It's Official: Talking Pictures Will Be A Book!

Some of you might be wondering why it's been a few weeks since there's been an installment of Talking Pictures. It's not, as a few have speculated, because I ran out of material -- but because we've been talking to publishers! Now that it's official, I'm thrilled to announce that HarperCollins has picked up the rights to the book, and it'll be coming out sometime in the latter half of 2011! (I'd like to take this opportunity to say WOOHOO!) I'd also like to give a big THANK YOU to all of our readers, because I sincerely believe that a giant part of getting publishers on board was the tireless enthusiasm you guys showed for the column. I can't help but think that all those positive comments made an impact, and I'm grateful that you guys were as taken with the photos I found as I was. Go mental_floss!

So what does this mean for future Talking Pictures columns? Well, for a while it's going to go on hiatus, because A) I'll working on the book and B) we want to make sure it includes a whole bunch of great never-seen-on-the-internet stuff. But as the publication date gets closer I'll most likely do a few more. Until then, follow me on Twitter for updates about the book -- and also about my upcoming dark urban fantasy novel, called Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, which comes out in June and is FULL of super-creepy old found photos (which, if you've read this far, I'm pretty sure you're into).

Speaking never-seen-on-the-internet, here's a talking picture which has always been a total mystery to me (but seemed somehow appropriate this morning). What do you guys think is going on here? Is that a tiara on his head, or is that supposed to be, I don't know -- blood? I can't help but think this is deeply sarcastic.

In the meantime, you can revisit some of my favorite Talking Pictures columns:
Hide This Please
Times of Trouble
Love and Marriage

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]


More from mental floss studios