Greg Veis, YouTube Hunter: Are You Ready for Some Parkour?

My first thought, so stereotypically Jewish it's guilt-inducing, is a practical one: that cannot be good for the joints. The resulting arthritis is going to be monumental. And yet, what I'm watching is something I'd never imagined a human body to be capable of. It is exhilarating.

It's the first long action sequence of the new Bond film, Casino Royale, and the burnt-faced bad guy is trying to escape 007 in a conveniently located construction site. He's climbing walls, jumping from metal beam to metal beam, executing truly expert flips and rolls. This isn't the standard stunt man preening; it hardly looks human. But it is. And apparently what he's doing has a name: Parkour.

Apologies if you've already grown hip to Parkour (French for "course"). It's been around for some years now, and two of its original practitioners, or, as they call themselves, traceurs--David Belle and the Bond bad guy, Sebastien Foucan--are legitimate stars in Europe and, increasingly, here. (The Wikipedia entry is quite comprehensive if you're interested in the history.) My friends and I have been trying to describe it for the last couple days, and despite our best efforts, words can't do Parkour--or its flashier cousin, free running--proper justice.

One writer from The Independent said it uses "the idea of the city as a playground." A co-worker said it looked "like an X-Games event where you can only use your body." I think it most closely resembles dance and will cause monumental arthritis. And Sebastien Foucan says this on his website: "Parkour isn't a fashion phenomenon, it's an evolution of the mind," which doesn't rise above the level of well-intentioned pabulum.

So, clearly, we have to go to the YouTubes. And none to soon, since they're excellent. Let's start with a "Best of" compilation for our boy Foucan:

And here are two from David Belle. The first is from his movie District B13, and the second is another "greatest hits" deal:

Only watch the first two minutes of this clip, soundtracked by a YouTube Hunter favorite, the Gorillaz's "Feel Good Inc.:"

Lastly, in case the above clips have moved you to try Parkour at your nearest industrial complex, a gentle reminder that maybe you should breathe deeply, count to ten, and play some ping pong instead:

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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