2020: Cars of the Future

Looks like the cars from Blade Runner are never going to happen -- or not anytime soon, anyway. IBM's Institute for Business Value undertook a massive survey of automotive experts from all over the world in order to discover the shape of things to come, and the results are green: among other findings, it's believed that all new cars will be hybrids by 2020. The industry may well be unrecognizably different in just over a decade, and the reasons for this are many:

Vehicles will become more intelligent. "Electronics will bring new capabilities to every part of the vehicle. New technologies will provide for greater assistance in navigation, enhanced driver information about the vehicle, its environment and vehicle connectivity." (I'm not sure what "vehicle connectivity" means, but so far I'm imagining Kit from Knight Rider.)

Corporate social responsibility becomes a buying factor. "Consumers will be more empowered and sophisticated. They will also become increasingly watchful and wary about how companies perform outside the manufacturing and distribution processes. Corporate social responsibility will become markedly more important to the consumer." I hope so -- but I'm a bit more skeptical of this one.

Sustainability hits the bottom line. "The impact of external forces on the industry will continue to be significant, but the leading influencers will be radically different from those that affect the industry today. Technology will continue lead, but other issues, such as sustainability, will migrate to near the top of the list."

Among the more specific (and relevant) predictions they trot out, one of the most interesting is about ethanol: food-based ethanol will fade away, they believe, thanks in part to rising food costs and the "chorus of vocal dissent" which already exists regarding its use. In its place, cellulosic and other waste-based ethanols will come into play more heavily (I recently blogged about a Japanese airplane that's partly garbage-fueled); the report predicts "widespread acceptance" of these kinds of next-gen fuels.

As for hybrids, the experts say that "battery technology will be ubiquitous" and that "all new vehicles in 2020 will have some level of hybridization." Hydrogen cars will be out there, but not quite as ubiquitous: "even optimistic projections put only a small fraction of vehicle production migrating to this technology (less than 1 percent of vehicles in the United States)."

Another interesting prediction is that rather than having just one car for all our transpo needs, the consumer will shift toward owning a diverse "garage" of vehicles. Which is to say, "lifestyle changes will allow access to luxury or larger vehicles during the weekends, as an example, while a small, efficient vehicle will suffice for daily commuting needs." (Are they saying we'll all be rich?!)

So there you have it -- smaller, greener, cleaner, and a big honkin' truck for weekends at the lake. How does that sound to everyone?

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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