Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

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Senators, Representatives, and Congressmen

Posted on November 2, 2010

Over at Visual Thesaurus, I have a column about how and when congressman, which on its face would seem to be synonymous with member of Congress, came to refer to members of the House of Representatives to the near-exclusion of senators. I was reminded of it a few weeks ago when I heard someone on […]

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Posted in Ambiguity, Consonants, Lexical semantics, Quantity and Relevance, Variation | 13 Comments »

That’s So Disabled!

Posted on May 28, 2009

The good news: Adam has picked up some more of the language of his peers. The bad news: It’s the adjective retarded. The good news: He’s not using the word to insult people. The bad news: He’s using it to describe things that only someone with mental retardation could appreciate, as in That’s retarded! This […]

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Posted in Diachronic, Quantity and Relevance, Taboo, The darndest things | 19 Comments »

Retain vs. Re-elect

Posted on October 24, 2006

Ann Fisher, a columnist for the Columbus Dispatch, had an eye-opening piece yesterday. She talks about a gambit used by political parties… …in which the incumbent resigns before his term ends. The party then appoints a replacement who has the advantage of incumbency in the next election. This is legal. Politicians and their party leaders, […]

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Posted in Quantity and Relevance | 3 Comments »

In an Abusive Relationship

Posted on August 14, 2006

“Aha!” Mom said one day during her visit last week, as she read Dear Abby. “I knew there’d be some letters about this guy!” “What guy?” I asked. Mom explained: A few weeks earlier, there had been a letter written by a man who said he’d been in an abusive relationship. The letter was strange, […]

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Posted in Quantity and Relevance, You're so literal! | 13 Comments »

The Chicken Says “Cock-a-Doodle-Doo!”

Posted on July 29, 2004

“OK, next story,” I said, and picked up the next library book in the stack. It had a great big black and white rooster on the front. “This one’s called Bob. Looks like it’s about a chicken.” “A rooster,” Doug said. “Right, and roosters are chickens.” “Roosters are boy chickens,” Doug clarified. “Right, so, all […]

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Posted in Kids' entertainment, Lexical semantics, Quantity and Relevance | 12 Comments »