Tuesday, March 4th, 2014
16

How To Order A Croissant

Ordering a croissant is a perilous enterprise. It forces lovers of French pastries between the Scylla of pretension and the frying pan of provincialism. Actually that’s understating the case: The perils are not two, but manifold.

If you attempt the proper French pronunciation, krwa-san, and succeed, you’ll seem snobby. If you trip over the guttural R, as so many non-native speakers do, you’ll seem pseudointellectual.

If you go for the namby-pamby middle ground, kwa-san, replacing the guttural R with a W, you’ll sound terrible… and namby-pamby.

You could avoid these dangers by pronouncing the word in a straightforward American accident: kruh-sant. But then you’ll quite possibly become the [...]

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37

Your Street Probably Smells Like Semen Right Now—But It Might Not Next Spring

On a mild April night some years ago, I walked past a college dorm in New Haven and smelled something I couldn’t place. It reminded me vaguely of swimming pools. Was it chlorine? I sniffed again, more deeply than before. Suddenly I knew exactly what it was and hurried away, internally berating an unseen teenage boy. A few evenings later, in the same spot, I smelled it again. Filled with a sense of moral outrage I looked around, I looked up, and identified the culprit: A tree.

More precisely, a Callery Pear, or Pyrus calleryana, a deciduous tree that’s common throughout North America. It blossoms in early spring and produces [...]

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