CLOSE

Exhuming the Glacier Girl

People seem to be endlessly fascinated by stories about missing planes and sunken ships. I'm something of a hard sell in this area, but found the saga of the "Lost Squadron" irresistibly fascinating. It's a long story -- check out Damn Interesting for an in-depth rendering -- but the basic facts are this: a squadron of fighter planes was flying over Greenland toward Iceland during WWII. Poor visibility on the way forced them to fly above the clouds at around 12,000 feet, which when you're not flying in the relative luxury of a modern DC-10, can get pretty darn cold. Numb, disoriented and with the weather only getting worse, the pilots were forced to make an emergency landing -- on the ice sheets of Greenland.

Unharmed but chilly, the men were finally rescued ten days later by a dogsled team, and left their planes behind to be salvaged at a later date. That date never came, and after awhile the location of the squadron -- two B-17 bombers and six P-38 fighters -- became unknown. Between 1977 and 1990, eleven different teams tried and failed to locate and salvage the planes, to no avail. Finally, in 1988, members of the Greenland Expedition Society bored holes in the icecap to find the planes -- under an astounding 268 feet of ice and three miles from the original crash site, thanks to glacial drift.

glacier_girl.jpg

After tunneling a shaft to reach one of the B-17s (by melting the ice, not boring through it), the team found little more than crushed wreckage: its frame hadn't been able to withstand the ice's intense pressure. The P-38s, however, had been considerably more rugged planes, and so they tried again -- and this time hit aviation history gold. Dubbed "Glacier Girl," the P-38 they discovered was in rough shape, to be sure, but it was salvageable, and they removed it piece by piece and took it back to the U.S. Over nine years the airframe was transformed from a wad of crushed remains into a beautiful, working airplane. She flew again on 26 October 2002, in front of a crowd of over 20,000 people.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
language
How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
iStock
iStock

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.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
TAKWest, Youtube
arrow
entertainment
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]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios