Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sardines and capellini

A first rule of blogging: no one cares what you had for lunch. I think it’s pretty clear that the rule’s creator was not a sardinista.

Inspired by Crow’s sardine saga and Chris’s account of sardines and linguini, I tried putting sardines and capellini (angel hair) together for lunch. I started the pasta, smashed and chopped two cloves of garlic, let them brown (just slightly) in olive oil, and added a can of skinless and boneless sardines in olive oil, chopped parsley, and red-pepper flakes. The sardines smelled pretty funky in the hot oil. But the dish was a delight: far more flavorful than pasta with tuna and lemon, and sweeter than good old aglio e olio (which I make with anchovies). Parmesan and black pepper: nice additions, but hardly necessary.

I will be making sardines and capellini again soon, even if no one cares.

Related reading
All OCA sardines posts (Pinboard)

[I am happy and sad to see that sardinista already has some currency. I made it up all by myself, but too late.]

The Free Design, on the tube

The Free Design’s recording of “Love You” may be heard in a new Delta Airlines commercial. I love The Free Design.

A related post
Chris Dedrick (1947–2010)

Life style or life

From The New Yorker, in a film review by Anthony Lane: “one of the rare benefits of age: maybe you can start, at last, to tell the difference between a life style and a life.”

I like what Christopher Lasch said about life style: “The appeal of this tired but now ubiquitous phrase probably lies in its suggestion that life is largely a matter of style. Find something else to say about life.” Life style is most often equated with spending habits and leisure activity. Life is a different story.

[Garner’s Modern American Usage deems lifestyle a Stage-5 word: “The form is universally accepted (not counting pseudo-snoot eccentrics).”]

DARE to fold

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Dictionary of American Regional English is preparing to fold.

Monday, March 30, 2015

National Pencil Day

At Contrapuntalism, Sean pulls out many stops for National Pencil Day.

A good pencil is a thing of everyday beauty.

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

Another sardinista

The Crow writes about sardines, then and now.

Related reading
All OCA sardines posts (Pinboard)

A perfect ellipsis

Getting the ellipsis right in pixels is a tricky business. Three spaced periods (as The Chicago Manual of Style recommends) look . . . ungainly. Four spaced periods (an ellipsis plus a period) can look ridiculous . . . .

The horizontal ellipsis character (made by typing …) looks … better. But when that a period follows that character, things look a bit off …. See how much larger the final period looks?

Last night, when I was typing a short post, I realized that I could make an ellipsis and period by using the hair space ( ). Periods and hair spaces make a perfect ellipsis-plus:  . . . . Or in plain English: . . . .

Telephone EXchange names on screen

[From Tension (dir. John Berry, 1949). Click for a larger view.]

The “All-Nite Service” drugstore has everything, including liquor and this business card. Barney Deager must have first come by as an Ass’t Sales Manager for the Southwestern Liquor Syndicate. Now he comes by to take out the pharmacist’s wife. I suspect that nothing good will come of that.

DAwson and FAirfield may not be genuine Los Angeles exchange names: the Telephone EXchange Name Project has nothing for DAwson and just one entry for FAirfield (in use in Alabama).

More exchange names on screen
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Baby Face : Blast of Silence : Boardwalk Empire : Born Yesterday : The Dark Corner : Deception : Dream House : The Little Giant : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Modern Marvels : Murder, My Sweet : My Week with Marilyn : Naked City (1) : Naked City (2) : Naked City (3) : Naked City (4) : Naked City (5) : Naked City (6) : Naked City (7) : Nightmare Alley : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Side Street : Sweet Smell of Success : This Gun for Hire

[There’s something beautifully tacky about a business card that abbreviates assistant. I would like to think that the abbreviation is another great detail of set design.]

Sunday, March 29, 2015

John Kerry, less grandiose

Andrea Mitchell, on NBC Nightly News tonight:

“. . . as six world powers led by John Kerry . . . .”
Less grandiose, better:
“Led by John Kerry, representatives of six world powers . . . .”

Minority report: Mr. Turner

Wikipedia: “Mr. Turner has received universal praise from critics.” Well, okay. Mr. Turner (dir. Mike Leigh, 2014), is a beautiful-looking film, extraordinarily so. Dick Pope’s cinematography makes every landscape, every seascape, every interior a painterly composition. But in this portrait of the artist as a gruff man, it’s difficult, at times impossible, to understand what he’s saying: Timothy Spall’s J. M. W. Turner is all croaks and growls and hoarse mutterings. I don’t think it’s meant to be funny, but many in last night’s audience seemed to find it hilarious, as if the film were a John Belushi samurai skit. Meant to be funny but not so: the film’s depiction of John Ruskin as a lisping mega-twit. To me that seemed the easiest, cheapest of shots. But at least I could understand Ruskin’s words, lisp and all.

Elaine and I both did a little reading about Turner last night and were surprised to learn that his last words were “The sun is God.” In the theater, we had both heard, with no second-guessing, “The sun is gone.” Diction, diction, diction.

My recommendation: wait for the DVD, and watch with subtitles.

Domestic comedy

[After deciding not to go to the fancy place for dinner.]

“I’ll leave my thesaurus at home then.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Gill Sans

[“Perils Of Julia And Gill Man — Movie Julia Adams.” Photograph by Edward Clark. Alterations by me. From the Life Photo Archive. Click for a larger, gillier view.]

Once upon a time, the Creature, or the Gill-Man, was one of the monster models made by Aurora Plastics, along with Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and the Wolfman. The makeup of that quintet bugged me. Four of them: classics. But the fifth? Now he’s a spokesgill-man for the sardine industry.

Scale models — cars, dinosaurs, monsters, planes — were once a fairly standard part of boyhood. Testors Glue, Testors Enamel Paints, decals: necessary stuff, like sardines.

Related reading
All OCA sardines posts (Pinboard)

[Gill Sans? Sans sardines. The font I’ve used for “got sardines?” is the free CGPhenixAmerican.]

Liberal-arts trashing

“Dismissing the liberal arts seems to have become a litmus test for conservative politicians”: Christopher Scalia, “Conservatives, Please Stop Trashing the Liberal Arts” (The Wall Street Journal ).

[The link goes to a Google search. A direct link works only for WSJ subscribers. Christopher Scalia is a professor of English and son of Antonin Scalia.]

Friday, March 27, 2015


“It’s a whacked-out, motherfuckin’ weekend, bro.”

And probably not for the first time.

Related reading
All OCA “overheard” posts (Pinboard)

[Three compound words there, but only one hyphen.]

A movie theater in the movies

[The Culver. From Tension (1949, dir. John Berry).]

[The Kirk Douglas Theatre. From Google Maps, 2015. Click either image for a larger view.]

Elaine and I gave a little leap when we watched Tension again last night. We know this theater. In 1949, it was the Culver. Today, it’s the Kirk Douglas Theatre. We heard the Culver City Symphony there in 2014. Hearing the Symphony is a Thing to Do in Los Angeles.

I still want to track down the location of the drugstore in Tension, which I think must be the best drugstore in the movies. A street sign, barely legible in one street scene, looks as if might read Something Alexandria Avenue . North? South? East? West? Must investigate further.


3:46 p.m.: Having traveled N. and S. Alexandria via Google Maps, I don’t think any trace remains of that drugstore.


May 29, 2018: The drugstore stood at the southwest corner of W. 6th Street and S. Alexandria Avenue in Los Angeles.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

An adjunct instructor’s student becomes an adjunct instructor

Carmen Maria Machado writes about learning from an adjunct instructor and becoming an adjunct instructor:

The irony of this setup has not escaped me: the adjuncts who teach well despite the low pay and the lack of professional support may inspire in their students a similar passion — prompting them to be financially taken advantage of in turn.

“O Adjunct! My Adjunct!” (The New Yorker)
I’ll say it again: the exploitation of adjunct labor is the shame and scandal of American higher education.

A related post
The Adjunct Project

“[I]t’s readers”

[A sidebar to an article in today’s York Times.]

Here’s a post with Jessica Mitford’s tongue-in-cheek advice for choosing between its and it’s.

[Trying to create a post in Blogger’s iOS app is hell on wheels, with three flat tires.]

Another relic

Diane Schirf continues her “Relics” series by writing about the push reel lawn mower.

[To my surprise, lawn mower really is two words.]

Mr. Hyphen and Mr. Faulkner

From Edward N. Teall’s Meet Mr. Hyphen (And Put Him in His Place) (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1937):

In the downfunnelled light of a curbchannelled street in a neartropical metropolis, a tall, circuitriderlooking man stood amid the carnival confettisplatter overhead and confettidrift underfoot. His clothes were neartweed; his shoes flimsy, as though made of imitationleather. The package he carried contained a new hat of admirable machinesymmetry, purchased after much scribblescrawling of figures and a deal of coinfumbling, as a weddingpresent for —
All those crazycat compounds actually appear in “Pylon,” one of William Faulkner’s novels. Along with them go such others as cheeseclothlettered, mirageline, corpseglare, coffincubicles, bottomupwards, wirehum, canallock, umbrellarib.
“In the downfunnelled light”: that’s not Pylon (1935); it’s Teall’s assembling of compounds from the novel — Faulkner words, or better, Faulknerwords — in a handful of sentences. A sampling from Light in August (1932), which I’m now teaching: branchshadowed, cinderstrewnpacked, fecundmellow, hardfeeling, hardsmelling, moonblanched, pinkwomansmelling, sootbleakened. I love modernism.

Faulkner’s habit of compounding owes much to the example of Joyce’s Ulysses (1922): cabbageeared, dressinggown, hairynostrilled, scrotumtightening, snotgreen. These compound words make me think of Anglo-Saxon poetry and Homeric epithets. Κορυθαίολος Ἕκτωρ : Hector moving-the-helmet-quickly.

I wonder if Teall was aware of William Carlos Williams’s decouplings in “The Red Wheelbarrow”:
a red wheel

glazed with rain
I love modernism.

Also from Meet Mr. Hyphen
Funk & Wagnalls logo
Living on hyphens

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Another college president plagiarizing?

News from 13News: “The incoming president of Virginia Wesleyan College has a history of plagiarism, according to a book and published media reports.”

Plagiarism in high places in a minor theme in Orange Crate Art. The presidents of Jacksonville State University, Malone University, Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical, South Central College, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and Tennessee Temple University have appeared in earlier posts.

Related reading
All OCA plagiarism posts (Pinboard)

An attendance policy

Plain and practical:

I hope all of you will attend at least as regularly as I do.
From a Fall 1973 syllabus by the poet Ted Berrigan. It’s the “at least” that kills me.

Other Ted Berrigan posts
“A Final Sonnet”
Separated at birth? With C. Everett Koop
“Whoa Back Buck & Gee by Land!”

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The gender-neutral hen

News from The Guardian : “The official dictionary of the Swedish language will introduce a gender-neutral pronoun in April, editors at the Swedish Academy have announced.”

The word is hen . Han and hon are Swedish for “he” and “she.” Notice that The Guardian cannot tell us what hen is Swedish for: there’s no gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun in common use in English yet.

From a title page

[From the title page of Edward N. Teall’s Meet Mr. Hyphen (And Put Him in His Place) (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1937). Actual size 9/16″ × 9/16″.]

If this image was ever a Funk & Wagnalls trademark, the details seem to be well-hidden. I liked the image enough to scan it and make it more readable, though I’m still not sure what it says. Is the kneeling figure working with a book and a globe?

Also from Mr. Hyphen
Living on hyphens

Living on hyphens

One man’s family:

Years ago, when you and I and the world were younger, language was simpler. In the ’90s, when I was in my teens, my father and grandfather were students of grammar and related subjects, such as punctuation and compounding. My father specialized in the field of the compound word. We of his household may be said to have lived on hyphens. We did this figuratively, in that we heard them much discussed; literally, in that they translated into food, shelter, clothing and recreation, since they furnished the head of the house with remunerative employment.

Edward N. Teall, Meet Mr. Hyphen (And Put Him in His Place) (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1937).
A family living on hyphens: something Salinger might have invented.

Edward Teall’s father must have been F. Horace Teall, who wrote The Compounding of Words in “Funk & Wagnalls’ Standard Dictionary of the English Language” (1891), available from Google Books. Like father, like son.

I found my way to Meet Mr. Hyphen by reading Mary Norris’s Between You & Me.


March 25: Peter Sokolowski of Merriam-Webster tells me that Edward Teall was a Merriam-Webster editor. Thanks, Peter.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Review: Mary Norris, Between You & Me

Mary Norris, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen. New York: W. W. Norton, 2015. 240 pages. $24.95 hardcover.

Mary Norris is a copy editor, aka query proofreader, aka page-OK’er, at The New Yorker, where she has worked for more than thirty-five years. Early in Between You & Me she writes,

One of the things I like about my job is that it draws on the entire person: not just your knowledge of grammar and punctuation and usage and foreign languages and literature but also your experience of travel, gardening, shipping, singing, plumbing, Catholicism, midwesternism, mozzarella, the A train, New Jersey.
Part memoir, part free-ranging meditation on matters of usage, this book, too, draws on the entire person. Ten pages in, when Norris describes the skirt she wore to her New Yorker job interview, I worried that Between You & Me would turn out to resemble Joanna Rakoff’s My Salinger Year. But my worry was for nothing. The catalogue of knowledge and experience that followed two pages later (quoted above) makes the difference clear: Norris is interested in everything.

Between You & Me is rich in details of The New Yorker’s people and practices. It’s all from a ground-level perspective: Pauline Kael makes a cameo appearance (“You helped me!” she says, after Norris makes a suggestion), but there’s very little of William Shawn or later editors or the magazine’s writers. The New Yorker people in the spotlight are the copy editors Lu Burke and Eleanor Gould. Burke (who left a million-dollar estate to her local library) is cranky and volatile, the creator of a Comma Shaker meant to mock the magazine’s “close” (or excessive) punctuation. Gould, long renowned for her devotion to clarity in writing, here seems a baffling mandarin, a maker of style choices that sometimes defy logic (for instance, “blue-stained glass” to describe blue stained glass). The New Yorker ’s dictionary hierarchy also defies logic: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate first (the Little Red Web in house parlance), Webster’s Second second, and Webster’s Third third. Yet the Collegiate was for many years based on Webster’s Third, the dictionary that The New Yorker regards with “an institutional distrust.” It should be no surprise that the American Heritage Dictionary has no place at the magazine, which needs no advice from a Usage Panel. The New Yorker is a Usage Panel unto itself.

As for usage, Between You and Me takes stock of a number of problems and questions in language: subject and object pronouns (thus the book’s title); gender-neutral third-person singular pronouns, from ip (1884) to ee (2014); dangling modifiers; spelling; punctuation marks; the apostrophe (which Norris rightly regards as a matter of spelling, not punctuation); that and which; who and whom. What Norris offers, though, is not how-to advice (an appendix points to helpful books) but personal commentary, wit, and delightful examples of language in action. Writing about gender and pronouns, Norris draws upon life with her transgender sibling Baby Dee. Writing about subject and object pronouns, Norris cites hypercorrecting bowler Ralph Kramden (“We have already reserved that alley for Teddy and I”), Montgomery Burns (whose exclamation “You were he!” befits a villain), and the Astrud Gilberto rendition of “The Girl from Ipanema” (“She looks straight ahead — not at he”). What is more: Norris has a good idea about where that he came from. Writing about punctuation, she observes that the em dash “can create a sense of drama — false drama.” She likens the colon to a butler who says “Right this way.” No more than one colon to a sentence: “A butler would never tolerate another butler in the same household.” And Norris is the only writer I’ve read who mentions what must be a remarkable book, Edward N. Teall’s Meet Mr. Hyphen (And Put Him in His Place) (1937). “Good compounding is a manifestation of character,” says Mr. Teall.

If you can imagine reading a book on usage while you sit waiting to participate in the ritual movements of alternate-side parking, if you have wondered how to form the plural possessive of McDonald’s, if you would find it difficult to choose between “bright red car” and “bright-red car,” if you care about no. 1 and no. 2 pencils, if you think road trip when you hear Pencil Sharpener Museum, you’ll find much to like in Between You & Me. If you cannot imagine, have not wondered, wouldn’t find it difficult, don’t care, and don’t think road trip, Mary Norris will show you what you’re missing.

And in case it isn’t already clear: Mary Norris is not the American Lynne Truss. There is one moment of Truss-like hyperbole in the book, and it feels entirely out of place: Norris says that when she hears the words “He sent flowers to Kate and I,” “some lining between [her] skin and [her] inner organs begins to shrink.” That physical reaction may call for a truss. But unlike Truss, Norris is knowledgable, and she’s a careful, graceful writer. Given her line of work, she’d have to be, don’t you think?

Between You & Me will be published on April 6. Thanks to W. W. Norton for a review copy.

Related post
The irregular restrictive which (A New Yorker usage)
Marry Norris on New Yorker style

[Gould is an intimidating figure. I have followed her practice in spelling copy editor and copy-edit. Garner’s Modern American Usage: “Each is now preferably a single unhyphenated word.”]

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Geoffrey Pullum on On Writing Well

Geoffrey Pullum has a new target: William Zinsser’s On Writing Well. Pullum writes about the book in a Language Log post, “Awful book, so I bought it.” His complaints concern Zinsser’s advice about verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. Pullum charges Zinsser with “passivophobia” and gleefully points out Zinsser’s use of adverbs and adjectives, the very words, Pullum says, that Zinsser dismisses as mostly unnecessary:

It’s the old story of do as I say, not as I do. You and I are told that we won’t be good writers unless our adjective and adverb count is close to zero, but Zinsser is a professional so he doesn’t have to worry: he can use them at will, sometimes two out of every five words, without incurring criticism.

On Writing Well does recommend the active voice: “The difference between an active-verb style and a passive-verb style — in clarity and vigor — is the difference between life and death for a writer.” Writing about student essays, Pullum has said much the same thing:
Certainly, reading an unbroken procession of agentless passives that could have been actives is like being hit on the head over and over again with a mallet labeled “I REFUSE TO TELL YOU WHO THE RESPONSIBLE PARTY IS.” And it’s boring! Theories will be discussed; grammars will be compared; aspects will be assessed; problems will be analysed — beam me up, Scotty! There is only one form of sentence construction down here!
The only difference between Zinsser and Pullum: Pullum says the problem with the student essay is not the passive voice but “the writer’s tin ear.” But what makes it possible to accuse that writer of having a tin ear? I think it would be that writer’s overreliance on the passive voice.

Pullum has made the no-adverbs, no-adjectives charge against The Elements of Style as well. With Zinsser, as with Strunk and White, the charge is absurd, and it relies on selective quoting that wouldn’t pass muster in a freshman composition class. Pullum quotes Zinsser as saying that “Most adverbs are unnecessary” and that “Most adjectives are also unnecessary.” Let’s look though at more of what Zinsser says. About adverbs:
Most adverbs are unnecessary. You will clutter your sentence and annoy the reader if you choose a verb that has a specific meaning and then add an adverb that carries the same meaning. Don’t tell us that the radio blared loudly; “blare” connotes loudness. Don’t write that someone clenched his teeth tightly; there's no other way to clench teeth.
And about adjectives:
Most adjectives are also unnecessary. Like adverbs, they are sprinkled into sentences by writers who don’t stop to think that the concept is already in the noun. This kind of prose is littered with precipitous cliffs and lacy spiderwebs, or with adjectives denoting the color of an object whose color is well known: yellow daffodils and brownish dirt. If you want to make a value judgment about daffodils, choose an adjective like “garish.” If you're in a part of the country where the dirt is red, feel free to mention the red dirt. Those adjectives would do a job that the noun alone wouldn’t be doing.

Most writers sow adjectives almost unconsciously into the soil of their prose to make it more lush and pretty, and the sentences become longer and longer as they fill up with stately elms and frisky kittens and hard-bitten detectives and sleepy lagoons. This is adjective-by-habit — a habit you should get rid of. Not every oak has to be gnarled.
William Zinsser never suggests that a writer aspire to adjective- and adverb-free prose. And what On Writing Well offers is not “mendacious drivel about passives and modifiers” but sound advice about lifeless sentences and dopey overwriting. But you wouldn’t know that if you were to trust Geoffrey Pullum.

Related posts
Pullum on Strunk and White
More on Pullum, Strunk, White
Hardly (adverb) convincing (adjective)

[“Not every oak has to be gnarled”: what a delightful sentence.]

Saturday, March 21, 2015

“Sardines in instant cans”

[Life, July 24, 1964. Click for a larger, fishier view.]

What will they think of next? Perhaps a way to make sardines more photogenic. Oh, wait — it’s been fifty years.

Related posts
Alex Katz, painter, eater Sardines for lunch, every day
City for Conquest (and sardines)
End of the U.S. sardine industry
The frightening truth that they don’t want you to know about sardines
Go fish
New directions in sardines
Sardine moose
Satan’s seafood

[The lunch hour approaches.]

Word of the Day: expiate

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is expiate :

1 : to extinguish the guilt incurred by

2 : to make amends for
M-W explains:
The word derives from expiare, Latin for “to atone for,” a root that in turn traces to the Latin term for “pious.” Expiate originally referred to warding off evil by using sacred rites or to using sacred rites to cleanse or purify something. By the 17th century, Shakespeare (and others) were using it to mean “to put an end to”: “But when in thee time’s furrows I behold, / Then look I death my days should expiate” (Sonnet 22). Those senses have since become obsolete, and now only the “extinguish the guilt” and “make amends” senses remain in use.
Expiate is for me a William Faulkner word. It’s prominent in Light in August (1932), where it’s used by the narrator (along with expiation ) and by two characters, both religious fanatics:
“To what I done and what I suffered to expiate it, what you done and are womansuffering aint no more than a handful of rotten dirt.”


He was lying so, on his back, his hands crossed on his breast like a tomb effigy, when he heard again feet on the cramped stairs. They were not the man’s; he had heard McEachern drive away in the buggy, departing in the twilight to drive three miles and to a church which was not Presbyterian, to serve the expiation which he had set himself for the morning.


She began to talk about a child, as though instinct had warned her that now was the time when she must either justify or expiate.


Again they stood to talk, as they used to do two years ago; standing in the dusk while her voice repeated its tale: “. . . not to school, then, if you dont want to go . . . Do without that . . . Your soul. Expiation of . . .”


The mind and the heart purged then, if it is ever to be; the week and its whatever disasters finished and summed and expiated by the stern and formal fury of the morning service; the next week and its whatever disasters not yet born, the heart quiet now for a little while beneath the cool soft blowing of faith and hope.
Expiate is one of a number of words that always recall works of literature in which I encountered them. Other such words:

Apoplexy, avatar, bandbox, heifer, sanguine, sempiternal : Artificer : Ineluctable : Iridescent : Magnifico : Opusculum

Friday, March 20, 2015

Erin McKean on how dictionaries work

Lexicographer Erin McKean, interviewed for The Chicago Manual of Style ’s Shop Talk:

I’d love for dictionary entries to be used as you’d use the technical specs for some piece of equipment. In the same way that you’d check whether the washing machine you want to buy has the right cubic capacity for your household, you’d look up a word to check whether it had the right denotation, range of use, tone, literary allusions, or what-have-you for your intended use. The role of the dictionary is to help you decide on the right word for you, not to rule whether something is or isn’t a word.

I truly believe that if something is used as a word, it’s a word. The rest is just bookkeeping.
Related posts
Erin McKean talks (Why isn’t asshat in the dictionary?)
A “wheelchair dude” in our Macs

Domestic comedy

“Perry Mason meets The Man from U.N.C.L.E.! It’s like Godzilla meets Rodan!”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[David McCallum appeared in the Perry Mason episode The Case of the Fifty Millionth Frenchman (February 20, 1964). Later that year he began playing Illya Kuryakin on The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. Better living through TV!]

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Samuel Charters (1929–2015)

Samuel Charters was a pioneer of blues scholarship. He may have done more than anyone else to popularize the inchoate but deeply appealing idea of “the country blues.” The New York Times has an obituary: “Samuel Charters, Foundational Scholar of the Blues, Dies at 85.”

[Deeply appealing to whom? To young palefaces like me who were looking for something genuine in music.]

Word of the Day: sprachgefühl

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is sprachgefühl :

1: the character of a language

2 : an intuitive sense of what is linguistically appropriate
M-W explains:
Sprachgefühl was borrowed into English from German at the end of the 19th century and combines two German nouns, Sprache, meaning “language, speech,” and Gefühl, meaning “feeling.” (Nouns are capitalized in German, and you'll occasionally see sprachgefühl capitalized in English too . . . .) We’re quite certain that the quality of sprachgefühl is common among our readers, but the word itself is rare, making only occasional appearances in our language.
It’s surprising that this commentary on sprachgefühl makes no mention of David Foster Wallace, whose essay “Authority and American Usage” mentions the word in its gloss of SNOOT, the Wallace family acronym for a usage fanatic: “Sprachgefühl Necessitates Our Ongoing Tendance” or “Syntax Nudniks Of Our Time.”

Then again, it might not be surprising that Wallace is missing from this commentary: he was a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel. Dictionary politics could be at work.

A related post
See Bryan Garner and David Foster Wallace (More on SNOOT)

[Merriam-Webster, why do you make it difficult to share the Word of the Day in the old-fashioned way? I had to go to Twitter to get a link to today’s word.]

Time Savers Easy Correspondence Card

[Made by E. C. Kropp Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Click for a larger view.]

Long before canned e-mail, or any e-mail, there was the Time Savers Easy Correspondence Card. It has the linen finish one often finds on older postcards. 1930s? 1940s? I like “I spend evenings but no money.” And I like roaming through an antiques mall and buying a single postcard. Big fun, cheap.

Unlike canned e-mail, this card of course is a joke on modern ideas about efficiency.

Yours sincerely.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Domestic comedy

“Me, you know what I’m like when it gets cold, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[Yesterday: spring. This morning: 29°.]

Canned e-mails

Canned Emails (no hyphen) is a free service offering just that. And boy, do they sound canned. Here is “it’s been a while, let’s catch up”:

Subject: Hey. How’s it going?

It’s been a while since we’ve last talked!

How are you?

I just wanted to catch up with you and see how you’re doing.

Hit me back, and let me know what’s happened since we last talked. I’d love to catch up.
To which the appropriate (canned) reply might be “received task, will do later”:
Subject: Got it. Thanks

Just a heads up: I’m extremely busy right now, so it will take me some time to get to this.

Please remind me again if I don’t get to this soon.

Also, let me know if your priorities change, and you no longer need this finished.
File under O brave new world.

A related post
Sample letters, 1952

[I’ve added proper apostrophes to the canned messages. Couldn’t help myself.]

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A small press v. the Salinger estate

From Publishers Weekly :

The Devault-Graves Agency filed a lawsuit against the J.D. Salinger Literary Trust in a Tennessee court on March 16, claiming that the estate has, without legal basis, thwarted the press’s attempts to publish and distribute international editions of its collection of early Salinger short stories, Three Early Stories .
It seems to me quite a trick for the Salinger estate to stake a claim to stories for which Salinger never held copyright.


June 7, 2015: The Salinger Trust has asked that the suit be dismissed.


October 20, 2015: The case has been transferred to New Hampshire Federal Court.


December 11, 2015: Devault-Graves is dropping its lawsuit.


December 12, 2015: More: “If the law in their home country backs our copyright, then the Salinger Trust cannot prevent publication in that country,” Devault said. “Our decision to withdraw the lawsuit is certainly no loss for us. We’ve essentially put the Salinger Trust on notice that we will defend our right to publish in every foreign market that is legitimately open to us. It is merely a new way of looking at the equation.”

And still more: “Despite Salinger’s opposition, Graves told [Publishers Weekly ] that the publisher has licensed the book to 10 foreign publishers, and that there are now six foreign editions in print.”

An aside: David Shields and Shane Salerno’s claim (in their biography Salinger ) that a volume of new Salinger work will appear in 2015 is beginning to look doubtful.

[I wrote about Three Early Stories last year.]

Five sentences on the post office

A Google exploratory module lands on Orange Crate Art: could you write five sentences on the post office .

Yes, you could, if you would forget Google, sit down, concentrate, and do your own homework.

Other “five sentences” posts
Bleak House : The cat : Clothes : The driver : My house : Life : Life on the moon : The past (1) : The past (2) : The rabbit : The ship : Smoking : The telephone : The world

[Ever since I wrote a post on five sentences from Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, Google searches for five sentences (that is, for ready-made homework) have been ending up at Orange Crate Art. Could you write five sentences on the post office is one of them.]

Pantone 347

The color of the day: Pantone 347. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

[C? Pantone explains: “The letter suffix refers to the paper stock on which it is printed: a ‘C’ for coated or gloss paper, ‘U’ for uncoated paper and an ‘M’ for matte or dull paper.”]

Monday, March 16, 2015

Rip and run

A great moment in The Wire: Omar Little, testifying for the prosecution, tells State’s Attorney Ilene Nathan how he makes a living. From “All Prologue” (July 6, 2003):

“What is your occupation?”


“What exactly do do you for a living, Mr. Little?”

“I rip and run.”

“You . . . ?”

“I robs drug dealers.”
This exchange has led some viewers to conclude that rip and run and rob drug dealers are synonymous. Urban Dictionary’s top-rated definition for rip and run has the phrase meaning just that. Ripping and running can indeed suggest criminal activity: the phrase turns up in the title of a book on addiction and crime, Michael Agar’s Ripping and Running: A Formal Ethnography of Urban Heroin Addicts (1973). And “Ripping and Running: Heroin and Crime” is a chapter title in Tom Carnwath and Ian Smith’s Heroin Century (2002). But UD’s top-rated definition for ripping and running suggests a much broader meaning: “Maintaining a busy, frantic pace; hyper tasking.”

The OED and Webster’s Third are of no help with rip and run, but both offer definitions of rip that suggest this broader meaning. From the OED: “To rush along vigorously; to move at great speed” (1858). From W3: “to move unchecked : proceed without restraint : rush headlong.” We might say that one who is ripping and running is on a tear.

A sampling of references that suggest a much broader meaning:
I lets you rip and run, baby, just as long as
    you please
Lets you rip and run, baby, just as long as you
You might meets another man who will set my
    heart at ease

Bob Gaddy, “Rip and Run” (1958)


Children play nearby and among the men. They rip and run up and down the street and occasionally stop a man, apparently unmindful of how he looks, to say, “Got a quarter, mister?”

Elijah Anderson, A Place on the Corner (1976)


“I’m always ripping and running and ripping and running,” she likes to say. “Here and there, to the church and back, all day, every day. But that’s what it takes to do it right.”

Susan Orlean, Saturday Night (1990)


Children from these generally permissive homes have a great deal of latitude and are allowed to “rip and run” up and down the streets. They often come home from school, put their books down, and go right back out the door.

Elijah Anderson, “The Social Ecology of Youth Violence” (1998)


Seeing the kids ripping and running through the mega Toys “R” Us was a sight for sore eyes. Jordan was terrorizing the store employees. He was pulling down everything in sight that his two-and-a-half-year-old stature could reach.

Danielle Santiago, Grindin’: A Harlem Story (2006)


The tempo of life increased significantly upon the return to work. The EAADM mother described the tempo of their days as “ripping,” “running,” “hurrying,” “constantly moving,” and “racing.”

Mary Podmolik King, The Lived Experience of Becoming a First-Time, Enlisted, Army, Active-Duty, Military Mother (2006)


Ripping and running the streets

Perrie Gibson, A Tribute to Mama (2008)


Ripping and running to and fro,
Not really knowing which way to go.

A. D. Lawrence, When the Lioness Roars (2009)
Gaddy’s lyric suggests painting the town red — doing, as people now say, “whatever.” Every other use suggests an unspecified movement, energetic and hectic (and with children, unsupervised). Rip and run appears in this broader sense at least twice in The Wire. In “Port in a Storm” (August 24, 2003), Detective “Herc” Hauk, who’s been relegated to surveilliance duties, says, “The job had a little more rip-and-run to it, the way I remember it.” And in “Refugees” (October 1, 2006), Lieutenant Charles Marimow says, “That’s what we do here now. We get on the street and we rip and run.”

So, yes, Omar robs drug dealers, but rip and run has a much broader meaning. It’s even possible to hear his “rip and run” as a vague response that doesn't mean rob drug dealers: I‘m on the streets, I get around, I’m doing one thing or another. Certainly Omar would understand the theatrical value in following up a deliberately vague response with the blunt “I robs drug dealers.”

My acquaintance with rip and run goes back to my days doing literacy tutoring. I’d pick up my student to go to the library and ask, “How’s it goin’, [name redacted ]?

And his reply, often: “Rippin’ and runnin’, tryin’ to get things done.”

He was caring for his wife and, often, for their granddaughter. He was not out robbing drug dealers.

A joke in the traditional manner

Here is the punchline: The Autobahn.

No spoilers. The setup is in the comments.

More jokes in the traditional manner
A Golden Retriever
How did Bela Lugosi know what to expect?
How did Samuel Clemens do all his long-distance traveling?
What did the plumber do when embarrassed?
Which member of the orchestra was best at handling money?
Why did the doctor spend his time helping injured squirrels?
Why did Oliver Hardy attempt a solo career in movies?
Why was Santa Claus wandering the East Side of Manhattan?

[“In the traditional manner”: by or à la my dad. He must take credit for all but the doctor and Santa Claus.]

Saturday, March 14, 2015

A is for Artichoke

Sally Rightor Parks’s A is for Artichoke (Pasadena: Water Works, 2014) is a book of fifty-two paintings, two for each letter of the alphabet, one painting showing the letter in its upper- and lower-case forms, the other depicting a flower or fruit or vegetable whose name begins with that letter. A border of leaves or flowers (good for counting!) runs around each page. (One exception: for the mushroom, it’s caps and slices.) The paintings are rustic watercolors: delicately curled beet leaves, a luminous eggplant with its floppy hat, a forest of fennel, a brightly spotted zucchini. A quiet, witty touch: the red, white, and green of the pages for the jalapeño.

A is for Artichoke is a large and sturdy, 10″ x 12½″, perfect for use with a child or grandchild in one’s lap. The book is available from Vroman’s Bookstore in sunny Pasadena. And boy, is that bookstore fast.

Q: Can you guess what edible goes with the letter h ?

Sardine moose

[Field & Stream, November 1976. Click for a larger view.]

I could do without the hunting. But I like the idea of carrying around four or five cans of sardines. Is that For Hunters Only?

Related posts
Alex Katz, painter, eater Sardines for lunch, every day
City for Conquest (and sardines)
End of the U.S. sardine industry
Go fish
New directions in sardines
Satan’s seafood
Teenagers with moose

[The lunch hour approaches.]

Friday, March 13, 2015

If Homer’s poems were television channels

Iliad: History.

Odyssey: Food Network.

Related reading
All OCA Homer posts (Pinboard)
Football : baseball :: Iliad : Odyssey

[Yes, The History Channel is now History.]

Zippy at the Summit Diner

[Zippy, March 13, 2015.]

I am thrilled to see Zippy visiting the Summit Diner in Somerset, Pennsylvania. In years past, our family stopped for dinner there many times when schlepping eastward on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Now, no Turnpike, no diner.

The Summit Diner had — and perhaps still has — postcards. It also had jukeboxes. And a phone booth outside.

[Click for a larger view.]

On the other side of the postcard:

The Summit Diner, located at 791 N. Center Ave., Somerset, PA, 15501, just off Pennsylvania Turnpike Exit 10. Phone 814–445–7154. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The Summit now closes at 10:00 p.m.

Related reading
All OCA Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Hi and Lois watch

[Hi and Lois, March 13, 2013.]

Those socks. Those feet. Or are they cloven hooves?

Related reading
All OCA Hi and Lois posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Jack DeJohnette on Muhal Richard Abrams

Jack DeJohnette on Muhal Richard Abrams:

“He was always telling us, ‘Go to the library.’ Practicing every day wasn’t enough; he wanted us to be serious. ‘Go get books — you don’t need a lot of money,’ he told us. He’d already taught himself orchestration and how to play clarinet; he had studied all the piano players. And yet he still has the child-like attitude toward things — he was full of wonder. Around the piano, even today, you get the sense that he’s still a kid.”
Quoted in the liner notes for the ECM disc Made in Chicago, the recording of an August 2013 Chicago Jazz Festival concert by DeJohnette’s Special Legends Edition Chicago: Muhal Richard Abrams, Larry Gray, Roscoe Mitchell, and Henry Threadgill. I wrote about the concert in 2013. The recording was released this week, and it’s a killer.

Here, from ECM, is a short film about Made in Chicago.

[“Still a kid”: In August 2013, Muhal Richard Abrams was almost eighty-three.]

Another Cento

Here is another Cento, one that’s usually in our cabinet of canned goods. I use Cento Tomato Puree when I make sauce — so easy to do, and the result is better than anything that comes from a jar. I have it on good authority that only the finest lines from the poets of il dolce stil novo — Guinizelli, Cavalcanti, Dante — go into Cento Tomato Puree.

Related posts
Coppola/“Godfather” sauce
A sauce recipe
Word of the day: cento

[Image borrowed from Cento Fine Foods.]

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Word of the day: cento

A.Word.A.Day’s Word of the Day is cento:

noun : A literary work, especially a poem, composed of parts taken from works of other authors.
The cento is dear to readers of modern and postmodern poetry. From a page I gave my students earlier this fall, as we skipped lightly through T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land:
One way to enter into the spirit of Eliot’s mosaic-like poem is to make a cento, a poem made of lines from other poems. (Cento—pronounced “sen-toh”—comes from the Latin word for “patchwork.”) Making a cento is not a matter of plagiarism: the sources are meant to be recognized as such. A cento is not the way to make a reputation as a poet; it’s more a matter of game a poet might play, ranging among the works of ancestors and bringing unexpected tones and textures into a poem: “Come, Shepherd, and again renew the quest.” (!)
The preëminent cento-maker of our time is John Ashbery. Here are three of his centos: “The Dong with the Luminous Nose,” “They Knew What They Wanted,” and “To a Waterfowl.” The line above, from Matthew Arnold’s “The Scholar-Gipsy,” turns up in the first of these centos.

[Yes, centos: “Originally with Latin plural centones ; afterwards centoes , now usually centos  the French and Italian forms of the singular have also been used” (Oxford English Dictionary ).]

Telephone booths

[“Busy telephone booths during an airline strike.” Photograph by Robert W. Kelley. Chicago, 1961. From the Life Photo Archive. Click for a larger view.]

Notice the Western Union sign too.

See also Diane Schirf’s meditation on phone booths.

Related posts
And then there were four Outdoor phone booths
“Dowdy world” love story With phone booth
The Lonely Phone Booth
Wooden phone booths

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Another Mark Trail improvement

[Mark Trail revised, March 10, 2015.]

Now with needless words really, really omitted.

A related post
How to improve writing (no. 55) Today’s strip, improved

A skeptical thought about Apple Watch

Once upon a time, people, many of them, wore watches. And then smartphones replaced watches, many of them. And now we’re presented with a watch that depends upon the smartphone that replaced — a watch.

[I know there’s more to Apple Watch than my skepticism about yet-another-device. But my skepticism is all I’ve got. Apple refers to the watch without the article the .]

How to improve writing (no. 55)

[Mark Trail, March 10, 2015.]

It is well known that Mark Trail recycles old storylines and old art. (An intrepid reader known as The Foo Bird traced the just-ended moose story and its art to 1952.) Today’s strip shows a different kind of recycling: repurposing the previous day’s tiny portion of narrative.

Yesterday: “Not far from Lost Forest, the instincts of a young beaver tell him that it’s time to leave the colony in order to go out and start a family of his own.”

Today: “Now, however, his instincts are telling him that it is time to leave the safety of his lodge and venture out into the wild to find a mate and start a colony of his own.”

I can imagine tomorrow’s strip: “But now the young beaver knows that the time has come for him to leave the comforts of childhood and begin a family, not to mention a colony, of his very own.”

It’s possible to improve today’s strip, like yesterday’s, with thoughtful editing:

[Mark Trail revised, March 10, 2015.]

But that’s too thoughtful, really. Better:

[Mark Trail revised, March 10, 2015. William Strunk Jr.: “Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!”]

Where will this storyline go? I suspect something along these lines: Beaver homestead frustrates local developer’s plans for river. Developer makes ready with traps — or dynamite. Mark Trail to the rescue. It’s been done, more or less, in an episode of Lassie.

Related reading
All OCA How to improve writing posts (Pinboard)

[This post is no. 55 in a series, “How to improve writing,” dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

Monday, March 9, 2015

How to improve writing (no. 54)

[Mark Trail, March 9, 2015.]

It’s not the instincts that are “not far from Lost Forest”; it’s the beaver himself. And “leave the colony in order to go out” is cumbersome phrasing.

[Mark Trail revised, March 9, 2015.]

From forty syllables to thirty, from thirty-two words to twenty-three. Big savings. Fare forward, young family-man, and best of luck to you in the Trail world.

Mark Trail has provided material for two other “How to improve writing” posts, nos. 44 and 46.

Related reading
All OCA How to improve writing posts (Pinboard)

[This post is no. 54 in a series, “How to improve writing,” dedicated to improving stray bits of public prose.]

From The Noun Project

The Noun Project aims to create “a visual language of icons anyone can understand.” Looking at the work therein offers chance after chance to think about what’s sufficient to make an intelligible image. If you want to say books, spines and a tilt, I think, will do it.

As some libraries move toward booklessness, it’s reassuring that a search at the Noun Project for library still leads to books.

A joke in the traditional manner

Here is the punchline: A Golden Retriever.

No spoilers. The setup is in the comments.

More jokes in the traditional manner
How did Bela Lugosi know what to expect?
How did Samuel Clemens do all his long-distance traveling?
What did the plumber do when embarrassed?
Which member of the orchestra was best at handling money?
Why did the doctor spend his time helping injured squirrels?
Why did Oliver Hardy attempt a solo career in movies?
Why was Santa Claus wandering the East Side of Manhattan?

[“In the traditional manner”: by or à la my dad. He must take credit for all but the doctor and Santa Claus.]

Friday, March 6, 2015

Daniel Berkeley Updike on style

Daniel Berkeley Updike (1860–1941) was a printer and historian of typography. Marianne Moore quotes him in her 1948 talk “Humility, Concentration, and Gusto,” given to the Grolier Club:

Daniel Berkeley Updike has always seemed to me a phenomenon of eloquence because of the quiet objectiveness of his writing. And what he says of printing applies equally to poetry. It is true, is it not, that “style does not depend upon decoration, but rather on proportion and simplicity”? Nor can we dignify confusion by calling it baroque. Here, I may say, I am preaching to myself, since, when I am as complete as I like to be, I seem unable to get an effect plain enough.
Here is the Updike passage from which Moore quotes, from In the Day’s Work (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1924):
Any one can place a great red decorated initial upon a page to dazzle the beholder into a momentary liking for the effect. But to produce an agreeable and pleasing page simply by proportion of margins, type, etc., is a matter which requires study, experience, and taste. It appears, therefore, that, as some of the most beautiful books are without decoration, style does not depend upon decoration, but rather on proportion and simplicity.
Updike, as I now know, printed some Grolier Club publications. And the Grolier Club is now exhibiting books printed by Aldus Manutius, one of Updike’s favorite printers. From In the Day’s Work:
The earliest printers were often learned men, and yet perhaps their contemporaries thought that they took themselves too seriously. But what they took seriously was not themselves, but their work. They were educated enough and independent enough to hold to certain ideals. If Aldus had watered down his manner of printing and continually varied his types to suit other people’s views, he would never have been heard of. None the less, the heads of contemporary Italian uncles and aunts were sadly shaken, perhaps, and friends of the family were seriously distressed. We remember the types and books of Aldus still; but the names of these “wise and prudent” are forgotten.
“Aldine” was the joking adjective that described my great friend Aldo Carrasco. As English majors and part-time residents of the Renaissance, Aldo and other friends and I knew of course about Aldus and the Aldine Press. I referred to “the Aldine approach to friendship” in a post reproducing one of Aldo’s telexes. So: Moore to Updike to Grolier to Aldus to Aldo. It sounds like a complex triple play. And Moore was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. See? Everything connects.

[Thanks, interlibrary loan.]

Henry billboard

[Henry, March 6, 2015.]

In the Henry world, billboards are of the lattice variety. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a lattice billboard outside of the movies, where they serve as backdrops for motorcycle cops who give chase when James Cagney or Edward G. Robinson speeds past.

Lattice billboards are still available for use in model-train layouts.

Related reading
All OCA Henry posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Acción Ortográfica Quito

“Ecuador’s radical grammar pedants on a mission to correctly punctuate graffiti”: Acción Ortográfica Quito (The Guardian). It’s a group of three: Diéresis, Tilde, and Coma.

College and football

In a 2012 post I said that I thought that “medical not academic issues will doom college football.” In a 2011 comment I gave it twenty-five years. An idle prediction, of course. But reading about the life of University of North Carolina offensive lineman Ryan Hoffman in today’s New York Times offers further reason to think that college football is doomed. A sport that leads, too often, to brain damage has no place in an institution of learning. At some point the cognitive dissonance of college and football together will be too great to ignore. (Lawsuits will help.)

Carlo Rotella on Muhammad Ali, Homer, and translation

I am happy to discover that Carlo Rotella’s essay “The Greatest” is online, courtesy of the University of Chicago Press. For years I’ve been guarding a xeroxed copy of the essay’s December 1998 appearance in Harper’s, where it was presented as an excerpt from a longer essay published elsewhere. But no: these seven paragraphs appear to be the thing itself. The starting point for Rotella’s thinking is a boxer’s boast in Iliad 23: “I am the greatest.”

Related reading
All OCA Homer posts (Pinboard)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Naked City, then and now

Scouting NY looks at filming locations for The Naked City (dir. Jules Dassin, 1948), then and now. In three parts: 1, 2, and 3.

The frightening truth that they don’t want you to know about sardines

[Field & Stream, June 1977.]

Yes, sardines are addictive. Street names: bait, Moroccan greys, Norwegian kings. I scored four cans of kings last night, on sale, two for five.

This post is for Matt Thomas, who seems to be intent on developing a sardine habit.

Related posts
Alex Katz, painter, eater Sardines for lunch, every day
City for Conquest (and sardines)
End of the U.S. sardine industry
“Get high on honey” Honey, a recreational drug
Go fish
New directions in sardines
Satan’s seafood

Vietnamese egg cream

I was surprised and delighted to see “Egg Cream Soda” listed among the drink offerings at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant. But this egg cream is not the New York concoction of chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer. The menu describes the drink like so: “sweet drink made from egg yolk, sweetened condensed milk & club soda served over ice.” And the menu really calls it an egg cream soda, or soda sua tlot ga. The tlot must be a typo: the Internets identify this drink as soda sua hot ga, or soda sữa hột gà.

Life is better when one is willing to marvel at ordinary things.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Raymond Carver on words and punctuation

Raymond Carver, writing in The New York Times in 1981:

That’s all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones, with the punctuation in the right places so that they can best say what they are meant to say. If the words are heavy with the writer’s own unbridled emotions, or if they are imprecise and inaccurate for some other reason — if the words are in any way blurred — the reader’s eyes will slide right over them and nothing will be achieved.
Related posts
Raymond Carver and Ovid
Raymond Carver’s index cards

[1983 or so: I missed hearing Raymond Carver read. It was a late Friday afternoon, it had been a long day, I didn’t want to schlep down to the Northeastern campus. Some other time, I thought. There never was one.]

Satan’s seafood

[Life, June 1, 1959.]

I would have thought that the archfiend made his minions do the seasoning.

In my childhood, all sardines came from Martel. But eaters of a certain age may recall Underwood Sardines. The company’s FAQ page notes that the sardine line “was discontinued years ago.”

Underwood of course is best known for its Deviled Ham. Again, from the Underwood FAQ: “The Underwood Devil logo, which was registered in 1870, is believed to be the oldest registered trademark still in use for a prepackaged food product in the United States.” The Straight Dope has an excellent survey of deviled-food history.

Related posts
Alex Katz, painter, eater Sardines for lunch, every day
City for Conquest (and sardines)
End of the U.S. sardine industry
Go fish
New directions in sardines

Monday, March 2, 2015

Recently updated

Another college president plagiarizing? A second Minnesota college president has been accused of plagiarism.

Ralph Ellison stamp

[Click for a much larger view.]

I’m a year late, but my knowledge of stamps is limited to what I see — or in this case what Elaine sees — in our post office. In 2014 the United States Postal Service issued a stamp honoring Ralph Ellison. Art by Kadir Nelson, from a photograph by Gordon Parks. Design by Ethel Kessler. Ninety-one cents = three ounces.

The USPS has a page with three writers’ thoughts about Ellison (who was born 101 years ago yesterday).

Related reading
All OCA Ralph Ellison posts (Pinboard)

Domestic comedy

“It’s too bad we can’t go there on Wednesday. The phở is cheaper on Wednesdays.”

“We’ll just have to get phở -price phở.”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Remedy that?

In the short conversation preceding this week’s Sunday Puzzle, a contestant confessed to having not seen A Fish Called Wanda. And NPR’s Rachel Martin said, “Remedy that, this weekend.”

I can’t recall ever hearing someone say remedy that. The phrasing seems to have some currency on Twitter; the first results of a Google search for “you should remedy that” are all Twitter-based: “If you’ve never, you should remedy that”; “You should remedy that, the dude was a legend”; “OH MY GOD YOU SHOULD REMEDY THAT IMMEDIATELY.” Searching for you should remedy that in Twitter brings up many, many tweets.

Reader, is remedy that, like, a thing? And did you know about it before reading this post? If not, reading this post has remedied that.

Harry Mathews on writing

Harry Mathews, from 20 Lines a Day (Dalkey Archive Press, 1988), a book that developed from a daily writing exercise:

Writing well is so hard — that’s why it’s fun to go for.