Archive for the ‘Argument structure’ Category

An old resultative joke

June 8, 2017

From Wilson Gray on ADS-L on the 6th, in a discussion of a joke that turns on a structural ambiguity, a totally different joke of this sort:

A drunk is staggering along the sidewalk muttering to himself, “It can’t be done! I couldn’t do it!” A passer-by comments, “Damn, man, you all fucked up!, It must have been something terrible! What couldn’t you do?!” The drunk answers, “Drink Canada dry!”

The joke doesn’t quite work in print like this, unless you use all-caps, the way artist Richard Prince did in this “joke painting”:

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Untitled (Drink Canada Dry), acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, 1998

The joke of course also works fine in speech. (Early occurrences in print have only either Canada Dry or Canada dry, with text that points the reader towards the other.)

Two things: the joke and its history

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“depriving healthcare for millions”

March 8, 2017

Noted by Wilson Gray on ADS-L on Monday, from his reading on Facebook. Wilson commented:

Remember the days of yore when people wrote: “depriving  millions of health-care”?

The implicit analysis here is that the ordinary argument structure (hereafter, argstr) for the verb deprive has a Direct Object referring to a POSSESSOR in an act of deprivation, and an Oblique Object (marked by the P of) referring to a POSSESSION in this act. In abbreviated form: deprive has the argstr:

(1) SU: AGENT, DO: POSSESSOR, OO(of): POSSESSION

with the semantics that AGENT causes POSSESSOR to come to no longer have POSSESSION.

But the Facebook sentence has an argstr with a Direct Object referring to a POSSESSION and an Oblique Object (marked by the P for) referring to a POSSESSOR:

(2) SU: AGENT, DO: POSSESSION, OO(for): POSSESSOR

with the same semantics as in (1).

Now, alternative argstrs for the same verb are very common; the question is which verbs have which structures. Wilson’s judgment (which I share) is that deprive is fine in structure (1) — deprive millions of health-care — but not in structure (2) — deprive health-care for millions. (Divest is similar to deprive here.)

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re-up syntax

December 28, 2016

From Jon Lighter on ADS-L early in the month:

CNN advises us … to “get re-upped on” our MMR [measles / mumps / rubella] vaccinations. I.e., join the crusade against vaccine avoidance: get the kids their booster shots, you nut-case parents!

And W Brewer recalls the connection to

re-up ‘to re-enlist’ (U.S. military slang), with possibility of getting a re-enlistment bonus

The military usage we’ve looked at on this blog. It goes back over a hundred years, with early cites having especially simple syntax: no object, either direct or oblique, but interpreted as having an oblique object referring to a branch of the service: to re-up understood as ‘to re-enlist in/with (branch of service)’, with the specific branch understood from context. Call this the objectless re-enlistment use.

My earlier posting was primarily focused on the issue of external vs. internal inflection for this verb (PST re-upped vs. re’d-up). Here I’m interested in the syntax and semantics of the verb, getting from the objectless re-enlistment use to the oblique-object renewal use in get re-upped on.

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Face work

November 27, 2016

(About semen and sex acts and facial expressions and slang and syntax — but, yes, semen is central to the posting, and there’s a lot of talk about sex acts in very plain terms. Only one photo, but it might make some people uneasy. So probably not for children or the sexually modest.)

Over on AZBlogX, a sale ad suggesting that the Lucas porn studio could supply you with a high-protein dessert for Thanksgiving: a splash of semen on your face. Lick and savor.

#1 there shows a man with a cumface, the result of a (cum) facial, the cum / jizz / spunk / cream / spooge supplied via the quite substantial cock also shown in the photo. On AZBlogX there are six more guys who’ve been facialed, who’ve gotten a facial (from a shooter), been given a facial (by a shooter), whose faces have been jizzed / spunked / creamed / spooged (by a shooter).

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The fish are biting

April 17, 2016

(Vex, vex. I had almost all of this posting put together when — despite automatic saving in WordPress — most of the file vanished, so I had to reconstruct almost everything, including the links, from scratch. Sigh.)

Yesterday’s Calvin and Hobbes from the past:

Two different intransitive verbs bite here: one in panels 2 and 3, another in Hobbes’s question in panel 4. The first is straightforward transitive bite with omitted direct object (yielding one type of intransitive). The second — “[no obj.] (of a fish) take the bait or lure on the end of a fishing line into the mouth” (NOAD2) — seems to be more complicated, but its historical source seems pretty clearly to involve a semantic extension, from a verb referring to using the teeth to cut into something in order to eat it to one referring merely to taking something into the mouth in order to eat it.

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Dingburg names

July 31, 2015

Today’s Zippy, with two sets of names to savor:

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First, there are the preposterous Dingburger names: Flexo Sodafiber, Glassine Bookpaper, Flemish Spindleplunger. Then there are the products, their mascots, and their names. Commerce and pop culture.

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This week’s diathesis alternation

June 1, 2015

From the NYT yesterday, in “Who Will Watch the Charities?” by David Callahan:

Last week federal authorities disclosed that four cancer charities had bilked tens of millions of dollars from donors.

The subordinate clause here has a VP of the form:

(1) bilk MONEY from VICTIM

where I might have used one of the form:

(2) bilk VICTIM of MONEY

i.e., four cancer charities had bilked donors of tens of millions of dollars. Same verb, same participants in the event (a victim, some money), but different syntax: different argument structures, that is, different associations of the syntactic arguments (direct object DO and oblique object OO) with the participants. In more detail:

(1) V: bilk DO:MONEY P: from + OO:VICTIM

(2) V: bilk DO:VICTIM P: of + OO:MONEY

There is some tradition for referring to such a variation between argument structures as a diathesis alternation. In this case, both alternants are standard, and, so far as I can tell, are treated as such in the usage literature.

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On the double entendre watch

April 20, 2015

Posted on Facebook by Leith Chu:

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Oh my: the verb pork, the verb pull, the verb rub, all available with sexual senses.

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Laughter and forgetting

April 20, 2015

Today’s Zippy, set in the town of Prosaic:

With apologies to Milan Kundera, it’s the strip of laughter and forgetting: forgetting the catch-phrase, forgetting to rewire the CD remote, forgetting that Dingburg is only 12 miles away. Apparently Happy Boy interferes with memory.

(Note that there are three argument structures for forget here: forget NP, forget to VP, forget that S; remember and, for that matter, know have the same possibilities.)

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Thanksgiving crunch

November 27, 2014

Act 1: Tim Pierce posted this photo of sugared cranberries on Facebook:

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And some readers referred to these tasty, crunchy berries (which some find addictive) as “cranberry crack” or “cran crack”, alluding to crack cocaine and evoking CrackBerry as a mocking name for the BlackBerry smartphone.

In Act II, Aric Olnes introduced the Quaker Oats breakfast cereal Crunch Berries into the discussion.

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