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."
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 ...
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 ...
Please renew my soul. — John Maybury
I have just renewed via Amazon. Will try to talk up your site to my contacts.
I think it's well worth the reasonable subscription rate. — Rick Horgan
I have stolen a Vocabula subscription. How 'bout that? I just renewed. ...
You gotta admit it's a steal, and bound to be the best value I'll get for my
hard-earned in '05. — David Murray-Smith
I thought I had lost Vocabula! Help me connect anew! — Charles Hunter
Vocabula is like nothing I’ve seen on the Internet. $9.95 is far too modest.
... I am overwhelmed by the wealth of resources available with this
subscription, and all the helpful functionality of the site. — Tom McGlinn
I have renewed my subscription. I can't imagine being without it. — Jenell
I can no longer imagine my life without TVR. — Ken Williams
More good words
The Vocabula Review, published each month since September 1999, is an online
journal about the state of the English language. We invite you to submit
articles. For more information, see Contributors' Guidelines.
Copyright (c) 2004 Vocabula Communications Company. All rights reserved. The
contents of The Vocabula Review are the copyright property of Vocabula
Communications Company. Republication or redistribution of The Vocabula Review's
contents on another website, in another publication, or to nonsubscribers is
expressly prohibited without the prior written permission of The Vocabula Review.
Copy policy: http://www.vocabula.com/popupads/VRCopyPolicy.asp
Vocabula is a registered service mark of Vocabula Communications Company. The
Vocabula Review is a registered service mark of Vocabula Communications
Company. Grumbling About Grammar is a registered service mark of Vocabula
Communications Company. Vocabula logo is a registered service mark of Vocabula
More information about the Ads-l