Friday, July 30, 2010

K-mart Smart

I ordered a fancy new microfiber comforter online last week because the TV told me I wanted one. Boy, the TV was right! When it didn't arrive on my doorstep the instant I expected it to, I turned to the Internet to calm my anxiety over its absence.
Fear not, the Internet told me. The package has been "rescheduled." Rescheduled? Does this mean, that someone tried to drop it off at my door and failed? No, in fact, it means it got delivered to the wrong distribution center. Dude, that's not rescheduled, that's late.
Lest the worry distract you, don't be alarmed, my comforter did arrive. Granted, it was one whole business day late, which is tragic, but I survived.
It's just funny that they used rescheduled instead of delayed or late. Does this somehow reassure people? Are there honestly people who, irate over their lost packages, are assuaged by UPS's use of a euphemism? It's possible, I suppose, but seems a bit unlikely.



Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fun with fundamentals - the Sanskrit connection

All right, so we all know that English's ancestors include Latin, Greek, German, Norse, and so on. We talked a while back about how all the languages smooshed together to make the English language, in part, because England was so much fun to conquer. But where did our ancestors' words come from? 
Well as it turns out, B.F.ing India.
Dude, a couple hundred years ago, linguists started noticing a lot of similarities between most of the languages in Europe, the Middle East, and India. And then they noticed a lot of similarities between those languages' parent languages: Persian, Latin, Greek, Celtic, and freaking Sanskrit. Sanskrit, dude.
So these old parent languages, we'll call 'em the Titans, they all share a parent, or parents, or grandparents. We call it Indo-European, and we don't have a single printed word of it. We can guess a little what it looks like based on some words that the Titans have in common - the words for sheep and dog and willow and stuff. Which in turn tells us something about the climate - it was temperate, and the animals are Eurasian, so there's that. Dude, people were speaking an early of the version of Indo-European language in the stone age. Woah.
I find this interesting in light of the fact that we're pretty sure humanity was born in Africa. Language, however, the languages we speak, wasn't born there. I'd like to know how inter-related African languages are. I know click languages (Swahili) are confined to a tiny geographical area - if that didn't travel throughout Africa, I wonder if any language did.

But yeah, Sanskrit.

As a side note, Basque, spoken in parts of Spain and France, isn't Indo-European in origin. We've got no idea where it comes from.


Most info here is from Guy P Harrison's Race and Reality. Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue and from my college history of the English Language class in college.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Plug it up

Last week I took the first step in a long journey - my quest to read the entire works of Stephen King in order.*
Folks are pretty divided on the subject of Stephen King - lots of folks think he's trashy and low-brow, and those, in my experience, are folks who haven't read him. Lots of folks who have read him think he's just generally not a great writer, and I can respect that. But to those of us who know him and enjoy reading him he's... special. I know, that's a terrible non-committal word, one King himself would likely chide me for using. What I mean by special, though, is that there are some of us who love him, who hang on his every word, some whose lives have been so deeply affected by King's work that it's hard to imagine there are people out there who honestly don't get this, who aren't into it. Yet on the other hand, there's not a King fan out there who can't say that some of his books aren't.. Fan Fiction awful; and that even some of his best novels have scenes that should never have seen the light of day. That's due largely, of course, to the fact that he's roughly the most prolific author on the planet, some stuff is going to flop. And some stuff is going to make it past the editors based on the fact that he's Stephen freaking King.
There's lots I can write on Stephen King in general, and lots I may already have written and forgotten. Since I've just finished Carrie, though, I'll write about Carrie.
I think I have mentioned before that when King wrote Carrie, he was working in a laundry. The facility in which he worked washed bed linens from the hospital, and he spent many of his days elbow-deep in bloody sheets. So it makes sense that the climactic scene in the book involves great buckets of pigs' blood raining down at a high school dance. 
I have, incidentally, ended up elbow-deep in blood-soaked sheets myself... there was a particularly bloody suicide attempt at the group home where I used to work, and my memories of that night are as vivid as my memories of the morning of 9/11 or the moment I learned my grandmother had died. I wrote about it at the time, but it certainly didn't take the form of a bestselling novel. It sounded a poem written by some high school emo kid.
So the book didn't scare me much at all... that's another funny thing about King. The Stand and Pet Semitary literally had me sleeping with the lights on for weeks (months, in the case of The Stand). 'Salem's Lot and It barely phased me. I'm not sure if that's the sort of thing that varies based on the reader. Any other King fans want to weigh in on this?
One of the things that stood out most to me, though, was King's use of the spoiler. One of the things that I absolutely love about King is that he'll tip his hand, show you every card he's got, yet this does nothing at all to spoil the tension or ease suspense. He'll end a chapter with something like "Little did he know he'd be dead before dawn." Three chapters later, at three minutes to dawn, you find yourself dreading to keep reading, hoping perhaps that King had forgotten his plans to kill the character, or that in this case "dead" was a metaphor or something; it turns fear into a sort of dread, I suppose. Adds hopelessness. 
What surprised me most about Carrie is the degree to which he employed that device even in his very first novels. I always thought of this as a feat carried about by the skilled hand of a seasoned writer - a trick of nuance and guile honed over many years. Yet Carrie is peppered with clippings from fictitious newspapers and such describing exactly what happens in the novel's final scenes - describing who dies and doesn't die and who gets caught, gets away, and yet you're still holding your breath the whole time. I suppose it's not all that new a trick. Epic poets had to contend with this, and early dramatists. Anyone who has ever done a historical adaptation has done this, and everyone who has ever retold a fairy tale. Yet I don't know of anyone who has, for me, done so with quite the cunning King does. 
It's also odd that King found his voice so early on. Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano, his first novel, is absolutely fantastic, but not at all like any of his later work. You'd have a hard time believing it was the same author. Toni Morrison's first, The Bluest Eye, is gorgeous and heart-breaking - a work that illustrates and elucidates a corner of existence that you somehow never looked at... yet Beloved does all that and more in a manor so much more effectively, so much more easily. You read The Bluest Eye, but you experience Beloved.
Ew. That sounds so affected. Sorry ya'll. Next stop, The Shining


* Some exclusions apply. I do not, for instance, intend to track down short stories that aren't in anthologies or out of print things, and I reserve the right to skip any book that might make me need therapy down the road. For instance, I see no need to dredge up my lifelong fear of corpses just to read Gerald's Game, since I've heard that the entire book takes place in a room where a woman is handcuffed to a bed alongside a corpse. No good can come of that.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Me first

Tomorrow, July 26th, my awesome dad will be at Mall A on Cleveland's Public Square to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Dad's been working for the rights of people with disabilities for the better part of that 20 years, and I can't tell you how proud I am to call that man Dad. 
Though people at the time groused about the cost, the scope, but I believe, as Shirley Davis has said, "People with disabilities represent a critical talent pool that is underserved and underutilized." 
I've been meaning to talk about people-first language for a bit, and now seems a good time. If you were at church a couple weeks ago, you've heard this spiel, but you'll survive :).
So, this confession is less pleasant every time I give it. But I feel like I have to give it, be a voice for people who are dismally under-heard. Also, I have a martyr complex.
As many of ya'll know, I have bipolar disorder. I still cringe a little inside whenever I say those words. Even though I've been "out of the closet" as a person with a mental illness for many years now, sharing this detail of my life still feels like taking all my clothes off in a roomful of strangers.



I am not bipolar. I'm Brigid. I'm a sister and a wife and a writer and I'm adorable. I'm a person. Does anyone here have arthritis? When you developed arthritis, did you turn into arthritis? To those of you who have loved ones with cancer, would you ever say "Oh, my grandma is cancer." The so-called "politically correct" label for folks like me is "person with a mental illness." That's kind of inconvenient to say. It feels clumsy in your mouth, you have to plan ahead to construct a sentence around it, it just takes longer to say. But maybe that's a good thing. Maybe, for people with mental illness, or people with disabilities in general, it does us good to have to slow down and think about the person before we apply a label. You know how Ghandi said:

Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,

That's why people first language matters. Not because it's popular or polite, but because the more we say "PERSON with a disability," the more we treat people with disabilities like they're fully people.

Amanda Baggs, a woman with autism who is an advocate for the rights of people with developmental disabilities, says that most people see folks with disabilities as "unpersons." She says that "being an unperson means being expendable and interchangable with all the other unpersons of the world." Using people-first language, however clunky, may be the first step in our being better able to see people with disabilities as people, instead of as disabilities.  


Friday, July 23, 2010

Blaming the victim

I've been trying to put words to my hatred of the phrase obesity epidemic, and why I rankle at the crusade against childhood obesity.
I mean, there's the fact that only a tiny fraction of the health problems attributed to obesity are actually causal as opposed to correlative (so that's what the last post was about)Obesity itself - in a vacuum, say - has been shown to cause muscle, joint, back problems. In addition, there's some evidence that women with belly fat are more prone to a couple of types of cancer, or something. However, the issues with blood pressure, cholesterol, stroke, and all that business relate not to obesity itself, but to the diet that usually accompanies obesity.
And that's what bothers me about the phrase obesity epidemic. It's kind of blaming the victim in a way. Now I realize that many of us, myself absolutely included, aren't exactly a victim of snacks. Really, snacks are a victim of me. But what I mean is that obesity isn't the cause of whatever's ailing us - ailing kids - it's a symptom. Of whatever - bad nutrition, food deserts (and food desserts), bad parents, and that burger they're selling at Friendly's that has grilled cheese sandwiches instead of a bun.
When Michelle Obama talks about the obesity epidemic, or childhood obesity, what she's referring to is one of the results of the bad stuff listed above. But what we're hearing is that the problem is fat kids. In fact, however, a skinny kid who eats nothing but Friendly's grease sandwiches and plays Grand Theft Auto all day is almost just as unhealthy as a fat kid who eats nothing but Friendly's grease sandwiches and plays Grand Theft Auto all day. Why don't we call it a lazy skinny kid epidemic?
I guess what I'm saying is that being obese is hard on a bunch of levels. To see the world pointing fingers at you and calling you an epidemic is kind of insult to injury. Especially when it isn't accurate.
I do have to announce, however, that as of today my BMI has gone from "Obese" to "Overweight." Huzzah! Remind me to tell you what an enormous crock BMI is someday soon.

The Loki, however, is still a fat bastard.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lack of pirates leads to global warming (details at 11)

I figure I've probably brought up correlation and causation before, and I will again - so I should define 'em, I suppose. If you already know this, sorry.
The Random House dictionary tells me a correlation is "a mutual relation of two or more things, parts, etc." In statistics, it's "the degree to which two or more attributes or measurements on the same group of elements show tendency to vary together." Comes from... well, comes from co and relate. I love science words. 
You'd think correlation would be a cousin of the word corollary, that thing in geometry that Sr. Mary Bitchmeyer made you prove even though some dead dude already proved it. Not so much, oddly enough. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, corollary comes from the Latin corollarium for tip or gratuity, which supposedly comes from corolla, another way of saying corona, or crown. This seems absolutely absurd to me, so I'm going to say that correlation and corollary are cousins and the business with the crown is just something the Internets made up to make me look foolish.
But I digress, as usual.
OK, so correlation is different from causation, and this is where I was going when I got sidetracked by crowns. Causation, I don't need Random House to tell me, is the act of making something happen. Which would be a silly word to use at a party, but an important one in statistics.
Because, you see, just as the Internets are conspiring to trick me into believing crazy lies about word origins, the TV news and Readers Digest are conspiring to trick you into thinking correlation and causation are the same thing.
For instance, if Fox News were to claim that asking too many questions causes war, and then explains that the TV show Mythbusters premiered in 2003, just weeks before the Gulf War began, you'd... well, you'd be watching Fox News, and that's your first problem. That's post hoc ergo propter hoc logic, which is only one flavor of this sort of fallacy, but my typing fingers are tired, we'll get there later.
You know how they say cutting paper with fabric scissors will make the fabric scissors dull? My friend James insists that that's correlation, not causation as well. He claims that people who use fabric scissors to cut paper are more likely to, say, also use fabric scissors to cut wire. It makes some sense, but I'd like to see him try and test that on my Ginghers. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Win Win

You know how they say that it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game? I always just thought that was something losers say; I never thought people actually meant that.
Until I played Critter in the Candy with my friends' 4 year-old. Critter in the Candy's kind of a memory game with a twist. You have to make matches, but if you pick up the game piece with the critter on it, you lose points.
First of all, the kid is 4 and he takes turn better than my husband. And unlike my husband, he doesn't cheat. But even better, the kid tries to win, but doesn't get upset if he doesn't. And whenever he picks up the critter, he laughs so hard it hurts your ears.
What if we all started making trite sayings come true? 
What if love really was blind? Would Angelina Jolie be raising barn-loads of children with Steve Buscemi? And if you really can do anything you set your mind to, I'm gonna set my mind to Johny Depp. If life were just a bowl of cherries, we'd need a whole lot of Tide pens.

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's true, I cannot be flapped*

You know what's weird about the word uncomfortable? Literally, it means that you're in a state of discomfort so bad that you cannot be comforted. But of course, an uncomfortable person can be comforted, sometimes very easily. If you're uncomfortable in bed, you can fluff a pillow. If your headache is making you uncomfortable, you can take some Advil. If your neighbor's racist jokes make you uncomfortable, you can deck him.
That means that if you're comfortable, literally speaking, you could be comforted. But comfortable, the way we use it, means you're already comforted.
Also, incontrovertible facts is redundant. If something's a fact it cannot, by definition, be controverted. An assertion can be controverted, a theory extrapolated from facts can be controverted, even a conclusion can be controverted, but a fact is a fact is a fact. 
Also, unflappable is an odd word, as the title of this blog demonstrates. Flappable is almost never used. Plus flap, in slang, probably refers to the thing a bird does when it gets all flustered - you can't flap a bird, the bird is the flapper. Likewise, you can't flap a person who's flappable, they have to flap themselves. 
Go flap yourselves.


* Quote from Scrubs

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I have been notoriously abused

So it's date night, and naturally my husband and I are at Borders. While selecting another book off the shelf in the writing and language shelves, I found a hardcover book called Why do We Say It?, a book of word and phrase origins that was only 7 bucks. I guess I was glamored by the bright-ass yellow dust jacket, or maybe the promise of blogging made easier, but I abandoned all sense and good judgement and threw it on the pile.
You'd think this would go without saying, but it's always a good idea, before buying a book, to check the author. Ideally, books should have an author or authors. If a book is a non-fiction book, it is sometimes helpful if the book sites sources. These are just a couple of tips from the Word Nerd to you.
You can't blame them too much for getting the origin of "OK" wrong, as the myth's a lot more interesting than the truth. The truth is that back in the 1830s, people made up slang abbreviations based on misspelled words for some freaking reason, and OK was short for "Oll Korrect." The myth is that the expression was an abbreviation for "Old Kinderhook," a nickname for Marten Van Buren. It's true that Van Buren took advantage of the coincidence in one of his campaigns, but "OK" predates that campaign.
What I cannot forgive the book for, however, is their origin for "tip." The book says, and a lot of folks say, that "tips" is an acronym for "to ensure prompt service." Well, first of all, the singular of tips is tip. Were it an acronym, the singular would be tips. Secondly, the word is ensure. Insure, though often used incorrectly, refers to insurance, as in "Please ensure that your car is insured." The actual origin of the term as it relates to a gratuity is murky, but there's no evidence at all that it started as an acronym, especially since acronyms are largely a 20th century thing.
At any rate, Why do We Say It? is, much to my dismay, like a box of chocolates, an unknown number of which have been poisoned. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Deaf as a banana

Ever wonder why people are always dead as a doornail, deaf as a post, or dumb as a rock, but never dead as a post, dumb as a doornail, or deaf as a rock? Phrase origin dictionaries always describe the obscure ancient works of literature in which these expressions first appeared, as if this explains why we're still using them. Why, World Wide Words explains, dead as a doornail comes from The Vision of Piers Plowman written in the 1400s, of course. 
Yes, but I've never heard of The Vision of Piers Plowman. Did I miss out on some cultural phenomenon? I mean, there was this show on Nickelodeon that coined the phrase sucks hose water, which I think is way better, but nobody's still saying that. Do they even still make special nails for doors anymore? My door's made out of some kind of metal, and it's got screws, but no nails. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A case for Miss Marple

I heard this Radiolab podcast a couple of weeks ago. It seems some scientists in Canada have fed the complete works of Agatha Christie into a computer and discovered that in the later years of Christie's life, her work changed fairly significantly. 
Apparently, folks say that Christie's work jumped the shark somewhere in her later years. Later books were mooshy, muddled, and confusing, and not in an intentional way.  This has been known to happen. I'm fairly certain that Kurt Vonnegut's last book was made up entirely from excerpts of his other books (not that I don't love the man). The nice researchers from Canada, however, think that something fishier was afoot.
They discovered that as Christie grew older, her vocabulary shrunk. A lot. Her nouns get squishy - she's using vague or indefinite nouns like "thing." She starts repeating phrases more often. The overall number of words in her vocabulary just keeps dwindling. Anything. Something. That thing.
The Canadians think the mystery of the missing words could have been the onset of dementia. I've read a few articles on the subject now, and there's not a lot of other evidence of such a decline, but there's not evidence there wasn't a decline either. Her last book, perhaps ironically, was called Elephants Can't Remember.
The folks from Canada make pretty convincing arguments. They even ran her numbers against the numbers of writers who are known not to have developed dementia. The vocabulary isn't different from her earlier work, only smaller than, so it's unlikely a ghost writer was involved.
That's what really hit me, actually. Doesn't everybody's vocabulary shrink? My mom's made an art of inventing words in place of words she can't remember - ramistan, freidendorf, hoopdeecak, and others. Sorry, not sure how she'd spell those. She's been doing it all my life, and she seems to have as many of her faculties as I do. My mother-in-law has sound-effects - the self checkout, for instance, is the boop boop. I get paid to find the right word, and right now I end far more sentences with "uh.... lost my train of thought..." or "you know, the thing with the thing" than anyone I've met.
Maybe Christie was just phoning it in. She was like "I'm old. They'll publish whatever I tell them to. I'm Agatha Freaking Christie."
And that's a thing too. I'm pretty sure that Joyce Carol Oates once said that she'd submitted work anonymously, just to see if it'd still get published. It didn't. Tolkien tried to sell The Silmarillion before he got famous, and they told him it was unpublishable - plus I've heard reading it makes you lose your will to live. 
And, you know, Lawnmower Man.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Mistake on the Lake?

All right, so this post would have been a lot more relevant last week, but I was very busy writing a sermon, which is somewhat more important than blog posts, since when you write a blog post that sucks, you don't have to stand in front of a bunch of people to read it.
OK, so King James has left the building. He was a complete dick for the way he did it, but I can't fault him for leaving... I abandoned Cleveland myself some years back. Plus I think the total number of hours I've spent watching the Cavs in my entire life comes to something less than one.
Some Facebook pundits say they can't blame him for leaving a city that sucks as much as Cleveland, some say that Cleveland has lost everything it had going for it. One of my Facebook friends, however, posted something like, "At least we still have the Cleveland Clinic."
And actually, that's nothing to sneeze at. The thing is that empirically speaking, Cleveland's a pretty friggin' awesome city.
Our hospitals rank among the best in the world. Foreign dignitaries and major celebrities alike brave the sleet and the stench of failed sports teams to receive care here. Dude, they performed a friggin' face transplant. A face. Transplant.  Some of the most important research in fields including depression, nephrology, and heart surgery have been made here. And Clevelanders have this place hanging out in our backyard.
The Cleveland Orchestra is world-class, and our art museum's fantastic for a city our size. Lucy, the world's most famous Australopithecus fossil, lives in our Natural History Museum, and folks from said museum have made bunches of other discoveries in collaboration with folks from other places. 
     On a wordish side-note, Australopithecus does not hail from Australia, as you might suspect. "Austro" means "south," and Australopithecus was found in Ethiopia, which is in southern Africa.
We've got the Rock Hall, amazing local theatre, and maybe I'm biased, but watching the sun melt into Lake Erie at the end of the day is as close as you'll come to seeing the face of God on earth.
You can buy a freaking cow's head at the West Side Market, eat corn that was growing on the stalk 12 hours ago, and eat at an Iron Chef's restaurant.
So what if our sports teams can't catch a break? We excel in ways that actually matter.
So why are Clevelanders so quick to bash their fair city? Well, lotsa reasons. Back in the day, Cleveland was like the smelly kid in your grade school class. Its river was on fire, its businesses were toppling, and the lake was a cesspool. So we mocked ourselves before others had the chance, like the class clown who gets by on self-deprecation. Plus, you know, it's freaking freezing and our sports teams suck.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

So remember the post about the bathing suits? I learned the information from a neat podcast called Stuff Mom Never Told You from HowStuffWorks.com. I find the show's title silly in light of the fact that my mother taught me everything I know and love about feminism, but that's beside the point.
The podcast talked about how the bathing suit, though often seen as a symbol of the objectification of women, the skimpifying of the bathing suit actually helped women achieve equality in the water. So the Victorians. Sigh. So the Victorians, naturally, couldn't have ladies out whipping men into lustful frenzies by showing off their ankles at the beach, and so women were supposed to swim in full-length dresses that had weights in the hem to keep the skirt from floating up and inadvertently giving passing starfish a free show. As you can imagine, people died. Modesty kills.
Women who wanted the ability to go in the water without drowning, or even to swim for sport, began to wear clothing that covered less and less, allowing them to be more and more agile in the water.
The hosts of the show then go on, however, to talk about how the bathing suit has become a tool for the objectification of women, siting the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue has an example of the evils of exploitation.
See, that's where you lose me. I don't understand the whole objectification concept. Objectification, as it applies to gender equality, is the act of making a women into an object, or as property, by staring at her body without sufficient regard for her as a person. 
To me, as I noted in the comments for another post, for me to accuse someone of objectification, there would have to be some element of meanness or disrespect - which is to say that I think for someone to be objectified, the object, or someone else by proxy, would need to be harmed. The thing is, well let's look at my Tyra for a moment.
Tyra, as fellow fans of Top Model know, was the first black woman to appear on the cover of the Swimsuit Issue. It could be argued that Tyra put the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue on the map. I'm not sure, however, who was harmed by Tyra's appearance.
Tyra herself is on a first name basis with much of the country. Despite the fact that she's not the brightest bulb in the box, she's created an empire for herself with her talk show and her Top Model franchise, which are primarily viewed by women. Tyra was thin when she appeared on the SI cover, but by no means emaciated - in fact, Tyra got into commercial modeling after she got too "fat" for couture modeling and refused to starve herself. By the way, did you ever notice that the female models in men's magazines are always significantly beefier than the female models in women's magazines? Tyra's Top Model franchise has always featured at least one plus-sized model per season, and Tyra had a very public battle with model Janice Dickinson about Dickinson's anti-fat comments on the show. I'm not saying Tyra is Mother Theresa or anything, but she's very open about food, weight, body image, and the like. She talks openly about how much her modeling photos are airbrushed, her weave, about the unhealthy lengths that some women go to make it in the industry.
So I wonder who, really, was harmed by the fact that teenage boys kept her photos under their mattresses? From what I know of teenage boys, they're going to ogle whoever they can ogle, whether she's on the cover of SI or in the back of the Sears Catalog.
Then again, I don't think anyone can argue that Brittany Spears wasn't harmed by the way she's been made a sex object all her life? People loved to love her when she was young and perfect. People were shamelessly cruel to and about her when she started to melt down, and everyone gasped with disgust when she got "fat," despite the fact that in the real world, she would barely have been considered plump. Now that a thin Brittany is slathered with baby oil and slithering all over our TV screens, people are lauding her big comeback. If the child hadn't been whored out to a drooling public since just after birth, she probably wouldn't have ended up shaving her head and beating down vans with umbrellas.
Also, my mom wouldn't let me play with Barbie dolls when I was a kid because of the negative body image stuff. The ten-year-old inside me is shuddering as I say this, but I'm kind of with mom on this one. Barbie's not evil or anything, but if I were ever to make a baby, I'd want her to play with toys that encouraged skills beyond the ability to pair leg-warmers with mini skirts.
Not sure, then, where I come down on this. I suppose that it boils down to this: girls have boobs. Boys (and some girls) like boobs. Boys are going to look at girls' boobs. This is only a problem when men treat women as nothing but a pair of boobs or when girls are made to believe that everything they have to offer lives inside their bras.
Maybe.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Public Service Announcement

Seeing as I've heard a bunch of people with normally very clean mouths refer to the tea party people as teabaggers, I think you should all know something. Teabagger however apt it might be, is a very impolite word. It refers to a sex act. I'm not going to tell you what it is, but I bet if you use your imagination, you can figure it out.
Also, a message to all you sweet moms and grandmas: blow your wad does not refer to blowing one's wad of cash. Just so you know. 
Interesting fact, however: the expression balls to the wall is not vulgar. Or at least its origins aren't. According to the Maven's Archive, balls to the wall, is military slang, and it refers to the ball at the top of an airplane's throttle. To put the ball to the wall was to push the throttle as far forward as it could go, kind of like the expression floor it, referring to pushing a car's gas pedal all the way to the floor.
Of course, I imagine that the double entendre was not lost on those who coined the expression.


And now you know. And knowing is half the battle. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Care to pet my peeve?

I am not a Buddhist. I am far too fond of violence for that. Nor am I a scholar of Buddhism. But I do know this:
Buddhists do not worship the Buddha. They don't worship the Buddha, because the Buddha is not a deity. Buddhists do not pray to Buddha, and Buddha does not intercede on their behalf. In fact buddha doesn't refer to an individual, the term means "enlightened one." There have been many Buddhas,  but when Buddhists speak of the Buddha, they speak of Siddhartha Gautama, a teacher who lived in India before the time of Christ. He is said to have achieved enlightenment, and spent his life teaching others; his teachings were the foundation for Buddhism.
It's a pet peeve of mine partially because people who should know the difference don't (I've seen a number of movies, some recent, in which Buddhists refer to Buddha as god). Fundamentalists accuse Buddhists of worshiping false idols, which is funny in that Buddhists specifically strive to detach from worldly things; they even have a koan that goes "If you meet the Buddha, kill him." That's an allegory, of course; a Buddhist once explained to me that the saying means that you should be detached from what you think enlightenment should be, that you should never see someone else's spiritual path as your own, or something like that. As I understand it, Buddhism strives to end attachments to the things of this life - thus is less prone to idolatry than most other faiths. On paper anyway.
Also, the statue of a Buddha who is all fat and jolly is not the Buddha. He's a monk from I think the 10th century who gave children candy and stands for prosperity. 
Right then. Carry on.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Defence of Fort M'Henry

Seeing as it's The Fourth and all, I feel like I should write something American. The etymology of apple pie, perhaps. Well, here goes.
Have you ever noticed that our national anthem isn't so easy to sing? People love to bemoan the fact that Kids These Days don't know the words to the anthem, and maybe that's fair. But even if you knew the words, the tune itself requires a vocal range that a pretty beefy number of us don't have. Actually, it's kind of entertaining to search YouTube to find which pop stars can hit the high note and which have to cheat it, like Kelly Clarkson does (admirably) here.
You know what I find weird though? Francis Scott Key doesn't write the poem that would become The Star Spangled Banner until the war of 1812. The poem, which was originally titled Defence of Fort M'Henry (whether defence is a misspelling or an arcane spelling I do not know), wasn't great shakes, and certainly not very musical. The tune doesn't help matters. Isn't it a bit odd that, between the Revolution and 1812, nobody came up with something a little bit catchier? Know what else is weird? The Star Spangled Banner doesn't even become the official national anthem until the 1930s. Which means that between 1812 and the 1930s, nobody said "Hey, this song is really bad, let's write a better one." Although that's probably not as easy as it sounds... my friends and I agreed, the first time we heard our high school alma mater, to write a new one that didn't, you know, suck; so far nothing. We wrote songs about Bob Newhart, Linda McCartney, and a fantastic ditty called I was Mutilated to the tune of I Wanna be Sedated, but you can't just force a thing like an alma mater. It has to just happen in its own time. But I digress, as usual. 
It also seems to me that an anthem would usually be one of the first thing the country comes up with. I mean, flag, check; constitution, check; anthem.... meh, let's give it a couple of decades. It's like waiting until your kid is 40 before you name her.
Or perhaps anthems - particularly the idea that every country should have an official one - are a new idea.
Yeah, I realize this entry isn't great either. Turns out that writing holiday-appropriate blogs, like national anthems and alma maters, is hard to do on command.


Info here mostly from Bill Bryson.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Now 49% Bloggier!

Today, Scotland (the guy, not the country) gave me the gift of fake butter. And actually, it wasn't even fake butter, it was the little tab that comes from the single-serving butter tubs that come with your toast at IHOP. I've gotten many strange gifts in my life. A boyfriend once gave me flowers he'd stolen off a grave. My mom has been known to wrap boxes of Kleenex and leave them under the Christmas tree for me. But used butter packaging was one I hadn't seen before.
Then he told me it would make for a good blog post. A butter blog? I wondered? I mean, I suppose butter comes from the Old English butere, which comes from-- Oh right. He wasn't suggesting I blog about butter (although all this talk of butter has me craving some movie popcorn), he was suggesting I blog about the fine print: "52% Whipped Spread."
52% whipped spread. 52% of what? Is it 52% whipped? Compared to having been whipped all the way? I mean, "whipped spread" isn't non-committal enough, that half of this stuff doesn't even qualify as spread? What does it qualify as?
Coming up with weasel words to describe semi-foods must keep a lot of writers in work. Velveeta isn't cheese, it's cheese food. 'Nilla Wafers contain no 'nilla. Your Coco Puffs are Bursting with Chocolatey goodness. What do you suppose they make chocolatey with? The only thing that tastes like chocolate is chocolate. They say carob does as well, but anyone whose mother has ever tried to tried to trick them with that little switcharoo knows that's a lie. I've got no idea what's in Cool-Whip, but you can bet it's not even in the same phylum as anything like whipped cream. 
And don't get me started on the crap they do to trick us poor dieters. Are you aware that multi-grain isn't the same thing as whole grain? And if 100% juice has added sugar, how is it 100% juice? Sugar isn't juice, as far as I know. And now that Weight Watchers gives bonus points for getting extra fiber, I've been noticing packages that say things like "3 Grams of Whole Grain!" Which isn't the same as three grams of fiber. Sneaky sneaky. 
Scotland mentioned the fact that 7-Up used to bill itself as "all natural," but was sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, which is anything but natural. He's wrong, of course. All matter that exists is made entirely of components that occurred in nature, or components whose ancestors occurred in nature. Can you really say that something comprised totally of natural things isn't natural? Silly Scotsmen. 
And what the hell is fat-free Half & Half? Half & Half is, I assume, half milk and half cream. Is fat-free Half & Half made from half milk and half milk? Perhaps it's half non-dairy creamer and half library paste. It most certainly isn't even close to half as tasty as the real deal.
I think, instead of tricking people by calling things what they're not, they should start tricking people by calling things what they are. We should start a company that buys up all the unwanted internal organs of animals and turns them into organic hot dogs. Or you could start a company and name it Lofat, and then sell Lofat bacon and Lofat lard. Right? Oh, and you know MGD 64? You could create a brand of beer called Beer 25.
What am I wasting time with this crazy blog for then? I've got people to rip off.

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