Dec 04, 2008

"Where Do You Stay?" ("19 Miles a Second, So it's Reckoned")

Hanging out at the UMD homeless shelter, I once learned that the question, "where do you live?" is often phrased by African-Americans as "where do you stay?" 

I assumed that the differing word choice was primarily a function of economics: people with less-stable incomes are more likely to stay at some address for a while rather than to live some address for a long time. But I'm now starting to think that the expression finds its origin in something more temporally and geographically distant. A quick online search indicates that this phrasing is also typical in parts of Africa and India.

Regardless, I'm growing more fond of the expression.  Not only for my particularly peripatetic lifestyle, but for the wandering life we all seem to have whether or not we realize it.

Monty Python describe(s)* this nicely:

*can of worms, here: do you choose a singular or plural verb after Monty Python?  My understanding from listening to BBC radio is that the British often use a plural verb after a singular noun that describes a group of people.  "Manchester United are down three games".  But then again, they also say "Parliament is".  Hmmm.

08:41 PM in Me, Traveling, Words | Permalink | Comments (2)

Nov 22, 2008

Bart, Lisa, James

Lasertable200 I know you already know, but I have certain reasons for mentioning here that the Associated Press recently reported the addition of "meh" to the Collins English Dictionary:

Publisher HarperCollins announced Monday the word had been chosen from terms suggested by the public for inclusion in the dictionary's 30th anniversary edition, to be published next year.

The origins of "meh" are murky, but the term grew in popularity after being used in a 2001 episode of "The Simpsons" in which Homer suggests a day trip to his children Bart and Lisa.

"They both just reply 'meh' and keep watching TV," said Cormac McKeown, head of content at Collins Dictionaries.

The dictionary defines "meh" as an expression of indifference or boredom, or an adjective meaning mediocre or boring. Examples given by the dictionary include "the Canadian election was so meh."

Now that we've recorded that news, I'd like you to ask me, "Hey Phil, what did you think of Quantum of Solace?"

You:  Hey Phil, what did you think of Quantum of Solace?
Me:   Meh.

For more intentional Simpsons/Bond connections, check out the Simpsons-Bond References Wiki or this other collection that's maybe even better.

12:26 AM in Reviews, Words | Permalink | Comments (3)

Oct 13, 2008

Shopsin Style and Style-Guide

from The Way We Eat -- Flipping the Bird by Christine Muhlke, NYTimes, 9 October 2008

...after 28 years behind the stove, Shopsin wants only to cook for people he likes. “I’m not a very mature person,” he says after a lunch shift, his white hair kept at bay by an appropriately McEnroesque headband.

“Sometimes my mind works a bit too fast, and I come to the conclusion of a relationship with customers faster than they get there. The abruptness of my understanding the essence of what’s happening is really upsetting to them and makes them vindictive and angry.” (One man, refused service at the original Bedford Street grocery-turned-restaurant, ripped a toilet out of the floor.)

I love this article for several reasons.  Muhlke manages to tell two of Shopsin's stories (the restaurant and the book) and one of her own in a few sharp paragraphs.  And I do so like the way she writes.  Add to that, the article employs two different means of showing a quotation where part of the quote is deleted or changed.


“We kick [expletive] out. Regularly.” Up to three times a day.

And second:

I waited weeks to tell Shopsin, who softened and got borderline misty for a second before bellowing: “I’m glad you didn’t tell me. I would’ve kicked the” you-know-what “out.”

I've never seen the second option done before, at least not in an instance where it seems that few words were being changed.  Interesting. 

More of my struggle -- I wasn't sure of a best (or even very good) way to "quotate" those two items, above.  I think I should buy a journalism textbook.  Even if it doesn't explicitly explain how to quote quotes from other texts, I suspect it would have examples of just that.

BTW, I've just remembered to follow up to one of Valerie's comments on quotes within quotes, at this old post.

03:21 PM in Food, Words | Permalink | Comments (0)

Apr 21, 2008

Akashi Sushi and the Food Gulley of Durham


The Mercury Rising roll at Akashi Japanese Restaurant.  In case the phone pic isn't clear, that's two different lumps of orange/red fishiness on top.  The first layer is (very) spicy tuna.  The second is tobiko (flying fish roe).

Akashi is famed for its almost everything half price almost all the time menu.*  It's also famed for its very long menu (including a Wolfpack roll).  I can't believe I hadn't visited before this weekend. 

Quality impressions?  Hmmm... I'd give my first meal a B-.  The Spider Roll (behind the Mercury Rising) was the least inspired I've ever eaten.  But I'll try it again if someone else wants to go. [Update: I had lunch with my pal Adam last week, and we both gave our meals a solid B+ at a great BOGO price.]

Speaking of fame, Akashi is in the ought-to-be-famed Food Gulley** at 2223 Highway 54 E., one block east of Indigestion Intersection (aka intersection of Highways 55 and 54 at the edge of RTP).  The Food Gulley is cool.  It has a taqueria/carniceria, Sal's Pizza, Montas Latin dance club***, Akashi, and Bombay Grille. I have no idea how their lunchtime customers find a place to park.****


*I'm not kidding about the half-price stuff.  Everyone tells me it's always half price all the time.  If you're worried it won't be whenever you go, click here for Akashi's Citysearch listing, then scroll to the instant offer coupon.

**Food Gulley.  I made that up and if you've been, you'll know what I mean.  Below street grade, it's easy to miss if you don't know where you're looking -- so drive slowly and pay attention.  It's just east of the railroad track. While I didn't make up "Indigestion Intersection", I'm surprised to see that it doesn't seem to have currency outside of RTP.

***Hey, has Montas changed names?  I seem to recall different signage on Friday.  Amusement: one of the club's security guards had locked himself out and was knocking on the window to regain admittance.

****One time in that parking lot, I was surprised when one of the landscapers looked up and said, "Hey, Phil.  Howgozit?"  It was my friend Paula whom I'd last seen in Chicago four years earlier.  Her ex-boyfriend story is here.

01:10 AM in Destination Durham, Food, Reviews, Words | Permalink | Comments (7)

Feb 21, 2008


Anonymenter -- someone who posts blog comments (often but not always critical) without providing his or her name.  Related terms: Pseudomenter* and "Chickenshit asshole".

This post dedicated to my pal, Mr. Dependable, who has dealt with many turds in the sandbox.


*(same as anonymenter but always critical and submitted under a pseudonym)

BTW, "anonymenter" and "pseudomenter" and get one Google hit each, both in German-language contexts.  I hereby claim these words as English-language originals for me. Meine, meine, meine.

12:18 PM in Words | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jan 31, 2008

Five-Dollar Words and the Foreign Currency Exchange

Pleasant surprise: all my big words are once again useful.

On the advice of some good teachers, I've spent the last decade trying to use smaller words instead of bigger ones.  Anglo-Saxon instead of Latinate.

The results have been good, I think.  I don't get lost as much as I used to.  Nor do the people I'm talking with.  And fewer people notice when I'm being a snobby ass.

That said, my time in Mexico -- learning to speak Spanish, or speaking in English with people whose native language is Spanish, Italian or French -- has been a great chance to bring back the Latinate.

After talking with dozens of travelers, I've come to realize that a Romance-language speaker with limited English can understand me more quickly when I say say "accelerate" or "melancholy" instead of "speed up" or "sad". 

And if I have to guess what the Spanish word is for "light," I do well when I go long and guess "iluminación".  Looking for someone's "home"?  Get it right with "residencia".  Same for "snobby" when I try "pretencioso".  See how easy it is? :-)

Just don't try it with the Germans, Austrians, and Swiss.  Ist nicht gut, this metodología.


As for the Australians and the English, skip the words and give them a beer.

12:49 AM in Mexico, Words | Permalink | Comments (5)

Jan 23, 2007

Gresham's Law -- in Action in 2007

1d62r The theory holding that if two kinds of money in circulation have the same denominational value but different intrinsic values, the money with higher intrinsic value will be hoarded and eventually driven out of circulation by the money with lesser intrinsic value.

-- Gresham's Law, as defined at

Some years ago I learned Gresham's Law in a shorter version that said (more or less) "if the metal in money is worth more than the money's face value, people will hoard the coins."  "Yeah, right," I said.  Who would ever work that hard for the nth of a cent it would be worth?"

Apparently, speculators do.  From Reuters:

Sharply rising prices of metals such as copper and nickel have meant the face value of pennies and nickels are worth less than the material that they are made of, increasing the risk that speculators could melt the coins and sell them for a profit.

Such a risk spurred the U.S. Mint last month to issue regulations limiting melting and exporting of the coins. But Francois Velde, senior economist at the Chicago Fed, argued in a recent research note that prohibitions by the Mint would unlikely deter serious speculators who already have piled up the coinage.

"History shows that when coins are worth melting, they disappear," Velde wrote.

Raw material prices in general have skyrocketed in the last five years, sending copper prices to record highs of $4.16 a pound in May. Since 1982, the Mint began making copper-coated zinc pennies to prevent metals speculators from taking advantage of lofty base metal prices. [click --> full article at Reuters.]

From what I can glean in various articles like this one (from Nobel-winning economist Robert Mundell) or this one (by the non-Nobel-winning but better-writing economist George Selgin), Gresham's Law is often misquoted or misinterpreted.  Sounds like it could use an entry in the Dictionary of Allusions.


1962 British penny from here.

01:19 PM in Misc.Blog 2007, Quotables, Words | Permalink | Comments (5)