Archive for the ‘Language and culture’ Category

Where is Gilroy?

September 5, 2017

Restrain the impulse to reply “Gilroy was here” (I’ll get to that below); the title is an echo of my 7/7/15 posting “Where is Ojai?”, which was about whether the city of Ojai, in Ventura County CA, is in California’s Central Coast region or in in the South Coast region (along with Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties).

Just so for Gilroy, a city in (far southern) Santa Clara county: is it in the Central Coast region, or in the Bay Area region on the northern California coast?

Ojai and the rest of Ventura County are in a cultural liminal zone, between central and south; and Gilroy and neighboring Santa Cruz county are in a cultural liminal zone, between central (with small cities, picturesque open spaces, and extensive rural or semi-rural areas) and Bay Area (mostly dense urban and surburban settlement).

I stumbled onto the Gilroy question through food, specifically through Original California Style Hot Pepper Sauce, made in Gilroy (but encountered on a table at the Peninsula Fountain Grill, here in Palo Alto), whose makers advertise:

Pepper Plant Pepper Sauce was developed by a lover of spicy peppers who wanted to enjoy their unique taste year round. Pepper Plant quickly became a favorite of the California Central Coast.

The Pepper Plant folks seem pretty clear that they’re on the Central Coast (along with Watsonville, Salinas, Monterey, and Carmel) — at the northern tip of the region, granted, but in it.

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Morning: spanakopita

February 23, 2017

Spanakopita was the morning name some weeks ago, and then this morning the bon appétit site offered instructions on how to “make spanakopita pie”, with a yummy photo:

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The full instructions, which are pretty complex, amount to:

make the spinach filling (using frozen spinach), prepare the phyllo pastry (using frozen phyllo), assemble, bake

The result, seen above, is spanakopita:

(in Greek cooking) a phyllo pastry stuffed with spinach and feta cheese. ORIGIN modern Greek, literally ‘spinach pie.’ (NOAD2)

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Comic-stripped!

May 20, 2016

Unearthed in my giant pile of books, Arthur Asa Berger’s The Comic-Stripped American: What Dick Tracy, Blondie, Daddy Warbucks, and Charlie Brown Tell us about Ourselves (1973), an early piece of cultural criticism based on the comics:

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(That’s Mutt and Jeff on the cover.)

Berger on p. 1:

this is the first book I know of which deals with the way comics reflect our [American] culture.

If not actually the first, certainly a pioneering book.

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cold cuts

November 12, 2015

Recently I wondered about the story of cold cuts ‘lunch meat’, an Adj + N composite that is not particularly transparent semantically (in fact, lunch meat isn’t fully transparent either). There’s some interesting linguistic history here. But there’s clearly also some substantial cultural history to be uncovered, and for this I don’t have the resources.

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In the Basque diaspora

August 9, 2015

(Warning: much of this posting is about gay porn and male hustling, and it refers in plain language to the male body and to male-male sexual acts; the photographs are not actually X-rated — such images are in a related posting on AZBlogX — but the posting is not for kids, the sexually modest, or the easily offended.)

In a comment on my posting about the Basque language and the Basques in the U.S., someone using the name “Dirty Harri” (it’s a joke, as you’ll see, a play on the title Dirty Harry) picks up a news story about disagreements in 2013 between Aitzol Azurtza, the president of the New York Basque Club, and the visiting Iñigo Urkullu, the president of the Basque Government. During this contretemps, it was revealed (by others) that Azurtza had had a career in gay porn, under the stage name Antton Harri; Azurtza had come out some time before, but it was not generally known in the Basque world (in NYC or elsewhere) that he was a gay pornstar (of some repute), or indeed that he’d worked as a rentboy in NYC. Under the cloud of the porn revelations, Azurtza resigned his Basque Club position “for personal reasons” and not long after moved from New York to Palm Springs CA, where he lives now. A piece of reporting from the time:

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(On the left, Azurtza in business suit. On the right, Harri in his work clothes.

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Big D

November 27, 2014

No, not Dallas, but Deaf vs. deaf, a meaning distinction (a sociocultural identity vs. merely hearing-impaired) easily made in print, but not so easily in speech, as I noted in a 11/22/14 posting. But in speech, Susan Fischer tells me, the distinction can be made as “big-D deaf” vs. “little-d deaf”. (I was hoping for the briefer /dɛf/ vs. /dif/.)

Then I asked Susan about how this worked in ASL, hoping for something more interesting. But no; apparent you just sign BIG-D DEAF vs. LITTLE-D DEAF.

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The sporting news

July 1, 2014

I interrupt the flow of postings on cartoons to report on my adventures in sporting enthusiasm, in particular for teams in the World Cup. In the current round, I had three favorite teams: Mexico (how can you live where I do without supporting Mexico?), Switzerland (the land of my father’s family), and of course the U.S. Everybody lost, though the games had stirring moments.

I’m not up at all on the fine points of soccer, but I enjoy the spectacle.

And now, back to language.

scandal

August 30, 2013

In the New Yorker of 8/26/13, a letter on p. 5 from Richard M. Perloff, Professor of Communication at Cleveland State University, Cleveland OH, beginning:

Dangerous Liaisons
Hendrik Hertzberg, writing about Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, and their forerunners in the delicate pas de deux between private misdeeds and public behavior, assumes that sex scandals have an objective quality (Comment, August 12th and 19th). Whether a series of transgressions merits the label “scandal” is itself a contentious issue that is a function of social norms and cultural values.

Perloff goes on to discuss some specific cases, and I’ll get to these. But first some lexicographic notes.

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NPR team and the perils of transcription

April 16, 2013

Yesterday on NPR’s Morning Edition, a piece announcing a new NPR feature:

NPR Team Covers Race, Ethnicity And Culture (by David Greene and Gene Demby)

NPR this week is introducing a new team that will cover race, ethnicity and culture. Code Switch is the name of the new blog. Code-switching is the practice of shifting between different languages or different ways of expressing yourself in conversations.

Greene and Demby chat for a while about code-switching, with examples, bringing in linguist Tyler Schnoebelen as a consultant at one point. But if you read the transcript rather than listening to the segment, you might be puzzled.

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Looking modern(e)

October 17, 2012

Passed on by Dean Calbreath on Facebook, this image of the 1948 Buick Streamliner:

Dean’s comment: “I’ve never seen a car this beautiful – and it’s more than 60 years old.” It might seem surprisingly old, but it comes close to the end of the great age of streamlining as the image of fashionable modernity in design. Here’s a train design from almost two decades earlier:

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