It’s been a while since I’ve written about nearly swearyadvertising here. (It’s not as though I’ve taken a vow of purity: I’ve been shoveling that stuff over at the Strong Language blog.) But when I spotted a trifecta of fecal facetiousness within a span of a week, I just couldn’t hold back.
Mastermind: An outstanding or commanding mind or intellect; a person with such a mind. Also: a person who plans and directs a complex and ingenious enterprise, especially a criminal operation. (Both definitions via Oxford English Dictionary online.) The original usage of mastermind – a brilliant person – first appeared in the late 17th century; the second originated in 1872, in a passage written by Anthony Trollope. The verb to mastermind first appeared in a 1923 baseball story published in the Salt Lake City Tribune: “Little Miller Huggins did a bit of masterminding himself in that stirring eighth.”
God, or those who claim to speak on His/Her/Their behalf, has had a busy week.
In Rowan County, Kentucky, an elected official named Kim Davis, apparently misremembering that she is paid to render unto Caesar,cited “God’s authority” as the reason she has defied the law of the land and refused to grant marriage certificates to same-sex couples. She’s been held in contempt of court and, as of this writing, is in a county detention center.
Meanwhile, “Hand of God,” a new original series from Amazon, is available for streaming today. I’ve seen only the trailer for the nine-part series, which the New York Times’s Mike Hale called “a California neo-noir thriller” and which centers on a judge (played by Ron Perlman, whom you may remember as Hellboy) who believes he can hear the voice of God, but I can’t help imagining the fictional Judge Pernell Harris meeting the real Ms. Kim Davis in court.
And “Hand of God” isn’t the only deity-themed entertainment in the news. Cast thine eyes on this holy-ish trinity:
How do you translate a colloquial, nonliteral expression like Trainwreck—the title of the new Amy Schumer feature film—into non-English languages? IMDb has a list of global akas; Mashable has helpfully re-translated some of them. (Not included in the Mashable list: Y de repente tú (“And suddenly you”), probably the most romantically inclined of the bunch. In France, by the way, the official title is Crazy Amy—yes, in English.
Translation of the French Canadian title, Cas désespéré.
Three guys were watching HBO’s “Silicon Valley” when it occurred to them to create a dictionary of jargon used on the show. The result is Silicon Valley Dictionary, where you’ll find definitions for terms like This changes everything (“Nothing has changed. Pure marketing”) and Awesome journey (“used when a startup has failed”).
Rogue: Scoundrel, knave, scamp, mischievous person (noun; usually a man); aberrant, corrupt, uncontrollable, mischievous (adjective). Also a verb used in horticulture and agriculture: to weed out inferior or untypical (“rogue”) plants.
Rogue has been in the news because of the U.S. theatrical release, on July 31, of the fifth installment in the Mission Impossible series, subtitled Rogue Nation. Like its four predecessors, the film stars Tom Cruise.
“Rogue Nation follows IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team as they battle the titular rogue nation, an organisation of assassins and criminals called The Syndicate.”—TV Tropes. The film brought in $56 million over the weekend in the U.S., making it the #1 box-office earner.
Mayhem: Violent behavior, physical assault, or disorder. In criminal law, mayhem is the infliction of physical injury on a person so as to impair that person’s capacity for self-defense. The word entered English in the late 15th century from Anglo-French maihem, which means “injury, harm, damage”; it’s related to maim.
Nest Labs, makers of “smart devices” for the home—including a thermostat and smoke detector—last week introduced a new product, the Nest Cam video camera. (The product is the result of Nest’s 2014 acquisition of Dropcam.) Ads for the product put a cozy spin on “mayhem”:
“Witness the mayhem in glorious HD.” Outdoor ad, Fourth Street, San Francisco, June 21.
Nest Cam has a security function: according to a Nest.com blog post, it can help you see “if an intruder turns on a flash light, or if headlights flash across your window.” But Nest Labs downplays the scare factor. Rather, the device helps you “save the stuff you want to remember” and be prepared “every time your kid or pet does something cute.” Muddy footprints on the carpet, a toilet-paper trail across the lawn—that’s the domesticated “mayhem” Nest hopes you’ll record and view.
This isn’t the first appearance of mayhem in advertising. In 2010 insurance company Allstate introduced a character called Mayhem, played by the actor Dean Winters, who personified every catastrophe that could befall your house or car. Also contributing to the cuteification of “mayhem” was the 2012 debut, at Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood, of Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, a simulator ride based on the animated film(s) Despicable Me.
There is no Minion named Mayhem, but there’s a minionesque aspect to the Nest Cam.
Minion. Nest Cam.
From another corner of the culture comes Mayhem Parva (literally “small mayhem”), a fixture in British crime fiction. Here’s how the OED defines it:
Mayhem Parva n. [ < mayhem n. + classical Latin parva, feminine singular of parvus little (see parvi-comb. form), after English village names with this as second element (e.g. Ash Parva, Shropshire, Ashby Parva, Leicestershire, etc.)] (esp. in critical writing) the genre of mystery stories set in a rural English village; (the generic name for) a typical English village as the setting for a violent crime; freq. attrib., as Mayhem Parva school, etc.
The OED’s earliest citation for Mayhem Parva is dated 1971, from Snobbery with Violence, a murder mystery by Colin Watson set in the fictional village of Mayhem Parva, “where amateur lady sleuths competed with seasoned Scotland Yarders to nab the least likely suspect.”
In New York City, you can summon a limo with an app called Gett.
TechCrunch calls Gett “Uber without surge pricing.”“Gett rides are $10 in central Manhattan, anywhere between Houston and Central Park South, no matter what day of the week.”
You can tell your Gett driver to take you to Lincoln Plaza to see a screening of Gett.
Gett—it's the Hebrew word for a religious divorce—is an Israeli courtroom drama that opened in the U.S. in February. New York Timescritic Manohla Dargis called it “gripping cinema from start to finish.”
Curiously, the ride-hailing app Gett was developed in Israel, where Hebrew is, of course, one of the official languages. In most of the 32 cities in which it operates, the company is known as GetTaxi.
Confused? You could just stay home and watch getTV.
This month Scratch Magazine, an online publication “about the intersection of writing and money,” celebrates its first anniversary. In “Scratch,” founder and publisher Jane Friedman (to whom I’m not related) nailed the perfect dual-meaning title: scratch has been an informal synonym for write since at least the early 19th century, and it’s been a slang term for “money” (especially paper currency) in the U.S. since the early 20th century.