August 21st, 2007


Lesbian dogs and psychiatric cats

A friend recently referred to "that dog", and when I asked him which one he meant, he explained that it was "the lesbian dog". The dog in question, being male, is by definition not a lesbian; he meant the dog belonging to my lesbian neighbour. He didn't mean it in any pejorative sense, incidentally, as he gets on very well with the neighbour in question.

This struck me as an odd usage, but then I recalled I had heard something similar once before, a little over twenty years ago; another friend had made some reference to "the psychiatric cats", which was not intended as a reflection on the cats' sanity but simply meant that they belonged to a psychiatrist. (Having said that, as a cat owner I'd hesitate to attribute sanity to any cat, but that is hardly a linguistic matter!)

Has anyone else come across this kind of usage, and is there anywhere it is used regularly? Also, does it refer only to pets or might there be circumstances in which someone would say something like "the medical hat" to mean a hat that belonged to a doctor but did not particularly mark them out as such?

Just curious...
pixelated moi
  • tisoi

Webcasts of Berkeley linguistics class

I ran into a tutorial on YouTube about accessing webcasts of university courses/lectures online. One of which is Berkeley. I did a search for "languages," and webcasts for linguistics courses were there. Particularly, LING 55 The American Languages.

You can look here:

I tried looking for language course, but there don't appear to be any. But just thought I'd pass this link on to you guys.

"Mc" in surnames

Has the prefix (or whatever you call it technically) in Scottish names which we normally write as "Mc" or "Mac" as in "McDonald" always been written that way? Back in my misguided days studying law, I remember coming across a case about a man called "M'Naghten" and another one about a woman who is sometimes called "M'Alister".
Wikipedia tells me that the cases happened in the mid-1800s and 1930s respectively, so either people's names were being recorded sloppily even then or else the spelling was only standardised later.