Confuding the issue (or: Dazed and Confuded)

Here’s a neat bi-lingual typo to chew on: “confude” as the common result of unrelated errors in English and Spanish.

Inspiration from a mefi comment by user ornate insect:

“there is indeed a confuding and implicit tautology there”

Confuding!  What a wonderful little typo — and I think in this case I can safely declare it to be a typo and a typo only — an easy slip of the finger from the ‘s’ to the ‘d’ key, and no obvious-to-me word for which it would likely be a mis-analysis.

There are about 1300 google hits right now for “confuding“, and another ~2400 for “confuded“.  That’s vs. ~38million and ~169million for “confusing” and “confused”, respectively.  The d-variants represent a tiny fraction by comparison.

What I like so much about “confuding” is the feel it has of being just maybe some bit of rhetorical jargon after all, some strange middle child between “confusing” and “conflating”, a cousin to “concluding” on one side of the family tree and “occluding” on the other, perhaps.  As not-quite-words go, it’s arguably confuding to behold.

There are, too, ~8000 hits for “confude“, though many are for Spanish-language sites.  But at a portion of 8000 hits, ‘confude’ looks like an error too.  And a little babelfishing (my Spanish is pretty much non-existent) and some context-checking suggests “confunde” as the well-formed version.

So: a miskey in English, and a missed key in Spanish.  (If I’m wrong in my conjecture about the latter, let me know; no hablas.)

killing the formerly living chicken

There’s some complicated temporality going on in this sentence, from a comment by ( founder) rusty in a metafilter thread today about homeless folks stealth-camping in Heathrow airport: 

“I swear the last time I was there someone was killing and plucking a (formerly) live chicken, in preparation for roasting it over an impromptu mid-terminal campfire.”

Emphasis mine.  It’s important to clarify that the chicken was formerly live because it had been killed a few words earlier in the sentence.  Very breaking news, that; has a weird charm to it.

The easy nitpick, if I had to pick nits (though that wasn’t really my motivation here): if you drop the “live”, you can drop the “(formerly)” too.  After all, if you’re killing a chicken, it’s pretty clearly alive to start with.  Though I suppose rusty’s rendering makes it explicit that the plucking happens post-killing, so there’s a distinction in meaning in its favor.

keep new york new york

A quick ad-copy collocation, noticed via this Freakonomics post: the tagline for an NYC campaign for “congestion pricing” (the imposition of peak-hour traffic fees) is this wonderful little five-worder:

Keep New York New York“.

Considered as a bare string, it doesn’t even look like a sentence to me, and yet its perfectly comprehensible (and, in context, not even ambiguous: I doubt anyone will see the sign and think, “yes, yes, congestion pricing, but what does that have to do with Broadway showtunes and who is trying to get rid of them anyway?”).

In Portland (where there’s been, in fact, talk of congestion pricing for some bridges serving the downtown area), there’s a related phrase that’s been around for I don’t know how long: Keep Portland Weird.  As far as that goes, I suppose “Keep Portland Portland” would work too, but there’s something a bit more daring (and divisive, I guess, for folks in the anti-weird camp) about a specific named quality.

furthering furth

Interesting bit from Geoff Pullum at Lanugage Log today, on his discovery of the Scottish preposition “furth”, as in “furth of Glasgow” with the meaning “outside of” or “away from” Glasgow.

He talks a little about the place that the familiar “forth” holds in modern English usage, including a rundown of occurances of the word in the WSJ archives, but a couple things struck me:

1. Where does “further” come in to the history of “furth”?  If one can be furth of Glasgow, could one be (or at least have been, at some muddy point in Scots linguistic history) further of Glasgow?

[Update: while it doesn’t actually dig into an answer to the question, I have to admit I missed outright this late line from Geoff on the subject of further: “(Note, though, that as Jim Smith points out to me, all modern English dialects have preserved the comparative and superlative forms further and furthest.)”]

2. “Go forth” is listed in Pullum’s corpus rundown as an afterthought, mixed in with “hiss forth” and “tumble forth” and a couple dozen other relatively uncommon also-rans.  (Set, bring, and put forth are the three big hitters, along with the fixed expression “back and forth”.)

Go forth?  Not common?  How could that be?  It’s easily the first phrase I think of when thinking of “forth”.  What gives? 

Ah, but I grew up in Catholic churches; and how often did I hear God or some prophet or metatron suggest (or some narrative simply record) that this or that figure should or did go forth — to multiply, to war, to Galilee, to sin no more.   And regardless of the texts in the readings or the homily, every Sunday had a guaranteed coda: “Go forth, to love and serve the Lord.”

So I suppose that as long as the WSJ isn’t quoting biblical passages or Catholic mass tropes, “go forth” as a rarity might be perfectly expected after all.  Oh well.

(It probably doesn’t help my case that the second thing I thought of, after “go forth”, was the programming language Forth.  I am not a reliable barometer of baseline forthiness, I don’t think.)

Wolverines, explained.

From a post on Metafilter today about a recently discovered Californian wolverine, according to mefite Atreides:

I remember watching a nature show about wolverines. It was pretty much 45 minutes of rage. Wolverines are what Oscar the Grouch would be like if he got old, flipped out, and ran off into the wilds. Oh, and tied butcher knives to his fingertips.

Melvyn Quince, linguistic pinch-hitter.

I’m a big fan of Language Log; I believe it’s one of the finest upenn-hosted collaborative linguistics weblogs Mark Liberman has ever given an alliterative name to.  And the folks (and — let’s not be sexist — folksette) over there by and large do a pretty fine job of talking about the ongoing collapse of the English language as we know it.  Plus, they post a lot of fascinating BBC science news, which saves me some web-surfing.

But this new fellow, this Melvyn Quince, is something else.  For as hard as the rest of that lot have tried, over the years, they’re looking a little old hat, a little out-worded if you will, by Quince, whose first two postings display already the kind of verve and insight and flat-out linguifictive integrity that you just can’t fake. 

And though he’s a newcomer to the Log, an examination of his credentials (e.g. via a google search) will, I think, both underscore his bona fides and suggest, to the discerning reader, the estimable value of his future contributions to this proud, arguably somewhat science-esque discipline.


Wordly find of the day: ‘hat-handedly‘. As an adjectival modifier, “hat-handedly sincere”, as in this metatalk comment by majick. Meaning something along the lines of “as if while standing humbly with your hat in your hands”. Google turns up about 142,000 hits for “hat in hand” itself, and I’m sure there are other variations of that idiom that’d turn up healthy hit counts as well. But what about hat-handedly?

Zero google hits at the moment for the phrase; one, in the near future, to this blog entry assuming it doesn’t suddenly fall into use. (And maybe another citing the original metatalk comment, though I have gotten the impression that Google doesn’t index them all the way to the bottom when they get longish; the thread in question has 128 comments right now.) So, as close as negative results from Google can get us to verified neologism! Exciting: let’s dig farther!

Continue reading “hat-handedly”

This Splinter Is Ruining My Life

For a personal blog, this place doesn’t really feature enough self-absorbed whining, and I apologize for that.  So, to make things right:

I got a tiny splinter from a paper plate holder last night.  In my right index finger.  Off to the side, so it doesn’t actually hurt to type or really do anything else that I normally do with the finger.  But!  But if I actually poke the splinter, that hurts.  I’ve tried it several times now, and every time?  Ow.  Pain.  It doesn’t ever not hurt, and that seems pretty unfair when you really, like, think about it.

Mood: punctured.

Address plates: SW First Ave, near burnside

On a walk around downtown the other day, I had the idea of photographing the address plates on buildings and houses as a sort of documentation of one of the compelling little mundanities of practical aesthetics: every building gets a number, and someone has to decide how to attach that number.

So this is an initial foray into documenting address plates.  (I suppose there’s a better word than “address plate”, but I don’t know the what the right term is.)  Here we go:

sw first 

I was killing a little time this weekend near Saturday Market, in Old Town.  I was a couple block south of Burnside, and started snapping shots of the east side of the street as I wandered north.  This is very much business district territory; small office storefronts and such.

Continue reading “Address plates: SW First Ave, near burnside”

Simpsons comma linguistics humor found in The

Psychiatrist: Robert was a peaceful boy, sickly and weak from a congenital heart defect. [He shows a picture of SB going to his prom in bed. The jury goes “Awwww!”] But then that Simpson boy started tormenting him, and he crossed over into dementia!

Sideshow Bob (defending himself): To what degree was this dementia blown?

Psychiatrist: Full! [Jury gasps.]

Heidi Harley’s yearly Simpsons ling-joke roundup now available in an exciting 2008 model.