Friday, October 30, 2009

The witching hour

Yesterday a nine-year-old friend of mine asked if I was going trick-or-treating tomorrow.

"No," I said, "People think I'm too old."

"You should," she insisted. "No one will know!"

So wise.

I encourage all of you to take her advice and really enjoy the one night a year when adults can become kids again . . . or anything they want to be.

Happy Halloween!

- L'Editrice

Monday, October 26, 2009

That's "Ms. Editrice" to you

I think it's so fascinating learning the etymology of words we use every day. Before this article, I never knew the true origins of the honorific "Ms."—I, too, thought it had its roots in the women's movement of the 1960s and 70s. (Though it seems that today people often use "Ms." instead of "Miss," but then assume all married women are to be called "Mrs.")

Does anyone else know if other languages have a marriage-status-neutral title for women, just as men have "Mr."? I know that the progressive-for-some-things-but-quite-paternalistic-for-others French definitely don't.

- L'Editrice

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When the line between fiction and nonfiction becomes blurred

Today's blog post is dedicated to the importance of legitimate news media.

- I found this discussion of new business models for journalism fascinating and critical.

- And then there was this interview with veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas, who I want to be just like when I grow up. Heck, I wish I were like her now.

I love how she always tells it like it is. My favorite line from today? "The American people are not well-served when people are deliberately manufacturing news and telling lies."

Yes. Let's leave the fiction to the novels, shall we?

- L'Editrice

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kids know the darndest things

Check out this interview with Kate DiCamillo on her new book, The Magician's Elephant. I especially liked what she had to say about messages versus lessons in children's books.

To quote the NPR write-up, "DiCamillo says she tries not to underestimate her young audience." (And to that I add, book snobs and/or ignorant know-it-alls should not underestimate children's books.)

"'I think that children, being human beings, are as preoccupied with those big things as we are as adults, and I do think it does them a huge disservice to assume that they are living in a world different from the one that we live in,' she says."

- L'Editrice

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

An unfamiliar accent

I am about to tell a slightly embarrassing story. Here goes:

In my tenth-grade honors English class, we had maybe two boys. Because of this, every time we read a play and the teacher (who I loved) asked for volunteers to act out roles, it was these same two that always got the majority of the lines, because most (if not all) of the plays had male lead characters.

So when it came time for us to read Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, I had had enough. I raised my hand to volunteer to read Caesar. My very cool teacher didn't even blink, and in fact commented that some very talented actresses had played Caesar on the stage. Now I would be added to the list (kind of)! I was so proud.

We started the reading, and I relished my part. I was as dramatic as was possible while still sitting in a high-school desk-chair (you know what I'm talking about). Finally, we were nearing the pivotal point for my character and for the play: Caesar's murder. I anxiously awaited it, but as the famous last line drew closer, I struggled internally—Should I pronounce "Bruté" the way I knew it was meant to be pronounced, or should I avoid being made fun of for being a goody-goody polyglot and just ignore the accent like Americans do on most words?

I chose the latter: “Et tu, Brute?”

Well, it was as if the murderous betrayal was taking place right there in the classroom. My teacher stopped the reading, and made a big show of spelling out Bruté really big on the board, circling the accent over the “e.”

"This is one of the most famous lines in all of English literature!" she said.

I was so embarrassed, and tried to defend myself, but to no avail.

A related thing happened a few months later when I was downtown with friends. We’d just gone to see a Tom Stoppard play that I found so unbearable (we thought we were really cultured, but even my ego couldn’t stop me from complaining about the show to my friends) that I was already in a bad mood, and were walking back to our car when I started reading the signs on the hip new drinking-and-dining complex they’d recently built in the Theater District.

“Sake Lounge looks really cool,” I said, pronouncing the first word like you would in “For Pete’s sake.”

“Sake!” My friends started cracking up. “It’s saké, duh!” (Yes, we were all nerds. They probably snorted superiorly, too.)

Again, so embarrassed, but mostly annoyed that my friends expected me to know this. After all, I was a good girl who did not have an exhaustive knowledge of international alchoholic beverages.

“But it doesn’t have an accent on it,” I said.

“It’s Japanese—hello!” one of my friends said.

“Didn’t you say ‘Et tu, Brute?’ in English class, too?” my BFF guffawed. So much for best friends standing by you.

All this to say that, know matter how much of a wordly, voracious reader you are, you never know how a word is really pronounced until you hear it said out loud.

Chagrin, anyone?

Friday, October 2, 2009

I capture the "Castle" . . . or rather, it captures me

I've always been one of those people who rolled her eyes at all those murder-mystery/forensics shows on the networks--"CSI," "CSI: Miami," "CSI: Jakarta," etc. And I always thought it was insane how you can find some iteration of "Law & Order" on TV at any given time of day or night--just flip through the channels and you'll find one, really. I would huff in idignation when I saw the top-shows lists, with the really great serials (like "Lost," "Veronica Mars," etc.) way at the bottom, if there at all.

But I must admit that my recent acquisition of cable (and, when we were pre-digital transition, of a TV whose rabbit ears would pick up a signal at all), has got me seeing the appeal of some of these. Don't get me wrong, I'm not into the autopsy ones--where the guest star is always a beautiful young woman, whose brutal death they fetishize (and of course the poor actor gets no lines, but lots of deathly makeup)--but I do like the "Law & Order" non-courtroom spin-offs a lot. There's something to be said about just being able to turn on the TV and for an hour be told a full story, without having to really know any background aside from what is presented in that episode. (And apparently this is why they're really popular and profitable for the networks.)

The point of all this is that I came across another one of these when I was flipping channels the other night, and it had a little extra something that I thought writer- and editor-types would enjoy. It's "Castle," a series about a tough female homicide detective (I know, is there any other kind?) and the annoying, know-it-all mystery writer (Castle) who gets to follow her around (because of his friendship to the mayor) in order to improve his novels. From what I could tell, Castle is constantly talking about the grammatical errors in murderers' notes, contesting the probability of a murder having taken place in the way Detective Beckett supposes because it wouldn't work well as a book plot, etc. The nerd in me giggles and appreciates his attempt at literary justice.

I'm tempted to watch it again next week, but am trying to resist, because the episode's preview showed that it's totally about the murder of a beautiful, young model. . . . So, it's really not that different from the others, but at least they know the importance of proper punctuation when saying that a suspect "Eats, Shoots & Leaves." Badum-bum.

(Thanks, folks, I'll be here all night!)

- S