Archive for the ‘Technical and ordinary language’ Category

The hollow

September 18, 2019

In a comment on my 9/14/19 posting “Clavicular knobs” (aka Ricardo’s acromia), Robert Coren writes about “the hollow space above the inner end of the collar-bone”, and I confess to not knowing a name for it. Roger Phillips (in England) fills in:

It’s not in Merriam-Webster, but all my British dictionaries have “saltcellar” for the collarbone pit. The first OED citation is:

[1870 O. Logan Before Footlights 26] I was a child of the most uninteresting age..a tall scraggy girl, with red elbows, and salt cellars at my collar-bones, which were always exposed, for fashion at that time made girls of this age uncover neck and arms.

The item has a complex social and cultural distribution, but knowing this much eventually led me to the technical term from anatomy: the suprasternal, or jugular, notch. Sometimes referred to in ordinary language as the hollow of the neck or the neck hollow.

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Three Pride moments

July 11, 2019

Pride Month is past, and so is the Fourth of July (US Independence Day), but my postings on these celebrations will go on for some time. Today, three images for Pride: the art of the flag; penguins at work; and the M&S sandwich.

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My industry

July 9, 2019

In my e-mail on the 7th, this offer — merely the latest in a long series of virtually identical such offers from a wide assortment of sources — to provide postings on this blog:

I manage some relevant blogs and ecommerce sites in your industry and can write a feature blog, article or other piece with a link to our site.

Occasionally, these offers come with the suggestion of a possible payment for this site use, but usually not: the transaction is conceived of as one of mutual benefit, providing greater public access — eyes on the page — for both host and guest (the guest presenting themselves as experienced in the art of SEO, search engine optimization; the host having an already-established audience).

Characteristically, the offer above is pure boiler-plate, utterly vague about what industry the prospective host is in. What, in fact, is my industry?

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A postcard from the (northern) edge

June 26, 2019

From the northern edge of the world, specifically: the town of Inuvik NWT in Canada, from which a postcard showing this welcoming billboard:

(#1)

The card was from Chris Waigl (bought in Dawson City YT), who mailed it from the extremely small town of Chicken AK.

And now there’s a surprising lot of stuff to say about the card.

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Le Pingouin aux Parapluies Roses

April 18, 2019

Umbro, the ceramic horticultural penguin, gay lover of wild strawberries, who lives in the shade of a pink cocktail umbrella:


(#1) Umbro, shaded by his pink cocktail umbrella and luxuriating under the spreading spathyphyllum tree and the watchful eye of the llama Glama Grrl

Cross the novel La Dame aux Camélias with the movie Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, cast a cocktail-loving penguin as the protagonist, and you get Le Pingouin aux Parapluies Roses, one of the famously bibulous singing penguins of Cherbourg (seen here visiting in Palo Alto).

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A snappish portion of the class

December 19, 2018

The One Big Happy of 11/20, in which, as usual, Ruthie copes with an unfamiliar (semi-)technical term (here, cross section) by extracting a familiar word (here, the cross of irritability) from it:

Ruthie crosses the cross ‘representative’ of cross section with the cross ‘snappish, angry’ of cross words. These are grossly different lexical items in modern English, but in fact they share an etymology that goes back to the noun cross of the hymns “The Old Rugged Cross” and “In the Cross of Christ I Glory”.

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Green flowers

November 30, 2018

It starts with this design by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky on her Instagram account on the 8th, with her comment “Not sure why I keep making flowers green”:

(#1)

And then it leads all sorts of surprising places, botanical, cultural, and linguistic.

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Goldenrods and Boston cops

September 3, 2018

… with a note on the pronunciation of botanical names.

The crucial moment came in a re-run showing of the Rizzoli & Isles episode “Love the Way You Lie” (S3 E12, first aired 12/4/12), when the Boston detective (Rizzoli, played by Angie Harmon) and medical examiner (Isles, played by Sasha Alexander) pondered the significance of the fact that they had identified some pollen as coming from Solidago macrophylla, with the species name macrophylla pronounced /ˌmækroˈfɪlǝ/ (with primary accent on the third syllable). I was startled by the pronunciation: it’s Greek ‘big leaf’, so surely it should have the accent on the second syllable (as in thermometer, Hippocrates, etc.), something on the order of  /mǝˈkrafǝlǝ/, and the writers had just gotten it wrong.

But no. The writers did their homework, and I was the one who was wrong.

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Two texties, in two tonalities

August 7, 2018

Texties are cartoon-like compositions in which a pictorial component is entirely absent or merely decorative, not essential to the point of the composition — in effect, words-only cartoons; they can be intended as humor, like gag cartoons, or as serious commentary, like political cartoons.

Two have come to me via friends on Facebook recently — both funny, both taking off on specific registers in modern printed English: the lost and found poster (in the texty “FOUND:CAKE”, or F:C), and the amazing-fact texty on the net (in the texty “[plant facts!]”, or pf!). F:C is an elaborate translation, in detail, of an item of popular culture; pf! is an undermining of the amazing-fact texty form itself.

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Swiss cheese isn’t Swiss

July 10, 2018

(And Swiss steak isn’t either, but that’s a topic for another posting.)


(#1) A wedge of American Swiss

But then the expression Swiss cheese is ambiguous. NOAD recognizes this, but not in the way you were probably expecting:

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