Mitzi and I were talking and she said she loved … “corn chips”. Hmm. I was expecting “cheese”, which is what she’s usually eating in the other room at this time. So I was primed to think “Wallace and Gromit”. But I couldn’t remember which of the pair, Wallace or Gromit was which. I remember the characters. One’s a head-in-the-clouds human cheese lover, the other a clever pooch.
My theory of plurals would have it that to understand a conjunction like “Wallace and Gromit”, you first identified a referent for each of the conjuncts, “Wallace” and “Gromit”, which could then be used to pick out a group.
In this case, I know the two members of the group, I just don’t know which had which name.
But maybe “Wallace and Gromit” as a whole is a name. That is, maybe it’s a frozen expression, at least for me. Lots of names are like that for me, like “Johnson and Johnson”. Speaking of Johnson and Johnson, could they be just one person? That is, could both conjuncts refer to the same person? It probably mostly refers to a company as a fixed expression these days.
At one point, “Johnson and Johnson” would’ve caused confusion for named entity detectors (conjunction of two person names, or a combined company name; annotation standards like Genia’s Technical Term Annotation let you keep both). This is a problem for us now in our high recall entity extraction with terms like “insulin receptor” — is that a reference to insulin (one thing), or the receptor (another thing)?
Mitzi’s a virtual font of referential uncertainty data tonight. She said she knew that “Abbott and Costello” (the comedy team) had first names “Lou” and “Bud”, but she didn’t know which went with which last name (hint: that’s Lou Costello on the left and Bud Abbott on the right).