A New Layout
Okay, everyone! I've done a few major layout re-workings, as you can see. I'm sure this particular layout is quite unusual for a blog, so I'm anxious to find out if you find it nice, uninteresting, or obnoxious. I'll probably continue tweaking it in the coming few days, so I'll point out any important changes. [It appears that this new and completely standards compliant layout does not work in Microsoft Internet Explorer, so don't use it!]
Scratch that Causative Alternating Itch
The other day I overheard the following dialogue:
A: Look at all these bug bites.
B: Wow. And you haven't been itching them?
A: No, I haven't been scratching them.
B: That's what I meant. Are you saying there's a difference between itch and scratch?
A: [Some description of how itch is a sensation and scratch is an action]
B: Huh. I never noticed a difference.
Let me first posit that B does indeed treat them differently and would never say "These bug bites really scratch!". But A is objecting to B's use of the verb itch as a transative verb synonymous with scratch, not the other way around. The truth is, I think it is very common that itch be used in this way, and the dictionaries I checked agree.
But what is most interesting to me is the question of how itch relates to other verbs that have in/transitive alternation. The examples are boundless, but I think tickle and hurt are most appropriate. Consider the sentence
It Vs when you V me.
and replace V with tickle, hurt, burn, or sting. These are examples of causative alternating verbs, which can both represent a state, and the action which causes the state. Itch is somehow different. It works if you plug it into the sentence, at least grammatically, but begs the question, what action causes someone to itch? It is also clear that this causative use of itch is distinct from its use as a synonym for scratch.
But I have at least one crazy theory. Unlike the other verbs of sensation, itch seems to be as much a desire for a certain action (scratching) as it is a specific sensation. In other words, itch can be interpereted as meaning cause to [want to] scratch, which is already a causative. This would explain why plugging it in for V is a bit strange. But if itch is already causative, then could it have causative alternation? Then can we extrapolate a more basic meaning? Of course, and that meaning is none other than scratch. This is my explanation for why itch has acquired the meaning of scratch.
Grammar Terminology Like Asyndeton, Apposition, a kind of renaming
It's better to let people see how sausages are made, what's going on.
my dad wondered, is that a sentence?
First of all, that sentence was not written by Shuy, but by Ernie the Attorney, as is mentioned in the original post. And second of all, yes it is a sentence, even if you asked the strictest prescriptivist grammarians. And to prove it, an example from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, 2.4.15-18:
Yes, bring me word, boy, if thy lord look well,
For he went sickly forth: and take good note
What Caesar doth, what suitors press to him.
Hark, boy! what noise is that?
The original sentence could mean something like
It's better to let people see the following:
- how sausages are made
- what's going on [when you make them]
The phrase "what's going on" is in parallel with the phrase "how sausages are made" and could be providing a distinct second element with asyndeton (with an omitted "and" or "or"). Or it could mean something like
It's better to let people see how sausages are made, which is essentially letting them see what's going on.
where the second phrase is a new (and better) name for the first, as in apposition. It makes little difference in this case, but I'm leaning toward apposition. I think the reason my dad mis-read the sentence is because the parallel phrase is at the end, and without a following phrase there are many possible grammatical mis-interperetations.
Gairaigo: You Decide
It is up for debate whether Japanese gairaigo are good or bad, but Kokken suggest many rewordings to avoid evasive language. Mark Liberman of Language Log disagrees, saying that gairaigo make language more specific. I am with Mark on this one, as usual, but I'd like to point out a pathological case of loanword abuse.
Meet Mr. Don Kanonji (ミスター・ドン・観音寺) a minor character and TV spiritual medium from the popular manga/anime Bleach who uses gairaigo to excess. He will sometimes use "katakanaized" English for enitre sentences, such as his catch phrase "Spirits are always with you!" (スピリッツ・アー・オールウェイズ・ウィズ・ユー!) or "Smells like bad spirits!" (スメルズ・ライク・バッド・スピリッツ). On the one hand it is clear that he is trying to be cool or stylish (and trying too hard), but it does make for a kind of obscuring jargon to hide the fact that he's something of a phony. In this respect it is almost reminiscent of church Latin. The less you can understand of what he says, the more mysterious he is!
But I don't suppose this is what Kokken was talking about.
Is Sushi Really That Hard to Pronounce?
I've been getting lots of hits recently from people googling something or other about the pronunciation of sushi. What are yall looking for? If it's the pronunciation of certain sushi types, I'd be glad to throw together a fun little chart with pronunciation links. But I fear that this is not the question, that it is instead one of how the word 'sushi' is pronounced. Oh dear. This is sounding familiar. This time I will explain for the IPA impaired.
So what's the problem? The standard American pronunciation [su:ʃi] isn't horrid. It's certainly the closest approximation American English phonology will allow. Or maybe making it [sʊʃi] so it rhymes with 'bushy' would be a little closer. Well if you want to get really technical, some Japanese pronounce the word with pitch accent on the first syllable, which effectively drops the final 'i', sounding like [sɯʃ:]. This is how you would say it if preceded by the honorific 'o'. And the rest pronounce it with with final pitch accent, which effectively deletes the 'u', producing something like 'ss-shi' with just a hiss at the beginning, or [s:ʃi]. Can anyone tell me if/what is the regional distribution of each pronunciation?
Anyway, in English, just go on saying it like usual.
Man From Another Place
Thanks to Thomson, I have discovered the Man From Another Place, a character from the weird early 90's TV show Twin Peaks. The character, played by Michael J. Anderson, is a dwarf living in the protagonist's dreamworld, the red room. The Man speaks with a strange cadence which is hard enough to understand that subtitles are provided. The strange cadence is due to the fact that the lines were read backwards then the recording was played backwards as I attempted in a previous post. Although he's good, I'm much better at it, IMHO, but I have had linguistic training, unlike Anderson, as the Wikipedia article says. If you'd like to hear the Man From Another Place try some clips on youtube. If and when I find a more suitable recording, I will post it.