Monday, February 24, 2014

Suject* (for Subject* or Sujet*)

During a grammar spot on Sunday Morning yesterday, Bill Flanagan tried to set the record straight on the vexing subject of "I versus me." He quoted a few solecisms involving the use of "I" as an object ("Are you coming to the movie with Madonna and I? Won't you join Oprah and I for dinner? The Trumps are throwing a party for Barack and I") and added: "It's embarrassing! At least people who mess up the other way—'Goober and me are going to town'—sound folksy, colloquial, down-to-earth. But people who say 'I' when they should say 'me' sound like they're trying to be sophisticated and they're getting it wrong." A former country bumpkin myself, I still employ the occasional hayseed-ism too, whether intentionally, ironically, or even rather cluelessly. (Although I think I might be inclined to prefer "Me and Goober" over "Goober and me" for some odd reason.) But it's like that old Beatles song says: "I me mine, I me mine, I me mine." I before M, people ... alphabetical order, the easiest mnemonic in the world! So remember now, it's "I before ME, except after..." Well, there are some execeptions, actually, but this is an object lesson we're being subjected to here. We found 48 cases of Suject* (for subject* or sujet* in French and Spanish) in OhioLINK, and 1167 in WorldCat.

(Photo of Andy Griffith and George Lindsey from The Andy Griffith Show. This is the "talking dog" episode where Goober believes he's found a dog that can talk and tries to convince everyone else of it. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, February 17, 2014

Satist* (for Statist* or Satisf*)

Excel spreadsheet on the wall, who's the satist* of them all? I can recall taking statistics back in library school and it really did make me feel sort of sad—when I wasn't feeling bored, frustrated, mystified, or terrified. My professor was a whispering wisp of a man, though he may as well have been a hulking sadist, given the emotions this dry-as-dust, yet slippery-as-an-eel discipline engendered in me. (It was the only C I ever received in grad school, but all things considered, I felt satisfied with my position on that particular bell curve.) I was relieved when the class was over, but I've often wished I'd understood it better, especially considering how easy it is to misinterpret all the studies forever being touted to advance public agendas. Mark Twain once wrote, "There are liars, damned liars, and statisticians," and he wasn't the only wag to wax philosophical on this topic. Some of my favorite quotes include Jorge Luis Borges' "Democracy is an abuse of statistics"; Rex Stout's "There are two kinds of statistics: the kind you look up and the kind you make up"; and George Bernard Shaw's "It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics." Perhaps the best advice comes from the brilliantly named Marilyn vos Savant, who writes: "Be able to analyze statistics, which can be used to support or undercut almost any argument." Today is the birthday of Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher, whom some have anointed the "father of statistics," despite there being numerous contenders for the title. Danish statistician Anders Hald once called Fisher "a genius who almost single-handedly created the foundations for modern statistical science," while Richard Dawkins claims he's "the greatest biologist since Darwin." Speaking of statistics, there were 25 cases of Satist* (for statist* or satisf*) in OhioLINK today, and 906 in WorldCat.

(R. A. Fisher, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, February 10, 2014

Adance* (for Advance*)

Tap has always struck me as a dance tailor-made for women: snappy, bouncy, and leggy, but also a chance to put one's foot down, hard. We tend to think of Fred Astaire as perhaps the ultimate practitioner of this art, but I'm reminded of the line by cartoonist Bob Thaves: "Sure he was great, but don't forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did ... backwards and in high heels." Another beloved American icon to advance the form was Shirley Temple, who died today at the age of 85. I suspect that tap may have gotten a bit of a boost in the 1940s, shortly after Temple burst on the scene with her chirpy good cheer and amazing ability to follow in the footsteps of whatever costar she was paired with during the otherwise depressing Great Depression. Her most notable partner in that regard was Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, her dance teacher and long-time friend, with whom she performed the famous staircase number in 1935's The Little Colonel. I'm not going to dance around the fact that there were six occurrences of this typo in OhioLINK, and 132 in WorldCat, so please take the necessary steps to find out and then tap out whatever corrections may be needed in your own catalogs today.

(Tap dancing class in the gymnasium at Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa, May 1942, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, February 3, 2014

Klu Klux (for Ku Klux)

According to an article in the New Yorker around ten years ago, almost anything can be made funnier with a "hard C" or a "K" sound. Even if that's true, though, it's pretty hard to imagine the Ku Klux Klan being a rich vein of minable humor. (The Exalted Cyclops in the Mason-Dixon Dining Room with the rope and a burning cross? Klue, the new board game for bigots!) While searching for Klu Klux in OhioLINK, however, I came upon a record for a record called Oh! Oh! Canada, Eh? by a band known as the "Brother's-in-Law." (Brother's is a typo for another day, of course, and probably another blog as well, since search engines tend to ignore things like apostrophes.) According to the bib record, this album includes a song entitled "The K-K-Klu K-K-Klux K-K-Klan," which is clearly the work of a satirist, not a racist, although as with the notorious "N word," seeing the KKK referenced in a facetious way like that is initially rather unnerving. The Brothers-in-Law also send up the (birth control) Pill, the new Canadian (maple leaf) flag, and the automobile (in a "hymn" to Ralph Nader) on this 1970s compilation of the band's greatest hits. Obviously, that so-called Klu in the library record is a typo for Ku, but it should also give us a clue as to how common this error really is. We found 11 of these hiding in plain sight in the OhioLINK database, and 169 in WorldCat.

(Two children wearing Ku Klux Klan robes and hoods stand on either side of Dr. Samuel Green, Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon, at an initiation ceremony in Atlanta, Georgia, July 24, 1948, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid