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In the song "Paula: an Improvised Love Song" from the musical The Goodbye Girl (lyrics by David Zippel), as performed on the original cast album by Martin Short, Short does a variety of accents, impressions, and funny voices.

When he's doing a Cary Grant impression, the lyrics imply the caught-cot merger, rhyming Paula with dollar and collar. I'd bet money that Cary Grant didn't have the caught-cot merger, so there's some interesting dialect contact phonology going on in Zippel's decision that he could get away with these rhymes in a Cary Grant voice specifically. (Elsewhere in the song he uses a French accent to rhyme Paula with Angola.)

(I doubt Zippel himself has the caught-cot merger. He's from a part of eastern Pennsylvania where Herold (1997) reported no evidence of merger, and in the song, cot-caught merging rhymes appear exclusively in the Cary Grant section; elsewhere, Paula is rhymed with taller, crawl a-, enthrall her, and scrawl a-. Martin Short is from Ontario, and so presumably does have the merger.)

My guess it that what's going on is that Cary Grant had a rounded cot vowel, and Zippel has an unrounded cot vowel. So Zippel perceives Grant's cot vowel as merged with his own (i.e., Zippel's) caught vowel, not noticing that it's distinct from Grant's caught vowel.
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I stopped at the highway rest stop in Port Hope, Ontario this afternoon. But I kept wanting to read "Port Hope" as "Porthope", and I convinced myself that Porthope—i.e., Πορθόπη—could conceivably be an Ancient Greek nickname for a woman with facial hair. Behold, the fake etymology:

The -ope part is easy. Ops means 'face', as in tri-cerat-ops ('three-horn face'). The suffix makes it a derived feminine noun.

As for porth-, well, this appears to reflect a hypothetical Indo-European *bhordh-. (Why initial *bh instead of *p? Because Indo-European didn't allow voiceless stops and voiced aspirates in the same morpheme for some reason. But fortunately Grassman's Law in Greek converts IE *bh into p when another aspirate follows in the same word.)

From words such as English beard and Latin barba, it is possible to reconstruct an Indo-European *bhardh- 'beard'. The o-grade of this morpheme, if it existed, would have to have been *bhordh- and the zero-grade *bhrdh-; and both of these ablaut grades would have come out as porth- in Greek. Thus the (not real, as far as I know) Greek morpheme porth- must mean 'beard', and Porthope must be a bahuvrihi compound 'beard-faced', as an epithet for a woman.
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  • Kevin Spacey was not a very good host. I mean I realize he's not that much of a comedian or song-and-dance man, and he mainly did reprises of his famous characters (Verbal Kint, Frank Underwood, Bobby Darin) and out-of-place impressions. Also I think several of his jokes were kind of ableist? (Ablist? Neither spelling looks right.) The only one I remember is a bit about Verbal Kint's limp in a notional Usual Suspects musical, though.

  • I didn't care for the opening number, either—a medley of parodies of songs from the nominated shows about Spacey's insecurity about his role as host. Lampshading Spacey as an odd choice of host was fine; but beginning the Tonys with a medley of parodies doesn't make a lot of sense if you don't assume the bulk of the audience is already familiar with the songs being parodied. Last year a Hamilton parody made sense because Hamilton was a legitimately Huge Sensation, but this parody medley seemed pretty inaccessible to the casual viewer, which is not where you want to go for the opening.

  • The Groundhog Day bit in the opener was well-executed, though, with Kevin Spacey waking up in bed after seemingly having danced offstage in the other direction. I fell for it.

  • The only one of the nominated shows that I've seen is Come from Away, and the number they performed was "Welcome to the Rock", the opening. I felt that wasn't a great choice—I think it's one of the weaker songs in the show—but the friend I was watching with loved it, so maybe it was fine. It would have been nice to have a song that featured Jenn Colella a bit more, as their only acting nominee, but I realize it's an ensemble show and to really get a sense of it you want an ensemble number.

  • I also think that, in editing the song down to fit their timeslot, they blew the timing of the best moment in "Welcome to the Rock": when Beulah, Annette, and Bonnie say "I turn on the radio", there's a brief pause and then the chorus comes in with "You are here..." in the background, and the Bonnie/Oz scene is after that. In the Tony performance, they moved the Bonnie/Oz scene before "you are here", which really diffused the impact of the moment.

  • Yet again I wonder how they decide how to assign introducing duties to pairs of celebrities. What does Sutton Foster have to do with Scott Bakula?

  • The choice of scene to perform from Miss Saigon was an odd one too, unless Eva Noblezada's performance is just the only thing about the production. She was great though.

  • Every year I hope they'll do something to showcase the non-musical plays a bit better, and this time they did! They had each nominated author talk a bit about their play and how and why they wrote it. That's waaaaay better than the one-sentence synopsis of each from the host that we usually get. It would still be nice to see a bit of video clip to get a sense of the feel of each play, but what they did this year was a vast improvement over the non-attention the plays usually get.

  • Indecent is Paula Vogel's Broadway debut? Pulitzer-Prize–winning, theater-hall-of-fame Paula Vogel? That's astounding. Anyway Indecent sounds amazing and I really want to see it.

  • Rachel Bloom was great as backstage host. Why couldn't she have been, like, on-stage host? (I know, I know: not famous enough. Nevertheless. She would have done an amazing job.)

  • Falsettos is coming to movie theatres! I hope I can fit it in; it will probably be during the road trip I'm doing this summer. It looks good!

  • I was very surprised that Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 kept getting referred to as The Great Comet, after last year when Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed was never referred to by any name shorter than that.

  • Meanwhile, we've hit three out of four revivals that felt obliged to mention the author in the play's official title: the Best Revival nominees were August Wilson's Jitney, Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes, John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation, and Present Laughter. Sorry, Noel Coward, nobody cares about you apparently.

  • This year they put the Best Score award during the actual broadcast, while still leaving out Best Book. I guess this also squeezed out James Earl Jones's lifetime achievement award, which seems awfully unkind. I promise you if they'd had Kevin Spacey's Johnny Carson impression during the commercial break and let James Earl Jones give his acceptance speech on the air nobody would have minded.

  • Kevin Kline is not a good speaker, is he?

  • The choice of songs from Groundhog Day was also odd. Groundhog Day is a time-travel comedy; people go to see Groundhog Day because they want to see time travel and comedy, not a generic love ballad. I did listen to the cast album of this show a couple months ago and very little of it stuck with me, but I know it had more entertaining material than this. Barrett Doss's boots in this number were amazing though.

  • I don't know who the two guys who introduced the Rockettes were, but they were funny.

  • David Hyde Pierce still can't do a convincing accent to save his life, can he? But he's a great performer, and "Penny in my Pocket" was an entertaining song. It's astonishing to me that they couldn't persuade Bette Midler to perform a song from her star vehicle, though.

  • Patina Miller and Sara Bareilles's introduction to the Best Featured Actress award was a bit of a fakeout: they started out talking about the importance of high school theatre, and I figured they were going to present the theatre education award, but then it turned out they were introducing an acting Tony. And then Josh Gad was talking about acting, and then presented the theatre education award. It was very weird and I wonder if their scripts had gotten swapped somehow.

  • Very glad that Come from Away, if it was only going to win one Tony, won it for direction. The show is incredibly intricate, and just being able to figure out how to get the actors where and when they need to be is an achievement that I'm glad was recognized.

  • Ben Platt did not look like he agreed to be involved in Kevin Spacey's Bill Clinton jokes.

  • Finally, nearing the end of the show, we started getting performances that actually seemed like the right number from their shows to perform on the Tonys. I mean I don't know anything about The Great Comet and Bandstand or what other songs they might have, but they both of these did a good job of showing off the shows' casts and stars and what made them seem worth seeing, and getting the audience (well, me, anyway) excited about them.

  • Bette Midler won the fight with the play-out music! Her acceptance speech was too long, the play-out music began, and she bet that no one would come to remove her if she just utterly ignored that she was out of time, and she was right. The music stopped before she finished speaking.

  • Given that a House of Cards bit was inevitable, I was expecting it to come early to get it out of the way, but saving it for the end was reasonable as well, and it enabled Spacey's one really funny joke (a presumably ad-libbed bit about the length of Bette Midler's speech, totally in character as Frank). I wasn't expecting them to have Robin Wright and Michael Kelly there with him, which was a nice touch.

  • Anyway. It wasn't the greatest Tony Awards show, but I saw some good performances and learned about some shows I'd like to see, so it got at least some of its job done. Hopefully next year will be better!
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There's not a lot that makes me feel more useless than a gift-certificate to a used book store.

I have like $7 left on a gift certificate to BMV, and I was like, well, I've got a long road trip coming up and I may as well buy something to read. And… I wandered around the store for half an hour and eventually left it empty-handed. For every book, I was either like, 'well, I like that book, but I know that because I've read it before, so no need to buy it,' or 'I haven't read that, so I don't know if I'd like it, so I don't know if it's worth buying.' That's what all my bookstore experiences are like. And since it's a used book store, the handful of books that I specifically looked for because they'd been recommended or whatever were ones they didn't have.

I'm just… really bad at bookstores, I guess. They cause me an inordinate amount of anxiety.


May. 23rd, 2017 08:49 am
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I hate diner pancakes. Why do I keep ordering diner pancakes?

I mean I guess it's because when I see pancakes on the menu what I think of is when my dad would make pancakes once in a while as a special treat when I was little, and so I go, oh, pancakes, I like pancakes. But diner pancakes are thick and dry and floppy and taste like a sweatshirt and I should really remember that in time to not order them.
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The most widespread subspecies of common mouse has the taxonomic name Mus musculus domesticus.

This phrase is can be translated from Latin as mouse, little mouse, about the house.

The Latin name and English translation have the same scansion and (almost) the same rhyme scheme.

I don't know what to do with this fact.
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On Standing Room Only, they just had a performance of a song from The Bridges of Madison County, a show I had never heard any music from before. My thought, within five bars of the song beginning: "Huh, is this a song from Parade that I've never heard before?
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I don't like the interface on the University of Toronto's webmail system, so I forward my U of T mail to another email account. Today that other server is down. Which is an inconvenience, but not too bad, since I can still receive my U of T email on the actual U of T email server; I don't like the interface, but it's there.


My U of T account forwards my email to the other server. The other server is down, so a failed-to-deliver message is generated and delivered to my U of T inbox. Which automatically tries to forward it to the other server, but fails because the server is down, which generates a failed-to-deliver message in my U of T inbox. Which is automatically forwarded to...

Fortunately this appears to top out after four iterations for some reason. But it still means every message to my U of T address today is causing me to receive itself plus four bounce notifications.
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Here are some puzzles from the 2017 Mystery Hunt that I found especially interesting or worthy of comment! I have more to say about puzzles earlier in the Hunt, since I did substantially more puzzling on Friday than Saturday—I stayed up late solving on Friday, and then because of that, on Saturday I was less focused and less involved.

spoilers! )

A few other puzzles I worked on and enjoyed, but have no specific comments on: Get Her! Together!, Net Work, International Holdings, Corporate Chains, Half and Half, Non-Local Anesthetic, and Oh, You!

This was a really excellent Hunt, with almost uniformly clean, elegant, and clever puzzles. Thanks very much to Setec.
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This is the time of year when I write a review of the Mystery Hunt, and so despite how distracted & distraught I am by what else is going on in the world, here's my thoughts on the 2017 Mystery Hunt.

The Hunt this year was excellent but short! The winning team found the coin after less than 16 hours—which is not only the earliest coin find in modern-era Mystery Hunt history (I don't know about, like, the '80s), but by such a margin that my team, coming in 7th in about 30 hours, also finished the Hunt earlier than the coin was found in any other modern-era Hunt.

And that's... fine, I guess? I mean, one of the main reasons it was so short was just because the puzzles were all really clean and elegant: there were no, or almost no, long broken frustrating puzzles that took forever to solve, which is what often prolongs the Hunt. So it was short in part as a result of good puzzle design! And it's great that the Hunt was short enough that as many as 17 teams were able to finish it. And it was a fun novelty to be able to hang out with my team in a relaxed atmosphere on Sunday without solving puzzles; I so rarely see these people in a non-solving context.

But also, I go to the Mystery Hunt because I like solving puzzles, you know? Especially long, complex, creative puzzles. And a Hunt ending so early means there's just less puzzle-solving to do, which is disappointing. I especially feel bad for people on leading teams who couldn't be there on Friday (which is, after all, a workday) and showed up on Saturday morning to find that the Hunt was over already. And although the puzzles were all clean and elegant, it's also the case that some were just flat-out easy, in a way that seemed too simplistic for the Mystery Hunt. I'm on record as having said that I think the Hunt should contain some easy puzzles, and I know that Setec's goal was for the puzzles in the six character rounds to be comparable to the round of easy "School of Fish" puzzles in the 2015 Hunt; but even given that, I feel like the average puzzle difficulty level in this Hunt was pitched a little low. (I mean, I guess it must have been, since the Hunt was finished in 16 hours.) I assume Setec overestimated puzzle difficulty somewhere in the test-solving process; I wonder if this might have been a case of the thought process "Setec Astronomy consists of better-than-average solvers; therefore we should assume our puzzles are more difficult in actuality than our test-solvers perceive them to be."

This year's Hunt points to a potential problem that's been looming on the horizon of the Mystery Hunt for some time: As the sizes and/or skill levels of the top teams increase, is it still possible to write a Hunt that can give top teams a full weekend of solving, while still being fun for everyone else and short enough for a team to write in a year? Signs are pointing toward no, which is distressing.

I don't have a lot to say about the Hunt structure. It didn't seem particularly groundbreaking, though the use of levels from the character puzzles to unlock puzzles in the quest rounds was kind of interesting, and a good way to keep puzzles in solved rounds relevant. Dungeons & Dragons was a Hunt theme that had to happen eventually, and they pulled it off excellently. Oh, and the anagram "Mystereo Cantos" was a very good find.

I think I might sound a bit down on this Hunt in this post, since I spent so much space talking about how short/easy it was. That's not an accurate reflection of how I actually feel about it though! I had a really great time and thought it was an absolutely first-rate Hunt; I just wish there had been more of it!

In a later post, I'll talk about specific puzzles!
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Places I spent the night are in bold; places I'd never been before are in italics; places I went to on multiple unconnected occasions are underlined.

Ocean Grove, N.J.
Ocean Township, N.J.
Bradley Beach, N.J.
New York, N.Y.
Toronto, Ont.
Cambridge, Mass.
Rochester, N.Y.
Brighton, N.Y.
Beverly, Mass.
Danvers, Mass.
Stratford, Ont.
Peabody, Mass.
Corinth, N.Y.
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Syracuse, N.Y.
DeWitt, N.Y.
Plymouth, Vt.
Rutland, Vt.
Ogdensburg, N.Y.
Montreal, Que.
Vancouver, B.C.
Shrewsbury, Mass.
Arlington, Mass.
Somerville, Mass.
Salem, Mass.
Neptune City, N.J.
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Okay, so in English, third-person possessives agree in number and gender with the possessor: He loves his parents; She loves her parents. But in Romance languages, possessives agree with the possessum, as in French: Elle aime sa mère; Elle aime son père; Elle aime ses parents.

Which means when a native speaker of a Romance language is writing in English, they might get the agreement backwards, and have possessives agreeing in the Romance way rather than the English way:

Their parents, her mom, his dad—all meaning Connie's, but the possessives are agreeing with the possessum in each phrase rather than with Connie.

(Source: Silver Liveblogs Things, Steven Universe episode "We Need to Talk".)

...Actually it's even better than that, since the blogger is a native speaker of Spanish, not French, and the best of my knowledge Spanish doesn't even have gender agreement in third-person possessives (though it does have number). So he's applying the direction of Spanish number agreement—from possessive to possession—in English, and extended that to apply to gender agreement as well.

Bob Dold

Oct. 16th, 2016 01:01 am
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There are five living former Republican nominees for president: George Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. All except Bob Dole have refused to endorse Donald Trump for president. But although Bob Dole hasn't withheld his endorsement from Trump, Bob Dold has, and he looks like a typo for Bob Dole, so... close enough, right?
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I feel like whoever at Johnson & Johnson came up with this brand name probably should have given it a little more thought.
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The story goes that Erik the Red named Greenland "Greenland" in hopes that the friendly-sounding name would attract settlers to what was in actuality a pretty inhospitable piece of real estate.

This example was echoed 900 years later by the explorer Lauge Koch, who first set foot on the next island north of Greenland—a forbidding piece of rock in the Arctic Ocean, the northernmost island in the world—and decided to name it Coffee Club Island. No word on whether any Danes have been induced to settle there by the warm, comforting name, though.
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I'll never get over how, on Blackboard, the way you make your course materials available to students is under the "customization" menu. As if "being available to students" is a fine-tuning option like the background theme for the pages and the directory path in which course files are stored.
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I know they say you can't cross the same river twice or whatever, but I get very excited about the fact that you can. When I visited Cooperstown for fieldwork in 2008, I wasn't excited about the Baseball Hall of Fame; I was excited about the fact that I got to cross the Susquehanna River right at its source—especially since earlier that month I'd driven across the Susquehanna at almost its endpoint, the I-95 bridge where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay. It felt like I had accomplished some epic journey, making it to the source of this mighty river at a lake up in the hills.

Anyway yesterday Cendri and I were driving through the Adirondacks and I saw this sign and audibly yelped and I immediately stopped the car and asked her to photograph me with it:

And I mean, it's not even accurate? There are varying claims as to what counts as the real source of the Hudson, but it's definitely not the place where Route 28N just happens to cross it. And I knew that. But I still got way more emotional about it than I expected to—this stream in the middle of nowhere is responsible for the existence of the city of New York. I'm very thankful I had someone with me to document the encounter.
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I'm reading a dialectology paper in Journal X, a linguistics journal that does not specialize in sociolinguistics.

1. ...Hm, I should remember not to submit dialectology papers to Journal X. There are enough elementary factual errors here that it's clear that the journal editors don't know how to find reviewers who know anything about dialectology.

2. ...On second thought, maybe I should submit dialectology papers to Journal X. Clearly they have low standards in that regard and are more likely to accept them.
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