Gotta Have Backup

I have flat, sensitive, wide feet. They look and feel like they belong to someone grossly overweight and possibly arthritic. Meanwhile, I'm anything but. As a result of my peculiar feet, it's hard to find shoes that a) fit and b) feel good on me.

So when I do, I don't just buy one pair, I buy several boxes.

It's called backup. You have to be prepared because you never know when something you like is going to be discontinued. Don't giggle. It's happened before. Recently even. Brooks stopped making The Beast sneaker I'd been buying for years. The only sneaker that supports my fallen arches. When I found a company online that had a back inventory, I bought them out in my size, despite that they are, without a doubt, the ugliest sneakers on planet earth.
Same with dress shoes. I own many backup boxes of the same exact shoe. Just in case. "˜Cause, again, you never know when they might be pulled, or changed ever so slightly, replacing a leather insole with something synthetic that subtly changes the way they fit.

There are other reasons why backup is important in life. Let's say you run out of shampoo, or toothpaste, or underarm deodorant. Just in case, I always keep the bathroom well stocked with backup of all my favorite brands. Call me anal, call me pathetic, call me overly prepared, but hey, it beats bad breath, doesn't it?

6003_Lowen_hot_mustard.jpgOther backups in our house: diapers, of course, pasta, a variety of condiments, soda, beer, soup, and vitamin-C. My sister-in-law keeps a healthy supply of a certain mustard she likes from Trader Joes because they once pulled it and replaced it with another version, minus one key ingredient, which made all the difference in the world. She petitioned and eventually they brought it back. I think she bought the store out that day and now has mustard until 2023. Crazy? No. The girl just likes her mustard.

What about you all? What can't you live without? What do you have in the backup department?

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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