Archive for the ‘Technical and ordinary language’ Category

Two questions about today’s Bizarro cartoon

September 24, 2023

Today’s Piraro-only Bizarro (it’s a Sunday; Wayno’s doing other things) —

The gargantuan chalking project is, it seems, debilitating (if you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 11 in this strip — see this Page)

— is comprehensible only if you recognize the huge inert creature in it as the legendary prehistoric ape of a century of film, King Kong; and you recognize the fact that cops are drawing an outline around the creature in chalk as a sign that this is a scene of suspicious death. Kong is not just sleeping in the street, he’s dead; the cops are tracing Corpse Kong.

Two questions then occurred to me, and might well have occurred to others:

Q1: What do you call that chalk outline?

Q2: Just how big is / was King Kong?

Both questions have answers. Both answers are unsatisfying, but in different ways.


Technical terminology: wine cask units

July 26, 2023

Passed on to me by Joel Levin, from Mike Galos on Facebook  on 7/25: A display of English wine cask units, from the largest to the smallest: tun, butt, puncheon, hogshead, tierce, barrel, rundlet, kilderkin, firkin, pin:

To which I add pipe, a synonym for butt, and of course the smallest unit, the gallon, whether imperial or US

For the most part, the names originated as everyday names of wine (or beer) containers of various sizes, then were extended to semi-technical or technical usage as the name of a volume of drink, in a process we might call technification  — a process amply illustrated in the practices of biologists who adapt everyday vocabulary like fly, bug, worm, and petal as technical terms, and then often privilege their usage as the correct one, as if ordinary people were carelessly mis-using the vocabulary (yes, that pisses me off).

After a brief reflection on technification, I’ll pass to the vocabulary in the display above, noting that most of them are in frequent enough usage to make it into the New Oxford American Dictionary (a lexicography-based one-volume dictionary).


16 will get you 3

May 16, 2023

In my comics feed for today, May 16th, three excellent strips: a Zits on learning how to use a computer (and coping with explanations for how to use it from the deeply tech-embedded, like the 17-year-old Jeremy Duncan in this strip); a Rhymes With Orange with a truly bizarre way for spelling your name when ordering drinks at the neighborhood cafe; and a Bizarro with a high-groan pun.


Breaking through the wall

August 30, 2022

Today’s Piccolo / Price Rhymes With Orange strip is a play on specific American tv commercials (with some gentle old-age mockery folded in), so will be baffling to any reader who doesn’t recognize the Kool-Aid Man mascot or know the wall-breaking “Oh Yeah!” tv ads featuring KAM:

(#1) There is, however, a hint to the reader in the “So not kool” (with kool instead of cool) in the title panel; note also the generational disparity reinforced by the GenX so there (see my 11/14/11 posting “GenX so“)


Peter Mark’s clogged drain

August 13, 2021

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro, with a plumber who really knows how to sling synonyms:

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 7 in this strip — see this Page.)

Hard to believe that any actual person ever uttered egress conduit for drain pipe, or saponaceous residuum for soapy residue — or, better, soapy gunk. So the plumber’s report on an ordinary household repair is absurd; it’s as if he’d been seized by a terrible fit of technicalism that left him unable to resist thesaurisizing.


Lounge shorts

July 7, 2021

Ultimately, about the (semi-technical, commercial) categories of the clothing industries: named types of Xwear that mostly lack labels in everyday language. (Parallel in many ways to the categories of the household supplies industries, with named types of Xware.) But first:

On my Facebook feed yesterday, this ad for men’s lounge shorts (a type of outerwear) from the Nice Laundry company:

(#1) “The Palms Lounge Short”; from their ad: “The most comfortable lounge shorts ever featuring 4-way stretch nylon with soft Micromodal® interior. Made in the shade.”

— which caught my eye for two reasons. First, the label lounge short (with the commercial singular usage; from other companies, lounge shorts, with the everyday plural usage); I didn’t recall having previously experienced lounge as a modifier naming a type of short(s) before. Second, the gorgeous pattern (of palm fronds), rivaling some gorgeous floral patterns for men’s underwear — briefs, boxers, jockstraps — that had been appearing on my Facebook page recently. (As for colors, the Nice Laundry company offers lounge shorts in everything from the plainest of solid black and navy blue through various more arresting solid colors and patterns to the palms.)



September 10, 2020

Today’s morning name, and for a change I was able to figure out why it was in my head.

From NOAD:

adj. diaphoreticMedicine [a] (chiefly of a drug) inducing perspiration. [b]  (of a person) sweating heavily. ORIGIN late Middle English: via late Latin from Greek diaphorētikos, from diaphorein ‘sweat out’.

It’s the b sense I had in my head, and I got it from watching reruns of the old Emergency! tv show.


Fear of furniture

July 23, 2020

Yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro, a Psychiatrist strip (Wayno’s title: “Out of Frame”):

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

And now we’re in the world of phobias, extreme or irrational fears of or aversions to particular things. People are exceptionally fond of finding or inventing unusual phobias — and, correspondingly, of finding or inventing unusual philias (attachments, especially sexually fetishistic attachments, to particular things).

Fear of furniture, as it turns out, is real but rare. There is even a celebrity afflicted with it.


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.


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.