Archive for the ‘Syntactic categories’ Category


September 10, 2014

Following up on my posting on the verb fap(p) ‘to masturbate furiously’, Robert Coren thought he recalled Fap! as “an exclamation of annoyance commonly used by a character in some ancient comic strip — I think maybe Major Hoople”. Yes, indeed, Aric Olnes replied, Major Hoople, and supplied this strip:

(Chris Ambidge added that “FAP is one of my favourite words to use when annoyed or frustrated.”)


A Bizarro replay

August 13, 2014

On Facebook recently, this Bizarro cartoon (from 1/29/07) passsed on by Grammarly:


Michael Siemon then asked if I was aware of this cartoon. As it turns out, I posted about it on Language Log on 1/30/07, under the heading “Pronouns: The early days” — but, unfortunately, because of changes in the LLog platforms, the cartoon itself has became unavailable in the LLog archives. So here’s a replay.


Three on Mothers Day

May 11, 2014

This morning’s crop of cartoons with some linguistic interest: a Rhymes With Orange that is, among other things, about Mothers Day; a Mother Goose and Grimm with, in passing, an interesting example of out as a preposition; and a Doonesbury on outsider / folk art.


The new word slash

April 25, 2013

From Anne Curzan’s column on the Lingua Franca blog yesterday:

Slash: Not Just a Punctuation Mark Anymore

Lots of us use the slash (/) in writing to capture two or more descriptions of the same thing, with a meaning something like “or,” “and,” or “and/or” — e.g., “my sister/best friend” or “request/require.” The slash typically separates two things that are the same part of speech or parallel grammatically; and we can say that slash out loud if needed: “my sister slash best friend.”

Now I wouldn’t write that phrase down that way, with the slash spelled out, but students tell me they now often do.


to long grass

August 30, 2012

Caught by Chris Hansen (posting on Facebook) in the Guardian, here:

[Boris] Johnson [Mayor of London], who had been a siren voice within the Conservative party over airport capacity until the Heathrow reversal campaign gathered momentum, urged Cameron to come up with a definitive answer to the capacity issue. “It is plain that the argument over aviation capacity is not going to vanish and he can’t long grass this. It is necessary to come up with an answer.”

That’s a verbing of the phrase long grass — a phrase extracted from the (metaphorical) idiom to kick into the long grass.

This would be a good time to post the famous Calvin and Hobbes cartoon on verbing (which has often been quoted on Language Log and this blog):


Zits replay, slower and faster

August 27, 2012

Today’s Zits — with Jeremy talking so fast his mother can’t understand what he’s saying — turns out to be a repeat performance; I posted about this strip on Language Log in 2009, under the title “Teen speech in overdrive”.

Jeremy’s mother: “Can’t you just talk slower?” Jeremy: “Can’t you just listen faster?”

On slow/slowly, see Language Log here and here and Motivated Grammar here.




August 17, 2012

From the July 21st Economist, a letter to the editor with an initially puzzling use of the term adjective, according to which bully, despot, buffoon, and villain count as adjectives. I was reminded of the NYT‘s use of adjective to refer to the word cocksuckers, reported on here. I’m beginning to understand what’s going on here.


NYT taboo avoidance fail

August 5, 2012

An exchange on ADS-L, started by Larry Horn, who reported this item from the NYT (“Montauk’s Hipster Fatigue”, by Jim Rutenberg) today (pay-off at the end):

So, these signs have been popping up around the East End [of Montauk, Long Island]: a picture of a hat with a red slash through it.

Not just any hat, mind you, but a fedora.

… At its most superficial level, the fedora featured in the signs represents your basic hipster. And to some extent, it’s just part of what is shaping up as a countrywide anti-hipster movement. Something about artisanal tattoos; a bespoke, frontiersman beard; and, yes, a fedora perched atop the head just so is sending some people around the bend.

In these parts, the image of the hipster is also a stand-in for a more deeply seated suspicion that the whole look provides cover for a more privileged crowd that is intent upon importing to your neighborhood higher real estate, food and drink prices — and a new attitude that says, “I’m richer than you, I’m hipper than you and, gosh darn it, some things are going to change around here.”

As the Web site puts it in a diatribe aimed at urban-based hipsters, “You’ve accomplished nothing over the last decade but displaced hard-working families, old-time residents and newly arrived immigrants who do not seek attention like you [Offensive Adjective Inappropriate for Family Newspaper].”

Just what offensive adjective?, you wonder. As well you might.


Reanalysis and reinterpretation

March 6, 2012

Two items this morning in which lexical items are understood in new ways: look down reanalyzed as V + Prt rather than V + P; and circadian in circadian rhythm understood as an ethnonym, denoting some group of people, the Circadians.