Archive for the ‘Vocabulary’ Category

Raiding the thesaurus

January 30, 2016

Today’s Zippy explores several domains of English vocabulary:

rankled, perturbed, exasperated, plunged into despair

confused, confounded, disconcerted, baffled, placed in a quandary

From NOAD2‘s thesaurus:

upset, distressed, troubled, perturbed, dismayed, disturbed, unsettled, disconcerted, worried, bothered, anxious, agitated, flustered, ruffled, unnerved, shaken, unstrung, hurt, saddened, grieved

confused, bewildered, bemused, puzzled, perplexed, baffled, mystified, nonplussed, muddled, dumbfounded, at sea, at a loss, taken aback, disoriented, disconcerted, flummoxed, clueless, fazed, discombobulated

Butch Dykeman, Toni Gay, and a moral panic

June 10, 2015

From ADS-L, a topic that combines comics, sexuality, and vocabulary. Mostly the work of John Baker, who wrote on the 6th:

I recently encountered the old comic book characters Toni Gay and Butch Dykeman, although it seems that these names have attracted comment on the Internet for years. It would seem that the names adhere too strongly to the same theme to be coincidence  Particularly striking is the story in Popular Teen-Agers #6 (Jan. 1951), the first page of which is [on the Digital Comic Museum site], where a gym instructor slaps Butch Dykeman around for his bad posture:


Comic books in the 1949 to 1951 period received little formal attention, and there was considerable flexibility in what could be portrayed.  This was to change radically in 1954, with the publication of the best-seller Seduction of the Innocent and publishers’ institution of the Comics Code Authority, which imposed a rigorous system of censorship, but it was still an almost-anything-goes system for Butch Dykeman and Toni Gay.  These comics are not antedatings of “gay,” “butch,” or “dyke,” but they are early uses and demonstrate that the terms were sufficiently little-known [to the general public] that they could be used as names in a children’s comic book.


Cute-sounding ailments

June 9, 2015

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes:

We have a problem in style and register here. The vocabulary Calvin has for talking about what afflicts him comes from a kind of babytalk — owwy ‘painful’, boo boo ‘small injury’ — so doesn’t get taken seriously. (But note that Calvin’s internal monologue, like his talk to Hobbes on other occasions, is decidedly adult: ailments, sympathy.)


June 4, 2015

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes:

Calvin is often recognizably a little boy — as when he’s engaging in his Spaceman Spiff fantasies, for example. But sometimes his awareness, and his vocabulary as well, is decidedly adult. In earlier strips, he’s engaged in art criticism, and here he (correctly) uses the word precluded (something that Ruthie of One Big Happy would never do). On the other hand, he forgets that the Serengeti is in Africa, and you can’t get to Africa by land from the U.S.

Andrew Porter

April 5, 2015

From a death notice for music critic (and more) Andrew Porter, by Margalit Fox in the NYT today:

Andrew Porter, New Yorker Classical Music Critic, Dies at 86

Andrew Porter, a music critic celebrated for his stylistic elegance, immense erudition and polymathic command not only of the work under review but also of everything else in creation conceivably connected with it, died either Thursday night or early Friday in London.


Smell vocabulary

February 25, 2015

Previously on this blog: a Calvin and Hobbes (of 2/16/15) in which we learn that (at least in comic strips) tigers have an extensive vocabulary for smells. In a comment on that posting, Steve Anderson noted the paucity of smell (and taste) vocabulary other than via analogical descriptions (“tastes/smells like old socks”). But now comes a paper from the recent AAAS meetings in San Jose. From the 2/21 Economist, the story “Scent off: Culture, not biology, rules the relation between smell and language”, which I’ll post here in its entirety, in case readers can’t get access to the Economist site.



January 4, 2015

A continuing ad campaign for Febreze air freshener and odor eliminator products warns us about noseblindness,

The gradual acclimation to the smells of one’s home, car, or belongings, in which the affected does not notice them (even though their guests do). (link)

An illustration of a cat owner’s noseblindness, showing how visitors will perceive their house:

Noseblind is a fairly clever coinage for this sensory saturation effect, treating it as similar to being temporarily blinded by bright lights or deafened by loud noises. But it’s not truly similar to being blind or deaf. which are enduring and more global inabilities.



December 3, 2014

Today’s One Big Happy:

permanent record, with the most common, literal sense of permanent — well, most common for adult users, but things are likely to be different for kids like Ruthie.


Crossword puzzle words

November 16, 2014

Today’s Rhymes With Orange:

The cartoon is partly about the relations between the sexes, with the man “doing” the crossword puzzle by getting all the words from the woman. It’s also about those words — all of them “crossword puzzle words”, ranging from relatively rare (ARIA) to extremely rare (SMA) in everyday usage.