Miscellany for 9/19/13

Twelve items that have come by me recently.

1. Today’s holiday. It’s (International) Talk Like a Pirate day today. Last posting on the holiday on this blog (with links): 9/10/11 “R!”.

2. On the spam watch. By the end of the day, I will have accumulated 400,000 spam comments on this blog since it started. Meanwhile, spam e-mail has been accelerating; I’m now getting hundreds of pieces a day: spam in Chinese, lots of spam from Dr. Oz, huge amounts of penis enlargement spam, and much more. Fortunately, almost all of this comes via a Stanford server that will shut down at the end of the month. Meanwhile, it takes a lot of time just to find legitimate mail in this heap.

3. Semantics of compounds. My AZBlogX piece on “Harnesses” yesterday distinguished two types (and illustrated them): the cross harness and the bulldog harness. The semantics of the first compound is straightforward — the harness resembles an X (in both front and back). The second compound is more complex: the harness resembles the sort of harness used for bulldogs.

4. Porn POP. On AZBlogX this morning, a trifle on the gay porn flick Pacific Rim Job. The title is a POP (phrasal overlap portmanteau), combining Pacific Rim (the film features Asian men) and rim job ‘anilingus / analingus’ (the film features fucking and rimming).

This came to my attention in a GameLink ad for a bunch of porn films with titles of a variety of types: International Sausage Fest #3, Locker Room Workouts, Boys Home Alone, My Latin Lover, Horse Hung Hispanics 2.

5. More snarky fashion.  Also on AZBlogX this morning, two more snarkily captioned vintage ads for men’s clothing, with links to the three previous postings of this sort.

6. Electric crackers. From Arne Adolfsen on Facebook, this entertaining ad for Hippo Electric Crackers:

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I was enchanted by the idea of electric biscuits (especially with a hippopotamus as mascot) — imagine an electric Ritz Cracker — until I read the firm’s name and realized that the ad was for firecrackers (cracker as a truncation of firecracker), not biscuits (U.S. crackers). Ambiguity is everywhere.

7. Popularity. The September 8th New York Times Magazine had a section on popularity, with Adam Sternbergh’s piece “The Wisdom and Whimsy of the Crowd: What does it mean to be popular now?” as its central feature. Sternberg notes that for pop culture, the notion of popularity has been fragmented; “we no longer experience culture as one hulking, homogenous mass”, and what counts as popular depends on how popularity is measured.

Along the way, boxes with observations on examples of popularity: the most popular baby names in New York right now are Jayden and Isabella; the most popular cat names in America are Max and Bella, the most popular dog names Bailey and Bella; the best-selling baseball jersey is for Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants (yay!); and so on.

8. ISIS on Slate. On Slate’s Lexicon Valley blog on the 17th, a nice piece “Are You a Double-Is-er?” by Alyssa Pelish, about ISIS, aka “Double-is,” “Extra-is,” “Double-be,” and the “Nonstandard Reduplicative Copula”. Pelish consulted with linguists (including me) and read a lot of literature on the topic (including my summary piece “Extris, Extris“), and then boiled things down to a fairly short piece for a general, non-technical audience. Good job.

9. An endangered language. And in the August Harper’s Magazine, “VNG31GYEU53SVR55 : How to read the dictionary of an endangered language” by Ross Perlin (assistant director of the Endangered Language Alliance), about the endanged language Trung (of Yunnan province in southwest China; about 7,000 speakers remaining); Perlin and three Trung collaborators have been putting together a substantial Trung-Chinese-English dictionary, to be finished later this year. The article has two sample pages, with discussion.

10. Mad Men. In the same issue, Thomas Frank’s Easy Chair column “Ad Absurdum”, about the tv show Mad Men. On p. 6, Frank reports trying to track down the origin of the expression in the show’s title, without great success:

The only instances of the phrase that we could find from Don Draper’s heyday occurred in a 1957 Saturday Review article and in an obscure novel published the next year, both of them by one James Kelly. That his pet coinage spread no further is hardly a surprise, since the ad industry of the day understood itself as a rational, even scientific, enterprise rather than a hotbed of lunacy.

11. Saganaki. One segment of a tv program on cheese that I stumbled on recently looked at saganaki. From Wikipedia:

Saganaki (Greek σαγανάκι) refers to various Greek dishes prepared in a small frying pan, itself called a saganaki, the best-known being an appetizer of fried cheese.

The word saganaki is a diminutive of sagani, a frying pan with two handles, which comes from the Turkish word sahan ‘copper dish’, itself borrowed from Arabic

… In many United States and Canadian restaurants, after being fried, the saganaki cheese is flambéed at the table (sometimes with a shout of “opa!”), and the flames then extinguished with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. This is called “flaming saganaki” and apparently originated in 1968 at The Parthenon restaurant in Chicago’s Greektown, based on the suggestion of a customer to owner Chris Liakouras.

The show included a visit to the Parthenon. I have in fact had flaming saganaki at the Parthenon.

12. Return to tartare. Continuing the food theme, I turn now to Mark Bitman’s September 15th piece in the New York Times Magazine, on tartare (discussed on this blog here), “Rescuing Tartare From the Stuffy, Old Power-Lunchers”:

In the go-go ’80s, “tartare” pretty much meant a pile of raw, well-seasoned chopped beef topped with a raw egg yolk. It was seen as food for the carnivorous power-lunch crowd — tartare even had a cameo as a status symbol in “Wall Street”— and for old-fashioned people who ate at old-fashioned restaurants.

I’m not sure what the first nonbeef tartare was, but I do remember getting a chuckle when my friend and co-author Jean-Georges Vongerichten introduced me to beet tartare sometime around 1990. In any case, tuna tartare has far surpassed beef in popularity, lamb tartare is fashionable and carrot tartare is expensive. In short, the field is wide open, and it’s time for home cooks to forge ahead.

It couldn’t be simpler; if you can chop or use a food processor, you can make tartare. The method is mostly an exercise in buying and tasting: first you find meat, fish or vegetables you’d want to eat raw (quality is essential, of course), and then you find combinations of garnishes that work. A few natural combinations to get you started: salmon with egg, chives, anchovies and capers; scallops with zucchini, miso and soy sauce; tuna with mustard and soy.

In a picture:

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