I’ll get to the regularly scheduled links in a bit, but I wanted to lead off with some recommendations from my 2019 media diet (a term I’ve borrowed from Jason Kottke, whose blog always makes for tasty consumption).
I suppose it was inevitable that the 2018 post-apocalyptic horror film A Quiet Place, which was shot on a relatively small budget and subsequently made a boatload of money, would require a sequel. And so it has come to pass that A Quiet Place Part II will open in theaters in March. (Tiny spoiler: There’s more out there than the noise-hating creatures.)
As I watched the trailer I started thinking about (a) the unimaginativeness of the title, which suggests an unimaginative sequel; and (b) how popular the word place is in movie and television titles. And it isn’t just a recent fad: the trend goes back decades.
2020 is the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits the states and the federal government from denying women the right to vote. The amendment was finally ratified by the required 36 states—Tennessee was the final one, after a hard-fought campaign—in August 1920, 42 years after it was first introduced in Congress.
Small groups of American women had been organizing and fighting for the right to vote since the 1830s. (Before the American Revolution, women in some colonies could vote.) In 1870, after African American men won the vote through the 15th Amendment, the word suffragist—which earlier in the century had been a generic term for any advocate for voting rights—began to be associated specifically with those who advocated for woman suffrage by peaceful, lawful means. The OED’s earliest citation for this usage, in a May 13, 1870, edition of the Boston Post, is typical of the mocking tone that would persist for decades in discussions of women’s rights: “A lady suffragist out West brands as slanderous the charge that strong-minded women have big feet.”
“Looking Backward,” an anti-suffrage illustration by Laura E. Foster. The steps lead away from love, marriage, and children and toward suffrage, strife, anxiety, and loneliness. Published in Life magazine, August 22, 1912. From the collections of the Library of Congress.
On Saturday, January 18, a new “alcohol-free joint” called Bizzy’s Dry Bar is opening in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood.
According to a story in Berkeleyside, the bar’s menu will feature “mocktails, shots, beer and wine — all completely free of alcohol”—and the mocktails will be made with “non-alcoholic gin, whiskey and other botanical spirits from makers like Seedlip Spirits and Ritual.”
I searched in vain for a story behind the “Bizzy’s” name, but the truth is I’m more interested in “dry bar.” Because for a decade or so, this is what those words have evoked for lots of us:
“When did the fairy tale go sour?” reads the plaintive headline in the New York Times. For some people, the curdling may have commenced the first appearance of “Megxit” to describe the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision to step down from their roles as “senior royals” and split their time between Canada and Britain. (Yes, their joint decision, even though “Megxit” points the finger at her alone. I suppose “HarMegXit” lacks sufficient sizzle.)
For me, admittedly a cynic about royal fairy tales, not to mention the whole concept of royalty*, it all came thuddingly to earth when I checked out Harry and Meghan’s website, Sussexroyal.com, and encountered the word workstream, as unromantic a bit of corporate jargon as you can ideate.
Ads for erectile-dysfunction drugs are so ubiquitous on cable-news channels that I rarely give them more than a glance. But a few months ago I saw an ad for an ED service whose name caught my attention: Roman. Nice, I thought: A classical allusion with man embedded in the name.
I no longer remember exactly which ad I saw, but this long-form spot should give you the idea of Roman’s cocky positioning. Yes, I said cocky.
I was interested enough to do some research. And then I was even more interested.
On January 3, at their annual meeting in New Orleans, members of the American Dialect Society voted (my) pronouns the word of the year for 2019, and singular they the word of the preceding decade. You can read more about those selections here and here – and, shortly, in my new column for the Visual Thesaurus. But I want to spend a little time with the runner-up: the phrase OK boomer, a short “retort to someone older expressing condescending or out-of-touch views.” I wrote about it briefly inmy own Words of the Year list, but I can’t stop thinking about it.