Here's another word that I often want to use but always forget: integrity. When I see someone or a group that I respect, I want to say, "They have integrity" but I forget what the word is. So I use other adjectives that don't come close to describing what I'm looking for. And it's very frustrating, which is why I'm posting it here--as a reminder.

The last often-forgotten word I posted was tedious, and since then, I haven't forgotten it, even when I've had to do tedious work. So now I think, "Wow, this work is tedious" rather than saying "This work is...I forgot what word I'm looking for, but it's like nitpicky and boring, but there's a better word for it."

Well, tonight was a situation that I want to end: I was thinking of Rush, and how they work hard to create quality music and don't have typical "rock and roll" or trashy lifestyles, and wanted to say that they have integrity, but I drew a blank. So I said, "They have, you know--it starts with an 'a'," then thought that maybe the word I'm looking for is "ethical," but that can't be right because ethics are about honest values, and I don't know if they have that. So then someone reminded me that the word is "integrity."

However, the definition mentions "moral" in one of the meanings: "firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values" though I don't think of "moral" when I think of all folks who have integrity. But it's good to see "artistic values" mentioned, because that's what I often think of.

So now that the word is posted here, I won't have to search for it again.


Where else I am

Okay, I said I probably wouldn't say where else I'm blogging, but if you want to know what other kinds of thoughts I have that aren't related to language or Star Trek or whatever else I post here, check out the first blog on my blogroll.


Milking the British accent

Toby Young, one of the few famous people I'd like to meet, has an interesting article that refutes the popular belief that Brits "have succeeded in bilking the American entertainment industry out of hundreds of millions of dollars simply by speaking in 'veddy Briddish' accents." He quotes Stephen Fry (some Brit who's probably well-known but whose name I don't recognize) as saying, "I sometimes wonder if Americans aren't fooled by our accent into detecting a brilliance that may not really be there."

Sorry, but Americans aren't so duped, and luckily, Toby agrees:

In my experience, this particular cliche is long past its sell-by date. Planeloads of freeloading British hacks - not to mention the three million British tourists who visit the country every year - have poisoned that well. On first hearing an English accent 50 years ago, Americans might have thought: stately home, private school, good manners. Nowadays, they think: low income, poor diet, alcohol problem.

So according to Toby Young, Brits perhaps can't milk their accent anymore. They actually have to prove themselves.


Hookish enough?

Ok, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who've whined about the writing process, and I'm not going to pretend I haven't. And this is my latest concern: I wonder if my story has enough of a hook. That's the important word, I guess, in the fiction biz: hook. I think what I wrote is something that women are going to be able to relate to, but it's not earth-shattering. So if there's no fancy hook, is a potential book doomed? Perhaps what I wrote is not hookish enough for the PIC (Publishing Industrial Complex). But I won't know until I polish my query letter and send it out. Then after 50 or so rejections, I will know, and will have to go back to the drawing (writing) board.


Tell-all origin

I watched "Mommie Dearest" today. I had never seen the movie, though I read the book back in the late 80's, and it was quite tragic. What's sad is that people didn't believe that Joan Crawford could be so abusive, and they essentially implied that her severely abused adopted daughter was lying. She and her brother were victims--he obviously never got over it (he was abused more severely than she was) and after he led a screwed-up life, he died in his early 60's a psychologically and economically broken man.

What I discovered is not just that "Although 'tell-all' books regarding celebrities are somewhat commonplace now, Mommie Dearest was the first book of its kind" but that the term "tell-all" originated when the book was published.

I read the transcript of a Larry King interview with Christina Crawford, the author of the book and other books about abuse, and saw this:

KING: Did you ever feel there is a part of me here that is doing the tell-all?

C. CRAWFORD: That -- that phrase was coined after the book, so that was never my intention. The one thing that surprised me...

KING: You mean, tell-all resulted from your book.


KING: The term "tell-all?"

C. CRAWFORD: Yes, yes. The one thing that surprised me was that so many people who knew did not understand that I was speaking as the victim and the survivor.

The King interview is really good--I recommend reading it if you want some more info about her and her upbringing. I'm tempted to read the revised edition of the book (with 100 extra pages), which was published on the 20th anniversary of the original release.


Good artist's statement

I know an artist who is having an upcoming show, and he shared his artist's statement with me today (I can't directly link to it because of how the site is set up--you have to go click on the "Statement" link at his site). What he wrote is quite good, especially this part:

The world I live in today is filled with the most amazing shapes and colors. For every dark there is a light, for every push there is a pull, for every contour there is a moment of silence. My goal is to recognize each of them with the respect that they deserve.

Sometimes I read artists' statements that sound fake and grandiose, where the artist is trying to sound important, serious, deep, etc., but he really means what he said. Actually, I know other artists who write what they mean, so it's not like I see phoniness everywhere, but then again, I tend to know artists who aren't full of themselves or who aren't posers. And not all artists are like that. But whatever--the statement (and the art) is worth a look.


Language chick

My husband came upon a cute language site, Jennifer's Language Page, which lists greetings and phrases in hundreds of languages. There's no bio information there (unless I didn't look carefully enough), so I'm assuming she's just really into languages. She has a very long list of contributors, so maybe she set it up and people kept sending her more and more translations.

Many translations have come from people who have seen these pages and sent me comments, suggestions, additions, and corrections by e-mail from all over the world, as well as people I know who I have asked for translations. These people have provided a lot of the translations on these pages and also have verified (or corrected) translations I have found from other sources. Other translations have come from my own research in libraries and online, from dictionaries, phrase books, travel books and Internet language resources.

Her language resource list seems quite comprehensive. She also offers her email address, in case you want to contribute.


INCREDIBLE German movie!

I just saw one of the best movies ever (not just an excellent German film): The Lives of Others (or Das Leben der Anderen in German).

It deservedly won an Oscar--it wasn't just awesome because of the interesting story, which takes place in East Germany before The Wall went down, but it works on so many levels. I could easily see it again. I don't usually get so excited about movies, but this one was entertaining, evoked a range of emotions, and had symbolism and layers of meaning.

I highly recommend this film! Even with the subtitles, you can see how great the actors are and appreciate both the complexities and subtleties of the story. It was so thought-provoking and stimulating that I'm sure it will be on my mind for a while.


Etc etc

Sometimes I see a sign with a list of things the place has to offer, and instead of saying "etcetera" or "etc." once, they say "etc etc" - in other words, they say "etc" twice.

That is redundant. Etc means essentially "and more", so if they're repeating the word, they're adding to the concept of more. More is more, you don't have to repeat it.

I think when people double up "etc" on a public sign, they're doing it out of naivety. Some people will purposely repeat the word to emphasize the abundance of something, so I'm not talking about them. They are knowingly "misusing" the word to illustrate a point. But I think when people think they "should" use two etc's, they really don't understand the meaning of that word.


I'm not prissy

I've been looking at examples of successful query letters, and they seem prissy. That's not me. I came upon an agent (who's not accepting any unsolicited queries, so I can't contact her anyway) and she posted an example of a "great" query at her site (which I don't want to link to because I don't want to slam anyone by name).

I read it over, and thought that it was wordy and prissy and silly and self-consciously "cute". But according to the agent, it's a winner, and the book ended up not only getting published, but sold as part of a series. Actually, I read the book, and the writing style was a lot tighter and more straightforward than the query. So based on that example and others I've seen, do we have to write prissy queries in order to get our straightforward books accepted?

And then there's the inevitable editing that happens: the prissy query I read didn't have the same plot as the finished book. Which means that the agent had the author rewrite it before submission to publishers. Which goes back to my usual complaint: why do we have to kill ourselves to write a "perfect" manuscript if it's going to get rewritten anyway?

I just want to write a straightforward query, not some fussy, girly words that are supposed to make the agent giggle in glee.


How a word looks

I saw a sign today as I was driving along, and it had a word whose meaning seemed to reflect how it looks and sounds. Or do I just think that way because I know the meaning of the word?

When I see the word "strict," for example, the s-t-r combination makes it sound like a serious word, like someone means business. But it could be that I know what kind of effort it takes to make that sound, which implies seriousness.

I wonder if speakers of other languages notice this about their own languages, at least those folks who don't use scripts such as Chinese characters or kanji.



This is a word I should know, but for some reason, it often escapes me. Someone mentioned their work being "tedious," and it occurred to me that I often forget to use it. So if I'm doing work that requires concentration, is detail-oriented, and not very exciting (ie, it numbs the brain), then I should use that word. But for some reason, I'll say that such work is "nitpicky" when what I mean is tedious, implying that it's very detail-oriented and tiny in its goals.

However, when I saw the definition as "so lacking in interest as to cause mental weariness," I realized that it's not exactly what I've meant to say, though if I'm doing such work it does become quite boring, as in the example they provide: "the deadening effect of some routine tasks." So actually, since I've seen that definition, I've realized that yes, the work I sometimes do is truly tedious because by the end of it I want to scream and run around and get away from it to loosen my brain.

I've certainly not thought of their other example, "a boring evening with uninteresting people," as tedious but rather as a simply uninteresting time. I think if I were to get to the point of a social function being "tedious," then I better check my ego to make sure it's not outgrowing the room.


Another place

Since my exodus from MySpace, I've been thinking of starting an online journal that will cover observations and thoughts that don't fit into the scope of Metrolingua.

Actually, the idea started to form when I went "fishing" in the online "sea" for a phrase, and found a journal that I've since been reading. Typing a phrase in Google is also how I found Jon Konrath's journal, which is my fave.

I think when I establish the other place, I might not mention it here, just write stuff and let people discover it. I have a journal on my computer, but for some reason, I want to start a public one, probably because I like writing and don't always want to do it without an "audience."

So if you find something that sounds like me, it just might be :)


Online Canadian phrasebook

Via Languagehat (aka The Great One), I found out about A Canadian Phrasebook which is in progress, so if you have any additions, feel free to contact them.

The Phrasebook started life more than ten years ago as a goofy comparison of regional terms in four Canadian places...Before long, readers from all over the country—and beyond—were sending in their ways of saying things, and the letters have never stopped coming. Like Canadian English, the Phrasebook clearly has a life of its own. We’re working on a more interactive version of it for www.geist.com. Send all Canadaspeak from anywhere—we love it!

Canadaspeak--neat word :)


More Spanish

I think I'll be talking about Spanish more often here because I'm sort of in that world, since I teach Spanish speaking people and work with them as well. Today I had to interact with a lot of Spanish speakers, and I just could not get over their openness to me speaking (butchering) their language. I studied Spanish but never got the chance to speak it, so my knowledge of it is passive--I can understand it okay. A while ago, I spoke Portuguese enough to be able to survive a couple trips to Brazil, but my Portuguese at this point is quite lame. So I don't have that to fall back on when I speak Spanish.

Well today, people walked up to the table where I was and started speaking in rapid, natural Spanish. They had no idea that I didn't really speak it, they just assumed I did--and not because of how I look--I don't look Latin American. So I pulled out the miniscule Spanish I knew out of the far corners of my mind and tried to speak with them, and they were just so cool about it.

But most of the time I was thinking, "I shouldn't try to go all the way with it--I should just throw out some words and mix it with English, because I'm American, not Latin American." But then I realized that I had adapted such an attitude from my Japanese speaking experience (which I've talked about before) because no matter how comfortable I am with Japanese, they won't assume I'm in their world at all. But the Spanish speakers were very welcoming, which not only made me feel good, but made me try harder to understand what was going on.


Why I left MySpace

Last summer, I decided to join MySpace because my friend kept telling me how great it was. When he first told me about it, I didn't join right away because I wasn't sure I wanted to participate in such a sleazy, tacky place with no purpose (such as promoting a book or whatever). It's worked for him since he does photography, and his network has grown. It really took me a while to join--he was getting annoyed with my indecision, and he thought I was being uptight because I was worrying about what impact it would have on me, etc. But I joined, and ended up feeling yucky, so I yanked it the other day.

I am not being critical of people on MySpace or the concept of it--I know some decent people over there, and it's really worked for them. But overall, it seems like a big, shallow, drive-by party where a lot of people are there to be seen and not much else.

There are a lot of things I can say about it, but one thing I noticed is when people I know offline (or in other contexts) would transform into the shallow people they really weren't. Like the friends list: people chose folks they hardly knew as their "top friends", but then they wouldn't choose their supposedly "real" friends because they didn't appear cool or hot enough. Another thing I noticed is that I would meet someone offline (or in other contexts), then post a comment, and wouldn't get a response. That doesn't happen in the blog world--usually, I've noticed that if you get along with someone and post a comment on their blog, they'll eventually respond at their site or even through email. MySpace doesn't seem to foster such sincerity.

One way is how the site counts your "friends" and reminds everyone how many "friends" you have. So it becomes a game and popularity contest to see how many "friends" you can collect. Another is how it's a quick hit-and-run experience--people leave short comments and slutty or dumb pictures, send mostly useless or innane bulletins, and post blogs that no one reads--because people aren't into reading there, just mostly seeing, as if they're trying to create a music video or reality TV show, since they don't know anything worthwhile to emulate, nor can create anything independent of the sleazy culture they've been exposed to and want to aspire to.

Every time I logged on, I would be greeted with pictures of half-dressed people who were part of ad campaigns for singles sites, or a list of new members who were always in ignorantly exaggerated poses as if they were trying out for an MTV spot. The stuff I don't like about the popular culture that appeals to the lowest common denominator is all there.

Sure, people use it to keep in touch with their friends and family, and others have succesfully used it for their professional and creative endeavors, but at this point, I don't have such needs. And I don't want to be on that "popularity" ride, receive friend requests from mercenary people, see tacky layouts that take forever to load, or be exposed to the aesthetically unappealing MySpace site design that is technically faulty and has no purpose other than to get more consumers.

If you're there with no purpose, it does, indeed, seem to be the ghetto of the Internet. But if I ever need to be there to promote anything, I'm going back. Until then, I'm going to stick to blogs, and other aesthetically pleasing and relatively quality sites.


Bitter gall

I was reading Proverbs 5 and saw the phrase "bitter as gall," which made me wonder what the heck "gall" was. It seems that it's bile, but initial definitions, at least in my copy of Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, describe "gall" as "something bitter or severe" or "bitterness of spirit." Which is odd, since the proverb compares bitterness with gall. So what's originally written as a noun becomes an adjective, using the comparison to become the definition itself.