December 31, 2006

did you renew your dog license?

If you lived in Alta, Utah, there's nothing you'd pay for more eagerly.
A Ski Town With 42 Dogs and Many Lonely Dog Lovers

ALTA, Utah, Dec. 30 (AP) — Every January when dog licenses come up for renewal in this ski town, dog lovers go wild with anticipation. They start counting the dogs that have died or moved away with their owners, hoping a few licenses will be available.

To protect the alpine watershed, an ordinance here limits the number of dogs to 12 percent of the human population, with few exceptions. No canine visitors are allowed, even inside cars, and violators can go to jail.

Alta occupies four square miles inside a national forest where an act of Congress left Salt Lake City in charge of the water supply. City and county officers police the canyons, keeping out nonresident and unlicensed dogs to curb bacterial contamination of streams and protect Salt Lake’s drinking water.

For now, the town council keeps the lid at 42 licenses, even though it could add two more dogs under the formula tied to Alta’s population of 370.

“It’s the worst issue I deal with,” said Mayor Tom Pollard, who can issue additional temporary licenses for good cause. “The day after I was elected I got my first call — I hadn’t even gotten to the job. They disguised it as a question about garbage service, then finished with, ‘Can I have a dog?’ ” ... Kali, a dog owned by Alta’s former mayor, Bill Levitt, and his wife, Mimi, died of old age Dec. 4, raising the possibility of an available license. But the Levitts say they are not giving up the license. Under the ordinance, they have six months to find a new dog. Property owners who live in Alta for at least six months of the year get first dibs on the licenses. Any left over are distributed at drawings conducted by a town marshal.

A deputy town marshal, Tom Bolen, said he had heard practically every excuse from visitors caught smuggling dogs. They claimed not to have seen the warning signs or thought they referred to a leash law or believed the ban was only for vicious dogs. Three months into his job, Deputy Bolen said he had issued dozens of warnings to illegal dog walkers, along with two citations. Violations are typically settled in justice court for $65, but repeat offenders risk 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine
Sounds as if Alta, unlike the city I live in, will not make it onto the list of "Best Places to Live" any time soon.

December 30, 2006

shopping dogs of chicago

on a recent trip to chicago, i couldn't take my dog.
but there were many other dogs to look at:

rugged at the orvis store.

relaxed and friendly at the apple store.

guarding the entrance at nordstrom
(i hope blogger will let me rotate the picture at some point)

dressed up on the street.

in snowy plaid at the burberry store.

wrong animal. tiffany doesn't do dogs.

begging for attention (i'd do the same if my coat didn't fit) at the coach store.

and, my favorite, stylish at saks fifth avenue:

happy shopping!

December 24, 2006

merry christmas!

In Germany, presents are opened on Christmas Eve.
What a lovely tradition!

A Christmas present comes from The New York Times: an article on the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary. There may not be many panels that count experts as different as Justice Antonin Scalia and author Joan Didion among their members. (Note that the NYT now offers permalinks to articles. Permalink itself, alas, hasn't made it into the American Heritage Dictionary yet. Perhaps the usage panel needs more bloggers.)

December 21, 2006

deathly hallows

The title of the final installment in the Harry Potter series has been revealed.

(AP) If you go to, click on the eraser and you will be taken to a room -- you'll see a window, a door and a mirror.

In the mirror, you'll see a hallway. Click on the farthest doorknob and look for the Christmas tree. They click on the center of the door next to the mirror and a wreath appears. Then click on the top of the mirror and you'll see a garland.

Look for a cobweb next to the door. Click on it, and it will disappear. Now, look at the chimes in the window. Click on the second chime to the right, and hold it down. The chime will turn into the key, which opens the door. Click on the wrapped gift behind the door, then click on it again and figure out the title yourself by playing a game of hangman.

Or you can just take Scholastic's word for it:
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."
So, what can we expect from just the title? The OED lists the following meanings of hallow:

  • 1. A holy personage, a SAINT. Little used after 1500, and now preserved only in ALL-HALLOWS and its combinations.
  • 2. In pl. applied to the shrines or relics of saints; the gods of the heathen or their shrines.
  • 3. A loud shout or cry, to incite dogs in the chase, to help combined effort, or to attract attention.
  • 4. (obs.) The parts of the hare given to hounds as a reward or encouragement after a successful chase.

I doubt very much that the book will be about hares and hounds. So, what kind of saints occur in the Harry Potter universe? Let the speculation begin.

ETA: The following is a message from a posting on Table Talk, dated Dec. 22, 2006, 11:18 a.m.

Yesterday right after I solved the hangman puzzle to guess the name, I fed the phrase "Deathly Hallows" into Google just for the hell of it.

Zero hits. Not one.

Today? 228,000.

December 17, 2006


a splash of red makes good things even better.

or so they say.

happy 3rd advent.

December 12, 2006

holiday readings, viewings, and listenings: 3 of each


1. Bleak House

If you missed it on PBS, buy the DVD set and unplug the telephone for five nights straight. 15 episodes, watch three in a row (it takes some time to figure out who is who and where the plot is going). The screenplay is by Andrew Davies, of Pride and Prejudice fame.

2. Six Feet Under

A grassy cube containing all five seasons on 24 discs. Don't give this as a present, get this for yourself. Unplugging the telephone for 63 straight nights not recommended, it might look antisocial.

3. Gosford Park

Pay tribute to a great director of ensemble movies. Stephen Holden of The New York Times called the acting in the movie "sublime".


1. Never Let Me Go (by Kazuo Ishiguro)

Unabridged audio version (almost 10 hours) of Ishiguro's 2005 prize-winning book. Narrated by Rosalyn Landor. This is a book that works better as an audio book - it needs to be taken in at slow pace, almost passively. Its sadness will creep in on you.

2. Black Swan Green (by David Mitchell)

I talked about this book here. Do you remember what it was like to be 13? Let a reader do part of the work for you and follow Jason through a year of magical thinking and not-so-magical humiliation as a 13-year old boy with an interest in poetry and a speech impairment. Listening to the audiobook makes you painfully aware of Jason's stammering and how it affects him. Of the three audiobooks I list, this is probably the most upbeat one (which doesn't mean that our hero doesn't get humiliated and beaten up again and again. But he is only 13, and he's a reader, and he has a smart sister, and there is hope.

3. The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion

The New Yorker wrote that Joan Didion knows about "the dark side of cool". In a world that crumbles she holds on to the precise description of details. I liked the audiobook version (unabridged, 5 hours) very much, probably because the narrator (Barbara Caruso) has exactly the voice that I imagined Didion to have. But this would also be a great read.


Let me recommend three books, one fiction, one non-fiction, and one a linguistics book. First the non-fiction book:

1. Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, by David Foster Wallace

And you thought he could only do 1000-page novels?

2. Please don't come back from the Moon, by Dean Bakopoulos

Another coming-of-age story, this one set in the Midwest. "When I was sixteen, my father went to the moon." That's the first sentence in the book. How could one not continue to read?

3. Weeds in the Garden of Words, by Kate Burridge

In this book, Kate Burridge, a linguistics professor, writes entertainingly about "weeds" in the garden of English vocabulary - words and phrases "whose virtues have yet to be realized". This is for your smart friend who likes to read about language but who'd rather get it from a pro than from a grumpy pseudo-maven.

Happy holidays.

December 11, 2006

life with a dog: somewhat loud and incredibly close

The author Jonathan Safran Foer in a recent od-ed in The New York Times (the title of this post is an allusion to his most recent book):
I adopted George (a Great Dane/Lab/pit/greyhound/ridgeback/whatever mix -- a k a Brooklyn shorthair) because I thought it would be fun. As it turns out, she is a major pain an awful lot of the time.

She mounts guests, eats my son's toys (and occasionally tries to eat my son), is obsessed with squirrels, lunges at skateboarders and Hasids, has the savant-like ability to find her way between the camera lens and subject of every photo taken in her vicinity, backs her tush into the least interested person in the room, digs up the freshly planted, scratches the newly bought, licks the about-to-be served and occasionally relieves herself on the wrong side of the front door. Her head is resting on my foot as I type this. I love her.

Our various struggles -- to communicate, to recognize and accommodate each other's desires, simply to coexist -- force me to interact with something, or rather someone, entirely ''other.'' George can respond to a handful of words, but our relationship takes place almost entirely outside of language. She seems to have thoughts and emotions, desires and fears. Sometimes I think I understand them; often I don't. She is a mystery to me. And I must be one to her.

Of course our relationship is not always a struggle. My morning walk with George is very often the highlight of my day -- when I have my best thoughts, when I most appreciate both nature and the city, and in a deeper sense, life itself. Our hour together is a bit of compensation for the burdens of civilization: business attire, e-mail, money, etiquette, walls and artificial lighting. It is even a kind of compensation for language. Why does watching a dog be a dog fill one with happiness? And why does it make one feel, in the best sense of the word, human?

It always delights me when brilliant people turn out to be dog persons.

December 05, 2006

choosing the perfect dog collar

Stylish dog collars make great Christmas presents. For dog owners, that is, not for the dog. The dog couldn't care less. If your taste is for well-made, colorful collars that you won't find at your local pet store, Barker & Mewosky in Chicago is the place to turn to.

There's the earthy Barkgello collar, for example, for the outdoorsy, artisan-jewelry wearing friend from Boulder, CO:
Or the upbeat mod dots collar, for the metro-dog of a sophisticated co-chocoholic:

Or the preppy Ties collar, for celebrating Christmas with the in-laws in Maine:

They also have a holiday collar that's not too cutesy-wootsy. Have the dog wear the Kringle when you watch Fargo for the tenth time.

And if your dog-owning friend is a winter hater, you might get them the Tiergarten collar, named after Berlin's zoo:

My favorite collars are still the hemp collars made by Earth Dog. Planet Dog offers a nice winter version of the hemp collar, all lined in fleece. My collar of choice for the winter season.

November 29, 2006

lost and found

Have you ever had nightmares about losing your dog (and, to make it worse, it would be your fault)? Read this posting on and give your puppy a warm hug. I hope that all of the stories behind the posters in this book also had a happy ending:

The small print: Heather Armstrong won 4 Bloggies for her blog in 2005. "Dooced" has its own entry in "Getting fired because of something that you wrote in your weblog."

November 25, 2006

ein platz an der sonne

what is this stupid computer doing on the floor?
i have been waiting for this sun spot for hours.
it's mine.

30 mins later:
na bitte, geht doch!

November 23, 2006

between you and me

Johan Riley Fyodor Taiwo Samuel

-- that's the name of Heidi Klum's third child. Congratulations! I hope the boy will never have to embroider a Christmas stocking with all his names himself.
"He is healthy, beautiful and looks just like his mother," according to the post signed by Seal. In announcing the 8 lb. 11 oz. arrival, the new dad wrote, "To our children, a brother/ To our parents, a grandson/ To my wife and I, a son/ To our family, a blessing." [via]
Very sweet.

The small print: The syntactician in my cringes at the use of "I" after a preposition. Transitive verbs and prepositions assign accusative case in English. It's "I went to church" or "Harry and I went to church" (subject position) and "Harry sent the letter to me" or "Harry sent the letter to Sally and me" (object of preposition), never " Sally and I". It doesn't matter whether or not there is a coordinator.

November 22, 2006

happy etymological thanksgiving!

Courtesy of Merriam-Webster:
Word History of the Month: Pilgrim

Americans associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims, but that name was not applied to the Puritans (by Governor William Bradford) until 1630, nine years after the first Thanksgiving. Back in 1620, when the Mayflower crossed the Atlantic, its passengers referred to themselves as Puritans.

Puritan has its origin in the Latin word for purity, a reflection of the religious group's intent to purify the Church of England. So where does Pilgrim come from? [...]

Pilgrim comes from the Latin words per (meaning "through") plus ager (meaning "land, field"), which were combined into the adjective pereger, used to describe a person traveling abroad. Eventually, this developed into peregrinus, meaning "a foreigner."

Appropriately enough, the word peregrinus traveled far and wide (from Latin into Old French, then Middle English, and eventually modern English). From the very earliest days of Christianity, it was customary for Christians to journey to places of religious significance. A person making such a pilgrimage was also known as a peregrinus, which in Late Latin became peligrinus. In Old French, the word became peligrin, which was borrowed into English around 1200 as pelegrim or pilegrim, becoming pilgrim in modern English.

After William Bradford first used the term pilgrim to refer to the Puritan settlers of Massachusetts, Cotton Mather also used the word in his history of New England, published in 1702. At the 1820 bicentennial of the Plymouth settlement, Daniel Webster spoke eloquently of "our homage to our Pilgrim Fathers," and this name has since become common usage.

So what about other words associated with Thanksgiving?

Turkey was used synonymously with Guinea-fowl (an African bird) in the 16th century.

The African bird is believed to have been so called as originally imported through the Turkish dominions; it was called Guinea-fowl when brought by the Portuguese from Guinea in West Africa. After the two birds were distinguished and the names differentiated, turkey was erroneously retained for the American bird, instead of the African. From the same imperfect knowledge and confusion Meleagris, the ancient name of the African fowl, was unfortunately adopted by Linnæus as the generic name of the American bird. [OED]

Cranberries used to be known as "marsh-whorts, fen-whorts, fen-berries, marsh-berries, moss-berries".

The name appears to have been adopted by the North American colonists from some LG. source, and brought to England with the American cranberries (V. macrocarpon), imported already in 1686.... Thence it began to be applied in the 18th c. to the British species (V. Oxycoccos). In some parts, where the latter is unknown, the name is erroneously given to the cowberry (V. Vitis Idæa). [OED]

In linguistics, the term "cranberry morph" is used for a morpheme (morphemes are the smallest meaningful elements of language, such as "tree", "dog", "-er", "the", "-ness") that only occurs as part of a complex word. Unlike strawberry, blackberry, or gooseberry, cranberry cannot be separated into two free roots, cran and berry. So cran is a "cranberry morph", just like couth (which only occurs in the combination "uncouth") .

Stuffing comes from stuff, which was borrowed into Middle English from French (estoffer). The verb was first used to express the furnishing of an army with men or weapons. Its cuisine-related use also goes back to Middle English. In Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew someone goes to the garden for parsley to stuff a rabbit. [OED]

Finally, cornucopia comes from Latin cornu copia, literally "horn of plenty". Another word related to "copia" is the adjective copious. Copia itself is based on "ops" (wealth), which is also the root of the adjective opulent.

November 21, 2006

everything still sells better with a dog

Some trends have staying power. One year later, and the statement still holds: Everything sells better with a dog. And as last year, quirky dogs may trump fluffy golden retrievers.

ETA: Well, not always. At Eddie Bauer and J.C. Penney they don't.

November 18, 2006

lunking is bad for your gym membership

Do you know the word "lunk"? I didn't, and Merriam-Webster only had to offer lank, Lenk, link, and Lunt, so I turned to From the various definitions given, I don't see a clear root meaning emerge, but note that all meanings have somewhat negative connotations.
"Is used to describe a person or object that represents low demeanor or value. It can also be used to describe an unidentifyable object. What the hell are you eating!? it looks like a Lunk or something!"

"To lay around in a energy-efficient (see lazy) state. I think I am going to lunk around the house today."

'The root word in the more commonly known term: Lunkhead. A word used to describe someone of low intelligence and usually of a portly stature. Can you believe that? That stupid lunk just cut me off!"
My prediction is that after today the popularity of the word lunk will increase immensely. It's linked to a front-page article in the New York Times. A man was thrown out of a gym because of lunking. So what happened?
Albert Argibay, a bodybuilder and a state correction officer, was at a Planet Fitness gym with 500 pounds of weight on his shoulders one afternoon this month when the club manager walked over and told him it was time to leave. Mr. Argibay, the manager explained, had violated one of the club’s most sacred and strictly enforced rules: He was grunting.

“I said to her, ‘I’m not grunting, I’m breathing heavy,’ ” recalled Mr. Argibay, 40, an energetic man with the hulking appearance of a pro linebacker. “I guess she didn’t like the fact that I challenged her, because she said to me, ‘Meet me up front; I’m canceling your membership.’ ” [...]

How does one distinguish between a grunt and a very deep breath? Must a grunt be “characteristic of a hog,” as one dictionary defines it? And what if there are no patrons around to take offense? [...]

At Planet Fitness gyms, grunters and other rule-breakers are treated to an ear-rattling siren with flashing blue lights and a public scolding. The “lunk alarm,” as the club calls it, is so jarring it can bring the entire floor to a standstill. (A lunk is defined, on a poster, as “one who grunts, drops weights, or judges.”)"
One who judges? Seems that the people at Planet Fitness should look up the meaning of Lunkhead.

November 14, 2006

i-pod (rhymes with "key pod")

A very satisfactory episode of House tonight! It involved a man who was waken up from a ten-year coma (for a single day, but that's another story). How do you convey that he has not seen anything of the world for a long time? You have him pick up an ipod and say "What's this? It says i-pod", pronouncing the "i" to rhyme with "key".

Which brings up the question: Where does the affix-like i come from, anyway? What does it signify? What's up with putting a lowercase letter in front of a word?

William Safire addressed these questions about a year ago (Oct. 30, 2005) in his column "On Language":

When was the lowercase i before an uppercase anything born, and what did it stand for?

Officials at Apple Computer were unhelpful, presumably because they suspected that etymological revelation would cause their stock to plunge again, but Dan Frakes of Macworld magazine informs me that the first i-product was the iMac in 1998: ''Apple said at the time that the i in iMac stood for 'Internet,' as the iMac was allegedly the easiest computer to connect to the Internet.'' Why not Imac or I-Mac? ''They didn't want to dilute their brand name by lowercasing it (e.g., Imac).'' And IMAX Corporation, all caps, is a theater network founded in 1967.

It may be the case that i is for Internet, but the first association one has is that of the first person singular pronoun. A product made for me! My iPod! Also, I think that the lowercase i is supposed to signal irreverence. Not for nothing does Safire start his column with a reference to E.E. Cummings (yes, one can capitalize the name).

The iMac led to the iBook, a laptop, in 1999, followed by Apple's iPhoto, iTunes and a bundle sold as iLife. The meaning of i went beyond ''Internet'' to be taken as ''individual,'' ''integrated,'' ''interactive'' or -- most appealing to consumers -- ''what I want when I want it.'' Because it is difficult to copyright a letter of the alphabet, other companies jumped in: a furniture manufacturer calls its massage chair an iJoy ''to emphasize the 'individual' interaction with the chair.''

Why wasn't iPod, which originally played only music, named iMusic? ''Apple planned from the very beginning,'' says the Times tech columnist, David Pogue, ''to expand its mission to text, photos, files and, as of this month, videos.'' The word pod was chosen, I deduce, to describe an all-purpose media module, its meaning ''a container or protective housing,'' long associated with peas and pregnancy but in recent decades applied to the streamlined fuel compartments under the wings of aircraft.

The marketing fad will last until another letter gets hot. Keep your i on u.

The trend is still going strong: iChair, iBag, iStick, iLight, iFloor, iDoor - it seems that anything goes. And yes, the iJoy robotic massage chair is still around.

And this all on the day Microsoft released its "iPod killer", the Zune. (Rhymes with Clooney?)

November 11, 2006

uv got 2 b jokin

The Voice of Tasmania reports that in New Zealand students will be allowed to text message their exams (unless they are English exams):

New Zealand's high school students will be able to use "text-speak" -- the mobile phone text message language beloved by teenagers -- in national exams this year.

Text-speak, a second language for thousands of teens, uses abbreviated words and phrases such as "txt" for "text", "lol" for "laughing out loud" or "lots of love," and "CU" for "see you".

The decision announced yesterday has already divided students and educators who fear it could damage the English language.

New Zealand's Qualifications Authority said it still strongly discourages students from using anything other than full English. However, credit will be given if the answer "clearly shows the required understanding," even if it contains text-speak. [...]

Confident that those grading papers would understand answers written in text-speak, Haque stressed that in some exams, including English -- where proper language is specifically required -- text abbreviations would be penalised. [...]

Critics said the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), the main qualification for high school students, would be degraded by allowing text-speak in exams.

High School principal Denis Pyatt said he wouldn't encourage students to use text abbreviations in exams -- but he was excited by the language development.

"I think text messaging is one of the most exciting things that has happened in a long time. It is another development in that wonderful thing we call the English language," he said.

I'm with Mr. Pyatt (though I don't feel quite as enthusiastic about text messaging per se). The Internet and mobile communication devices have had a tremendous impact on what we consider "written language", and English in particular is so much richer for these developments. So far, so good.

However, I don't quite see why it would be desirable to use the same variety of English in an extremely formal context (an exam) that one uses in a very informal context (small talk with your friends)? It's cool to be fluent in one variety, it's cooler - let alone more useful - to be fluent in two, IMHO.

November 04, 2006

post halloween

What's the best thing a cucurbitaceous plant can become? A jack-o'-lantern - or a nice squash curry? My vote is with the latter!

Today is the Saturday after Halloween and it is also the last outdoor farmers' market. Do you remember this dog? I regularly pass him on my way to the farmers' market. Does he look older than last year? He's still very friendly and attentive. I hope he didn't have to wear those wings on Halloween.

The squash you see here won't end up with a Jack-o-Lantern face. The ones I bought will go into a squash curry!

Butternut Squash Curry [from The New York Times]

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
* teaspoon lightly crushed cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 cups baked, braised or mashed butternut squash
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 red chili
10 curry leaves
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat until softened. Stir in the turmeric, cumin and cayenne and cook for 1 minute. Fold in the squash and warm gently.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a small sauté pan. Add the mustard seeds, chili and curry leaves. When the seeds begin to pop, stir in the coconut off the heat. Fold into the squash, and season with salt. Serves 4.
The small print: Squash, as you may have guessed, is a word from Native American languages. According to the OED, it's an abbreviation of Narragansett Indian asquutasquash (with -ash being a plural suffix). Curry (the dish) comes from the Tamil word "kari", which is a sauce or relish poured over rice. The OED also lists an interesting Australian idiom: "to give someone curry" meaning "to give someone hell".

October 26, 2006

mail-order puppies

Christmas catalogs are arriving in the mailbox. As every year, I ask myself what the mail-order industry would do without golden retriever puppies. Puppies under blankets, puppies on window sills, puppies in the snow, adorable puppies held by adorable chlidren, you get the idea. These two are starting off the season for LL. Bean:

Here we see an example of shameless exploitation of puppy cuteness by Lands' End (the company with the idiosyncratic apostrophe) for the purpose of selling perfectly uncute sweaters for humans.

However, let's give them credit for not limiting themselves to retriever puppies in their catalog.

October 22, 2006

fabulously glamorous milkbone

Laura Bennett is not a dog person. Yet she seems to be very fond of one particular brooch. Doesn't it look like a glammed-up milkbone?

ETA on Nov. 4: Trust the Project Rungay guys to provide the answer (scroll down until you get to the close-up picture of the "buckle", which, as it turns out, is a vintage piece by Boucheron).

And another dog-related snippet: according to this post on blogging project runway, the name of the piece Ulli Herzner* chose as soundtrack for her runway presentation is "doggy fun". How perfect is that, considering that she won the dog challenge?

* Uli Herzner now has a website and a logo. The logo is her name, "Uli" (presumably short for "Ulrike"), encircled by a heart, which is very appropriate, considering that the German word for "heart" is ... "Herz".

October 20, 2006

your papa won!

Finale. Finally. It's there. And guess what? No drama, no twists, no questionable decisions -- the designer with the strongest, boldest collection won. It was as simple as that.

Harrison Detroit*, stop crying, your Papa** won!

Who could put it better than Robin Givhan (Washington Post)?
Sebelia stood out because he sent fashion -- something personal and challenging -- down the runway. That was a risk because fashion often alienates more consumers -- or viewers -- than it excites. Bennett and Herzner simply offered the audience nice clothes with obvious commercial appeal. It is a subtle distinction, and the fact that the judges went looking for fashion -- and rewarded Sebelia for producing it -- distinguishes "Project Runway" as a reality show that tries to reflect the standards of the industry it mines for entertainment.
All was harmony. Laura I-didn't-mean-to-question-your-integrity Bennett had to accept that the judges were just not that into her Alexis Carrington collection, Michael was cool with his clothes not being so hot after all, Uli concluded that No. 2 was just right for her, and Jeffrey ... well, it's all just a bunch of vibrations!

All's well that end's well. Bye, bye PR3, we're gonna miss you!


* Linguistically, this episode was't very interesting. We didn't get to see a lot of Tim Gunn either. Hm, perhaps there's a correlation? So, let's at least say something about the most striking middle name ever: Detroit's (the city!) name used to be "Ville d'Etroit" (literally: city of the strait), named after a narrow strait that led to it. The name was at some point simplified (and anglicized) to "Detroit". Of course, it's now going to become a popular name for boys (think "Madison", which now ranks consistently among the top ten names for girls, though not in Wisconsin itself). Check back here next year, and you may not read "Detroit is not in the top 1000 male names for any year of birth in the last 15 years. Please enter another name".

**"Papa" (with stress on the first syllable) is the German equivalent to "daddy". Heidi Klum's children probably address her as "Mama" (again, stress on the first syllable) -- they're so lucky to grow up to be bilingual!

October 17, 2006

pun and punishment

Or: Beware, my lord, of cellulose!

Yes, I'll admit it. I don't like puns. They seem to shout "look how clever I am", and usually I don't find them so clever. So let me list some that are so awful that they seem to be stuck forever in my brain.

  • "O-Cel-O" (product name of an kitchen sponge)
  • "The Mane Attraction" (name of a local hair salon)
  • "Try one of our new Moolattes" (advertisement for some dairy queen concoction)
  • "Lettuce all work together!" (slogan in local grocery coop)
  • "Pawtisserie" (name of bakery for dogs)
  • "Sole Mate" (name of some sort of shoe bag)
  • "Pee-pee tepee" (you need to see it to believe it)

To be continued! (for sure)

October 16, 2006

puppy threat

From the "Metropolitan Diary" column in The New York Times: How do you make sure parents won't let their children run around unattended in your shop?

This sign appeared in a new cheese shop on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn:

“Unattended children will be given an espresso and a free puppy.”

October 15, 2006

the power of chartreuse

tim gunn's use of the color term "chartreuse" didn't surprise anybody. you'd expect that any self-respecting gay man (to quote tim gunn) knows some multisyllabic color terms, such as vermilion or turquoise.

in her classic book "language and woman's place", linguist robin lakoff pointed out that knowing color terms beyond the primary or secondary colors is normally considered typical of women. she herself for the longest time wasn't sure if "chartreuse" was in the pink or green family. but then, she's not a fashion designer.

[aside: try to read out the following lists of color terms. which list is easier to read out, the first or the second?]
  • red, green, purple,orange,turquoise, black
  • blue,purple, yellow,periwinkle, orange, yellow

but there's more to colors than social stereotyping of speakers. for a long time, there has been a discussion on whether or not (and if yes, to which extent) language shapes (or even determines) our perception of reality.

let's say your mental dictionary has only one word for all shades of green ("green") and that of your friend, the fashion designer, has 10 different words ("green", "chartreuse", "olive"...), does it mean that you will not be able to perceive any differences between chartreuse and olive, but your friend will? not quite. you only need to visit your local hardware store to realize that we all perceive things we don't have any names for.

but imagine the following experiment: you are presented with a card on which squares in different colors are printed. one of the colors is different from all the others. your job is to name the color of the square that stands out. in the picture to the left, it's the square at the bottom left (which seems more bluish than the others). will you recognize the odd color more quickly if it does not only look different from the other swatches but also has a completely different name, say, chartreuse?

here's the description of exactly that experiment:

Many of the distinctions made in English do not appear in other languages, and vice versa. For instance, English uses two different words for the colors blue and green, while many other languages — such as Tarahumara, an indigenous language of Mexico — instead use a single color term that covers shades of both blue and green. An earlier study by Paul Kay and colleagues had shown that speakers of English and Tarahumara perceive colors differently: English speakers found blues and greens to be more distinct from each other than speakers of Tarahumara did, as if the English “green” / “blue” linguistic distinction sharpened the perceptual difference between the colors themselves. The present study essentially repeated the English part of that earlier test, but also made sure that colors were presented to either the right or the left half of the visual field — something the earlier study hadn’t done — so as to test whether language influences the right half of our visual world more than the left half, as predicted by brain organization.

In each experimental trial of the present study, participants saw a ring of colored squares. All the squares were of exactly the same color, except for an “odd-man-out” of a different color. The odd-man-out appeared in either the right or the left half of the circle, and participants were asked to indicate which side of the circle the odd-man-out was on, by making a keyboard response. Critically, the color of this odd-man-out had either the same name as the other squares (e.g. a shade of “green”, while the others were all a different shade of “green”), or a different name (e.g. a shade of “blue”, while the others were all a shade of “green”). The researchers found that participants responded more quickly when the color of the odd-man-out had a different name than the color of the other squares — as if the linguistic difference had heightened the perceptual difference — but this only occurred if the odd-man-out was in the right half of the visual field, and not when it was in the left half. This was the predicted pattern.

Earlier studies addressing the possible influence of language on perception tended to look for a simple yes or no answer: either language affects perception, or it does not. In contrast, the current findings support both views at once. Language appears to sharpen visual distinctions in the right visual field, and not in the left visual field. The researchers conclude that “our representation of the visual world may be, at one and the same time, filtered and not filtered through the categories of language.” [this link will take you to the text from which this excerpt was taken.]
in other words, according to this experiment, knowing the word "chartreuse" will change your world (or at least the perception of half of it).

October 13, 2006


so this was supposed to be the episode in which tim gunn would climb into the red saturn roadster to visit the remaining contestants in their hometown and in which we would get first glimpses of everybody's collections for olympus fashion week. however, in reality this turned out to be the episode that will be remembered for a cliffhangerish* use of the adverb "unfortunately".

but first things first. yes, tim gunn did climb into the saturn roadster and we saw some warm and cozy moments, with
children presenting turtle poop and tim gunn basking his untanned feet in the miami sun. yes, we did see glimpses of everyone's collection, but since detailed views of the collections have been available for weeks all over the internet, there were no big surprises.

as far as the clothes went, tim gunn was slightly underwhelmed. he missed uli's prints in her "tropical safari"** collection, wasn't keen on the "bling happening" in michael's collection and dismissed one of laura's outfits (see the picture on the left) as a "chartreuse*** popsicle****". the popsicle didn't make it to bryant park, but the belt did. at least we now know where that awkward greenish belt that camilla wore with her sparkly grey dress came from, it was a popsibelt!

tim gunn did not dismiss all things green, though. he was "in awe" of some of the details of jeffrey's designs, in particular his silhouette-accentuating placement of zippers. jeffrey had, as they say, pulled a santino, i.e. he had come up with a collection that was a lot more aesthetically pleasing than most of his pieces on the show. there were fresh dresses with polka-dots and candy-stripes, as well as some slim pants ensembles. here's a close-up of the candy-striped**** dress worn by marilinda at olympus fashion show. i must say i had not been aware that what looked like boring gold piping was actually a zipper. clever!

when laura bennet saw jeffrey's designs, she thought that their execution in general just seemed a wee bit too clever and she figured that he may have had help with the sewing. things were not well in the state of new york.

so laura talked to jeffrey, right? no, she talked to tim gunn first. (at least that's how it was portrayed.)
so then tim talked to jeffrey, right? no, he confronted jeffrey with the accusation in front of the whole group. (at least that's how it was portrayed.)
so jeffrey got really angry, right? no, he seemed more stunned than angry. (at least that's...)
so that's how the episode ended? no, we got to see tim gunn confronting the group again beginning a statement with "unfortunately..." and then we saw a shot of jeffrey collapsing in uli's arms. aah, those editors! (i don't believe for a minute that jeffrey would have been allowed to show his collection at bryant park if there had been proof of his having relied on someone else's mad skillz
. roadster, shmoadster -- showing at fashion week is the real prize in this competition, especially for someone who has already established a label, and we all know that jeffrey did show his collection.)

once the episode was over some serious ugly took place on pr-related discussion boards. people called each other names for calling laura or jeffrey names and hundreds of comments were made in a few hours. it shows you the power of a little adverb. and of clever editing.

anyway, let me end on a positive note, i.e. with two nice words i was fortunate to pick up on blogging project runway.
It's really hard to hold my cybertongue and not SCREAM at people sometimes, but that's not what we are here for. Anyway-you guys are great and we appreciate you. (praddicted)

we expect that the traffic will dramatically drop after next week and we look forward to chatting with all of you again by the blogside fire. (Tbone, BPR)

the rest -- is silence.

* "cliff-hanger" was first recorded in the 1930s. a more recent creation is the backformation "to cliff-hang" [oed]

** "safari" is the swahili word for "journey". [oed]

***"chartreuse" is the feminine form of the french adjective "chartreux", which means "
‘from the Catursiani montes, or from ... Chatrousse, a village in Dauphiné, near which their first monastery was founded". the name for a color is related to the name of a liquor made of herbs and brandy by the monks of the head monastery of the carthusians . [oed]

****"popsicle" is a proprietary name in the u.s. it was trade-marked in 1923. in 1977, on the occasion of vladimir nabokov's death, time magazine wrote "in nature, beauty is the beast...the delectable nymphet lolita has a cruel, popsicle heart" [oed,]

would you have guessed that "candy cane" has been added to the oxford english dictionary only this year?