Monday, February 29, 2016

Traditin* (for Tradition*)

Uh oh, I seem to have lost my gloves! But maybe I can figure something out. Today is Leap Day and according to an old folk tradition, if a woman asks a man to wed on this quadrennial cold winter's day, and he refuses her proposal of marriage, he must then buy her twelve pairs of gloves with which she can hide her left-hand ring finger and spinster-like chagrin. A friend of mine wonders whether this sort of thing might possibly go both ways, bemoaning the fact that he has been walking around with a sad single glove stuffed in his pocket after its partner went missing a couple of weeks ago. But alas, it does not. This so-called "pseudo-holiday" has spawned numerous variants over the years, perhaps the most famous of which was "Sadie Hawkins Day," popularized by Al Capp in his comic strip L'il Abner, which ran in the newspapers from 1934 to 1977. This was the day the local gals of Dogpatch, USA, got to ask an unhitched fella to the dance—and maybe more. Sadie Hawkins Day celebrations quickly spread throughout the land. Over in Ireland, it was believed this tradition may have originated way back in the 5th century when St. Bridget reportedly brokered a deal with St. Patrick that permitted the country's would-be brides to take the reins. This is largely considered apocryphal, though, as such a practice is not really noted again until the 1800s. However, as Eric Felten writes, "A play from the turn of the 17th century, 'The Maydes Metamorphosis,' has it that 'this is leape year/women wear breeches.'" He adds, "A few hundred years later, breeches wouldn't do at all: Women looking to take advantage of their opportunity to pitch woo were expected to wear a scarlet petticoat—fair warning, if you will." Take heed, then, and leap into the breach. We snagged six cases of our typo for the day in OhioLINK, and 176 in WorldCat.

(The Ladies Home Journal, 1948, from Wikimedia Commons.)


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Divsi* (for Divisi*)

The other day, while discussing Donald Trump's obvious appeal to NRA members and firearms aficionados in Nevada, a friend of mine wryly and rhetorically asked: "How can the peasants revolt without arms?" My reply: "I dunno. Gandhian passive resistance?" Another friend then kiddingly referred to me as a "staunch gun nut," which absurd charge I of course promptly denied, wondering aloud, though, why gun nuts are always called "staunch." (Like how feminists are often called "shrill." Although "staunch" is considered better than "shrill," I think.) For the rest of that day I kept hearing the word staunch being used: "staunch Democrats"; "staunch Republicans"; "staunch opponents of Donald Trump." So is "staunch" some sort of cultural meme at the moment? Or is it just a really common word? I see I even used it here myself last time: "staunch anti-Semites." Staunch ... (it's starting to sound kind of strange) means "firm" and "unwavering," which is not necessarily a bad thing. Although in some ways I think I'd rather be soft and wavering, like a passive peasant fan of the Mahatma. I notice that I also included the word polarizing in my Dreyfus Affair post on Tuesday. According to Wesley Morris ("It's in America's DNA to Be Divisive," New York Times Magazine, February 14), the word divisive once meant causing disagreement or able to be debated; now it implies that debate itself would be best avoided. "Trigger words" (interesting phrase!) refers to those that would seem to behave more like sticks and stones, or perhaps even guns and ammo. We are all too easily offended, apparently, but determined to stand our own ground. We got 90 hits on today's typo in OhioLINK, and "too many records found for your search" in WorldCat.

("A staunch magistrate surprised by the apparition of a radical demon." Etching by G. Cruikshank, 1835, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Dreyfuss + Dreyfus (for Dreyfus or Dreyfuss)

Sometimes it seems as though wrongful convictions are better tried in the media than they are in our courts of law. With groups like the Innocence Project, TV programs like Dateline and 48 Hours, and documentaries such as The Thin Blue Line (1988), Paradise Lost (1996), and Making a Murderer (2015), there has been a long history of this relationship between the falsely accused and the advocacy press. Émile Zola was convicted of libel on February 23, 1898, for having penned what's come to be called the "J'accuse" letter, published in the Paris daily L'Aurore, in which he asserted the innocence of Alfred Dreyfus, a French artillery officer and Jewish citizen, who had been charged and found guilty of espionage. Zola, by his own admission and like many of his own countrymen, was no fan of the Jews; nonetheless, he saw that Dreyfus was blameless. He alleged that the military police and government knew who the actual spy was (i.e., Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy) and were perpetrating a frame job and a cover-up. Both Émile Zola (who had also written several other articles on the subject) and Alfred Dreyfus (who had been imprisoned for five years on Devil's Island) were eventually exonerated. The "Dreyfus Affair" was highly polarizing, dividing staunch anti-Semites and the more "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" crowd. Dreyfus continued his career in the army and died in 1935; Zola had passed away decades earlier in 1902, after being asphyxiated in his own apartment. Some think he was murdered by a political enemy who maliciously blocked the entrance to his chimney in retaliation for his support of "Dreyfus the Jew." We found 19 cases of Dreyfuss + Dreyfus (for Dreyfus or Dreyfuss) in OhioLINK today, and 262 in WorldCat. (Note that the actor Richard Dreyfuss spells his name with two S's.)

(Autoportrait d'Émile Zola, 1902, in the public domain.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Maual* (for Manual*)

A constant reader spotted a typo in an online news story about the importance of locking your car. The author wrote: "But in the case that you forget to do so, or if locked car doors don't impede a thief from breaking in the vehicle, remember this: hide the car manual." They added: "Some drivers even take the maual out of the car." "Isn't that," quipped our typo correspondent, "what bears do?" Bears can appear to be either friend or foe, and in some cases they're both. The Basnavi, by Persian poet and mystic Rumi, recounts a rather strange tale: "A kind man, seeing a serpent overcoming a bear, went to the bear's assistance, and delivered him from the serpent. The bear was so sensible of the kindness the man had done him that he followed him about wherever he went, and became his faithful slave, guarding him from everything that might annoy him. One day the man was lying asleep, and the bear, according to his custom, was sitting by him and driving off the flies. The flies became so persistent in their annoyances that the bear lost patience, and seizing the largest stone he could find, dashed it at them in order to crush them utterly; but unfortunately the flies escaped, and the stone lighted upon the sleeper's face and crushed it..." Patience is a virtue, so please bear with me. There were 20 cases of Maual* (for manual*) found in OhioLINK today, and 394 in WorldCat. Oh, and check out this early headshot of Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman) in what's got to be the greatest bear mauling shot ever taken, from last Sunday's New York Times Magazine.

(Illustration from The Basnavi, 1898, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Criag* (for Craig*)

Elizabeth Craig was a Scottish writer born on this day in 1883. She worked as a journalist (in fact, she was one of the founding members of PEN International in 1921), but when the film editor of the Daily Mail proclaimed that she was "the only woman in Fleet Street who could cook," Craig decided to train her focus on home economics. She published close to sixty books over the span of sixty years and was regarded as one of the top British writers of her day on the topic of "cookery." One of eight children, she learned how to cook when she was six years old and (shades of Marie Kondo) started collecting recipes at the tender age of twelve. She began writing cookbooks during the era of rationing and food scarcity, and went on to include a wider diversity of dishes as she traveled the world, and as home refrigeration and access to different kinds of ingredients became more common. With titles like The Stage Favourites' Cook Book (1923), Woman, Wine and a Saucepan (1936), Bubble and Squeak (1936), Cooking in War-Time (1940), Beer and Vittels (1955), Scandinavian Cooking (1958), Cottage Cheese and Yogurt (1960), Cook Continentale (1965), and The Business Woman's Cookbook (1970), to name just a few, her work covers a very wide range. Publications like the one pictured here are probably just as collectible nowadays for their iconic Depression-era design features as they for the actual recipes contained within. Elizabeth Craig lived to the impressive age of 97, clearly making her, in current Library of Congress parlance, one of the "Older people." Another bygone relic in this regard is the LC subject heading Cookery, which served us well for many years, but eventually got replaced with the distinctly less quaint-sounding Cooking. Cataloging was about the only place I ever really used or saw that word, and yet I now seem to rather miss it. It always reminded me a bit of crockery, summoning up impressions of simmering soups and stews. A fine thing to ponder on a cold day like today. So thanks for all the great cookery, Ms. Craig! This typo turns up 18 times in OhioLINK, and 291 times in WorldCat.

(Cover of "Cakes and Candies: How to Make Them" by Elizabeth Craig, 1934, from Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Ormith* (for Ornith*)

I went to a bird talk at a beer hall the other night. Which is kind of cute, in a way, since it was given by one of the area's preeminent ornithologists, Jeremy Kirchman, whose working province is the "Hall of Birds" at the nearby New York State Museum. Since "beer hall" is just another name for "bar," though, it was pretty loud and crowded at City Beer Hall, the exact opposite of a successful bird watch, but if you were quiet and listened intently (as most of us did), you could make out a good deal of what the speaker was saying. He showed some slides and talked about his job, the field-work part of which he clearly enjoyed the most: the hiking, the camping, the capture and banding, and the "delightful" feeling of a bird in the hand. At one point he was asked which bird was his favorite one to catch in a net, and which one was his least favorite. Chickadees, he replied, are the worst. They screech loudly and rear back, batting at you hysterically (rather, one imagines, the way some people might say "girls" fight), plus their legs are easier to break than toothpicks. Thrushes, he added, are the best. The second they hit the net, they go utterly limp, lolling their heads to one side as if to say, "Ya got me!" He told us that chickens and ducks lived alongside of dinosaurs, and that the duck's "quack-quack bill" ("Is that a scientific term?" asked his partner and stooge who was roaming throughout the audience with a mic) had evolved that way so the ducks could scoop water into their mouths with their muscular tongues and then sift through it for food, sort of like a baleen whale does, before spitting it back out. One person asked about the Museum's Sesame Street exhibit: "What kind of bird is Big Bird?" Kirchman said he would definitely place the large flightless creature in the Paleozoic Era, before the massive species die-off known as the "Permian-Triassic Extinction Event." And I can't remember why, exactly, but I think he said that the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher was his all-time favorite bird, though he was also partial to some "rails" he encountered once down in the Tropics. We caught just one sample of today's typo, a seemingly rare breed, in OhioLINK, and 16 of them in WorldCat.

(Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Grands-Jardins National Park, Quebec, Canada, 20 July 2010, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Betwen (for Between)

I have been meaning to blog about Mary Norris for quite some time now. About a year ago, I went to hear her talk about her book Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen—twice in one day, first at the University at Albany, and then later on at the New York State Museum. The book is a memoir of her many years as a copy editor at the New Yorker, mixed with friendly advice about grammar, punctuation, syntax, and style. I was thoroughly charmed by her (one of my favorite chapters concerned her undying love for #1 pencils, in particular the storied Blackwing), but one thing we disagreed about was the "singular they," or the pressing need, in English, for a "gender-neutral singular personal pronoun." Norris is against it for all the usual reasons, but it seems is just mainly gracious enough to let the boys have this one. And the woman is by no means anti-trans. In fact, the chapter addressing that issue is centered around her own reaction to her brother's transformation from "he" to "she." (Reader: she Mary'd him.) An interesting, if faintly inconvenient, fact in all of this is that the first person to promote the restriction of they to the work of a plural pronoun (effectively making it stand in for "he or she") was herself a woman. "If any single person is responsible for this male-centric usage," says the New York Times, "it's Anne Fisher, an 18th-century British schoolmistress and the first woman to write an English grammar book, according to the sociohistorical linguist Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade. Fisher's popular guide, 'A New Grammar' (1745), ran to more than 30 editions, making it one of the most successful grammars of its time. More important, it's believed to be the first to say that the pronoun he should apply to both sexes..." Not everything is a feminist or antifeminist plot; some things are simply common sense. That said, and in the end, though, every writer must do their own thing. And if they can do it as well as Mary Norris can, he should put it however she pleases! (And if you think that was fun, check out Lewis Carroll's mind-boggling nonsense verse "She's All My Fancy Painted Him," first published in the Comic Times in 1855.) There were 92 cases of today's typo in OhioLINK, and "too many records found for your search" in WorldCat.

(Photograph of author Mary Norris, by Josef Astor, used by permission.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thier (for Their)

The American Dialect Society has just given its official imprimatur to the word they "used as a gender-neutral singular pronoun." And I have to say it's about time. Writers like Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen all freely employed it (along with their and them), and most of the rest of us speak this way without even thinking about it. ("Each and every applicant should bring their references with them.") But for some reason, we have long been told that it should really be "his references" or maybe "his or her references," so as not to sound quite so sexist. Some claim that "s/he" solves all of our problems, but it so really doesn't. What do you do, for example, with him, her, his, and hers? (Zir, zir, zirs, and zirs, zay zome.) And how do you even pronounce a word like "s/he"? It kind of reminds me of the time Sheldon and Rajesh discover an asteroid on The Big Bang Theory. At first, Sheldon proposes they name it after themselves, i.e., COOPER (Cooper + Koothrappali), but when Raj says, "So, KOOPER with a K?" Sheldon reconsiders: "Nah, that's dumb." The more romantic-minded Leonard then suggests they name it for their girlfriends and Sheldon concurs, noting that they can combine the "AM" from Amy and the "Y" from Emily. But Raj objects: "That just spells Amy!" Another use for the new and improved they/their/them, according to the ADC, is with regard to people whose gender is ambiguous or non-binary. ("The person in the front row pushed their hair out of their eyes so they could better view the LGBTQ PowerPoint presentation.") Certain reformers have even tried to invent entirely new words to fill this lacuna (co, ou, ze, etc.), and perhaps the transgender community will succeed where feminism has failed. The funny thing about today's picture and caption (chosen mainly for its inclusion of the word their) is that it seems to show no diversity at all in terms of race or gender, but rather runs the relative gamut in terms of facial hair, collars, and ties. The "singular they" has been used quite naturally for centuries and doesn't require learning anything new, just unlearning all the shame that grammarians have heaped upon those who have dared to put it in writing. For those two very good reasons (along with its now politically correct gender cred), we should soon be seeing it listed in dictionaries as a valid usage. There were 386 hits on Thier in OhioLINK today, and "too many records found for your search" in WorldCat.

(Illustration from Famous Composers and Their Works, v. 5, 1906, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Manhatten* (for Manhattan*)

The Dutch settlement of "New Amsterdam" became a city on February 2, 1653. It was located on the southernmost tip of Manhattan Island, which was named for a land deal of sixty guilders with a band of Lenape Indians called the Manahatta. It was renamed "New York" in 1664, after the Duke of York, and after the Dutch had lost control of it to the British. Albany, then known as "Beverwyck," had become a chartered city the previous year, in 1652. I attended a lecture recently (full disclosure: this was actually on Feb. 7) at the Albany Institute of History and Art (one of the oldest museums in the country) on "What's Special About Albany?" The speaker, Tamara Thornton, explained that she wanted to talk about things that didn't just make Albany important, or even historic, but rather those that made it unique or, as she put it, "distinctive." One of them was the fact that the people of Beverwyck actively traded with the native Americans. It was important, for economic and geopolitical reasons, to have a real relationship with them, other than one that merely involved fighting and subjugation. Most of that concerned the "fur trade, and by "fur" what was generally meant were beavers. Albanians were relatively, if arguably, better friends with the Indians, or at least more civil to them, than almost any other Americans at that time. My grandparents used to live near Albany's famous "Pine Bush" during the 1920s and beyond. This story may be apocryphal, but my mother and her siblings would later recall walking through those pine barrens on their way to and from school and how they would pass by a teepee with an old man living inside. "Don't bother the Indian," their parents would sometimes say, in a nice nod to Albany's distinctive Dutch tolerance and goodwill. There were 44 cases of Manhatten* (for Manhattan*) in OhioLINK, and 1,242 in WorldCat.

(New Amsterdam, aka New York City, 1671, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid