Friday, July 31, 2015

Supsen* (for Suspen*)

One thing leads to another. A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the ukulele, a word I had gotten wrong, or at least less right (with ukelele) in a spelling bee one time; then I was thinking about maybe even getting one myself (I know this kid who has a uke and they make a very cute couple); and then I went to see Singin' in the Rain over in Washington Park. It had been spitting and threatening all day and I had told a friend, "I'm not sure I really wanna see Singin' in the Rain in the rain..." He wittily riposted: "Yeah, you want to suspend disbelief, not belief." Believe it or not, they actually did have to suspend the performance for a little while when it started to drizzle, since they didn't want to risk another actor slipping and falling like on opening night. Although the stage crew makes it "rain" during the play itself (twice, and to great effect), they couldn't have just any old deluge coming down. While we waited damply for the moppers to mop up and the dancers to resume dancing, the PA system entertained us with wonderful standards from the twenties and thirties—then even more wonderfully, "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" by the late great Tiny Tim. At that moment a beautiful rainbow arched across the stage. ("We paid a lot of money for that!" joked the director.) I recall once about thirty years ago when Herbert Khaury (Tiny Tim's given name) had come to this park in person and sung his signature tune at the Tulip Festival. With all this in mind, I told a coworker the other day that I definitely wanted a ukulele. He said his mom had always wanted an electric bass and he wanted to get her one, but they were rather expensive. He added that she was also left-handed. I mentioned that Tiny Tim (whom he had never heard of, despite being quite musically literate) had played the ukulele. And as we later found out, was left-handed also. Much like blues singer and Seeger friend Elizabeth Cotten (whose distinctive guitar style was called "Cotten picking"), he suspended disbelief by turning his instrument upside down and teaching himself how to strum it backwards. And when he trilled in the park in his true falsetto, it rained tulips as well as raindrops on the crowd. Just to clear up any suspense, there were three cases of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 93 in WorldCat.

(Tiny Tim and Miss Vicki at the 1984 Tulip Fest in Washington Park, by AlbanyGroup Archive.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hellen* + Helen* (for Helen* or Hellen*)

We all know the story of Helen of Troy, but what about Helen of Troy, New York? That was the title of a 1923 "musical spoof" by George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly, from a 1904 novel by Wilfrid S. Jackson. It was performed 191 times in New York City (in a nice coincidence, it featured the Broadway star Helen Ford, who had originally hailed from Troy herself) and then went on the road for another ten years before falling into relative obscurity. Now it has finally been returned to its rightful owners. Local historian and first-time director Don Rittner, who stumbled upon the largely forgotten script at the Troy Public Library last year, says the satirical farce had never been produced before in the city that bears its name. This oversight, he thinks, was likely due to objections by (or fear of offending) the owners of Cluett, Peabody & Company, widely known for their "Arrow Collar" men's attire. The playwright openly disguises the firm by dubbing it "Yarrow Collars." (Troy is known to this day as the "Collar City.") When I showed this image of Helen of Troy to the friend I had seen the play with, he drily enquired: "So that's the face that launched a thousand ships?" I like to think the model might have been the artist's sullen tween (Sandys appears to have had over a dozen kids), but whoever she was, I adore the way he portrays every simmering inch of her plump, pouting, fantastically pissed off visage. (Others will disagree.) Be circumspect with respect to today's typo: you may find correct spellings of both Helen and Hellen, along with Hellenic, Hellenistic, Hellenize, etc. That said, we got 339 hits in OhioLINK, and "too many records found for your search" in WorldCat. (Minus the truncation symbol, there were 48 in the former and 747 in the latter.)

(Helen of Troy, by Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, July 27, 2015

Coucil* (for Council*)

Remember the Cowsills? Musical groups often have interesting names, so for a brief senior moment there I sort of had to wonder: what is a cowsill? (Is it anything like a "henway"?) Well, it turns out that Cowsill was the surname of Bill, Bob, Barry, and John, along with their siblings Susan and Paul, and their mother Barbara (known by fans as "mini-mom"). The "bubblegum pop" band played widely in the late 1960s and was the inspiration for the popular sitcom The Partridge Family. In both incarnations, the father was generally "not in the picture" (if not entirely uninvolved) and his absence may be partially explained by the 2015 Showtime doc Family Band: The Cowsills Story, which discusses the Cowsills' "rise to fame and subsequent fall, due to their father's controlling and abusive nature." On a more upbeat note, it includes interviews with Tommy James, Shirley Jones, and radio personality Cousin Brucie. It seems the Cowsills were also cow shills (just kidding, I mean spokespeople, though they were practically a council unto themselves) for the American Dairy Association. They sang the themes to the film The Impossible Years (1968) and the television show Love American Style (1969), and were considered to be "the real thing" by Ms. Jones and many others in the music and TV biz. Coucil* (for council*) was found 30 times in OhioLINK, and 1425 times in WorldCat.

(Publicity photo of the Cowsills receiving a gold record for their hit single "The Rain, the Park and Other Things" in 1967, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hygein* (for Hygiene, etc.)


“Let’s talk about feminine hygiene.”  If this conversation opener makes you squirm, then you’re not alone.  But thanks to the work of organizations like WASH Advocates and WASH United (WASH stands for “water, sanitation, and hygiene”) and companies like Be Girl, Inc. and AFRIpads, the social justice aspect of feminine hygiene is getting some long-overdue attention.  In the developed world, the concern is often women who can’t afford feminine products, and solutions might include providing them free of charge or at least working to eliminate the sales tax on them.  But for the homeless or those in developing countries—who may lack access to feminine hygiene products and sanitary facilities entirely—the consequences are much more severe.  Women and girls the world over are kept from working, attending school, playing sports, and participating in many other daily activities we take for granted.   Added to that is the health risk.  Poor hygiene practices lead to infections and certain types of cancers. 

Fortunately, hygein* is not nearly so problematic in library catalogs.  There are 13 entries in the OhioLink database, and 255 in WorldCat.  Some of the latter are for non-English-language works, but you would probably want to have a look at those too, because a lot involve errors in subject heading strings.

(Amra Padatik India, celebrationof Menstrual Hygiene Day, from Wikimedia Commons)

Deb Kulczak




Friday, July 17, 2015

Opinoin* (for Opinion*)

I recently heard someone refer to the "court of public demand," accidentally conflating "public opinion" and "popular demand." I'm not sure what a court like that would look like, but I sort of like the sound of it! If you too like sounds, would like to be in popular demand, and plan to go a-courtin', you could do a damn sight worse than to heed the advice of this 90-year-old newspaper ad, which boldly trumpets: "Play a Sincere Instrument and POPULARITY LOVE and ROMANCE will be yours." That's the opinion, anyway, of a music store in New York City called "Sincere Studios," where banjos and ukuleles once sold for $2.98 and a dream. (I'm honoring the house style by leaving the word "Sincere" in quotation marks, although as one reader comments, "I imagined the point was to pretend to be sincere while really trying to seduce an innocent young lady with your ukulele music," while another one wonders, "Why does the name 'Sincere Studios' make me less trustful?") A mail-order purchase also promised to bring you (along with guaranteed happiness) a free copy of the "Peter Pan Uke Method" and one "green felt pick." It's easy to snicker, and yet I feel rather oddly beguiled by this: "Win friends and popularity! Own and play a 'Sincere' Hawaiian Ukulele or a Banjo Ukulele! Get into the swim! The girl or fellow that can play a musical instrument has an open invitation to partake in social gatherings. There is no more excuse for being a wall flower..." And I like that they put the girl first, in both the text and the picture, where she's shown seated above the man and facing directly into the camera. Perhaps I'm a little late to the party here, but it looks like ukuleles have always been popular with the ladies. There were two cases of Opinoin* in OhioLINK, and 34 in WorldCat.

("Sincere Studios" advertisement from 1926 Art and Beauty Magazine and Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Aspost* (for Apost*)

Do you believe there should be a different standard for writing that is literally carved in stone? I was outside on my break at the World War II memorial and noticed that on the marble bench where I sat were written the words: "DEDICATED TO THE WOMEN OF NEW YORK WHO GAVE THEIR SONS AND DAUGHTERS IN DEFENSE OF FREEDOM." I decided to see what some of the other engravings had to say and hesitated briefly over one that began: "IN RECOGNITION OF THOSE WHO WENT IN HARMS WAY..." Clearly, that should have been HARM'S, though one has to wonder whether the apostrophe is going the way of the dodo. (For another example—and some might say another endangered species—see the unenlightened sign for "Mens Room" in the nearby cafeteria.) These possessive little guys don't really take up that much room, for Pete's sake, and this particular inscription was sort of prolix, anyway; it still had two long lines to go. But maybe stone cutters and bureaucrats think apostrophes look inelegant, somehow. Or that, despite their relatively tiny size, as characters go, it's simply too much work to punch out punctuation marks. I spent some time the other morning, while waiting for the bus, watching this buff young man cut down a very large tree (there were four of them, really, rising from the same giant trunk) and even with a chainsaw, it seemed to take him forever. Maybe that's the way it is with apostrophes in stone: an easy thing to get wrong, and a hard one to make right. There were seven hits on Aspost* in OhioLINK today, and 140 in WorldCat. (Of the former, one was a reference to the antibiotic Asposterol; some were misspellings of proper names and foreign renderings of words like apostolic; and one was just the inadvertent merging of as and postindustrial.) Note that the person who posted this image to Wikimedia Commons was astute enough to remember the apostrophe—though by deploying ALL CAPS LIKE THAT, the reader might be forgiven for imagining for a second that a man with the marvelously nomen est omen name of "Stone Carver" had left his own permanent calling card up there. (Note also the fairly common, but hard to locate, typo Capital for capitol.)

(STONE CARVER'S NAME ON NECKING OF CAPITAL, Philadelphia Exchange Company, 143 South Third Street, Philadelphia, PA, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, July 13, 2015

Represet* (for Represent*)

I'm not going to sit here and filibuster all day, but let me just ask you this: When you sent your representative off to Congress, did you expect him to just set there? Or did you want her to actually do something? In the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, James Stewart's eponymous politician scarcely even sits down, much less fails in his aims, once setting foot in our nation's capitol. Not that there wasn't corruption and excessive partisanship going on there—au contraire. But what Mr. Smith (the most seemingly generic of all American surnames) brought to the Hill was both passion and perseverance, fueled by a genuine love for the little man/woman/and child. He had integrity, honesty, decency, and drive. Apparently, that's all it takes. Remember that the next time you want someone to represent you. Represet* was found 16 times in OhioLINK, and 392 times in WorldCat.

(James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid