Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Taco Verbs

(screen shot of this blog's Sitemeter data)

A reader apparently was interested in "verbs that describes tacos." Since the IP address shows the Indiana Department of Education, I got 20 bucks says this was done by a lunch lady writing out next week's menu.

As for the "linguistics aspect", well, verbs don't describe nouns (like "tacos"), adjectives do. Verbs represent events. Rather, adjectives describe nouns. So, in the interest of serving my readers, exactly what kind of of adjectives describe tacos? Let's go to the experts:

Taco Bell:
  • crunchy taco
  • soft taco
  • taco supreme(bonus points for postnominal adjective)
  • double decker taco.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cupertino Who?

(screen shot from Variety.com)

In publicizing the cancellation of the ABC show 'Samantha Who' (NOTE the network, kids, it becomes critical...), the famed entertainment industry mag Variety published a brief story rife with typos and bizarre errors, but in particular one jumped out at me:

ABC had been mulling a plan to decrease “Samantha’s” budget by changing the way the show is shot -- moving from single-cam to a multicamera format. Alphabet was looking to slash as much as $500,000 per episode from the show’s budget.

I highlighted in blue the strange error. It appears as though the network name 'ABC' has been miscorrected to 'Alphabet' (see Language Log's extensive discussions of this phenomenon they have called the Cupertino Effect, for example here as well as Ben Zimmer's discussion here).

Upon first glance, this makes some sense, right? 'ABC' is a common way to refer to the Romanized alphabet ("do you know your ABCs" one might ask a child). But what is truly perplexing is the randomness of the effect. The string 'ABC' occurs 5 times (including the title) and the string 'alphabet' occurs twice. As far as I can tell, there is no consistent context causing this. The first example of 'alphabet' occurs at the beginning of a sentence as a bare noun, and there are 4 examples of 'ABC' occuring in this context (including the title). The second example occurs in a definite NP headed by 'the' while the string 'ABC' does not occur in this context.

If you can find a triggering context, please let me know. Your guess is as good as mine...

UPDATE: myl makes a critical point in the comments that this is an inside joke at Variety and not a Cupertino, then I wonder what the joke context is, just fyi, ya know...too much color?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Frikkin Spelling

This cartoon is floating round the innerwebs today (HT Daily Dish; couldn't figure out who the original source is). After laughing, I noticed what struck me as a completely odd way to spell "fucking" to avoid explicit profanity (see Language Log's series of posts on the use of what they call "avoidance characters" for somewhat related issues here). I'm not sure if this counts as an example of "avoidance characters" or euphamism, or some other category of linguistic fun (this Baltimore Sun article referred to it as "faux cursing." Not bad.).

There are several common ways to intentionally misspell "fucking", and some of them are so popular, people actually say them too (see my post on the use of "frik" on Scrubs or any episode of Battlestar Galactica).

Just for kicks, I googled as many faux fucking spelling variations as I could dream up. Listed by frequency, we can see that Pooh's "fucken" variation is middle of the road:

123,000,000 for fucking
24,200,000 for fuckin
10,300,000 for freakin
2,040,000 for frickin
1,880,000 for fucken
502,000 for fukkin
298,000 for frikkin
208,000 for fukken
206,000 for freekin
45,300 for frakken (highly ambiguous with some Swedish word)

NLPers: How would you characterize your linguistics background?

That was the poll question my hero Professor Emily Bender posed on Twitter March 30th. 573 tweets later, a truly epic thread had been cre...