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 [...]
"Call it linguistic precision engineering. The German language permits the creation of words of endless length, many of which refer to laws. Now the country has lost its longest official word following the repeal of a complex law regarding mad cow disease — and is seeking a new one." —What are the Germans going to do now that 'Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz' is no longer an acceptable word? And what did 'Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz' even mean? As the article goes on to explain, 'Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz' can be loosely translated as 'the strange condition in which, due to skin tone or softness of features, a person somehow appears to have been Photoshopped into a picture no [...]
"The other day somebody said 'dichotomy' and I was transported back half a century. You hardly ever hear that word nowadays, but back in the Sixties everything seemed to be a dichotomy. Words go in and out of fashion like anything else. May we hope that the irritating 'iconic' is at its apogee, and will soon decline?"
"Later experiments in mineral physics found out that when ultramafic rocks, which are rocks very high in magnesium and iron—when those are melted, their conductivity shoots up by orders or magnitude. And it is that very high conductivity that can create the type of signature we have seen. So, we needed mineral physics to catch up with our data." —For a long time, scientists have wondered why the magnetometer readings around the Jovean moon Io were so crazy. Turns out it's because Io is so ultramafic. Io is also the most volcanic world in the entire solar system, due to a seething, 30-mile-thick ocean of magma just beneath [...]
All of a sudden Supreme Court judge Antonin Scalia decided to revive the crazymaking debate regarding the Fourteenth Amendment's protection for women—or, apparently, lack thereof. Here is what Justice Scalia told California Lawyer: "Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn't…. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don't need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box. You don't like the death penalty anymore, that's fine. You want a [...]
I'm an adviser to John McCain's campaign. 1 Siri calls me “Funk Deity.” 2 Aside from lessons in pole dancing—another fad workout sweeping Southern California—this may be the least macho exercise of all time. 3
I am not a cat person. 4 My mother was one for many years. 5 I am a professor of Shakespeare, among other subjects, at UCLA, and this has never happened to me. 6
I am a sucker for the man-befriends-nonhuman-creature genre of sitcoms. 7 I have no complaints about how much I make. 8
When the New America Foundation moves its offices in D.C., next week, Foreign Policy will become our tenants, but [...]
Why do French feminist groups have such awesome names? (As noted in this story on the au revoir to the term 'mademoiselle.') For instance, is "Les Chiennes de Garde" a pun, in French? (I don't have any reason to think so particularly; it just LOOKS like it would be some sort of super-cute complicated French double-pun.) Also "Paroles de Femmes," which is an "aid group" not an activist group;. Can I translate that in my mind as Words With Lady Friends? That's much more fun. Oh France.
"The researchers were looking for quintessential envy, which is distinct from jealousy. Envy involves a longing for what you don’t have, while jealousy is provoked by losing something to someone else. If you crave a wife like Angelina Jolie, you’re envious of Brad Pitt; if you’re upset about losing your wife to him, you’re jealous." —Huh. So Iago and Rick Springfield: envious. Herzog and Ric Ocasek, jealous. And, as John Tierney reports, envy improves our focus and memory, but it makes our brains tired. Also, Brad Pitt was so good in Moneyball!
For a while now, something has been bothering me. It's not particularly menacing or sinister, just annoying and unavoidable. It's a word, and I see it in the comments section of YouTube videos and hear it from the mouths of guffawing teenage girls next to me on the subway. Sometimes it even makes an unwelcome appearance on my cell phone in the form of a text message. The word I'm talking about is random—and I'm not the only one who feels this way.
Facebook Groups have risen in opposition to this ubiquitous six-letter expression. There is "Irritated by the incorrect use of the word 'random,'" "I HATE the word [...]
"The Maori placename Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu is not quite as lengthy as we rendered it in a panel accompanying an article about very long words. Our spelling twice included a stray j – a consonant that does not appear in the Maori language."
Some years ago an engineer at Google told me why Google wasn't collecting information linked to people's names. It's not just about Big Data.
Not long ago, I was at a dinner with the chief executive of a large bank. Not long ago, a woman in Tacoma, Wash., received a suggestion from Facebook that she "friend" another woman. Not long ago, I sent a dozen friends an electronic invitation to a party.
"On 23 March 1839, OK was introduced to the world on the second page of the Boston Morning Post, in the midst of a long paragraph, as 'o.k. (all correct)'. OK may have originated from a comical misspelling How this weak joke survived at all, instead of vanishing like its counterparts, is a matter of lucky coincidence involving the American presidential election of 1840." —I prefer to spell it "okay," because it's a word I don't think should stand out so much. But Allan Metcalf's etymology of "America's Greatest Word" is so interesting, however he chooses to spell it is just fine with me.