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Other People Who Should Have Bewared the Ides

Everyone knows Julius Caesar had a pretty bad March 15th. But he’s not the only one! Here are six other people (or groups of people) who would have been better off staying in bed on the Ides.

Film producer Varick Frissell

Comcast

In 1931, Frissell was shooting additional footage for his groundbreaking movie The Viking, the first Canadian movie made with sound and the world’s first talkie ever shot on location. Somehow, dynamite on the ship used for blasting icebergs was somehow set off, killing some men in the explosion, others in the resulting fire, and still others when the ship sank. All in all, 27 people perished. Frissell’s body was never found.

Pancho Villa

On March 15, 1916, Major General John Pershing led 4,800 men into Mexico to capture Pancho Villa under orders from President Woodrow Wilson. Villa’s men had executed 16 Americans headed via train to an American-owned mine in Chihuahua in January; another 17 people were killed two months later when Villa’s men ventured into the border town of Columbus, New Mexico. However, the Expedition ended a year later and was considered by Pershing to be a complete and utter failure. Villa lived until 1923, when he died at the hands of assassins who had nothing to do with the Expedition.

Charles Dickinson

WKRN

The dumbest thing Charles Dickinson ever did was insulting Andrew Jackson’s wife. After repeated attacks on his own character and to his wife’s honor, Jackson challenged Dickinson to a duel in 1806. Dickinson shot first, striking Jackson in the chest very close to his heart. Jackson put one hand over his chest to stop the blood, then took his aim. The gun misfired, which should have counted as his shot. However, Jackson fired again, this time killing his opponent. This all happened in May, so why were the Ides of March a bad day for Dickinson? Andrew Jackson was born on March 15, 1767.

H.P. Lovecraft

At the young age of 46, H.P. Lovecraft succumbed to cancer of the small intestine with a contributory cause of kidney disease. Though his years were few, his writing was revolutionary and prolific. Stephen King, Clive barker, Neil Gaiman, Jorge Luis Borges, John Carpenter, Joyce Carol Oates and Guillermo Del Toro all count Lovecraft as a major influence on their work. Had he lived to write another day, who knows what the creator of the Necronomicon and Cthulhu would have come up with?

Ed Sullivan

PDXRetro

Without much ado or fanfare, The Ed Sullivan Show was canceled in 1971. It was so sudden that there was no series finale - though it’s said that Sullivan, angry and hurt at CBS, actually refused to do one. He had admitted himself that the show was waning, but was reportedly heartbroken about the cancellation because he was just two years away from seeing the show hit the 25-year mark.

Guests and staff of the Hotel New World

Mindef.gov

On March 15, 1986, a six-story building - three stories of which housed a hotel - in Singapore unexpectedly crumbled to the ground in less than a minute, according to reports. By the time all of the survivors were pulled out days later, 33 people were dead. It was later discovered that the structural engineer had made some fatal miscalculations.

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

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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