Annals of misreading: CEAUSESCU

June 4, 2019

Yesterday on Facebook, current political events brought me to a name from the past:

Arnold Zwicky: Topics suddenly resurrected from the past: the Ceausescus. Because of the solid diplomacy accorded to them by the British royal family when the Romanians came on a state visit. If them, then anyone.

Bert Vaux: Interestingly I first read that as “the Caucasus”…

Dennis Preston: And I read “caduceus.”

John Lawler: It took me quite a while to resurrect čaušɛsku.

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The dog of ivy

June 3, 2019

… stands guard in the San Fernando Valley, providing poodle thoughts for Zippy on his morning walk today:


(#1) Zipphorism: “Sometimes I feel like my thoughts are thinking me”

We are figments of our thoughts’ imagination; the topiary poodle tells us so.

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Follow-up: BOOIESUZYKQHHHH

June 2, 2019

From the annals of Cartoonland spelling bees, in my 5/31 posting “Ultimate spelling bee”, this Bob Eckstein cartoon:


(#1) The contestant offers BOOIESUZYKQHHHH as the spelling for the given pronunciation /búwisúzikyú/ (or something very close to that)

In creating this cartoon (hastily — if you’re doing a bunch of cartoons a day, you don’t have a lot of time for reflection), Eckstein pulled some pronounceable nonsense out of his head as the contest word. The result is an expression with recognizable parts, two of which, /súzi + kyú/ form a familiar name — Susie Q — while the other, /búwi/, might be heard as any of several names, but in Eckstein’s mind was just two nonsense syllables that bubbled up in the heat of the moment.

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Follow-up: magenta greens

June 1, 2019

Following up on my posting yesterday, “Flirting with magenta” (about three plants with magenta flowers), Randy McDonald has sent me a piece from the site Speed River Journal: An urban naturalist’s progress: “Magenta spreen, a worthy spring green” on 5/29/19 by Van Waffle — about the plant often known as tree spinach:


(#1) Close-up of Chenopodium giganteum leaves (from Wikipedia)

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Ultimate spelling bee

May 31, 2019

A Bob Eckstein cartoon circulated today, on the occasion of an unprecedented event in the world of English spelling competitions:


(#1) FB note from Bob: “Can you use it in a sentence?”

Story in the New York Times today,  “National Spelling Bee, at a Loss for Words, Crowns 8 Co-Champions” (octo-champs, as one of them said) by Daniel Victor.

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Flirting with magenta

May 31, 2019

Visit to Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden yesterday, to enjoy the wild display of summer flowers, picking out three attractive plants I hadn’t previously posted about: Lychnis coronaria ‘Alba’ (a plant with — surprise! — white flowers); Montiopsis umbellata ‘Ruby Tuesday’ (from Peru and Chile, a rock garden plant with stunning deep purple flowers); and a Hebe hybrid (a small shrub with blue flowers). It turns out that the Lychnis usually has magenta flowers, and so does the Montiopsis; and the Hebe comes in lots of colors in the blue-pink-white range, including a magenta variant. So: no actual magenta, but three flirtations with it.

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Wisely seasoned

May 30, 2019

Today’s Rhymes With Orange crosses the Godzilla cartoon meme with the Wise Man cartoon meme, all for a tasty dinner:


(#1) A pun on wise man sage / culinary herb sage

Two Godzillans, with a poultry truck to cook for dinner (most Godzillans eat their vehicles raw, but these two appear to be refined monsters), contemplate using a little wise man — a little sage — as seasoning. (The appropriate sense of little (‘small in size, amount, or degree’) follows from the sense of sage: a wise man small in size, a small amount of the herb.)

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On the dog food watch

May 29, 2019

The 5/27 Wayno-Piraro Bizarro strip, set in the Land of Dogs:


(#1) (If you wonder about the secret symbol in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there’s just one in this strip — see this Page.)

A dog food with Quibbles in its name is of course not going to agree with you, in one sense of agree with. So you can understand the cartoon, and see that the pun on agree with in it makes it amusing — and still miss the extra joke that Wayno and Piraro threw in for you.

The cartoon would have been funny if the dog food had been named just Quibbles. But Quibbles and Fits is a lot funnier, because it’s another pun, on the name of the (actual) dog food Kibbles and Bits. But of course you have to know about this particular commercial product to get that joke.

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Semantics of compounds

May 28, 2019

The semantics of English modifier + head nominal composites — but especially of N + N compounds — is a recurrent topic on this blog; the array of semantic relationships exemplified in the data here is enormous, and might give the impression that things are just chaotic, though I’ve tried to pull out frequent patterns that dominate the data. One way to approach the matter in more nuanced fashion is to search for preferences for certain kinds of interpretations according to the semantics of the component elements.

And now, just appeared, we have “Systematicity in the semantics of noun compounds: The role of artifacts vs. natural kinds” by Beth Levin, Lelia Montague Glass, and Dan Jurafsky, in the De Gruyter journal Linguistics. Published online 5/16/19; I’ve found no volume, issue, and page numbers for the print version, but this is the DOI, and Lelia now reports that a pdf is freely available here. The abstract:

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Learnèd cowboy joshing on the dusty plains

May 28, 2019

Cowboy cuisine you were probably unaware of, from the tv Western Rawhide S7 E8 “Damon’s Road: Part II” (first aired 11/20/64), in a short bit in which the drovers on a cattle drive are treated to a fancy brunch out on the dusty plains (literally on the trail), with the trail boss Gil Favor (played by Eric Fleming) getting his own table (white tablecloth, nice glassware, and all). The cook, assuming the role of a French chef, appears with a dish made specially for Favor: eggs à la Robespierre!. He removes the lid from the silver serving dish to reveal what Favor confirms is indeed eggs à la Robespierre, explaining wryly:

eggs in the shell with their heads cut off

(as I took the words down on the fly). And the brief scene comes quickly to a close, with everyone returning to the main story line. Nothing draws attention to the line, which goes by in an instant. Snap.

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