before i address the future of the Whig party (lo, a wondrous topic!), it seems high time I publish another word of the day column lest my readers further fret that i’ve abandoned my lexicographical ambitions for populous piffle. earlier today, in one such dispatch on the most watched television program of the year, i mentioned the bizarre transformation of “Naptown” into “City of Siestas.” though this at first seems a monstrosity, it is apparently an example of a well-known linguistic phenomenon called “calque.”

the OED defines a calque as, “a loan translation.” a brilliant simplification, if i may say so. most of the quotes are unhelpful, but the last one makes a lot of sense. “1958 A. S. C. ROSS Etym. 34 MnE that goes without saying is a translation-loan of (better, is calqued on) MnFrench cela va sans dire.” A calque is basically a phrase translated literally into another language. wikipedia, the repository of all the world’s information (non-Widener library edition), has this great page on calques.

bonus bellow love: rereading Herzog, I’m once again amazed by Bellow’s abilities with words. it’s a gift that the rest of us (non-DeLillo edition) don’t have. somewhere in Herzog, Bellow makes use of the Yiddish word kaddish in a slightly unusual context.  the kaddish is the memorial prayer, typically recited for one’s parents, and Yiddish speaking parents would often lovingly refer to their children as their kaddish, e.g. the one that will say kaddish for them. Bellow clearly uses the word in this sense in Herzog, however this is unfortunately missed by the volume’s editor, James Wood, who annotates the word as “memorial prayer.” while he’s right, he’s completely missed the sense of the use.

and as proof of his mastery of the english langauge: “out of the trapped air of the black shaft into the porphyry facade of the moldy lobby, into the crowded street.”

porphyry is not a noun in common currency. the word original refers to a specific type of purplish Egyptian stone, but has come to be extended to mean any “attractive red or purple stone taking a high polish.” this is almost definitely Bellow’s intended meaning. given its Egyptian, high polish origins, the word has a highbrow, stuffy nature about it. like the other locations, the “trapped” shaft, and the crowded street, the porphyry moldy lobby is lifeless and suffocating; it is also decayed. it is not just an ugly purple lobby, rather it is one that aspired to be something else.

A girl sitting across from me on the subway this afternoon had very nice bangs. I started wondering what she’d look like without bangs, then I continued wondering, then, finally, I finished. Wondering. And then I laughed. Because she would have looked SO funny. Then I decided to blog. Then I blogged. Then I cleared my browser history, emptied my temporary internet files, hid the tissues under my bed, smoked a cigarette. Now I’m writing about political apathy.

The rest of the saladeers seem to be doing a fine job with political commentary without my having to chime in – so I’m not going to chime. Chime-a-lime. Chime-a-lime-dime. A-dinkle-do.

That was a song.

Anyway, all I want to say is this: when it comes to politics – I don’t care.

It really bothers me that I don’t care. I tried, today on the subway when I was done laughing at the bang-ed girl, to care about politics. Because I know that political apathy is a problem. But is it my problem?

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I had once again hoped that ‘designed’lateral would write this piece. I tried to call his cell phone, but it did not ring; I sent him e-mails, but they bounced back; I sent him post only to receive a notice from the Postman that Mr. Lateral would only accept mail in Latin. Finally, I called the main switchboard of Le Monde Diplomatique, where Mr. Lateral writes a weekly structuralist analysis on American Football called, “Barthes’ Barbaric Extra Point,” and they informed me that he was off the grid, trapped in the Burmese mountains trying to find the last vestige of proto-football. They say they occasionally receive notes from him via semaphore, each more brilliant than the next. We all hope he lives.

But the show must go on, and someone must explain why the Indianapolis Colts will not be victorious, why the modern monsters of the midway will defeat their rivals. There are many reasons, but, once again, here are four.

1. The Obama Factor. Is it just a coincidence that Barack Obama’s campaign has skyrocketed at the same time that the Bears have managed to crush their playoff foes? Of course not! Once the media has a theme, they stick with it. Right now Illinois is in (perhaps its time for Sufjan to record an Illinois 3?) and Indiana is out. Barack Obama is on the ascent, and Senator Lugar is on the decline, losing the chairmanship of the foreign relations committee to our beloved Joe Biden. Even if the Bears somehow lose the game, the media will somehow spin the story into a Bears/Illinois victory. I’d stake my pulitzer on it! Read the rest of this entry »