The January issue of The Vocabula Review is now online

Robert Hartwell Fiske Vocabula at AOL.COM
Sat Jan 29 22:09:26 UTC 2005

The January issue of The Vocabula Review 
is now online at 

Only the opening paragraphs of each feature 
are shown in this announcement. 

Breve New World: Thoughts on an Emergent Pidgin Kerr Houston 

Late last summer, as much of America pondered swift boats and WMDs, a group 
of bloggers and iced coffee aficionados focused instead upon an improbable but 
momentarily fascinating conjunction of neologism, corporate identity, and 
small-town law governing the entry of cattle into restaurants. In June of 2004, 
Dairy Queen had rolled out its MooLatte, a frozen coffee beverage that came in 
several different varieties. Shortly after, Slate's Timothy Noah attracted 
notice with a post arguing that the drink's name was uncomfortably close to the 
word mulatto and its potentially racist overtones. The Houston Press soon got 
into the act, with a phone conversation with a Dairy Queen spokesman, in which 
they suggested that five more flavors be added, which would allow the firm to 
market an Octaroonie. But when the spokesman responded, apparently in earnest, 
that "that's actually a pretty good idea," some observers wondered if the 
company was playing with a poker face — a feeling compounded when, in August, 
Dairy Queen subsequently announced that any customer bringing a cow to a 
participating restaurant would receive a free MooLatte. Over the next few months, the 
Web hummed with reports of ordinances governing the passage of livestock into 
eateries, and with opinions regarding the appropriateness of the product name 
(including a further posting by Noah that pointed to a Senegalese film entitled 
Moolaade, which was concerned with female genital mutilation). More ...  

The Mermaid Heinz Insu Fenkl 

Recently, as I was waiting in line at the local Starbucks, I overheard two 
customers arguing about the Starbucks' logo. Is it a siren or a mermaid? The 
current logo doesn't give enough visual information, as one customer pointed out, 
but the original logo was a creature with the upper half of a woman and a 
split fish tail — a mermaid by his reckoning. The other customer pointed out that 
Starbucks refers to the image as a siren. Could they be wrong about their own 
corporate logo? The argument was lively enough to perk the interest of other 
customers, and soon various bits of interesting information came up, including 
reference to an online debate about the nature of mermaid sexuality and, 
specifically, regarding the reproductive organs of Disney's Ariel. I, myself, did 
not join in this debate but merely kept within earshot, considering the price 
of a latte well worth this synchronistic field research. More ...  

Blog, Bloggers, Blague Joseph Epstein 

No big surprise, I suppose, in Merriam-Webster's recent announcement that 
blog was the word most looked up on its Internet sites during the past year. 
Bloggers were much in the news; in fact, they often turned the direction of the 
news, and made a fair amount of news on their own. Bloggers caught up with many 
campaign lies during the past presidential election; by catching him out in 
shoddy journalistic practice, they cost Dan Rather an honorable departure from a 
long career. More ...  

Foggy Blogs David Isaacson 

Bloggers are to old-fashioned journal writers as joggers to runners: they are 
narcissists rather than genuine self-lovers. The word blog means a personal 
journal that is made available on the Web. In other words, another example in 
our tell-all, confessional culture of information we seldom need and ought not 
to want. True, some bloggers not only have an axe to grind but priceless 
information to publish we'd not otherwise have. Imagine if I. F. Stone's "Weekly" 
were a daily blog! And Joseph Epstein is right: a few dedicated fact-checkers 
helped to bring a hasty end to Dan Rather's career. But with some exceptions, 
bloggers pretend to be "sharing" their private, and sometimes even their 
intimate thoughts with a few privileged friends. They are the early 
twenty-first-century equivalent of that remarkable moment in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of 
Being Earnest when Earnest, noticing Cicely Cardew writing in her diary, asks 
"What is that?" and she replies, "Oh, this is simply a very young girl's record 
of her own thoughts and impressions, and consequently meant for publication." 
More ...  

A Stylish Inauguration Speech Richard Lederer 

More than four decades ago, on January 20, 1961, thousands of visitors 
converged on Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of our thirty-fifth president, 
John Fitzgerald Kennedy. A blizzard had struck the eastern seaboard that day. 
The streets of the capital were clogged with snow and stranded automobiles, but 
the inaugural ceremony went on, and a new president delivered one of the most 
memorable addresses in American history. More ...  

Two Poems 

The guests arrive, their coats are hung. 
They linger at the entrance 
praising the fixtures and the paint. 
The hostess peals with pleasantries and laughter. 
She seats them (after showing the home) 
to Mozart, and a meal: More ...  

The Elder Statesman 
English Romantic Poets and ... Hollywood? Clark Elder Morrow 

I am always amazed at how well women can remember the earliest incidents of 
their youth. I'm lucky if I can recall a single incident from kindergarten, yet 
my wife and my sister tell me that they remember much of their third and 
fourth years on earth. No doubt a clear conscience makes for a limpid memory. More 

The Critical Reader 
Key Words of Our Times: Curling up with a Good Dimension on a Rainy Day Mark 

Albert Einstein cannot be held responsible for the misuse made of some of his 
ideas and utterances. It's not his fault that many people think that the 
General Theory of Relativity, his revolutionary concept of how gravity shapes 
space, somehow means that nothing is really true since everything is really 
relative to ... well, something. Nor is it his fault that many people think that 
there is a fourth dimension that, if they keep their eyes wide open, they will be 
able to spot someday before it can get away. Modern physicists, however, are 
largely responsible for a kind of confusion that is widespread among the 
general, nonscientific population, and that originated with Einstein's great 
discoveries. That is the notion that science has discovered a fourth, fifth, or even 
an eleventh dimension that you can see only if you have a PhD in physics. 
This misconception is a serious one because it seems to confirm the 
nonscientists' gloomy feeling that what scientists are talking about is utterly beyond 
them, and that it's hopeless to try to understand anything they say — not the 
frame of mind that we want an enlightened citizenry to be in. More ...  

Frisking the Governor's Daughter: On Puns John Kilgore 

There was this fabulous chicken, unlike any other. Her motion was so fluid, 
so swift, people said she was sheer poultry in motion. 
Humblest of tropes, the paronomasia — "pun" to its siblings and golf buddies —
 typically earns not an appreciative chuckle but a groan of pain. It can 
inspire Bronx cheers or mock insults, like John Dennis's declaration that "The man 
who would make so vile a pun would not scruple to pick a pocket," an 
upside-down compliment that seems, nonetheless, founded in real annoyance. Clearly we 
think the punster has somehow cheated, though in a way merely foolish and 
petty, childish perhaps but not evil. What could lie at the root of this feeling? 
The answer, I think, has to do with the basic nature of listening: with the 
mental gymnastics we continually perform, without quite knowing it, in order to 
understand even the simplest phrase. Unjustly despised, the pun turns out to 
be surprisingly profound, not a silly game with language but part of its 
fundamental nature. More ...  

Postcards from Babel 
Turtles All the Way Down Amalia Gnanadesikan 

My spam was unusually entertaining the other day. Unlike most, it offered me 
not health, wealth, or satisfaction, but merely enlightenment and information. 
It came not from Nigeria but from Turkey. Among other things, it claimed that 
Turkish is the world's most ancient language, and that whole families of 
other languages were artificially created by making anagrams out of ancient 
Turkish words. The similarity of the French expression vis-à-vis to Turkish yüz yüze 
(both meaning "face-to-face") is supposedly evidence of French being but a 
camouflaged derivative of Turkish. More ...  

Bethumped with Words 
Four Northern Words Flenched Bill Casselman 

Let us take up the whaler's flenching knife and slice away the circumambient 
lexical blubber from four stout words of the north. 
Here is a setting of four gelid gems for a winter night's perusal. One gives 
warmth; one gives taste; one spits in the arrogant eye of the OED, and one 
brings madness near. More ...  

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More good words 

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