December 31, 2008

words of the year, #1

I haven't paid much attention to this year's discussion of Words-of-the-Year yet. For example, I completely missed this:
When the Oxford American Dictionary declared its word of the year for 2008 was "hypermiling" (making fuel-conserving adjustments to one's car and driving style in order to maximize gas mileage), the selection was met with widespread disapproval. The Chicago Tribune dismissed the word as a "scrap of jargon," while New York Times language maven William Safire lamented that hypermiling failed to rev up his "linguistic engine."
I've never heard the word used and I think there must be better choices, especially since it's not a "neologism of the year" contest. The American Dialect Sociey - which now, in the light of the proliferation of WOTY choices, styles its pick as the "granddaddy of all 2008 words-of-the-year votes" (and justly so) - will make its choice in January at its annual meeting. Considering the criteria for WOTY stardom ("the best 'word of the year' candidates will be new or newly popular in 2008, widely or prominently used in 2008, indicative or reflective of the national discourse") my bets are either on an Obama compound (like "Obama(ma)nia") or on one of the two electional mantras: change and maverick (along with its less mavericky brother, Joe-the-plumber). They may not be as fresh as hypermiling, but I can't think of any other words more indicative of the national discourse this year.

Others make lists of words and expressions that need a rest due to overuse this year (cartoon also on linked website). Maverick certainly belongs on this list, too.My guess is that nobody running for office will brand himself or herself as a maverick any time soon.

December 17, 2008

presidential puppy

If he wins, we'll get a puppy. A promise Michelle Obama made to her two daughters. As it turns out, a similar promise was made by Jill Biden. To her husband. Who has now picked his puppy, a cute little German Shepherd, who will join the Bidens when they move into #1, Observatory Circle in January.

Update on Dec. 22: Joe Biden just said on Larry King that he and his wife are looking for a second puppy, a Golden Retriever, preferably from a shelter. I hope these two dogs will get their own website!

November 29, 2008

yay for beagles

The winner of the Westminster Kennel Club Show always gains at least 15 minutes of fame and becomes an ambassador for his breed. What happens if the winner belongs to a most beloved breed already? This:
Nine months into his reign as the first beagle to win the Westminster Kennel Club Show, 3-year-old Uno is not fading away. He is the show’s busiest-ever Best in Show titlist. He was the first one to be celebrated as a champion by President Bush in the White House Rose Garden last May and still wears the red, white and blue collar that Laura Bush gave him....Now, the world-famous dog show ace is preparing for another first for a Westminster winner: on Thursday, he will be aboard the “Peanuts” float, a rendition of Snoopy’s doghouse, at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (more here/NYT)
And here's a picture of Uno on the day of the parade.

November 25, 2008

No holiday wishes from the Miller's

As I was browsing templates for personalized holiday cards on, I came across this helpful (or condescending, you decide) note:
Apostrophes typically are used to show possession. To pluralize surnames, add -s or -es at the end of the name for most cases. (e.g., The Martins or The Joneses).

In other words: Please don't embarrass us by sending out cards with printed on the back that say "Merry Christmas from the Miller's."

(Of course, it is rather the exception than the rule that the apostrophe in English indicates possession. Usually, it indicates that a letter (or more) has been deleted, as in "hasn't" or "I'm" or "we've".)

November 23, 2008

rabbit meets reindeer

Chocolate Easter bunnies from Lindt ("Goldhasen") are very popular in Germany. Not at Christmas, though. Therefore, I was slightly taken aback when I saw them today at Target.

It turns out the hard-working bunnies are putting in an extra shift as reindeers. Poor little guys, they're not pulling it off very well.

November 19, 2008

zero tolerance for "this criteria"

"I have only one criteria for putting things into the quarterly, which is that the writing is good. It's not so much about it being academic," declared Lewis Lapham, editor of Lapham's Quarterly, at a reading hosted by the literary journal at the National Arts Club on Monday, Nov. 17." (stumbled over here)
Perhaps you might want to start with using criteria as a plural noun -- because that's what it is. The singular form is criterion, from Greek. The quote above reminds me of that terrible (and terribly self-righteous) book Eats, Shoots & Leaves, about which Louis Menand wrote in the New Yorker:
The first punctuation mistake in “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” (Gotham; $17.50), by Lynne Truss, a British writer, appears in the dedication, where a nonrestrictive clause is not preceded by a comma. It is a wild ride downhill from there.

November 17, 2008

pet peeve: no problem

I guess I'll return to the topic once I have received and read a copy of this article:

Schneider, Klaus P. (2005): 'No problem, you're welcome, anytime': Responding to thanks in Ireland, England, and the U.S.A. In: Barron, Anne / Schneider, Klaus P. (eds.): The Pragmatics of Irish English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Scheider lists "no problem" along with "don't mention it" as a thanking strategy that minimizes the favor. By contrast, "you're welcome" is a strategy that is used to express appreciation of the thanker. He quotes a study according to which the minimizing strategy is more common in American English than in British English. However, the appreciation strategy, according to a questionnaire study carried out by him, is even more typical of American English.

November 16, 2008

the puppy, again

Yeah, it's not really a very funny cartoon, but note the picture on the wall!

November 05, 2008

about that puppy

Well, it seems that Schnaufblog is not the only blog that is charmed with the idea of a puppy for the new First Family.

What kind of dog? Purebred or mutt? From a shelter or breeder? Puppy or adult? Get it now, or after the family settles in at the White House? Who will take care of it?... The world, as evidenced by chatter and pictures flying around on the Internet today, has become captivated by the idea of a new First Puppy.

And Reuters reports:

Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden, is also getting in on the act. He told reporters traveling with him earlier that his wife had promised him a “big dog” if he got elected. Jill Biden had taped pictures of different dogs on the back of the seat in front of him on his campaign plane to inspire the candidate as he criss-crossed the country in the final sprint to election day.

Update on Nov. 6: Here's Maureen Dowd, post-election, on bringing on "the puppy and the rookie".

Update on Nov. 7: President-elect Obama addresses the issue in his first post-election press conference and refers to himself as a "mutt" (what's up with that?):

It must be the first time in recorded history that the leader of the Free World has proudly described himself as a “mutt”. At his first press conference as President-elect, Barack Obama sought to project the gravitas that his post requires.

Making his first market-sensitive comments on the economy, the soaring orator read carefully from notes — even keeping his place with his finger like a child. But his amiable good humour eventually won out when a local Chicago reporter asked about his plans for a White House puppy for his daughters, Sasha and Malia.

“This is a major issue,” he said. “It has generated more interest on our website than just about anything. We have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic. On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog. But obviously a lot of shelter dogs are mutts — like me.”

November 04, 2008

president-elect barack obama

10:55 p.m. "Ladies and gentlemen, the next first family of the United States of America!"

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, tonight is your answer.”
And, on a lighter note, he doesn't forget this:
"Sasha and Malia, .. you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House."

"potentially historic": adjectival countdown

Obama supporters at 1 p.m.

Obama supporters at 5 p.m.

McCain supporters at 5 p.m.

Obama supporters at 7 p.m.
The first bunch of states have been called by CNN:
Vermont, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maine, Delaware, Maryland, DC for Obama (77)
Kentucky, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee for McCain (34)
No surprises yet.

McCain supporters at 7 p.m.

CNN calls Pennsylvania and Ohio for Obama.
Obama supporters at 9 p.m.

McCain supporters at 9 p.m.

10 p.m. (CST): CNN calls Virginia for Barack Obama.

Wolf Blitzer: "This is a moment that could be potentially historic."
CNN projects that Barack Obama will win the election.

Obama supporters at 10 p.m.

Obama supporters after the CNN announcment:

10.18 p.m. McCain gives an unsnippy concession speech.
His audience boos.

McCain suppporters after the speech.

But let's end on a positive note.
Obama supporters at midnight.

nov. 4, at last

November 03, 2008

counting down words and days

On the one hand:
"Sarasota, I've got just two words for you: five days. We are now five days away from changing America."

"Iowa, I have just two words for you: four days"

"Nevada, I have just two words for you: three days."

"Ohio, I have just two words for you: two days."

“I have just one word for you, Florida. Tomorrow,” Mr. Obama said, drawing huge bursts of applause from his audience. “We are one day away from changing the United States of America.”
On the other hand:
“For those of you who are feeling giddy or cocky or think this is all set, I just have two words for you: New Hampshire
(I suppose one could argue that New Hampshire is actually one word, but let's not nitpick here.)

October 29, 2008

race in the race

Do you think race is any factor in this race? (Larry King to Joe McCain*)
It may sound unlikely, but race and race are actually not related. The word expressing an "act of running" is of Scandinavian origin (compare Old Icelandic rás, Norwegian rås) and was also spelled "ras", "rase", and "raiss" in Middle English (according to the OED). The word referring to a "group of people ... descended from a common ancestor", on the other hand, is borrowed from Romance (French and Italian) and was spelled "race" right from the beginning (the OED lists 1547 as the year of its earliest documented use). In a sum, we're dealing with a case of homophony.

*Did McCain just pronounce infomercial as "infomertchal"?

October 15, 2008

meet joe-the-plumber

Watching the debate? Senator McCain has a new friend: Joe-the-plumber. I guess we'll see more of him on Saturday Night Live.

Update: Turns out that Joe-the-plumber is not really a plumber. Nor is his name Joe. But he has a cute dog, so there.

barack the block

What do Barack Obama and YouTube have in common? They're both verbs.

October 13, 2008

colossale goofballo

The word "syntax" occurs in the news, tree diagrams are suddenly "in" -- what's next? Newspaper columns in Latin? Oh, wait...

October 08, 2008

green behind the ears

Now, Sen. McCain suggests that somehow, you know, I'm green behind the ears and, you know, I'm just spouting off, and he's somber and responsible.
A slip of the tongue by Barack Obama in yesterday's debate. You're either "green" or "wet behind the ears", but here the two metaphors are mixed. My friends, slips of the tongue are important linguistic data, they tell us about how speech is planned and how words are stored in the mind. In this case, the two expressions that are mixed are semantically similar, they both mean "inexperienced". (, however, lists "green behind the ears" as a set expression.)

(If you do a Google image search on "green ears", or if you are a vintage Barbie collector, you will come across an completely unrelated green ear phenomenon, illustrated in the picture below: "a condition caused by the original metal earrings being left in the doll's ears for too long.")

October 05, 2008

yay for tree diagrams

Say what you will about Sarah Palin, but I can't think of anyone who has done as much for putting syntax (and phonology) into the limelight of political commentary. Here's Maureen Dowd on the subject of tree diagrams:
When she [= Sarah Palin] was asked by Couric if she’d ever negotiated with the Russians, the governor replied that when Putin “rears his head” he is headed for Alaska. Then she uttered yet another sentence that defies diagramming: “It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there.... She dangles gerunds, mangles prepositions, randomly exiles nouns and verbs and also“also” is her favorite vamping word — uses verbs better left as nouns, as in, “If Americans so bless us and privilege us with the opportunity of serving them,” or how she tried to “progress the agenda.”
Update: Mark Liberman at Language Log points out that the sentence that Maureen Dowd chose to illustrate her point does not, in fact, defy diagramming:

October 01, 2008

smashing the vase

From an article in the Times on Sarah Palin's debate performance when she ran for office in Alaska:
But just as she does now, Ms. Palin often spoke in generalities and showed scant aptitude for developing arguments beyond a talking point or two. Her sentences were distinguished by their repetition of words, by the use of the phrase “here in Alaska” and for gaps. On paper, her sentences would have been difficult to diagram.
I'm sure the author of the article didn't have Chomskyan diagrams in mind. But any syntax instructor will agree that ungrammatical sentences are harder to diagram than grammatical ones (like the one below). In theory, they should also be harder to produce...

Update: For an attempt to diagram Palin's sentences in traditional Reed/Kellogg style, see this article on

September 26, 2008

not to belabor the point

How does she say 'I don't know'? Let me count the ways:
Couric: You've said, quote, "John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business." Other than supporting stricter regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago, can you give us any more example of his leading the charge for more oversight?

Palin: I think that the example that you just cited, with his warnings two years ago about Fannie and Freddie - that, that's paramount. That's more than a heck of a lot of other senators and representatives did for us.

Couric: But he's been in Congress for 26 years. He's been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.

Palin: He's also known as the maverick though, taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he's been talking about - the need to reform government.

Couric: But can you give me any other concrete examples? Because I know you've said Barack Obama is a lot of talk and no action. Can you give me any other examples in his 26 years of John McCain truly taking a stand on this?

Palin: I can give you examples of things that John McCain has done, that has shown his foresight, his pragmatism, and his leadership abilities. And that is what America needs today.

Couric: I'm just going to ask you one more time - not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.

Palin: I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you.

i don't know, you know?

I'm not really a believer in the theory that clarity of thought and clarity of expression always go hand in hand. On the other hand, consider this:
Couric: You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

Palin: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and, on our other side, the land-...boundary that we have with ..Canada.'s funny that a comment like that was ...kinda made to … cari-...I don't know, you know … Reporters....

Couric: Mocked?

Palin: Yeah, mocked, I guess that's the word, yeah.

Couric: Well, explain to me why that enhances your foreign-policy credentials.

Palin: Well, it certainly does, because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. And there…

Couric: Have you ever been involved in any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

Palin: We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state.

Update: Just in case you're struggling to interpret Gov. Palin's answers. The Times asked Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, to clarify her comments: “Russian incursions near Alaskan airspace have occurred and when they do, she is briefed on them by the Adjutant General of the Alaska NG. Jets scrambled would likely be active duty, possibly Guard.”

September 22, 2008


Another word coinage on -ize, this one by Nicholas Kristof in an op-ed for the Times:
The push to "otherize" Obama
Here’s a sad monument to the sleaziness of this presidential campaign: Almost one-third of voters “know” that Barack Obama is a Muslim or believe that he could be. ... When I’ve traveled around the country, particularly to my childhood home in rural Oregon, I’ve been struck by the number of people who ask something like: That Obama — is he really a Christian? Isn’t he a Muslim or something? Didn’t he take his oath of office on the Koran? ...
What is happening, I think, is this: religious prejudice is becoming a proxy for racial prejudice. In public at least, it’s not acceptable to express reservations about a candidate’s skin color, so discomfort about race is sublimated into concerns about whether Mr. Obama is sufficiently Christian.
The result is this campaign to “otherize” Mr. Obama. Nobody needs to point out that he is black, but there’s a persistent effort to exaggerate other differences, to de-Americanize him.Kristof also points out:
(Just imagine for a moment if it were the black candidate in this election, rather than the white candidate, who was born in Central America, was an indifferent churchgoer, had graduated near the bottom of his university class, had dumped his first wife, had regularly displayed an explosive and profane temper, and had referred to the Pakistani-Iraqi border ...)

September 15, 2008


No, this is not about insurance. It's about M&Ms.

Premiumize or Perish

The premium chocolate segment, which more than doubled in size to a $2 billion market between 2001 and 2006, is still growing “twice as fast as mainstream.”... This is the world of “premiumization,” a buzzword among global corporations at a time when the luxury market is still expected to jump more than 70 percent to $450 billion by 2012.

I suppose anything can be called "premium". Even artificially flavored chocolate ("simply tantalizing mocha").

September 05, 2008

the nouns they used

From the New York Times:

This is all very well, but what about the verbs they used? For example, how much does it tell us if a candidate brings up "Iraq", if we don't know what he is going to do about it? (And if someone could explain to me why the Times files this graphic under "interactive", I'd be grateful.)

September 03, 2008

waxing poetic -- project runway dvf challenge

what was he thinking
unacceptably homemade
but shanghai joe stays

crotch is a nightmare
no visible tailoring
goodbye, rockstar girl

print captivating
international and pretty
korto should have won

a lot of design
with limpy dragon ruffles
leanne takes the win

September 02, 2008

maverick, shmaverick

We hear a lot about mavericks these days. It's supposedly a good thing to be a maverick or to make maverick decisions. Where does the word come from? Here's the story:

The word goes back to the name of Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-70), a U.S. politician and the owner of a large herd of cattle in which the calves were unbranded. Its earliest meaning was "an unbranded calf or yearling". The OED lists the following excerpt from the Overland Monthly from 1869:
One Maverick formerly owned such immense herds that many of his animals unavoidably escaped his rouanne in the spring, were taken up by his neighbors, branded and called ‘mavericks’. The term eventually spread over the whole State, and is in use now, not only to denote a waif thus acquired, but any young animal. No great drove can sweep through this mighty unfenced State without drawing a wake of these ‘mavericks’.
Only 10 years later, the word's meaning had been extended from unbranded calf to "
unorthodox or independent-minded person; a person who refuses to conform to the views of a particular group or party; an individualist". However, it can also mean "A thing obtained dishonestly" -- probably not the meaning the McCain campaign is going for.

September 01, 2008

whom cares?

We have been blessed with five wonderful children who we love with all our heart and mean everything to us. (Sarah Palin, Gov. of Alaska)
Bristol Palin's pregnancy does not worry me, but this sentence does.

Let's look at it in more detail: The relative clause after children contains a coordination structure. What causes the ungrammaticality (at least I think the sentence is ungrammatical, not just odd) is that who is an object pronoun in the first part of the sentence, i.e. one could also say whom ("...five wonderful children whom we love"), and a subject pronoun in the second part of the sentence, i.e. one could not say "...and whom mean everything to us". Coordination does not just care about words, it cares about structure, compare the following examples:
  • Peter walked in and ___ greeted me.
    (Peter is the subject in both verb phrases)
  • BUT NOT: Peter walked in and I greeted___
    (Peter is the subject of walk but the object of greet)

August 29, 2008

grocery redux

Same old story: Make an outfit out of crazy materials (provided by a PR sponsor). Think outside the box. Be innovative. This time it was all about car interiors (think seat belts and pleather seats). A recap in adjectives -- match the design with its designer:
  • dramatic, hot, sexy, wearable, chic
  • not flattering
  • interesting, chic, crafted beautifully, flawless
  • a little random
  • not well made
  • chic, elegant, edited, beautiful

Answers: Jerell, Blayne, Leanne (winning design), Keith, Stella, Katto. Surprises? Zero.

That's all.

August 26, 2008

"No way, no how, no McCain"

Finally, material for a good negative slogan at the DNC. Presented by the formidable Hillary Rodham Clinton. If her bright orange pant suit is any indication, she came to electrify the audience.

I think she did good.

And this: If you hear the dogs, keep going. (Harriet Tubman)

"I think she did good"

I can't say I really liked Michelle Obama's speech at the DNC in Denver. Too calculated (express patriotism -- check, praise Hillary Clinton -- check, present Obama as a regular guy - check), too wifey. She wasn't talking to me, though, and she probably did well with regard to her target audience. The Obamas' daughters are, of course, adorable, and when Obama asked little Sasha how she thought her mother had done, it was very cute when she answered with a, strictly speaking, ungrammatical sentence. It made it sound a little less rehearsed. Sasha, I hope you'll get your dog!

August 24, 2008

misplaced apostrophes under protection

If you see a misplaced apostrophe, don't get our sharpie out right away. You may be sentenced to one year of probation. Oh, and don't bother to tell those people at Lands' End that they've got their name wrong. They already know.

August 20, 2008

Comeon, Schatz, let's go!

At last: an original challenge! Make an outfit for a drag queen. Go sparkle! (If only this season's designers were a sparklier group -- can you imagine how much fun the guys of season 2 would have had with this challenge?) The word drag, in the meaning "feminine attire worn by a man has been around for a while. The OED gives an example from 1870 ("We shall come in drag").

In good PR tradition, the guy who made the pink pant outfit won, and the guy who said he "doesn't worry at all" about Tim's critique, Daniel, he of the impeccable taste, is out. The word "impeccable" comes from Latin "im-" ("un-") and "peccare" ("to sin"). Something that is impeccable is something that does not have the quality to sin.

And in between? Keith produced a "sad chicken" (MK) outfit in black and white. It looked as if an ostrich had gotten into a shredder. Katto's "look of fire" (right) was deemed creative and innovative and flattering, although, personally, I didn't care too much for its unibreast, nor did I think the "flames" on the left shoulder were all that fiery. Blayne aimed at "draglicous" but only achieved "barflicious" (bravo, Leanne), and Terri's "Super Samurai" impressed all of the judges (even if the strongest components of the look were the makeup and the boots).

August 13, 2008

"I'm dubious"

Tim Gunn is dubious and rightly so. Bravo seems to be set on making this a season of watered-down been-there-done-thats. Another team challenge with all its inherent flaws. Another day-to-night dress. Another celebrity in need of publicity. Last season I wondered how fabulous it would have been if the challenge that involved Sarah Jessica Parker had been to design a dress for Carrie Bradshaw (the movie wasn't out yet then). Instead, it turned out to be a lame piece for her lame line in a chain that faces liquidation. And now: Brooke Shields and "Lipstick Jungle". Let's just skip this one.

August 09, 2008

"I don't think it's bad. I'm just inquiring." (Tim Gunn)

Well, I did think it was bad. Which part of "Outfit for the opening ceremony of the Olympic games 2008" is so hard to understand? Criticism of the outfits went from polite ("the color is very saturated") to blunt ("meshugge"*) to sarcastic ("republic of cocktailland").

Can you imagine an athlete like Dara Torres (above) in this?
I rest my case.

*meshugge (also meshuga) is Yiddish for mad or crazy.

to youtube

If you're a word, how do you measure success?
“The Olympics to me is a benchmark for how fast we’ve gone with technology,” Brad Adgate, the senior vice president for research at Horizon Media, a media buying firm in New York, said. “Thirty months ago, no one was talking about YouTube. Now, it’s a verb.”

July 30, 2008

Why, hollow to me, and I will answere thee.

Since I can't get excited about the fashion or the designers of Season 5 of Project Runway (I hated this week's shrill winning design and couldn't help thinking that this was what Blanche Devereaux -- not exactly your typical New York City girl -- would wear if she were younger and slimmer), I'll just briefly say that I hope that "Holla at your boy" will not become a new Tim Gunnism.

It suits him about as well as a polyester sweat suit. Look for yourself! It also seems that TG didn't really get the meaning of this idiom from Afro-American English. Therefore, let me renew my plea: No worn-out sock metaphors, please, no hot, messy Sirianoisms, and no excursions into Jay-Z territory, please. Just give us good old Latinate multisyllabic Tim Gunnisms, please.

The quote in the post title is from 1599.

July 23, 2008

stella for star

Thank you, Bravo, for picking leatha-lovin' Stella as one of the Project Runway contestants. When life seems busy and overwhelming, all one has to do is listen to her insufferable whining and one immediately feels better, happier, as shiny as a plant. "I'm very urban and that reflects in my design." (Yeah, right.)

Talking about design, what was up with this week's challenge? The designers had to create a cocktail dress out of "green" fabrics, and, shockingly, the models were in charge of the shopping at Mood. While the latter aspect of the challenge created some drama, the eco-aspect seemed completely superflous and, to quote Stella, didn't reflect in the designs at all. Instead of 15 cute chic cocktail dresses in 15 shades of green, like this one (my first interpretation of the challenge was to take the term "green" literally, after all, guest judge Natalie Portmann, who was described as an "environmental activist" wore a cute, chic green cocktail dress), we saw a bunch of uninspired, ill-fitting, overworked, "crazy short" dresses -- dresses so short that even Heidi Klum said she wouldn't wear them. (Yeah, right.)

Tim Gunn even ventured as far as describing one dress as a "hot mess", can you believe it? Listen, Blayne, this is how you do it: First you impress the audience and the juges with your sartorial designs, and then you come up with a catchword. If you reverse the order, or just never create a great design to begin with (and let's face it, that pink bubblegum dress of yours was pure fug), you are in no position to call your model a "licious miss". Get fierce first, or leave the poor suffix alone. (It now has its own entry in the OED, along with hunkalicious, bootylicious, spooklicious, and groovalicious -- see, you're not being terribly original.)

On to greener pastures next week. Yeah, right (also has its own OED entry -- first quote is from 1971.)

July 16, 2008

T is for tablecloth

Project Runway returns to its swan season on Bravo. And it seems that Bravo is set on letting it go out not with a bang, but with boredom. How sad is it if the best five minutes of the first episode were the American Express commercials featuring Diane von Fuerstenberg? If even Tim Gunn can't bring himself to call this season's contestants the most talented group of designers ever? (Because clearly, they aren't.) If guest judge Austin Scarlett -- sweet, romantic, whispy Austin -- appears to have come straight from Madame Tussaud's?

What to make of a season in which Tim Gunn makes his entry reminding everyone to "knock the judges' socks off"? That metaphor didn't suit him the first time he used it, and it deserves to be retired. (It has been around since 1845, according to the OED).

What is the point of repeating the grocery store challenge if most of the designers appear never to have watched the first season -- how would they otherwise come up with garment after garment made of tablecloths (paper or fabric), paper towels, "ugly cheap ass" garbage bags, or shower curtains that one "would wear in a slasher movie" (thank you, MK). Let me tell you this, if your face doesn't lighten up when you hear the words "corn husk dress", you're not a real PR fan -- and you certainly shouldn't be a contestant.

The only bold entry was the plastic cup dress, which instantly brought up mental pictures of Krystle Carrington. I actually preferred it to the winning design, which was certainly more wearable, but too cutesy-wootsy for my taste (and, really, if you cut up vacuum cleaner bags, you basically work with paper-like fabric, which is _not_ the point of this challenge, except if you want to impress Nina Garcia, who will always pick the design that looks most "impeccable", whether or not it fits the spirit of the challenge, won't she, Keith?).

No linguistic highlights or new Tim Gunnisms in this season-opening episode. It frees you up to think about other weighty issues, like Heidi Klum's apparent vow never to cover her thighs again. Watch what happens.

linguists for bush

John Egan argues in the New York Times hat the latest New Yorker cover won't hurt Barack Obama. The reason? People get it, even camouflaged Montanans. Who may be members of a club you didn't know existed:
A big red-headed guy in a pickup pulling a fishing boat stopped in front of Barack Obama headquarters here — loaded for bear, as they say.
Land Tawney, a fifth-generation Montanan with a gap-toothed smile, was wearing a plaid shirt and a camouflage cap atop his head. He belongs to Sportsmen for Obama, which sounds like Facebook Users for McCain, or Linguists for Bush.

June 03, 2008

x we can believe in

If you were the Republican Party's nominee and gave a speech on the historic night Barack Obama can claim the Democratic presidential nomination , would you really choose a poor variation of Obama's campaign slogan as the backdrop for your podium and website? It doesn't even SOUND good.

May 15, 2008

the google

So, what do you do on the internets? Do you visit the Google? You're not alone.
Occasionally, one of the things I've used on the Google is to pull up maps.
George W. Bush

February 20, 2008


Due to the arrival of a little person with even littler feet
there won't be any new entries on this blog for a while.

February 08, 2008


Here's what Cintra Wilson from has to say about Christian and his collection for Bryant Park (white-fonted for those who want to avoid spoilers -- note that all remaining 5 designers showed, but 2 collections were "decoy collections").

Last was Christian, perhaps the most controversial of the "Runway" finalists.

Christian "Fierce" Siriano seemed to be having a marvelously good time. The audience didn't want to love him -- he's an awful bitch -- but they couldn't help themselves. He's got the magic, and everyone knows it. He simply is a designer, while all the others are aspiring designers. It is clear that Christian was one of those colorful little boys who loved to lip-sync to Mariah Carey singles in front of the mirror, and has been a peer of Karl Lagerfeld -- at least in his own mind -- since he was about 4 years old. He's barely much older now.

The collection featured a few stunningly huge hats. The dresses were big bouffy tulle shapes, like huge belted tea-roses, and a series of feathery dresses I took to calling the Big Bird Collection, in which Christian had seamlessly fused inspirations from both John Galliano and "Sesame Street." The colors were very simple -- black, brown, ivory -- the designs were just crazy enough, just accessible enough. Mainly, though, Christian just owns the catwalk. He is incredibly confident that this is, in fact, who he is. He doesn't care if the audience likes him or not, and he doesn't need to: He doesn't need your permission to be a designer, Heidi Klum's permission, nor anyone else's.

February 07, 2008

i am diva, hear me moan

What does it tell us about Christian that he identifies sounds that are described by Jillian as "crazy war noise" as "sex moans"? Well, let's not go there. Let's just say that this week's epiosode of Project Runway wasn't as bad as expected (given the trailers), but really made you wonder why there are so few conceptual challenges this season, in particular so close to the finale at Bryant Park (which will be filmed tomorrow).

The designers had to create an outfit for a group of female wrestling stars, known to some (or many) as the WWE Divas [from Latin "diva" = female deity]. Essentially, this was the Sasha Cohen challenge revisited, but with a lot more, um, tootie.

What is a designer to do if the client describes herself as a "classy sex pot"? Poor Sweet P., she picked the tackiest fabric in the store, aptly named "SpandexHouse", described by Christian als "tranny ice-cream", and didn't know how to turn it into something mildly interesting. You know you've reached a low if Tim Gunn suggests in desperation that the look could perhaps be mitigated with feathers.

Christian, as usual, didn't spend too much time worrying and easily adapted his trademark design (tailored poufy sleeve jacket and slim pants) to the occasion and the oh-so-original demands of the client (leather and lace). As usual, it was the most accomplished look on the runway, and also as usual, the judges wisely gave the win to another designer, in this case Chris. Don't spoil the puppy.

This was a challenge in which Chris's over-the-top design experience came in handy. Clad in a leopard-print shirt himself, he created a two-piece ensemble with a greenish leopard-print hoodie that his client loved, but that made me think of ...morels. Not fierce. Also, I'm not so sure about the functionality of the low-cut boy-shorts. They look like a garment the client might wear while getting a Brazilian wax.

Jillian's design looked somewhat functional and athletic (a big plus!), but those white knee socks seriously put me off. Dressing up a grown woman, a wrestler at that, like a school girl gives me the creeps (the judges, however, called her "a sexy tomboy"). Ricky was sent home with a design that consisted of an orange bathing suit and a hellish golden "disco smock", but personally, I was most appalled by Rami's unsexy, unsporty, un-everything creation in screaming pink with a hoola skirt. Granted, his client was perhaps the most annoying of the group, but anybody who attempts to cover massive boobs with draped pink spandex must be stopped.

I think after this uninspiring challenge I deserve a peek at the spoilers that will no doubt turn up after tomorrow's finale show at Fashion Week. Do we even know if 3 or 4 designers are showing? I believe Christian and Jillian are shoo-ins [an onomatopoeic word, first used in the context of horse-racing] and Rami would be my guess for #3 (unless he drapes the undrapable again). The annoying thing is that I would probably have chosen the exact same people after the first episode.