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My Favorite Planet is Named After A Child-Eating Cannibal

I was unaware of the dark side of the myth of Saturn (AKA Titan Chronus in Greek mythology) until I ran across a post on Atlas Obscura about a disturbing fountain in the middle of Bern, Switzerland. Atop the fountain is a statue of a man eating a baby, with two in a sack (he's presumably saving them for later snacking). The fountain isn't some controversial work of modern art; it's the oldest in Bern, dating from the 16th century. Bernians don't seem to know for certain the story behind their Child Eater, but there are two popular theories:

Theory A) The funny hat he wears resembles that which Jews were forced to wear once upon a time, and the statue is either a warning to Jews or some kind of deeply anti-Semitic propaganda regarding baby-eating.

Theory B) The statue is a representation of re-interpretation of the Greek God Chronus, AKA the Roman god Saturn, who, fearing his children would overthrow him, ate each one as they were born. (Nice.)

I kind of lean toward theory B, however, because the Child Eater statue reminds me of a painting by Francisco Goya called Saturn Devouring His Son. Actually, Goya never gave the painting a title -- he made it during his notorious Black Period, when he was an old man living in semi-exile in a Spanish villa named Quinta del Sorda, or Deaf Man's Villa, and was himself nearly deaf, an embittered and isolated genius tortured by paranoia and hysteria. The Black Paintings were all made around 1820 and painted directly on the interior walls of Goya's house.

It may have been inspired by Rubens' more refined version of the same scene, painted in 1636:

So there are three really disturbing works of art for you. Now every time I think about our solar system, this is what I'm going to be picturing. Thanks, Bern!

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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
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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.

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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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