I’m busier than usual this week, so instead of blogging I’m quoting some tasty passages from other blogs.
“Thuuz? Oh, Pleez” (The Name Inspector)
But then we have the name Thuuz. The Name Inspector is not a fan. Clearly it’s built on the bones of the words enthused, enthusiasm, and enthusiastic. So far so good–apt, if a bit pedestrian. But that syllable is pretty weird sounding. It’s really the first consonant and the vowel together that sound odd. The Name Inspector talked about this in connection with the name Thoof a while back. He quite reasonably declared that the “Thoo-” part was a bit counterintuitive in English, and then this smartypants named John commented that it was an accident of history that there is no word thoof, and The Name Inspector held his ground, and John was all “what about enthusiasm”, and The Name Inspector was like “good point but what about at the beginning of a word”, and John was all “historical linguistics blah blah”. So clearly The Name Inspector won that one.
(Note from Fritinancy: For more on Thoof, read my own 2007 post.)
“Your Friendly Global Villain” (Johnson)
What is it about very nasty people that makes us use their first names as though they were our buddies? And why some but not others? “Osama”, “Saddam” and “Fidel” are common, yet no “Josef” or “Adolf”. No “Muammar” either, not even after he started having citizens strafed from helicopters.
First-name terms are obviously a way to diminish a feared enemy, especially in the triumph of his death or downfall. But merely being a bad hat isn't enough, it seems: he has to be extensively demonised before meriting the treatment, so maybe Libya’s mad, bad colonel just hasn't been in anyone's sights for long enough. And if a man is too evil—on the massacre-of-millions scale—then such jolly familiarity apparently becomes bad taste. Stalin was Uncle Joe once, before the truth came out.
(Note from Fritinancy: See also “What to Name the Villain.”)
“Park Bench” (Nancy Nall)
Do you have Critical Mass in your city? Doing a little research on it the last few days, I’m amazed at the diversity of its impact. I first heard of it via Jon Carroll’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle some years back, and I gather the Bay area is where it was born. Much of cycling culture has its roots there, and Critical Mass rises out of a certain obnoxiousness born out of unpleasant encounters with cars. We can go back and forth on this and probably will, but it’s fair to say that in cities like San Francisco, or Chicago, New York and a handful of others, motorists and cyclists are the Israelis and Palestinians of transportation, and Critical Mass is a monthly intifada, a deliberate traffic jam of hundreds of cyclists moving through them on a rush-hour Friday, blowing lights, in yo face, saying, essentially, Fuck you.
(Note from Fritinancy: Jon Carroll still writes an excellent column for the Chronicle.)
Want more reading material? Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic has linked to “Nearly 100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism” published in 2010, from the famous and predictable—Malcolm Gladwell, Atul Gawande, Clive Thompson, Zadie Smith—to the too-good-to-be-missed (Beth Kowitt on Trader Joe’s, Mimi Swartz on the sex trade in Houston, John Gravois on the closing of the marijuana frontier in Mendocino County, Jessanne Collins on what it’s like to work for the notorious content farm Demand Media). Plus great stuff from The Awl, Planet Money, This American Life, and The San Francisco Panorama (which published just one issue). Yes, it will probably take you the rest of 2011 to read them all. Better get cracking.