Thursday, September 29, 2016

Goddd* (for Godden, Goddess*, etc.)

In a recent posting about the book Tomboy's Doll by Charlotte Steiner, I mentioned a critical review in Kirkus, which itself mentioned the 1954 classic by kidlit goddess Rumer Godden: "How much wiser is Impunity Jane?" testily asks the reviewer. True enough, to be sure, but a little misleading, perhaps, since Tommy and William (in William's Doll by Charlotte Zolotow) are people, and Jane (and Amanda) are dolls. But just like in the 1972 Zolotow book, the human friend of Impunity Jane is a boy, not a girl. Set in Victorian England, it's the story of a lonely dollhouse doll that winds up in the pocket of a young lad named Gideon, who is endowed with the ability to "hear doll wishes" and decides to take her on some exciting adventures with his pals. He is predictably teased for being a "sissy," but Jane manages to win over the little gang of haters, and eventually her pocket protector sadly but dutifully returns her to her original owner. There is nothing distasteful, wrong, or politically incorrect about dolls per se, as I hope we have demonstrated here, and they should be loved more and by more people, not less or fewer. But for Godden's sake, let's at least try and spell everybody's name right. There were two instances of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 54 in WorldCat.

(Illustration from Impunity Jane, by Rumer Godden, taken from the web.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Stien* + Stein* (for Stein* or Stien*)

The other day, I came across an old children's book I'd randomly picked up during a recent eBay buy. It's called Tomboy's Doll. I couldn't find much out about it on the web, other than a snarky review from Kirkus and one fulminating comment ("Sexism at its finest!") on Amazon. I found it rather charming, though, for my part, and really pretty "liberating" for its day. Upon reading it through a second time, I saw that the copy I held in my hands had once belonged to the "Grouse Creek School" and—yes, I thought, free associating, what a bunch of grousing, PC pedants some readers can be! First of all, I think one should always keep in mind when a book was written and by whom. Never be blinkered by an ahistorical agenda. And secondly, try and remember that books like these are the stories of individuals, not object lessons for the masses, though they often do contain a bit of a "moral." Charlotte Steiner was born in Vienna in 1900 and emigrated to the United States in 1938 while fleeing the Nazis with her family. She was a 69-year-old woman when Tomboy's Doll was published. This was three years before Charlotte Zolotow wrote the much-praised feminist favorite William's Doll, in which a young boy is eventually allowed to play with a doll (because, his parents reason, it may help him become a better father when he grows up). In Steiner's book, the protagonist is a little girl named Mary Louise, but everyone (including her mother) calls her "Tommy"—obviously her preferred name and an apparent variant on the word tomboy. (The working title had been Tommy Tomboy's Doll, which seems to underscore even more clearly the importance of self-identification.) The Amazon reviewer complains that Tommy's "mother forces her to play with a doll" and "in the end, everyone is happy because she was forced into a gender normative role." But that's really putting it too strongly, I think. Tommy's mother does give her a doll, but Tommy is "confused" because she doesn't "know how" to play with it (suggesting it's the first one she's ever had). She and her best friend Billy experiment by using it as a shuttlecock in badminton; tying it to the cherry tree to scare crows away; giving it a ride on the back of the farmer's dog Max; teaching it to "swim" in Billy's wading pond; and making it the "victim" in a game of cops and robbers. Tommy's mom (who presumably is also the person who bobbed her daughter's hair and bought her all the "boy" toys and teeshirts and blue jeans and so forth that you see her in on every page) does little more than mildly point out, "That's not how you play with a doll" and clean the thing up a bit. Eventually, Tommy manages to bond with "Amanda" after the two of them get lost in the woods (which she probably does by modeling her mother's own equanimity and empathy toward her) and starts "playing" with the doll more properly. Nowhere is it implied, however, that she's about to give up any of the other toys or games or personal style she's come to favor. Perhaps nowadays, we'd have to have the parents calling Tommy "he" or even treating her like a "gender non-conforming" doll herself, swapping out old parts for new ones that presumably fit better. Like the disgruntled Amazon reviewer, I'm being a little sarcastic there, but back in 1969 (the year of the Stonewall riots, and three years before the debut of Ms. magazine), this book surely would have been in the feminist forefront, celebrating the idea that a girl can be just like Tommy (the dedication reads, "To Nora, my tomboy friend") and just as unconditionally loved. It would also seem to be saying that "tomboys" (and perhaps even regular boys) can learn how to love and nurture other sentient beings (or their stand-ins) while still climbing trees, playing with trucks, and throwing balls. We used to call that being "well-rounded." (Tommy appears to be a pretty good artist too. Is that a drawing of Amelia Earhart hanging on her wall??) There were 29 cases of Stien* + Stein* (for Stein* or Stien*) in OhioLINK today, and 250 in WorldCat.

(Illustration from Tomboy's Doll, by Charlotte Steiner, 1969.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Fedl* + Feld* (for Feld* or Fedl*)

I was browsing online for something like the wonderful typewriter-key earrings I once bought at a local museum (then promptly gave away to my niece) and was pleased to find a number of websites with similar ones for sale. I was immediately drawn to one pair, each earring featuring the number 9 with the open parenthesis sign—and even more beguiled after reading the tagline accompanying them: "For those 'Get Smart' fans who dreamed of being Agent 99, here's your chance. A great set of cream keys on sterling silver 925 wires..." Challenge accepted! (And loving it!) When I was a kid, my girlfriends and I would occasionally act out the characters in the TV spy show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and the spoofy sitcom Get Smart. I was "Agent 99," the beautiful, level-headed partner of the addlepated 86 (played by Don Adams), whom 99 liked to call "Max" in this incredibly sexy purr. I think we somehow felt that the Barbara Feldon role was the least important one (its being the only female one), but she might have "gotten smart" a whole lot faster than her more masculine colleagues in espionage. Agent 99, whose real name was never revealed on the show, holds the interesting distinction of having been the "first woman on an American hit sitcom to keep her job after marriage and motherhood." Let's keep Ms. Feldon's surname (and many others) intact as well. Would you believe... there were three cases of Fedl* + Feld* (for Feld* or Fedl*) found in OhioLINK today, and 30 more in WorldCat? Help defeat KAOS in our catalogs by acting to CONTROL this typo today!

(Poster with Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, taken from the web.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Forword* (for Forward* or Foreword*)

After getting such good results with our typo last time, we're going to go forward today with a related one. Let's just say that the hits are quite numerous and our subject quite luminous (that is, "shedding light; bright or shining, especially in the dark"). Inez Milholland, born August 6, 1886, was the "most brilliant, beautiful, iconic feminist you never heard of," according to a recent segment on NPR about a new documentary called Forward Into Light. The title is taken from a protest sign she carried in her first suffrage parade on May 7, 1911: Forward out of error — Leave behind the night — Forward through the darkness — Forward into light! These stirring words were to become the official slogan for the National Woman's Party. New York University Law School (which she attended at a time when most other colleges were barring female students) has honored her with the "Inez Milholland Professorship of Civil Liberties." Carl Sandburg and Edna St. Vincent Millay both wrote poems in her memory. Inez Milholland (whose last public words were, "Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?") is often thought of as a Joan of Arc-like martyr to the feminist cause; she keeled over from sheer exhaustion and pernicious anemia while exhorting her listeners from a speaker's dais on October 22, 1916, and died a month later in the hospital. The 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote, was finally passed in 1920 and it's sad that this passionate champion of our rights didn't last long enough to see that day. But Inez Milholland's shining spirit and political legacy will live on forever. There were 598 cases of Forword* (for forward* or foreword*) found in OhioLINK, and "too many records found for your search" in WorldCat.

(Inez Boissevain, wearing a white cape, seated on a white horse at the suffrage parade in Washington, D.C., 1913, from Wikimedia Commons.")

Carol Reid

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Foreward* (for Foreword* or Forward*)

With a typo like Foreward* today, I was tempted to write something about Ward Cleaver, America's favorite dad on the late great Eisenhower-era sitcom Leave It to Beaver. Ward is the strong, silent, somewhat suave, and slightly sardonic sort (suburbane, in a word, if I may coin a new one, which I guess I just did!) He's played by the late actor Hugh Beaumont, whose surname means "Beautiful Mountain" in French. "Ward has few interests at home," according to Wikipedia, "other than monitoring his sons and spending evenings after dinner sitting next to his wife on the couch in the living room reading Mayfield's daily newspaper, the 'Mayfield Press' ... Ward plays golf at a local country club, and attends church." Alas, as I now recall, I've already blogged about Mr. Cleaver here, so I decided to skip it this time and move on to something different. And this story that I found (from around the same time in history) really could not be more different. So with that little foreword dispensed with, let's begin in the lushly forested, but sadly struggling, country of Papua New Guinea. The Fore People, a traditionally peace-loving aboriginal society, also had the seemingly unsavory habit of ingesting their dead. They're certainly not the only people on earth to have ever engaged in this practice, and their reasons for it, in fact, may have even made a bit of sense. In any case, it was a commonly engaged in ritual there well into the twentieth century. The government banned "mortuary" or "funerary" cannibalism in the 1950s, after a neurological disorder known as kuru—transmitted through contact with or the consumption of infected human flesh—had reached epidemic proportions. Fortunately, though superstitions linger, over fifty years later, forward-thinking reformers have led to a happier, healthier Fore people. We got 2,179 hits on Foreward* in OhioLINK, and "too many records found for your search" in WorldCat.

("The uncivilized races of men in all countries of the world; being a comprehensive account of their manners and customs, and of their physical, social, mental, moral and religious characteristics," by Rev. J. G. Wood, with new designs by Angas, Danby, Wolf, Zwecker, 1871, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Baskt* (for Basket*)

Today's typo blog entry may be a little bit more of a "group effort" than usual. I was curious about Hillary Clinton's colorful phrase "a basket of deplorables" to refer to the percentage of Donald Trump supporters who would probably be considered—by most standards, if not their own—to be racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic. So I started to search the web for an answer and straightaway came upon this marvelous thread of conceivable origins, suppositions, usages, analogies, ad hoc humor, and other excellent examples of wordplay. One online commenter tells us: "Hillary just called ~30 million Americans 'deplorables' to keep up with Trump calling ~11 million illegals 'deportables.'" Another reader suggests that "it's a riff on 'binders full of women.'" One says: "Many have asked what the collective noun is for Trump supporters, a la 'a murder of crows.' This would seem to be a good suggestion." And yet another one remarks: "'Basket of X' as a general collective sounds like econometrics talk to me (like the 'basket' of goods used to calculate the CPI). My guess is that it's a new coinage influenced by that and 'parade of horribles.'" (According to the language columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Ben Zimmer, "parade of horribles" can be traced back to mid-19th-century New England, "when austere parades of 'ancients and honorables' held on Independence Day were spoofed, burlesque-style, as 'antiques and horribles.'") Like the number of plausible presidential candidates we're currently faced with, plus the number of weeks that there are in a year (no matter how long it's felt like), we found a couple of these in OhioLINK this morning, and a basket of 52 deplorables in WorldCat.

(CNN screen shot, taken from the web.)

Carol Reid

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Porblem* (for Problem*)

For some of us, it can be a bit of a problem. They say you shouldn't give advice unless you've been asked for it; some would advise you not to take too freely the advice of others; and most would concur that it's unwise to act as one's own counsel in a court of law. But when you tire of "trying cases in the media"—which is to say, reading yet another grim or gruesome story in the news—you can always turn to the frequently helpful and often delightfully written "advice column," a genre made famous in the 1933 novel Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West. Born Nathan Weinstein, West set the stage, as it were (the film version, Lonelyhearts, starring Montgomery Clift, recently aired on TCM), for a slew of "agony aunts" to come. Though some are still published in the paper, most advice columns today can be easily found online. The mere salutations in a letter to Cheryl Strayed ("Dear Sugar...") would probably start melting your problems away before you could even put down your pen. Some of my other favorites include "Miss Manners"; "Dear Prudence"; "Savage Love"; and, though she hasn't made it onto Wikipedia quite yet, "Dear Carolyn" (along, of course, with any grammar ones I can get my hands on). Long gone, but eagerly consulted as well, were Cynthia Heimel's "Problem Lady" and "Since You Asked" by Cary Tennis. My advice to you is to take all their advice, even if somebody else had to ask for it first. And don't thank me. It's no problem. Today's typo turned up five times in OhioLINK, and 266 times in WorldCat.

(Cover of first UK edition of Miss Lonelyhearts, from Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid