Mac vs PC: The Showdown

A story in The Economist last week dropped the following facts in its lead paragraph to set the stage for an interesting article:

"Endless Love" by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie was at the top of the charts. Ronald Reagan was staring down the Soviet Union. And Princess Diana, aged 20, was on her honeymoon with Prince Charles"¦

If the summer of '81 doesn't come rushing forth from the dim recesses of your memory, that might be because The Economist forgot to mention a certain swim meet in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where I was probably busy finishing last in the 100-meter freestyle.

Ahh, now it's all coming back to you, eh? No? Well let's continue on with some more facts from the article and see if you can guess the story:

Roughly one billion are now in use across the world

In America there are 70 for every 100 people

The combined stockmarket values of the firms involved exceed half a trillion dollars

Yes, they were talking about the PC -- and the one that started all the hubbub back on August 12th, 1981, was, of course, the original IBM 5150, which turns 25-years-old this week.

Clearly IBM wasn't the first PC on the market. There were many others, including the Apple II, which predates the 5150 by a few years (ding! IBM: 0, Apple: 1). And while early Apple architecture allowed cloning, that soon changed with the introduction of their Macintosh line, enabling the PC platform to proliferate and, let's face it, take over the personal computing world. (ding! IBM: 1, Apple: 1)

Over here at my house we're a multi-platform family: my wife prefers PC, while I swear by Apple. It's kind of like we've each married out of our respective faiths and we often joke about which platform we'll bring our kids up on.

While I could go on and on (and on!) about why I prefer Mac to PC, we'd rather hear which you prefer, dear reader, and why. So gloves off now, and may the best platform win!


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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