Archive for the ‘Technical and ordinary language’ Category

Fried eggs and fairy wands

June 18, 2018

Also blazing stars, gayfeathers, and wandflowers. All plants, colorfully named. Providing a little exercise in taxonomic names vs. common names.

The fried eggs come from Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky, who posted this on her Facebook page yesterday:


(#1) EDZ: “Portrait mode makes fried egg flowers even more absurd” (by erasing the flower stem, so that the flower appears to be floating in the air)

The fairy wands I came across at Palo Alto’s Gamble Gardens this morning:


(#2) Angel’s (fishing) rods, wand flowers, or fairy wands

(more…)

Proper nouns

June 16, 2018

In the One Big Happy of May 30th, Ruthie falls into the pit of use and mention:

There’s an adjective proper as defined by Ruthie’s mother. Then there’s the adjective proper in the idiomatic nominals proper noun / name. And that’s just the beginning of the problem.

(more…)

What happened in vagueness?

June 3, 2018

Available in a number of designs on the net:

(#1)

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s “Ambiguity” entry (edited by Adam Sennet, first published 5/16/11, last substantive revision 2/8/16):

Fun fact: the word ‘ambiguous’, at least according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is ambiguous between two main types of meaning: uncertainty or dubiousness on the one hand and a sign bearing multiple meanings on the other. I mention this merely to disambiguate what this entry is about, which concerns a word or phrase enjoying multiple meanings.

In the technical literature on these things, the first notion is known as (among other things) vagueness, while the second is known as (linguistic) ambiguity. Ouch.

(more…)

Two from Fairbanks

May 20, 2018

Two cartoons recently passed on to me by Chris Waigl in Fairbanks AK: a Cheer Up, Emo Kid (CUEK), about technical uses of words; and (actually from Alaska) a Tundra, about point of view in the interpretation of compound nouns.

(more…)

trigger finger

May 16, 2018

I had this affliction, for about three months. It involved myalgia — that’s the name of the symptom, muscle pain — that limited my movements, produced frequent nasty cramps in several parts of my body, made me miserable and depressed. Among the affected muscles were those in my fingers, which cramped up painfully without warning. Especially my ring finger (third finger, left hand).

Eventually, it was seen to be a side effect of the very powerful statin drug I was taking (for blood pressure and cholesterol control), generic atorvastatin, trade name Lipitor, a very powerful statin prescribed at maximum dose. Which was breaking down muscle fibers. Essentially, I was being poisoned by one of my medicines.

That’s now over — I went off the Lipitor three months ago and recently started small doses of the steroid prednisone for symptomatic relief —  and I feel very much better, but an odd effect remains. My ring finger occasionally gets stuck in a bent position. No pain, no swelling or anything, just stuck, as here:

(#1) Stuck bent finger (workdesk spathiphyllum plant as background)

I can push it back with my other hand, and it makes a little pop! as it resumes its normal working position.

It’s called trigger finger, fancy name tenosynovitis. And it has nothing to do with the Lipitor poisoning.

(more…)

All the dessert world is not either cake or pie

April 29, 2018

Steph Shih on Facebook today:

There is this dessert that Darya [Kavitskaya, who is natively Russian, which will eventually become important, but not in this posting] sometimes makes and she calls it a “pie” when really I insist it falls better into the category of a “cake”. So finally today, I drew this.

(#1) Steph’s objection framed as a Magrittean disavowal (it’s obviously a pie, but… — except that for Steph, it just isn’t a pie)

But, as it turns out, it’s not much of a cake either, as most people use that label these days. It looks a lot like a clafoutis, but most of you won’t even know that name — for anything, much less a fruit flan (a term also unknown to most of you).  Unlike pie and cakeclafoutis and flan are specialized cooking terms

(more…)

Secretive morning name

March 29, 2018

That would be sebum, which led me almost immediately to semen and smegma: /s/-initial disyllables with accent on the first syllable that refer to bodily secretions.

(more…)

Call me by your name

March 1, 2018

The Mother Goose and Grimm, from February 21st:

(#1)

A joke playing on use and mention: Grimmy mentions the name of the Oscar-nominated movie Call Me by Your Name, but Ralph understands him to be using the expression call me your your name, so he calls Grimmy Ralph.

That leads us to the movie and so to a thicket of issues about language, sexuality, gender, and the law.

(more…)

Syntext: basic concepts

February 10, 2018

Continuing my 1/23/18 posting “Syntax assignments from 20 years ago”, now with a section of these materials on some basic concepts in syntax.

(more…)

Ice Dance in the garden

September 26, 2017

(About plants and their names.)

A row of handsome grassy plants at the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, like these:

Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’, a sedge (rather than a grass).

(more…)