Semantic Antics

April 13, 2021 Category: Miscellaneous


{1  More accurately, when “buffalo” is used as a verb, it means to coerce via intimidation.  Bison and buffalo are technically two different kinds of bovine.  The city of Buffalo is actually located in western New York state.  Another version of this sentence contains seven, rather than eleven, words.  But the object-phrase of the sentence–in the shorter version, just a single word–can be identical to the subject-phrase, which is comprised of five words; thus yielding: [subject-phrase] [verb] [object-phrase].}

{2  Other than buffalo (coerce), badger (harass), dog (addle), and horse (play), there are many occurrences of animal-names being used as verbs: ape, parrot, rat, weasel, ferret, fawn, snake, fish, bug, hound, etc.  What’s the difference between “monkey around” and “horse around”?  The same as the difference between going bananas and going nuts.  (In other cases, words simply double as verbs and animal names due to lexical coincidence–as with hawk, fly, bear, carp, and yack.) When it comes to creative exploitation of semantic idiosyncrasies, it’s important not to be out-foxed.}

{3  That’s not all.  The descriptor “without qualification” can mean either “having insufficient credentials” (thus mitigated) or “no provisos, no catches” (thus unmitigated).}

{4  Likewise, there is a difference between “my closet is packed” (filled) and “my closet is packed up” (vacated).  Of course, adding “up” does not ALWAYS change the meaning: “wrap it” and “wrap it up” typically mean the same thing (when veiling a gift in ornate paper); though the latter is also used to mean to finish a task.  In the event that idiomatic expressions are involved, such idiosyncrasies complicate things–especially when one is translating from a language in which syntax (or word order) does not work in the same manner. “Screw it” intimates resignation whereas “screw it up” means sabotage. This is the difference between giving up and botching a job.}

{5  To “fuck around”, “joke around”, “horse around”, and “monkey around” mean the same thing.  In this context, “fuck” = “joke” = “horse” = “monkey”. This is a reminder that literal translation goes haywire when it comes to idiomatic expressions.}

{6 This is the reason we forget that, in the northern hemisphere, days get SHORTER during most of the summer; as it is the period following the summer solstice (which falls around June 20).  Our intuition tells us that the days are longer during the summer. In reality, the days between March 20 and June 20 have the same average length as those between June 20 and September 20.}

{7  Lincoln’s party was, indeed, the LIBERAL party–at the time called the “Republicans”.  In fact, the left-most faction was called the “Radical Republicans”.  A clue that Lincoln would have been on the so-called “Left” was his great suspicion of corporate power.  In a letter to Col. William F. Elkins dated November 21, 1864, he wrote: “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that un-nerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.  As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned; and an era of corruption in high places will follow.  [Consequently], the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.  I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of [the Civil War].”}

{8  This inversion of the meaning of “libertarianism” has been attributed to the polemicist, Murray Rothbard, who recognized that appropriating the term for free-market fundamentalism would be a boon to the cause.  He was correct.  After all, its root is “liberty”; and who could argue with THAT?  Now, in America, if one uses “libertarian” in the original sense (as in: libertarian socialism), it is seen as oxymoronic. The original (Progressive) incarnation of “libertarianism” was populist in nature; so was consummate with civic-minded-ness. The RIGHT-WING incarnation of “libertarianism” amounts to “every man for himself; devil take the hindmost.” Hence to be a “libertarian” is the antithesis of being a socialist. The original “libertarianism” was, in fact, anarcho-syndicalism (the empowerment of the working class); whereas the term now entails what is effectively anarcho-capitalism (the empowerment of corporate power).}

{9  This is how both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, polar opposites in every conceivable way, can both be described as “populists”.  Democratic socialists are populists (in one way), yet so are fascists (in an entirely different way).  The former, it might be said, are GENUINE populists (have the best interests of the masses at heart); whereas the latter are FAUX populists (only appealing to the masses in superficial, though perfidious, ways).  For a history of GENUINE (Left-wing) populism, see Thomas Frank’s “The People, No”.}

{10  There is often a blurred line between a finely-primped harem girl lackadaisically dangling grapes on a chaise lounge and, say, a sleazy barmaid in a dive-bar pounding shots of Jägermeister, legs akimbo.  One demands a high sum for access to her body; the other is inclined to provide access to her body (and/or some ego-boosting sweet-talk) for a round of hastily-poured libations.  As it turns out, prostitution attains irrespective of the amount of compensation…or the number of customers.}

{11  The “whore of Babylon” in Christian lore was probably an adaptation of the Avestan “Jahi” [“Jeh” in Pahlavi] from Zoroastrian lore. It was initially used to refer to the Roman Empire (the primary nemesis of Christianity); but was then used as a pejorative for ENEMIES OF the Roman Empire (which had become the political arm of the Church).}

{12  What of vocation?  Employees don’t sell THEMSELVES; they sell their time / skills / knowledge; and typically do so without compromising their moral principles.  Hence compensation for labor does not qualify as prostitution.  Working for money isn’t a grift.  Not every quid pro quo can be characterized as “selling out”.}

{13  A demonstration that such verbiage is nonsensical is a comment by Roman Catholic fanatic, Clarence Thomas—who referred to cells used from the fetuses procured from aborted pregnancies as “aborted children” (neglecting to apprehend that one aborts a PROCESS, not an ENTITY); and failing to recognize that stem-cell LINES are not the same as the cells taken from the original tissue.  This category error is arguably even more absurd than the fallacious claim that an embryo is a “child” or “human being” (i.e. one that is “unborn”).  According to such thinking, disposing of an acorn is destroying an oak tree.  Clarence is effectively pro-zygote, anti-human; yet he glibly refers to himself as “pro-life”.  Labeling such a position in this manner is a prime example of Orwellian verbiage.  To suggest that a zygote / embryo is a full-fledged “human being” is not only fallacious; it is downright insane.}

{14  The category “nut” is a fuzzy one.  In the strictest botanical sense: peanuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews, and pistachios are not nuts.  But for dietary purposes, they are all considered as such.  Meanwhile, acorns ARE technically nuts, but are not considered as such (again, for dietary purposes).  This reminds us that categorization is sometimes context-dependent.  Other misleading categories: tomatoes are technically fruit and cucumbers are technically berries.  Such peculiarities remind us that, in everyday life, stigmas often take precedence over formal taxonomies.}

{15  Even masterpieces can be based on false premises.  What is often considered the greatest film ever made (“Citizen Kane”) proceeded from an impossible quandary: Reporters trying to figure out what the protagonist’s final utterance (“Rosebud”) meant.  The problem is that he died alone, so there was nobody present to hear him say it.}

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