Monday, March 31, 2014

Awy (for Away)

I saw a hair product commercial the other day with the tagline "Spray the gray away." Wait, what?! I thought the expression was pray the gay away. I couldn't tell if it was a Freudian slip or the tip of the iceberg, but I felt rather alarmed at the two cavorting blondes who seemed almost ecstatic in their shared knowledge that any "grayness" between them had been thoroughly suppressed or even totally eradicated. In the 1987 movie musical Hairspray, Ricki Lake plays a fun-loving, race-mixing, gotta-dancing "hair hopper" who knows all about spraying and praying. Lake, who has always been a good friend of the gay community, would be GLAAD to tell you that changing one's sexual orientation is about as easy and desirable as permanently altering one's race, or even the true color, texture, or length of one's hair. (In Hairspray, Tracy Turnblad is harassed over the sheer height of hers.) But the more I think about this, the more I kind of wonder if Pray the Gay Away might have been a parody of the ad campaign for "Spray the Gray Away" and not the other way around. Who wants to earn some extra credit by finding out when aerosol hair dyes came on the market vs. when journalists and activists coined the faintly mocking "pray the gay away" to describe the aims and objectives of conversion (or reparative) therapy for homosexuals? Anyway, let's all check our catalogs for Awy today, which turned up nine times in OhioLINK (though only about half of those were actual typos) and 147 times in WorldCat. The take-away? Gays (and grays) are here to stay, which is to say not going away.

(Ricki Lake at "Business of Being Born" premiere, 29 April 2007, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tadition* (for Tradition*)

I saw a local community theater production of Fiddler on the Roof the other night and was informed by my sister, whose old friend from high school was in it, that there were only a couple of Jews among the entire cast. Which really wasn't so surprising, though, considering it probably reflected pretty accurately the demographics of this small upstate hamlet, and the fact that most theaters nowadays don't cast parts strictly according to an actor's race, religion, or even sex. In fact, there were a couple of boy's roles in this Fiddler that were actually played by girls. Nevertheless, we giggled a bit over the goyim hegemony up on stage and from then on referred to the performance (which was really quite good) as the "All-Gentile Fiddler on the Roof." The following night I went to my monthly Scrabble potluck and no sooner had I mentioned the play than I was given an opportunity to score big with the little word Yid. However, seeing as how the Scrabble gods have traditionally frowned upon offensive epithets, I figured it wouldn't be allowed. But I was quickly corrected by our hostess: "Not only is that word acceptable, but somebody else played it just last night!" Tevya the Milkman was prone to crying "Tradition!" at nearly every turn in Anatevka, but even the traditional Scrabble dictionary is now just a little bit less so. So look out, bubeleh, this isn't your father's board game anymore. There were nine occurrences of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 125 in WorldCat.

(Aaron Zebede as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof in Panama, October 2012, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, March 17, 2014

Liesur* (for Leisur*)

I was leisurely looking at a vintage postcard of Washington Park that had been sent by an Altamont man to his aunt concerning a package he had just mailed her. It was postmarked Dec. 1911 and was rather unremarkable except for the closing, which read: "Yours in haste, Geo." I like that. It's like: Forgive me for not writing more, but ... gotta go! In truth, though, I'm often kind of stymied when it comes to signing off: Yours truly, Sincerely, Best Wishes, Regards? Cordially, Fondly, In Solidarity, Cheers? Peace, Love, Later, Anon? A coworker suggests something a friend of her mother's would invariably close with: "As ever..." Or one could always say: "As always." Both of those have a certain unwavering quality that tends to reassure and is hardly ever a lie. In any event (as ever and always), our typo of the day appears in both OhioLINK and WorldCat, 11 times in the former and 98 times in the latter. With apologies to William Congreve and his 1693 play The Old Batchelour: catalog in haste, repent at leisure. Perhaps one could also say the same for that flamboyant wig there, Bill! (Just kidding, dudes of the 17th century...)

(Portrait of William Congreve, by Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

Monday, March 10, 2014

Evidn* (for Eviden*)

There's a painting by Robert Motherwell in the concourse of the Empire State Plaza called Burnt Sienna, which I guess isn't a bad name for it. But other ones also come to mind. I once overheard a visitor comment that it looked like someone had been murdered on the living room rug and here's the evidence. In fact, the canvas does resemble beige wool carpeting, and the splotches of rusty red color do look alarmingly like bloodstains. As certain people are prone to insist, "My kid could paint that," although perhaps only if said kid were of the "bad seed" variety, or were uncommonly uncoordinated. The artists of the New York School weren't exactly known for their dedication to beauty and restraint (see Willem de Kooning's hideous portraits of women and Jackson Pollock's scattershot splatter style), but abstract is one thing, while ugly is another. Or not. Who knows? I don't even know who's responsible for the oft borrowed and modified quote: "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like." (And neither, it seems, does anybody else.) Our typo for today is evidently a frequent one, with four in OhioLINK, and 680 in WorldCat.

(Photo of sign saying that the painting has been temporarily removed for restoration. Note the typo "temporialiy" in the sign itself.)

Carol Reid

Monday, March 3, 2014

Newletter* (for Newsletter*)

It isn't just that people don't write thank you notes the way they used to back in the day: whether charming, literate, timely, or otherwise, it seems that such things rarely get mailed at all anymore. So our heartfelt thanks go out to Letters of Note, a wonderful website (and soon to be book) that makes old letters read like new letters again. One of my favorite missives posted there is from the English novelist Sylvia Townsend Warner to her friend and fellow author Alyse Gregory. Warner writes: "Usually one begins a thank-you letter by some graceless comparison, by saying, I have never been given such a very scarlet muffler, or, This is the largest horse I have ever been sent for Christmas. But your matchbox is a nonpareil, for never in my life have I been given a matchbox..." Sylvia's letter is silly and sweet, but also a profound meditation on the essence of true gratitude. Born in 1893, Warner was an artist, a lesbian, and a communist, and was counted among Britain's loosely knit cultural avant-garde during the 1920s, the Bright Young Things. We found 31 cases of Newletter* in OhioLINK today, and 908 in WorldCat.

(Sylvia Townsend Warner, courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Carol Reid