pink taco etc.

Ronald Butters ronbutters at AOL.COM
Fri Dec 3 16:09:56 UTC 2010

Thanks to   offered helpful comments concerning PINK TACO, TUBE STEAK, and PLUMED SERPENT.

And thanks also to Sam for reminding the list about trivial and inane postings.

In answer to his question (see copy of his posting below):

My query was not something that "popped into my mind," nor did it merely report "for the record" trivial and obvious data about well-known linguistic phenomena (cf. smug, sometimes cryptoprescriptivist reportings about how people sometimes make mistakes in Latin or generate plural endings on mass nouns in English or use Aux DONE if they speak a Southern-derived dialect). My query was not mere "conversation" (e.g. one-liners such as  "good-one, Sam").

Nor was I requesting "moral opinions."

The terms I asked about are all relatively obscure metaphors for human genitalia ("plumed" refers to foreskin). United States trademark law forbids the registration of what the statute terms "obscene" and/or "scandalous" terms. Determination of how well a mark fits the grounds for rejection involves both what current speakers think of as "obscene" and/or "scandalous" and also how speakers of contemporary American English view the terms that have been put forth for possible registration with respect to whether they are "obscene" or "scandalous." One of my research interests is the application of linguistics to trademark litigation. From time to time, ADS-L gets inquiries from people concerning research projects, and I believe that my little query fits squarely within that tradition, which I have never objected to.

I will also disclose that this particular query is one that I undertook as a favor to a law student who is doing a project that (as he envisioned it) required the presentation of a linguistic expert declaration. He asked me if I would be willing to help, waiving any fees, and I agreed, as long as my participation the project had the permission of his professor, which it does. Although I retired three years ago as a university professor, I still am eager to help students when I can.

In short, my inquiry was directed for pedagogical purposes at serious linguistic issues involving current American English--particularly, the interpretation of certain slang/metaphorical terms as related to statutory interpretation.

 If Mr. Clements believes that ADS-L is not available for queries concerning such topics, he is on the wrong list-serv.

On Dec 2, 2010, at 9:49 PM, Sam Clements wrote:

> To quote you in a post from less than a month ago---------
> "I have never suggested that anyone should go away. My theme has
> consistently been to request that people not treat the list as if it were a
> conversation space where anyone could feel free to report any mindless thing
> that happened to pop into their minds and report on every mistake or strange
> (to them) turn of phrase that they happen to see in seemingly endless hours
> of watching TV or listening to public radio."
> Why is your asking for moral opinions of a phrase NOT in the categories
> which you disparage above?
> Sam Clements
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Ronald Butters" <ronbutters at AOL.COM>
> Sent: Thursday, December 02, 2010 21:11
> Subject: pink taco
>> Does anyone find PINK TACO an obscene name for a restaurant? What about
>> TUBE STEAK for a hot-dog stand? What about PLUMED SERPENT for a gay bar?
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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