Friday, December 17, 2010

Take a Linguistics Fish Boating

I noticed a semantically and syntactically thought-provoking billboard on I-75 North in Michigan this fall and I have been meaning to comment on it. The tagline on the billboard was "Take a fish boating".

My first thought (based on a literal interpretation) was...who the heck would take their pet goldfish out boating with them? Along the lines of "take your son boating".

Syntactically, the sentence is obviously a command with the implied subject "you".

Semantically (and phonetically), I interpreted the tagline as follows: You take a fish when out boating.

This interpretation made me think the ad was created to promote the sport fishing industry and all that goes along with it: boats, bait, lures, rods, bobbers, etc.

It wasn't until I googled the phrase and saw this image of a lure, which by the way, was not on the billboard, that I realized the billboard was advertising a type of lure that resembles a fish.

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