Archive for the ‘Acting’ Category

Elaine Stritch

July 18, 2014

In today’s NYT, “Elaine Stritch, Broadway’s Enduring Dame, Dies at 89” by Bruce Weber and Robert Berkvist, beginning:

Elaine Stritch, the brassy, tart-tongued Broadway actress and singer who became a living emblem of show business durability and perhaps the leading interpreter of Stephen Sondheim’s wryly acrid musings on aging, died on Thursday [7/17] at her home in Birmingham, Mich.



June 27, 2014

Yesterday I reported on Fortnum & Mason’s use of queen in an advert in support of Gay Pride: “Proud to be the queens’ grocer”, with the plural possessive of the common noun queen, rather than the singular possessive of the proper noun Queen. Not everyone is entirely comfortable with this use of queen, seeing it as an offensive and demeaning slur. But the import of words, even slurs and other problematic vocabulary, depends crucially on context — on who’s using them, in what circumstances, for what purposes. Given that, you can read F&M’s queens’ as affectionate, in fact celebratory.


Original pronunciation

March 21, 2014

Many people have written to me recommending a video by David and Ben Crystal on the “Original Pronunciation” (OP) of Shakespeare vs. the Received Standard pronunciation we’re become accustomed to in performances of the Bard of Avon.  Fascinating stuff, treated in a Language Log posting by David Beaver of 9/7/13: “Rot and Rot (a really, really rude sex joke)”.

Note that “Original Pronunciation” doesn’t mean the first there was, because that would take us back to Old English and Proto-Germanic and Proto-Indo-European and beyond (insofar as we can imagine beyond). And the terminology is misleading because it suggests that there was only one pronunciation for the characters in the Shakespearean canon; there was unquestionably variation in the pronunciation of characters according to their place in society. But the OP label does highlight differences between current performance practices and the ones of Shakespeare’s time.

However, my point here is not to revive this discussion, but to note that one of my correspondents refers to the variety in question as ancient English, a label students of mine have often used for what is technically Early Modern English (not oven Old English). Well, it’s old, really old, so it must be ancient.


House men

October 27, 2013

(Not really about language, but just about popular culture on a Sunday morning.)

Re-runs of House have been going past me this morning. On the show, from Wikipedia:

House (also known as House, M.D.) is an American television medical drama that originally ran on the Fox network for eight seasons, from November 16, 2004 to May 21, 2012. The show’s main character is Dr. Gregory House (Hugh Laurie), a drug-addicted, unconventional, misanthropic medical genius who leads a team of diagnosticians at the fictional Princeton–Plainsboro Teaching Hospital … in New Jersey.

The show is formulaic, tying medical drama (with the team running through a series of diagnoses in the face of baffling symptoms) into the seriocomic soap-operatic drama of the characters’ lives.


Jimmy Olsen

October 18, 2013

In the past few days, Smallville re-runs have come to the point where the character Jimmy Olsen has become significant. From the Wikipedia entry on the character:

Jimmy is traditionally depicted as a bow tie-wearing, red-haired young man who works as a cub reporter and photographer for The Daily Planet, alongside Lois Lane and Clark Kent, whom he idolizes as career role models.

Jimmy Olsen, from Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #36 (1959); art by Curt Swan:


Jimmy is enthusiastic, sunny, and rather naive — a good foil to the many characters who have their dark sides and their secrets.


Model cats

October 11, 2013

(Not much about language.)

From Laura Staum Casasanto, a link to a site on “Cats that look like male models”. Pure silliness.

Not all the men can fairly be described as male models; some are just actors. Take Robert Downey Jr., in this pairing:



Hollywood Sparks

August 15, 2013

In the September Details magazine (pp. 208-13), a feature, “This Mild-Mannered Father of Five Is Single-Handedly Redefining the Male Ideal: The Love Song of Nicholas Sparks” by Jonathan Miles, about the author of romantic fiction, which features legions of

Everyman paragons of romance, fidelity, hunkiness, vulnerability, and soft-focus desirability that, in the books’ Hollywood adaptations, have supplied hot-and-teary leading-man roles for

many actors, among them Ryan Gosling, Channing Tatum, Shane West, Zac Efron, Josh Duhamel, Kevin Costner, and Richard Gere.

On p. 211, a special feature, “When Hollywood Sparks Fly: How playing one of the author’s characters became the ticket to A-list hearthrob status”, on five actors for whom a Sparks-based movie provided a career break-through: Ryan Gosling [The Notebook], Channing Tatum [Dear John], Liam Hemsworth [The Last Song], Zac Efron [The Lucky One], Josh Duhamel [Safe Haven].


Cinderella 1957

June 23, 2013

(Not about language, but about actors and acting.)

In a set of Rodgers and Hammerstein postcards, one for the 1957 television musical Cinderella, which I was somehow unaware of (it was my freshman year at Princeton, and a lot of television passed me by); the production involved a number of my favorite character actors.