Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

October Links

Posted by Neal on October 14, 2008

The Ridger, blogging at the Greenbelt, discusses a four-way ambiguity in the headline “Jury Convicts New York Man of Killing Wife for the Second Time”. This problem has piqued my interest, and I’m planning to post on it, but since it won’t be ready for a while, I’m linking to the Ridger’s post now.

If you liked this post on coordinated possessive pronouns, then be sure to check out Arnold Zwicky’s breakdown of the topic here.

A couple of months ago, I got to wondering about the origin of the idiom throw [someone] under the bus when I heard it several times in one week about Obama. Nathan Bierma (late of the Chicago Tribune) wrote this column on the subject.

Finally, if the nonsensical word Runescape made you wonder how the word (or suffix) –scape got so productive, read this column (with a great title) by Jan Freeman.

5 Responses to “October Links”

  1. Glen said

    I can only see three possible readings of the jury headline, and there only seem to be three mentioned in the Ridger’s post: (1) he was convicted twice of the very same murder; (2) he was convicted for the second killing a single wife (who apparently must have risen from the dead); and (3) he was convicted of killing one wife after having previously killed another. What is the third reading?

  2. The Ridger said

    The other one would be convicted of killing wife #2 after being convicted of killing wife #1. But I didn’t really talk about that one – Neal found it.

  3. Neal said

    High vs. low attachment for the for PP times same wife or different wife for second time = four readings. However, I’m not sure the same-or-different-wife part is truly an ambiguity. More on that in the promised post.

  4. The column by Jan Freeman isn’t actually linked.

    In terms of “throw under the bus,” the column likens it to “stab in the back,” which is similar, but not the same. I think a better comparison is “throw to the dogs” or “throw to the wolves.” The implication is that others will destroy the person thus thrown once you betray him or her, whereas with backstabbing, you are the agent of actual damage done.

  5. Neal said

    Thanks for bringing the linklessness to my attention. It’s fixed now.

    As for throw under the bus, I agree with the similarity with throw to the dogs/wolves that you point out, but I still think the more powerful similarity is with stab in the back with regard to betraying someone who trusted you.

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