrogative adverb how — in McGee’s question “How do you sleep at night”, intended to convey modal + means how ‘by what means is it possible?’; and Torres’s response “On my back. Naked.”, conveying truth-functional + state how ‘in what state?’.


(#1) Torres and McGee in the NCIS episode “Love Boat”, Season 14 Episode 4

Then I turn to WV the man, as a hunk with a wonderful smile (two things I post about on a fairly regular basis), and as a performer with a notable actorial persona.

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Buzzcut 4: books and epithets

July 30, 2021

The last in the series of pairings of my new buzzcut with impudent gay t-shirts new to my wardrobe (earlier: BIG FAG on a pink shirt, rainbow FAGGOT in block letters, and, yesterday, a rainbow tyrannosaurus):


(#1) Posed in front of part of the Zwicky GSU (Grammar, Style, & Usage) collection, now housed in my condo, where the piano used to be, and supported by my indoor walker (which sports new purple walker balls, not illustrated here)

The t-shirt is a new version — bigger, bolder, more intense — than my first GAY AS FUCK shirt, below, which has worn over time until the colors are muted and delicate and the fabric is pleasantly soft. I see fatal holes in its near future.


(#2) Catalogue photo, not of me. With an (entertaining) asterisking strategy for taboo avoidance, unlike the flat-out FUCK of #1

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Research papers

May 7, 2021

It started in late April with Randall Munroe’s wry xkcd cartoon #2456, “Types of Scientific Paper”:

(#1)

Though the cartoon is primarily gentle ridicule of the natural sciences, some of the topics are applicable to the social sciences as well: My colleague is wrong and I can finally prove it; Some thoughts on how everyone else is bad at research. And several are adaptable to linguistics with only small changes: Check out this weird thing one of us heard while out for a walk; We ran experiments on some undergraduates.

The xkcd cartoon immediately set off an avalanche of variants in various specific fields, including at least two in areas of linguistics: Indo-European studies and syntax.

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trade and trick

April 16, 2021

(About the language of sex, with plenty of discussion of sexual acts, some of it in very plain terms, so not for kids or the sexually modest.)

Sexual vocabulary day, inspired by my puzzling about the syntax of the item trade (in examples like He’s looking for trade to service and He’s trade), which led me to a 2004 e-mail exchange — yes, still relevant — with a colleague about this item and its sexual lexical cousin trick.


Ajaxx63 Rough Trade t-shirt, on offer on the DealByEthan (men’s fashion shopping) site

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Ripped from the headlines

April 3, 2021

Well, actually, the headline — from CNN Politics, “Gaetz showed nude photos of women he said he’d slept with to lawmakers, sources tell CNN” by Jeremy Herb, Lauren Fox and Ryan Nobles yesterday — isn’t problematic, but very early in the body of the story, we get this:


(hat tips to Mike Pope and Michael Covarrubias on Facebook)

Which is.

I was (actually) shocked at the idea that congressman Matt Gaetz (R of FL) — admittedly, an extraordinarily arrogant bully with the contempt for ordinary people and customary social conventions so often displayed by children of privilege — would have sex with women on the floor of the US House of Representatives. Then I saw the ambiguity in modifier attachment and realized that what was alleged was merely deeply boorish behavior: passing around, wink wink nod nod, naked photos and videos of his sexual conquests to other legislators and their staffs.

Now, about that modifier attachment…

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Treading down the thorny path

March 16, 2021

Two evergreen topics in grammar and usage: so-called “split infinitives”, where some usage critics have insisted that they must always be avoided, however unnatural the results of this avoidance are; and modifier attachment, where jokes are often made about one of the potential attachments, however preposterous the interpretation associated with this attachment is.

The two topics are connected through their unthinking devotion to dogmas of grammatical correctness: avoid split infinitives, avoid potential ambiguity. A devotion that leads adherents down the thorny path of usage rectitude to using unnatural syntax and entertaining preposterous interpretations.

But first, the thorny path. The (tough) counterpart to the (easy) primrose path.

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