I’ve been gradually expanding my newsletter diet to include some lighter (but still substantial) fare. A few recommendations:
The Department of Salad, by Emily Nunn, is, yes, about salad and salad lore, but is also just a very chatty, very funny from an excellent writer. If you haven’t made Spicy Cherry Salad (aka Israeli Cherry Salad), you must do so immediately, before cherry season is over for good.
How Not to F*ck Up Your Face, “philosophical and practical advice for anyone who’s ever looked into a mirror,” is written by Valerie Monroe, who was the beauty editor at O magazine for almost 16 years. She’s on an extended stay in Japan right now, and I’ve been enjoying her reporting on the local scene, from Japanese toilets to “love hotels.”
The Unpublishable, by Jessica DeFino, a freelance beauty journalist. Subtitle: “The beauty industry’s least favorite newsletter.” DeFino covers topics like “how the ‘5-minute face’ became the $5,000 face” and why the words “THAT ACTUALLY WORK” are so common in beauty headlines. (It’s because most beauty products don’t work.)
“Potent, powerful skin care that works”? Probably not. (My photo; Walgreens.)
All three of these newsletters are published on the Substack platform, which means you can read them for free but paid subscriptions are what keeps the updates coming.
I have a new post on the Strong Language blog, about a fragrance from the American fashion designer Tom Ford called Fucking Fabulous. In case you were wondering, no branding consultants were involved in creating the name. Check out the post and leave a comment if you like: yea or nay on F-bomb product names? (Yes, the Valerie Monroe I quote in that post is the Valerie Monroe in the introduction to this post.)
I grew up in the Golden-Brown Era of Los Angeles smog, so I’ve pretty much always known that smog is a portmanteau of smoke and fog. And I’d assumed it was an L.A. coinage. Ben Yagoda set me straight: It’s English in origin, and it goes all the way back to 1905.
James Harbeck on that odd old word cahoots: “Sure, used to be you cud jus say yer goin in cahoots with someone on some business thing, or before that, in the early 1800s, goin in a cahoot or jes goin in cahoot. Those were simpler, more economical times, where you only needed one cahoot. Now you got enough for a caboose. And it’s cahoots with the devil, or government, or the CIA, or some other bad guy. So of course it’s French.”
look you’d be a bitch too if they’d named you Ghastly— the needle-felted head of joyce carol oates (@queenofbithynia) July 22, 2022
hideous by name, hideous by nature why not
that’s what they probably said to themselves pic.twitter.com/YMfwT0m2ii
A very rabbit-holey database of Los Angeles street names, with lots of interesting history. (Via @esotouric.) And hey, here’s one for Oakland. And here’s Benjamin Lukoff’s ongoing investigation into Seattle street names. Does your city have a street-name database/blog/wiki?
George Washington’s face on the US quarter used to face left. The new design has him facing right. James I. Bowie, writing for Fast Company, explains why. (Hint: There’s a heraldry connection!)
Thanks to Mike Pope for tipping me to this great thread on the origins of the modern Hebrew word for “electricity.”
The Hebrew word for electricity is חַשְׁמָל (χɑʃˈmɑl). It's an obscure biblical word appearing only in the book of Ezekiel (1:4,27; 8:2). Obviously it didn't mean "electricity" and honestly no-one knows what it meant. 1/1— Hebrew Words (@HebreWords) July 3, 2022
Oxford University Press is publishing the Oxford Dictionary of African American English, with Henry Louis Gates Jr. as editor in chief. Look for it in about three years; while you’re waiting, read Language Hat’s post, which includes a long excerpt from a New York Times story about the dictionary.
And here’s a book you can read right now: Angry Jelly Donut, written by lexicographer Steve Kleinedler and illustrated by editor/cartoonist Iva Cheung. The book, which is pretty delightful, was inspired by an AI-generated prompt, but rest assured: it’s weird in only the very best ways. Read Iva’s post about how the book came to be.