Archive for the ‘Word order’ Category

Backup life

July 4, 2023

If you’re a normal person and you run out of something in your household — toilet paper, granola, cleaning products, cheese, plastic trash bags, whatever — you just go out to a relevant store and pick it up. If you’re (essentially) housebound, as I am, in this situation, you have to plan ahead and get backup supplies delivered, so that replacements are to hand when you need them. (Even normal people might providently plan for the future and also save time and money on buying in bulk by laying in backup supplies.)

In any case, I’m obliged to live the backup life and have stocks of stuff hanging around — many of them piled up on what was once a sofabed in the study of my condo (which otherwise has very little usable storage space). At the moment, it has boxes or piles of Kleenex, toilet paper, paper towels, and wet wipes. There are similar stashes elsewhere in the condo. I spend a good bit of time ordering in this stuff, mostly through Amazon.


100 years of independence

December 6, 2017

Though today is one of the dark days of early December alluded to in my recent posting — it’s Mozart’s death day, a sad occasion indeed — it’s also St. Nicholas’s day (gifts!), and Chris Waigl’s birthday (eggcorns, remote sensing of wildfires in the Arctic, Python, knitting, and more, in three languages!), and Independence Day in Finland. As Riitta Välimaa-Blum reminds me, this year’s Independence Day is something spectacular: the centenary of Finland’s declaration of independence from Russia.

(#1) The Finnish flag

So raise a glass of Lakka (Finnish cloudberry liqueur) or Finlandia vodka, neat, to honor that difficult moment in 1917 — the year should call to your mind both World War I (still underway then) and the Russian revolution, and these enormous upheavals were in fact crucial to Finland’s wresting its independence from Russia.


Conjunct order in the comics

May 5, 2017

Today’s Rhymes With Orange.on love and conjunct order:

So: in coordinated pairs of names, which comes first, and why?

In the case at hand, whoever creates the coordination (here, carving it into a tree) will almost always put their own name first; people are strongly inclined to take themselves to be the measure of all things. Similarly, if you’re referring to a couple of people and one of them is a friend of yours while the other is someone you know mostly through your friend, you’ll probably put your friend’s name first. But beyond that, there’s a complex set of factors that tend to favor one order of names over the other. It seems that these factors conspire in (now well-studied) ways to favor — wait for it… — Guys First.


hyperbaton, hypermasturbation

March 11, 2017

The Dinosaur Comics from the 3rd, in principle about hyperbaton:

But hypermasturbation (which sounds sort of like hyberbaton) intrudes in the conversation.


Yoda on active and passive clauses

October 13, 2015

A meme-slogan card passed on by Bert Vaux on Facebook:


The person who composed this (more on the composition process below) was seriously confused about what active and passive clauses are: the text on the card is an active clause, and all the Yoda sentences I’ve seen are in fact active (though a fair number had no passive counterpart, because the verbs in them were intransitive, like the verb in #1).

I’m guessing that the creator of #1 thought that

(A) Talk in active voice I do not.

was a passive sentence because it had non-default syntax (from the point of view of standard English). But the syntax is non-default because of the fronting in it, not because of the status of the clause as active or passive.


Fathers Day Five

June 15, 2014

An unusually big crop of cartoons this morning, including one (a Rhymes With Orange) on stereotypes about men’s tastes (for Fathers Day). Plus another Zits with the stereotype of chatty teenage girls; another strip (a Mother Goose and Grimm) on Yoda’s syntax; a Zippy on synonyms for disapproving; and a Bizarro on the extension of metaphors to simulacra.


More Yoda

September 28, 2013

A Savage Chickens with Yoda:



Harsh sentences

August 16, 2013

Today’s Zippy, on Dingburger hair styles, with an outrageous pun in the middle of it:

Requires topknots Dingburg. Rejects other hair styles the law.

VOS word order — attested, but rare. Certainly harsh for speakers of English.

Yoda again

July 25, 2013

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm:

A Rhymes With Orange on Yoda’s syntax, complete with links to Language Log postings on the subject, was posted here. Another Rhymes, on the young Yoda, is here.

Word order death

December 4, 2012

A cartoon on George Takei’s website, passed on by Susan Fischer and Asya Pereltsvaig:

The cartoon is from German cartoonist and illustrator Miguel Fernandez (German Wikipedia entry here). This one works because the initials on the tombstone can be taken to represent Latin words from a familiar Latin expression; it’s I P R in English as well, but would be I F R in German.