Archive for the ‘Argument structure’ Category

Photobombing Magritte

July 1, 2018

Today’s Bizarro, which requires that you recognize a painting and know the word photobomb:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)

From the point of view of the peach and the orange, the image on the screen (Magritte’s painting “Son of Man”) is a photobombing of a portrait of a conventionally dressed bowler-hatted man (Magritte himself, it seems). A green apple appears unexpectedly in the portrait, in this case, interfering with and obscuring the portrait’s central image. In photobombing, the unexpected element may appear in the field of view unintentionally — irrelevant but noticeable things just happen to be caught in the scene — but it can be intentional — the unexpected element has been deliberately inserted into the scene by someone, as a prank. Only rarely does the unexpected element obscure the central image in the scene.

So from the point of view of the fruit, Magritte’s image is doubly awesome: it’s intentional (the work of a prankster, but who? why not the apple itself, acting on its own!); and it conceals the identity of the portrait’s subject (as in other bowler-hat paintings by the artist), thus subverting the idea of portraiture itself, while making a piece of fruit the actual focus of the work. Fruut Rulz.

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Blue light special

May 20, 2018

(Mansex in street language, not suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

As Pride Month approaches, the image from the May 14th Daily Jocks ad, for Breedwell harnesses and underwear (with my caption under the fold):

Flip breeds well

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Another reversed Exchange verb

January 31, 2018

My posting yesterday on reversed substitute (one in a series on the phenomenon) moved Mike Pope to ask me about another Exchange verb, swap. I seem not to have posted here about this particular verb, but I did take part in, um, exchanges on swap on ADS-L back in 2005. The trigger was a 1/17/05 posting “”swap”: inversion of meaning” by Jon Lighter:

This is much like the odd shift in the meaning of “substitute” commented upon some weeks ago [that would be reversed substitute]:

“New dietary guidelines coming out Wednesday are expected to place more emphasis on counting calories and exercising daily, along with swapping whole grains for refined ones and eating a lot more vegetables and fruits.” — Gov’t: Calories, Not Carbs, Make You Fat (AP) January 12, 2005

This says to me (nonsensically) that if you’re eating whole grains now, you should switch to refined ones.

The news story quote has swap NEW for OLD, but Lighter expects swap to have the argument structure swap OLD for NEW. And OLD for NEW in fact is the argument structure in NOAD‘s entry for swap.

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Nominalized reversed substitute

January 29, 2018

From the annals of reversed substitute,

substitute OLD for NEW ‘replace OLD by NEW’

a fresh example noticed by Betty Birner, sent to Larry Horn, David Denison, and me in e-mail on the 25th:

From Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury”, pp. 84-5:

“He had lived in the same home, a vast space in [REDACTED] Tower, since shortly after the building was completed in 1983.  Every morning since, he had made the same commute to his office a few floors down.  His corner office was a time capsule from the 1980s, the same gold-lined mirrors, the same Time magazine covers fading on the wall; the only substantial change was the substitution of Joe Namath’s football for Tom Brady’s.”

I don’t know much about football, but I’m pretty certain this means “Namath out, Brady in.”

The example has several features of note, but especially its nominalized form: substitution of OLD for NEW. This is of course exactly what you’d expect from speakers for whom reversed substitute is perfectly normal, but I didn’t have such an example in my files.

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Another ship reaches port

December 2, 2017

In e-mail yesterday and today, an exchange involving Betty Birner, Larry Horn, David Denison, and me about “reversed SUBSTITUTE”, starting with Betty’s observation:

This struck me while I was watching an episode of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix:

“Andrew is substituting the barmbrack’s customary raisins for milk chocolate chips.”  [voiceover]

Needless to say, he was leaving OUT the raisins and ADDING chocolate chips.  Also needless to say, this is British English.

This is reversed SUBSTITUTE: substitute OLD for NEW (in this case, substitute customary raisins for milk chocolate chipscustomary lets us know that the raisins are OLD), rather than traditional SUBSTITUTE: substitute NEW for OLD (what would be, in this case, substitute milk chocolate chips for customary raisins).

The end of our discussion was David’s noting that the shift from traditional to reversed SUBSTITUTE seems to be virtually complete for many British speakers (including educated ones), and Larry’s suggesting that this was true for some younger American speakers as well. Another ship of linguistic change that has reached its port for many speakers.

Two other such ships I’ve written about: NomCoordObjs (nominative coordinate objects, as in They gave it to Kim and I, rather than to Kim and me; and +of EDM (exceptional degree marking with of, as in that big of a dog, rather than that big a dog).

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not agree with

September 16, 2017

The One Big Happy in my comics feed yesterday has Ruthie v Idiom, once again:

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Obsolete technologies and middle verbs

September 5, 2017

A pair of Zits strips, from yesterday and today:

(#1)
(#2)

The theme is the looming obsolescence of technologies and their supporting infrastructures and social practices, in this case the system of mail delivery (cue Thomas Pynchon’s novella The Crying of Lot 49), with all its parts and accompaniments: postage stamps, envelopes and postcards, mail boxes, mail transport and delivery systems, posthorns and their tunes, delivery personnel in uniforms, mail slots, post offices, conventions for the form of letters, and more. If you’re young and well wired these days, this all could be as mysterious and exotic as analog clocks.

Jeremy is wary of the whole business.

And yes, Pynchon is relevant.

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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”:

(#1)

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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