Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks

It would seem that there is a line at the beginning of Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury which goes, "be firm, be firm, my pecker." In England, it would further seem, pecker means something rather different than what it does here. It means courage. I'd very much like to know how that happened. I don't know about you, but I have a tendency to laugh unwillingly at even the slightest innuendo; I imagine that if I were to have seen Trial by Jury without foreknowledge, I likely would have been escorted out of the theater for being disruptive. 
On the other hand, there's the perfectly innocent word fanny, which over here is how moms and Kindergarten teachers say butt. In England, however, it's rather a lewd term for the body part opposite the fanny on a woman.
Fit in England can be a slang term for good looking, where in the US, phat can mean the same. Here, pissed is a synonym for angry, whereas in England it means drunk. Here, crack is something you smoke, where there it's something you have at a party - fun.
I think in most parts of the US, people know the word oy as half the Yiddish expression oy vey, meaning woe is me. There is, I just learned, a movie called Oy Vey! My Son is Gay, which is maybe the best movie title I've heard in years. In countries from the British Isles to Singapore of all places, Oi is an exclamation meant to get someone's attention, like hey. Wikipedia says that the term, which is most commonly associated with the Cockney dialect, may have come from ancient Romans, but I suspect it's just one of those sound effects that every language just sort of has, like oh and ow. Oi is also the mating call of punk rockers the world over, likely due to the English working class influence on early punk. 
Punk, by the way, started out meaning prostitute, came to mean hoodlum, and probably came to be associated with the genre because it's an insult people often threw at the people founding the movement. I've heard people use the word punk to refer to a state of feeling in ill health "I'm feeling punk today," which appears to be etymologically related to the Native American word ponk, meaning dust or ashes, making it not etymologically related to the music genre. I just noticed that a whole lot of words that describe bad things end in unk. Funk, flunk, bunk (as in bull)...
Knocked up in England can mean woke up, but here it's semi-impolite slang for pregnant, generally of the unplanned or unwed variety.
Ready for a fun one? In England, nark can refer to a spy or informant which goes all the hell the way back to Sanskrit, for nose. It is etymologically unrelated to narc, short for narcotics officer. Did your head just explode? Mine just exploded. I've always spelled it narc, and always thought that it came from narcotics officer. I wonder how many other synonymous homophones there are. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cats in canoes

One of the cool things about Catholic school, back in my day, is we didn't have to take as many standardized tests, which meant our teachers didn't have to teach to the tests, which means we actually got to learn some.
Until Senior year, then we start taking AP tests, and then we start blowing time in class learning to take these tests. Or maybe I'm just bitter because I didn't do well on them. Anyway, one day we read this poem, and it's about a sailor. The teacher asks what it's about, and my astute friend Susan points this fact out. Our teacher (who was a totally sweet lady, actually) gives Susan the most pitying look and shakes her head. Apparently it was about Jesus. Or sex. Or both. I wish I remembered what the poem was. I bet it was about a sailor.
I'm back to the book Word Myths that I mentioned here. There's a chapter called Canoe, in which the author talks about all of the words and phrases that supposedly come from nautical stuff but don't. The phenomenon (seriously, I can spell apartheid right on the first try, but not phenomenon EVER) is so common that there's an acronym for it: CANOE - Conspiracy to Attribute Nautical Origins to Everything
One example is let the cat out of the bag. Apparently, folks think that the origin refers to the cat o' nine tails, and how if you were a naughty sailor and got caught, the captain would whip out the cat from the bag he kept it in. Not sure why you need the bag for a whip, it seems like the sort of thing you should just be able to hang on the wall. Anyway, the phrase doesn't come from there. I guess it used to be a thing to sell somebody a pig, then swap the pig for a cat all sneaky like, and people wouldn't notice until they got home and let the cat out. Which is why you should never buy a pig in a poke.
This seems equally unlikely, to anyone who has ever had a cat, or tried to stick one in a bag. I'd experiment with this by sticking my cat in a bag to see if it behaved the way a suckling pig might, but I value my eyeballs too much. Honestly, I would have thought the phrase came about for just that reason. You can hide a cat in a bag as long as you want, but as soon as you let that sumbitch out, all hell's gonna break loose.

Feral kitty at Wildwood State Park, and your squee for the day

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ooooh Doggy!

The show Firefly is set in the 26th century, about a crew renegade space pioneers. Think wild west meets Star Trek meets awesome. The crew of the ship all speak like cowboys, saying things like, "Y'all see the man hanging out of the spaceship with the really big gun? I'm not saying you weren't easy to find. [But] It was kinda out of our way, and he didn't want to come in the first place. Man's lookin' to kill some folk." 
Han Solo is similar. He's the character who says yeah when others say yes; who uses contractions when others don't. His language is loose and common where others' are exotic or technical.
In the London cast recording of Les Miserables, all of the poor trash characters sing with cockney accents; substituting f sounds for th sounds, dropping the ends off of words.
Tolkien, I may have mentioned before, makes all of the hobbits use words of Anglo-Saxon origins, Tolkien did it to make them seem earthier, commoner. The elves often use words with roots in the Romance languages. 
In none of the examples above would the characters actually be speaking English, or anything we know as English at any rate. It's neat how our brains can skip the obvious fact that ain't won't carry nearly the same baggage hundreds of years from now. There aren't any French folks out there speaking French with cockney accents. But our brains never think to make those connections, and so the vocabulary choices work; we don't even know it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

In which I'm a ninny

I'm a pretty poorly-read English major. I realized this was a serious problem when I watched Becoming Jane, thinking that the movie's title character, Jane Austen, had written Jane Eyre. I really shouldn't be admitting this. Although, to be fair, I'm sure that whatever I was doing my senior year of high school when I was supposed to have been reading for Brit Lit, it was a lot more interesting than Brit Lit. I should also point out that I have read Jane Eyre fairly recently and did, in fact, know that a Bronte wrote it, it just slipped my mind for 90 minutes or so. 
At any rate, to atone for my being dumb, I'm now reading Pride and Prejudice. The non-zombied version, no less. It turns out it's actually kind of good. And possibly more interesting than whatever I was doing my senior year while not doing homework.
So the book is about middle-class land-owning gentry, folks at the beginning of the 19th century who sat around and did nothing all day. They had all these insane rules of manners and conduct, which I can only assume came about from the fact that they had no jobs and thus nothing better to do than sit around making up arbitrary rules. There's a scene in Becoming Jane in which Jane, played by Anne Hathaway, is having a bitter argument with her love interest and keeps trying to storm off in a huff, but must curtsy and say "Good day," each time she attempts to do so. 
What I'm loving most of all is the way characters still manage to be rude with each other, even within the strict bounds of the rules. In one scene, the main character, Elizabeth, has just gotten a marriage proposal from a wormy fellow name of Mr. Collins. Elizabeth replies: "Accept my thanks for the compliment you are paying me, I am very sensible of the honour of your proposals, but it is impossible for me to do otherwise than decline them."
Collins assures her that it is quite common for women to reject marriage proposals when they actually do want to get married, and he will marry her, she needn't worry. She replies: "I do assure you that I am not one of those young ladies (if such young ladies there are) who are so daring as to risk their happiness on the chance of being asked a second time." The rules of the way they were to speak makes it impossible to state a desire straight-on. There's all this flirting with meaning that causes, in this case, a willful misunderstanding on Mr. Collins's part.
It seems, in the book, that the more compliments one heaps upon another, the more earnestly the one is trying to tell the other to go to hell. 

As to the movie, I always find biopics like this one interesting - ones that show an author whose life just happens to have all these parallels to their most famous works - as though the authors weren't clever enough to make things up. In the case of Austen, her life didn't match her work, but sort of foiled it, you might say. Although Pride and Prejudice, and her other books from what I hear, is centered around women finding husbands for themselves, and daughters, and so on, Austen never married. She fell in love with a man named Tom Lefroy, but the man's family disapproved of the match and kept them apart. Lefroy married another, but named his eldest daughter Jane, a fact that makes me a little misty every time I think about it. 
The movie at least strongly indicates that Jane not only never married, but given the strict rules of society then, probably never had anything like what we'd consider a romantic relationship. After she meets Lefroy, she writes to a friend, "Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together." I mean, if sitting down together is shocking...

Just another reason I'm glad I was born in the 20th century. That, and hygiene, dental care, psych meds, the right to vote... 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's Day!

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

~An Irish Blessing

This guy's got fun St. Patrick's Day facts, since I don't have any of my own to share.

If you can listen to this without crying, you're not Irish:

If you can watch this without laughing, you're not breathing:


So Glenn Beck. Talking about this guy literally makes me nauseated. It's not his politics I have a problem with; I actually agree with this man on a disconcerting number of issues. It's that he's hateful, and he tries to drag his followers down into his ideology of hate. It's that he uses his fame and charisma to force vitriol down the throats of his flock. But it's especially the way disrespects Christianity by trying to twist Christ's teachings to serve his beliefs. He says: 

"Look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it [sic]*, run as fast as you can."

He says:
"We must make clear the definition and delineation between Gospel principals and social justice."

Beck defines social justice as "forced redistribution of wealth with a hostility towards individual property under the guise of charity and/or justice." What's funny about the statement is that, take out the word "forced," and you've got what Christ was all about. Christ echoes these words from Matthew time and time and time again:
"If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Amen**, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is easer for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
Jesus, my friends, explicitly, explicitly states that "individual property" stands between people and their salvation and explicitly states that the people who follow him should give up everything - should, in a literal sense, redistribute their wealth, if they want to follow him.
Ya'll, I'm not saying we should force people to give up their wealth. I'm not even saying you have to agree with Christ about giving up everything you own. I certainly haven't. I like owning stuff. Sorry poor people, I'm keeping my X-Box. 
What I am saying is that Christ is about nothing if not social justice. Christ is about nothing if not about sacrificing the wants of the wealthy for the needs of the poor. Christ is about nothing if not giving up every last thing we have to make the world better, to end suffering, and to bring about justice. 
Find me a passage in the New Testament that says that social justice is evil. Find me a passage in the New Testament that says that rich people should keep all of their money and the poor should suck it up. Hell, find me a passage in the New Testament that shows Jesus being pro-business, anti-socialist, or opposed to sacrificing to help others. 
If you try to build your argument against social justice on the Bible, you've got one seriously flimsy foundation.
I like what my friend Lucius once said about faith, which was something to the effect of: "Anyone who tells you it's your Christian duty to do anything other than love God above all others and love your neighbor as yourself is full of it."   

* Yes, I realize that this is the sort of smug grammar-Nazism I profess to dislike, but this guy really tweaks me off, therefore, I'm calling him on the fact that "economic justice" and "social justice" are words, not word, and therefore require a plural pronoun. Yes, I went there.
**Nifty fact: Amen doesn't just mean yes. One of the reasons that Jesus was considered so radical, and so blasphemous to those who hated him, is that amen actually means something like "God says this and this is so."
Also, when Jesus calls God Abba, most translate the word as father. It actually means papa or daddy. Imagine if we were all close enough with the god of our understanding to call him or her mommy or daddy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I am not a roof!

Quick update because as it freaking turns out, I've got shingles and it kind of freaking hurts to type. Having shingles, however, caused me to wonder why in the hell it's called shingles. I mean, it looks nothing like shingles, so I'm guessing that's not it.
Turns out, according to the good old online etymology dictionary, comes from Latin cingulus, for girdle, because it goes around your body like a girdle. Amusingly, cingulus comes from the Greek zoster, also meaning girdle. That's funny to me because the name of the disease is herpes zoster
I know it's not the bad kind of herpes, but I still feel dirty having a disease with herpes in the name. Which comes, by the way, from the Greek herpein, meaning creeping.
For the record, my shingles look even less like a girdle than they do like a roof.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I've been reading a lot of mysteries and thrillers lately, trying to discover how other authors go about frightening their audiences. 
I've been discovering just how often books include the whole "dead/mutilated animal on your porch" routine. If you're reading a mystery and there's a cat, there's at least a 50% chance that critter's going to be dead and mutilated on somebody's porch by the end of the book. 
Unless it's that series about the cat who solves mysteries. In that case, does the cat find people dead and mutilated on her porch? And, I mean, cats kill and mutilate other critters all the time and leave them on the porches of their loved ones as gifts. So maybe, instead of scaring the mystery solving cat, you'd actually just be paying her a compliment. 
I think the last time, maybe the only time I ever found the dead or mutilated animal bit frightening (as opposed to just gross) was The Godfather when they stuck the horse's head in Woltz's bed. Because dude, that just ain't right. 
Anyway, I was thinking how dead animals aren't remotely an effective way to frighten readers, unless the reader happens to have never seen The Godfather or read a murder mystery before. I've had dead animals in my porch. Not scary. Most if not all found their way in by accident, I would hope. I haven't been pissing off any wise guys or trying to solve any murder mysteries, and I can't imagine why else someone would be intentionally sticking dead toads in my porch. 
So over the years, I've had to clean up quite a number of toads, a bird or two, and a small rodent who have managed to die on my premises. It's a little gross, but not particularly, you know, scary. Not after you clean up the first one anyway.
You know what is scary? Finding live animals in your porch. Like muskrats. So last week, Jeremy notes there's a muskrat down in our porch. I was just finishing making dinner, so we decide we'll worry about it after we eat. While we're eating though, we start hearing rattling at the screen door - the thing is trying to break into the apartment. It was very horror movie-esque, aside from the fact that he was tiny. It's just a little unnerving to have woodland animals trying to tear down your door. Especially when you go outside and he has eaten half of the screen. Everyone knows that once the screen gets eaten, it's just a matter of time.
Anyway, Jeremy and I put on everything leather in the house, so as to not get bit, and go out there armed with a cat litter bucket and a shovel. The idea is, I'll corner him, shove the box in front of him, and Jeremy will nudge him into the bucket with the shovel. But damn that bastard was stubborn, and Jeremy and I jumped up and screamed like little girls any time the thing made a sudden move. I mean, have you ever seen a muskrat? The thing's got big front claws, webbed feet, a rat tail, big sharp teeth, glowing red eyes, venom, some tear gas, a sawed-off shotgun... *it's pretty damn scary.
Then we finally get the thing into the bucket and close the lid, and now there's the problem of getting rid of it. Neither of us is about to kill the thing, and if you don't take them far enough away, they'll just come back. Problem is, you've got a screaming red-eyed hell beast in a bucket, shrieking for your blood. I mean, you don't exactly want to stick the thing in your car, do you? The whole time we're carrying the littler bucket full of death-rodent over to the swamp on our property, we're just waiting for it to chew through the lid and go right for the jugular. Or the crotch. I was somehow convinced it was going to go right for the crotch. 
What I'm saying, what the point is, and this is some free advice to all you budding mystery writers out there: forget the dead animals. You want to give audiences a real scare, go with a live muskrat. I mean look at this thing. You can see malice and murder in its beady little eyes. He wants to mutilate you and then murder everyone you love while you watch.
*Okay, slight exaggeration. They are freaking weird looking though. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

In the heat of battle

Right now, I've got Sticklers, Sideburns, & Bikinis: The Military Origins of Everyday Words and Phrases by Graeme Donald out from the Wedge library, and here are a few highlights.
We already know about bikinis from this post.
As for sideburns, it seems that during the Civil War, there was a gentleman called General Ambrose Everett Burnside. Who was, apparently, a big fat idiot with sideburns. According to Donald, his greatest military brainchild was that of having his soldiers jump into a giant hole, allowing Confederate soldiers to just kind of hang out and shoot down at them.
At the time this went down, people were already calling the stylish face-scaping Burnsides, but afterward, people took to calling them sideburns because Burnsides did everything backwards. 
Lincoln was reported to have said of the ill-fated Battle of the Crater, as it became known, "Only Burnside could managed such a coup, wring one more spectacular defeat from the jaws of victory."
The quote business sounded like absolute bull to me, so I looked it up, and this site corroborates my suspicion; the phrase doesn't appear until the 1970s. I looked into the sideburns etymology, though, and that seems legit.
Sticklers  comes from the Middle English stightle, which means set in order. The word was applied to umpires in the sport of wrestling and such, and they were known for often being, well, sticklers for the rules. 
I could go on, certainly, do a proper post, but I've got miles to go before I sleep, and certain individuals kept me out late carousing. Carouse, by the way, comes to us from the Middle French word for drink or chug. Which allegedly comes from German gar aus, which means something like quite out. I have no idea what quite out has to do with drinking, but what do I know?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It ain't that deep

In college I knew a girl who majored in communications. She'd been interested in becoming a radio DJ, but decided to give it up because music DJs on the radio these days, she said, don't really do anything but push play. And it's true. I don't think there's a DJ on the air who actually chooses the music they play, certainly not on any of the Clear Chanel stations that have infected Cleveland's airwaves. DJs don't patter* anymore. The don't, like Alan Freed back in the day, coin terms like rock and roll**. They read the script, announce the traffic, and then push play.
And that's what came to mind when I heard an NPR story about the Web site Churnalism, according to the founders of this British Web site, is the practice of taking press releases and churning them into news stories, often with no further research or information. And if you think about it, it's pretty rare, nowadays, to read a story in the newspaper in which a reporter has actually gone out in the field, learned things, asked questions, stirred up trouble, and made enemies. The extent of investigative reporting around here seems to be local news stations telling me that local restaurants are unsanitary (news flash: I've done a lot of food service work, and I gotta tell you, it doesn't matter what restaurant you're at, there are gross things going on in the kitchen). 
Anyway, the folks at, to kick off their site, sent out a press release of their own: are seeing their new limited range of chastity garters (which can detect when the wearer is having sex and alert her partner by text) are proving hugely popular among male buyers, including one well known premiership footballer worried about his wife playing away - while he plays away.

It was supposed to be the most preposterous story they could think of, one which no sane reporter would ever think of running without first checking to see if the thing existed. Except they did. Do a Google search, man. The story was picked up all over the world, with serious news organizations printing this inanity. 
It's weird that a society so cynical is also so credulous.
Of course, you're hearing this from the girl who totally let trick her into thinking Mr. Ed was a zebra

*The term patter comes to us from Pater Noster, the Latin for Our Father, referring to the way someone sounds when mumbling prayers rapidly. On a related note, I try to teach parrots to chant the Our Father in Latin every time I see one in the pet store. True story. So far no luck - the best I've gotten was some conspiratorial whispering, followed by a vicious beak attack. 

**Which, in urban black slang of the day, was a euphemism for sex.

PS: Before I got Puck, I didn't know there was such a thing as belligerent cuddling. Seriously, cat, sometimes mommies need to type.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

On Rosy Outlooks

I heard musician and all around fabulous person Mary Grigolia speak today on the subject of the vernacular expression my bad.
My bad, if you're not aware, is a slang expression meaning oops, my fault, or I'm sorry. Wiktionary links me to an article in which Geoffrey K Pullam tells us that the expression appears to have been coined in about 1988 by Sudanese NBA baller Manute Bol, who would say my bad instead of my fault when he threw a bad pass. This caught on among his teammates and spread throughout the world of pro sports. Pullam says that the world really gained traction when it appeared in the movie Clueless.
Mary Grigolia says that the expression, which she learned from her son, fills her with hope - in our adopting the expression, she says, our generation has come up with a convenient expression that means something that has been for so long so hard for people to admit or express. I'm sorry. I was wrong. I shouldn't have done that.
Of course, some use it flippantly, and some use it to speedily absolve themselves (I said 'my bad'). And one might argue that turning the sentiment into something less formal takes the seriousness and responsibility out of it. Slang haters might complain it means we can't be bothered to even say the words I'm sorry any more. But I like what Grigolia says about the expression, which is that it's like taking responsibility for our actions and admitting when we've made them in error is something our generation just takes for granted. It's not a big deal to admit fault now, we do it more easily, more readily than any generation before. I like that. I hope she's right.
Grigolia says that the opposite of my bad is bring it on. Saying bring it on is like saying "I don't care what you have to say, if you criticize me, I'll kick your ass." Although she didn't put it like that. I think, though, that the opposite of my bad might be another expression popularized by the movie Clueless: whatever. As if to say, "Your concern or grievance is completely inconsequential to me." As if to answer an accusation with total apathy. It's when you're not even willing to fight for your side; the other person's opinion is barely worth acknowledging. 

This picture has nothing to do with anything, but how freaking cool is it? Unfortunately I was really focused on how cold I was and the fact that I really had to pee, so I didn't notice the color contrast thing, or I would have played with it better.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Don't hate the player

The other day, a friend pointed me to this article, a columnist's response to Times' food columnist Mark Bittman referring to McDonald's oatmeal as "another corporate ploy." 
I don't want to wade into the oatmeal myself, but the article put me in mind of something something. When it comes to corporations, we seem to confuse successful with evil.
Take McDonald's. This dude once told me that he was boycotting McDonald's because he watched Super Size Me. Why McDonald's, exactly? If you ate nothing but Wendy's every day for a month, would you be better off? Eating McDonald's three meals a day and then blaming McDonald's that you're sick is kind of like eating a pound of butter every day and then blaming cows for your obesity. I don't hear anybody at McDonald's telling me I'm supposed to eat there every day. 
Arby's has always framed itself as a sort-of anti-McDonald's - their food isn't greasy or fried or unhealthy, right? Dude, a turkey sub from Arby's has more calories than a Big Mac. A Big Mac's got 540 calories and 29 grams of fat. Arby's turkey sub has 560 and 23 grams. But at least with a Big Mac, you know you're eating crap. Nobody eats a Big Mac because they're trying to lose weight. Heck, there are salads on the Wendy's menu that have FORTY SEVEN grams of fat. It's a salad! How do you even get that much fat into a salad? Deep fried lettuce?
And it's not just fast food that's unhealthy. I bet that there's not a single meal on the McDonald's menu that has half as many calories as the smothered fried chicken meal at your local Amish restaurant. Are the Amish evil? (Well, to tell the truth, I've never trusted them myself. Nobody likes baskets that much. Nobody.)

And then there's Starbucks. There are thousands of chains of coffee shops whose business practices are far shadier than Starbucks. They're not saints over at Starbucks (the way they burn their beans is downright unholy), but they're no more evil than most other chains, they're just more successful. I just read some stupid article about how Starbucks is evil because they're making people fat with all their fancy Frappuccinos. You do realize you're not required to drink those, right? And that there are at least, oh, 50 Starbucks drinks that I can think of off the top of my head that have no more calories than skim milk? Like coffee, tea, iced coffee, a skim cappuccino, a skim latte, an Americano, a steamed milk, a latte flavored with one of their vast selection of sugar-free syrups... 
Yeah, Starbucks put your favorite coffee shop out of business back in the 90s. Mine too. That's commerce, baby. Corporations exist to make money; it doesn't make sense to only hate the ones who do it well.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Men behaving like women

So I may or may not have lost a crown in a taffy-related incident, and I may or may not have lied to the dentist and told him that I lost a crown in a sugar-free gum-related incident. He's a good dentist, and totally pretended to believe me.
The point being, I was reading Cosmo, because it was either that or Cheerleading Digest, and reading Cheerleading Digest in the waiting room probably would have seemed a little creepy. Even though Brittany from Glee was on the cover, and she's totally of age.
Okay, so that wasn't the point either. The point is, man I freaking hate Cosmo. What really creeps me out is that I used to not freaking hate Cosmo. Maybe if I could figure out why I ever didn't hate Cosmo, I could figure out why anyone doesn't hate Cosmo. What got me this time was a photo montage of men "behaving like women": some reality dude I never heard of getting a "mannie," Jeremy Piven riding his bike in what the editors deemed an "effeminate" way, and Lenny Kravitz... okay, Lenny Kravitz was carrying a murse, and wearing high-heeled boots and some kind of man dress. But he was totally rocking it.
One of the pictures was of Jude Law buying a pair of shoes. The caption said something like "looks like he needs a new pair... of balls." I'm not remotely kidding.
Can you imagine a men's magazine making nasty comments about a woman's genitals because she was, say, fixing a car? I think most dudes would find that sexy. I love how so many women complain about men's magazines being sexist, when women's magazines print stuff about men that men's magazines would never print about women. Even back in the dark days.
This helps serve my theory that the biggest threats to feminism these days are other women. While magazines like Esquire regularly feature fuller-figured women, magazines like Cosmo plaster their covers and pages with stick insects who are further airbrushed to within inches of their lives.
While men's magazines like Esquire run features like Women we Love, in which they say really, really nice things about women - without picking apart their imperfections, Cosmo runs features bashing women's bodies and saying really objectifying things about dudes. Every issue of Cosmo implores audiences to hate their bodies. Every issue of Esquire I've ever read has found a way to point out that women are so much more than their bodies.
I saw a women's magazine cover in the checkout line, I don't remember which, telling women how to tell if a woman is "an Angelina" - i.e., whether a woman is out to steal your husband, like Angelina Jolie stole Brad Pitt. And the thing is, I'm not really an Angie fan, but the woman spends half her life or more doing humanitarian work and something like half her money funding it. Isn't it just a little weird to define her by the fact that she fooled around with a married dude, what, six years ago? This is actually a really old trick, something feminists have been talking about for ages: keep women down, keep women from acting up together, by teaching us that we're in constant competition, that we're a constant threat to each other, and that we have to tear each other down. Feminists used to blame men for this. I think we're doing a stellar job of it ourselves. Why not blame the guy who cheated? Or better yet, why not move on? Be our own women? Worry less about how to keep our men and worry more about how to keep our own self respect.
Because when you love yourself... blah blah blah.

Maya Angelou says it better than me:

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Also, Cosmo's sex advice sucks. And is creepy.