Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally


Posted by Neal on March 29, 2005

Some interesting posts that have appeared on other linguistics blogs recently:

There’s been some discussion on Language Log on the phonetics and semantics of tighty-whiteys. This most recent one from Arnold Zwicky is quite informative. Follow the links to the previous posts on the topic.

Heidi Harley has begun a collection of linguistic humor in The Simpsons, with each instance labelled according to the linguistic topic it relates to. One of my favorite linguistic bits from The Simpsons is Homer’s protest to Marge: “But Marge, that was just an idle promise!” I haven’t added it to Harley’s list because I didn’t know what to call it, other than something about pragmatics, speech acts, and felicity conditions for calling something an idle promise. The Language Guy would probably have a more specific diagnosis.

Which brings us to the last of the links, LG’s posting on what advertisers are trying to tell you when they say (of gasoline) “No alcohol added.” It reminded me of when I was in Lahaina in Maui, and all along the street were kiosks and booths offering to set you up with various island activities: parasailing, cruises, snorkeling, etc. Every now and then I’d see one that had a sign saying, “Not affiliated with timeshares.” “What, are you supposed to be?” I thought, and moved on. I ignored that little red flag, that seeming violation of the Maxim of Quantity. But I remembered it all too well the next day, when I had one of these places sign me up for a surfing lesson.


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