Saturday, 27 February 2016

Scrambled pairings

Today's xkcd:

Mouseover text: "The Romeo and Butt-Head film actually got two thumbs up from Siskel and Oates."

I'd like to do an experiment where half the people read it with the left side covered (and have to complete the phrase) and half do it with the right side covered and try to get the 'normal' pairings on which the comic is based. I assume accuracy and speed would be harder with the left side covered...

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

sad meals and children's antonym use

Recently posted by Epic Parenting on Facebook:

I love seeing/hearing kids thinking about opposites. Here are a couple of up/down examples from the CHILDES database, used in Steve Jones' and my research on antonymy in childhood.  These are both by a then-two-year-old named ABE:
ABE: Cookie Monster drinks it down and I drink it up

ABE:  is it dry down or dry up?
FATHER:   dry up it’ll dry up soon I’m not sure why but it’s dry up instead of dry down
And then there are some oddities from my kid:
G: (to toy monkey):  You're just waking up in your awaking bag.
Me: is the sleeping bag an awaking bag now?
G: no, it's a sleeping bag.
Me: But didn't you say 'awaking bag'?
G: I was just speaking in the African way.  (3 years, 2 months)

(Describing her dad making soup from the cherry tomatoes she picked:)
It's whizzing and then it comes up not-tomato. (2 years, 10 months)
(On the way to work/creche)
Me: We're on the right train.
G:  Where's the left train? (2 years, 9 months)
(Getting ready to play with play-doh:)
G: Let's make a farm--with piggelets!
Phil: Piglets are hard... [to make]
G: No! Piggelets are soft!  (2 years, 6 months)
M: I can't do that.
G: [contradicting] Yes you can't!
M: Yes, I can.
G: Yes, you can't!
M: Yes, I can.
G: Yes, you can!
M: Yes, I _can_.
G: Yes, you can't!   (2 years, 2 months)
G (at dinner): "Stop talking about furniture and start talking about me." (3 years, 6 months)
         G: "But Mum, why does good grief have good in it?" (3 years, 8 months)

But this one has to be the best:
G:  You are fat to cuddle.
Me: (!!) Is it better to cuddle fat people or thin people?
G:  Thin people. ... Mummy, I love you. I really love you.  (3 years, 1 month)

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Opposite songs: a Joe Jackson special

Last week I had the pleasure of seeing Joe Jackson in concert in London, so let's commemorate that fact with an opposites-based review of his work.

Jackson's best-charting album in the US and UK was an opposite one: Night and Day (1982). And then he tried again 18 years later with Night and Day II (2000).

Night and Day has the song Steppin' Out (how I love glockenspiels in pop music; the live version was more subdued, but still lovely) with the line we are young but getting old before our time and the repeated contrast between night and light.

Two more oppositey album titles were Body and Soul (1984) and Heaven and Hell (1997):

No wonder I'm a fan.

I will leave it to you to decide whether the title of his 1991 album Laughter and Lust is also an opposite.

His song Right and Wrong from 1986's Big World made it to the birthday opposites playlist, but not into the concert.

The man is definitely into binary oppositions and contrast, with lots of songs with two or other or negation in the titles, and of course different.

In his album of jazz covers Joe Jackson's Jumpin' Jive are a few oppositey gems, most particularly What's the use of getting sober (when you're gonna get drunk again?) and the negation-fuelled Is you is or is you ain't my baby?. 

I'd be up all night if I tried to find all the opposite lyrics within non-oppositely titled songs, so let's leave it there. But Joe Jackson, I do love you.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Opposite songs: an OK GO special

One of the songs in my birthday opposites playlist was OK Go's Upside Down and Inside Out, for which they released an amazing new video last week. It's not on YouTube officially, and the Facebook embedding looks like this, but do click and check it out. It involves vomit comet choreography. 

OK Go - Upside Down & Inside Out
Hello, Dear Ones. Please enjoy our new video for "Upside Down & Inside Out". A million thanks to S7 Airlines. #GravitysJustAHabit
Posted by OK Go on Thursday, 11 February 2016
The video is even more impressive when you know more about how it was made.

When I was making the birthday playlist, I also considered OK Go's Needing/Getting. You can argue among yourselves about whether those are opposites, but as the man says, "Needing is one thing, and getting's another".

I've been thinking lately about how certain bands/musicians are my opposites heroes, so I'm going to do a few more posts like this featuring particular artists.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Very British Opposites

Can you add to the list?

You can follow Very British Problems on Twitter or Facebook.

Happy Valentine's Day

This showed up in my Facebook feed this morning:

Apparently you can buy it as a print here.

At different points in my life, I've believed (a) you can only really hate what you've really loved, and (b) you can never really hate what you've really loved.  The first option was teenage melodrama. I'm sticking with (b).

Saturday, 13 February 2016

opposite v contrast

Since around the turn of the 20th century, people are using opposite less and contrast more.
When I use the terms in my linguistic work, I use contrast for when more than two things are being contrasted, and opposite when there are just two. I doubt this change in general English has anything to do with English speakers becoming less binary, though. The rise of contrast seems to be due to the rise of the phrase in contrast to. (I won't share all the ngrams, but you can look it up.)

But what is the downtrend for opposite about? I tried looking at collocates in the Corpus of Historical American English, and there are lots of different collocates if one compares the mid-19th and late-20th centuries. No clear explainers like a set phrase that's taken off. In the earlier data, there are more that have to do with politics, though: the opposite parties, opposite doctrine, opposite principles. Of course, in the 19th century, Americans fought a war against each other, so they really were opposed. The trends in the graph above, though, are not from American only. Maybe opposite is going down in part due to the rise of in contrast to. It's a possibly softer way to talk about opposed things.

Two other hypotheses that didn't pan out: the demise of opposite does not correlate with a similar increase in across from (that is, its prepositional use doesn't seem to have changed much), and there's barely any shift in the numbers for antonym (it's just a line along the bottom of the chart).