Speedy Facts About Speeding Tickets

It always amazes me when I hear someone say they've never been pulled over for speeding. My reaction is usually wow, I'd never want to be stuck behind you in traffic. As for me, I've gotten all manner of them: the 20mph-over on the interstate, the 2mph-over hick town speed trap, the stern warning (becoming rarer as I get older), but recently I got a totally new and unexpected kind, and I'm not quite sure what to do about it -- the international speeding ticket.

I spent a few weeks driving around New Zealand last month, where the roads are long and open, sheep outnumber people (and cars) 4-to-1, and the maximum speed limit is 100km/h. That's about 62mp/h, which is about as fast as we back out of our driveways here in LA. But I was very conscientious about not speeding in towns or around other cars, and I never attracted the attention of any Kiwi cops. Good on yer, I thought. Until I got a letter from New Zealand in the mail yesterday. Apparently they have robot cameras staged in remote areas of the country, and can zap you anytime, anywhere. Which raises a thorny new question for me: do I really have to pay this? I mean, what are they going to do, extradite me? I did a fair amount of Googling to help answer that question, but I couldn't come up with any firm answers. Also, they got my name wrong on the ticket, though they clearly have my address. (Any knowledge or ideas from our readers would be much appreciated.) What I did find, however, were lots of fun facts about speeding tickets:

The first speeding ticket was issued to Harry Myers of Dayton, Ohio in 1904, for going twelve miles per hour. I'm assuming they didn't use a radar to figure out his speed.

The ticket for the fastest speeder was given to a man going 272mph in a 75 zone. Apparently he was part of a San Francisco-to-Miami rally called the Gumball 3000, and he was driving an exotic, Swedish-built Koenigsegg. The fastest motorcycle caught speeding was going 205 in a 65, and was ticketed not only for reckless driving, but riding without a motorcycle license. Ouch. The officer who caught him said "I had to double-check my watch because in 27 years I'd never seen anything move that fast.''

A possibly apocryphal story about boxer Jack Johnson getting a speeding ticket has him giving the officer $100 for a $50 fine, because "I'll be coming back through just as fast."

The fastest speeder in the UK was Timothy Brady, caught driving his Porsche at 172mph in 2007. He was jailed for 10 weeks and banned from driving for 3 years.

Sharing time! What's the worst ticket you've ever gotten?

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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