Total Recall

Well, it's official: Little Brown books has announced that it will recall Viswanathan's now infamous novel, "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life." As an author, it is, of course, troubling to think that a writer could be paid half-a-million clams, and no one, not the agent at William Morris, not the editors at Little Brown, not even the fact checkers, spotted the similarities between the works in question.
Not that scrutiny shouldn't be paid to manuscripts of authors with advances that pale by comparison (read: yours truly's), but still... In this case, the bouncer at the local Cambridge watering hole probably scrutinized Viswanathan's fake I.D. card with a sharper eye than the folks at Little Brown.

I'm glad they recalled the book. The occasion is now #2 on my all-time list of most deserving recalls, second only to the Firestone Tire recall of 2000, which was blamed for as many as 150 deaths around the world.

Here is another recent, lesser-known recall you should be aware of:

28 March 2006 --- Two flavors of Nestlé Country Creamery Ice Cream purchased from Wal-Mart stores in Texas are being recalled because the ice cream may contain egg not identified on the label.

And if you happen to be passing through New Zealand:
25 April 2006 -- Tegel Zoo Animal Chicken Nuggets with batch codes 16073 AM and 16073 PM, have been recalled in New Zealand due to possible contamination with metal fragments.

There've probably been several more food-related recalls in the news over the last month, but honestly, I don't recall.

How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?

Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

TAKWest, Youtube
Watch Boris Karloff's 1966 Coffee Commercial
TAKWest, Youtube
TAKWest, Youtube

Horror legend Boris Karloff is famous for playing mummies, mad scientists, and of course, Frankenstein’s creation. In 1930, Karloff cemented the modern image of the monster—with its rectangular forehead, bolted neck, and enormous boots (allegedly weighing in at 11 pounds each)—in the minds of audiences.

But the horror icon, who was born 130 years ago today, also had a sense of humor. The actor appeared in numerous comedies, and even famously played a Boris Karloff look-alike (who’s offended when he’s mistaken for Karloff) in the original Broadway production of Arsenic and Old Lace

In the ’60s, Karloff also put his comedic chops to work in a commercial for Butter-Nut Coffee. The strange commercial, set in a spooky mansion, plays out like a movie scene, in which Karloff and the viewer are co-stars. Subtitles on the bottom of the screen feed the viewer lines, and Karloff responds accordingly. 

Watch the commercial below to see the British star selling coffee—and read your lines aloud to feel like you’re “acting” alongside Karloff. 

[h/t: Retroist]


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