Let's do a little midweek housekeeping.

"¢ has been picking up select pieces from mental_floss magazine. Here are a few articles perfect for your evening commute: "Places to see before they die," "Coffee and the Civil War," "Weird vehicles that never got off the ground" and "Six great guerrilla marketing campaigns." Unless you drive to work.

"¢ Do we have any avid Flickr users in the audience? Any avid Flickr users who are willing to let us use some of your photos (with credit and a link back to your gallery, of course)? Leave us a comment and we'll get in touch.

"¢ I get four kinds of email: letters from friends, spam from enemies, requests to compare movie tastes on Facebook, and questions from strangers about their Sprint bills. The Sprint queries aren't as random as they seem. Back in February, after receiving a bill $630 higher than I'd deserved, I posted a lengthy running diary of my battles with customer support. The matter was eventually resolved, but similarly screwed people keep finding me (I'm the number one result when you Google "sprint fiasco.")

I mention this because, ten months later, I'm back in the market for a phone. I love the idea of my BlackBerry. But as a phone, it's miserable. If you called me ten times, it would ring five. Next week, I'd be informed of your voicemail.

I'm stuck with Sprint, but want to know if anyone has had similar issues with their BlackBerry. Maybe I'm just unlucky with cellular technology. Maybe it's just the 8703. Another option is the Treo. Any Treo fans?

"¢ During his research for our Nintendo quiz, Brett Savage stumbled across possibly the most incredible site in web history. I'm rather certain he and I were the last ones to find it. But just in case, you can play online versions of your favorite games at

"¢ And don't forget to participate in our latest Caption Contest!

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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