Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Women: What Your Favorite Classic Rock Band Says About You

My friend, author Treacy Colbert, was inspired recently by a viral e-mail about classic rock bands to put a female spin on the subject. So we both chipped in ideas and came up with ....

WOMEN: What Your Favorite Classic Rock Band Says About You

Van Halen: You can play ping-pong with your hands tied behind your back.

Dan Fogelberg: You are sexually aroused by doilies.

James Taylor: You're appalled by how much the average consumer spends on shampoo.

Aerosmith: You can tie a cherry stem into a knot in your mouth.

Motley Crue: You can tie a cherry stem into a knot in someone else's mouth.

The Indigo Girls: You always cry at commitment ceremonies.

Gordon Lightfoot: The rose tattoo on your breast is now long-stemmed.

Air Supply: You have a standard poodle named Skyler.

Journey: You have a daughter named Skyler.

Spandau Ballet: You have a son named Skyler.

Celtic Woman: You’re on your third name change, first Summer, then Skyler, now Windstar.

Ronnie James Dio: You're on your third sloe gin fizz.

The Doors: You're on your third liver.

The Who: You have a “Teenage Wasteland” bumper sticker on your Rascal.

Boston: You can confirm the veracity of reports about the man from Nantucket.

Loverboy: You know a website that sells Bartles & James wine coolers.

Cyndi Lauper: You still bop even though it inflames your carpal tunnel syndrome.

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Two words: government cheese.

Rolling Stones: You've said "Welcome to Walmart" so many times the words have lost all meaning.

Joni Mitchell: You have used a speculum as a roach clip.

The Beatles: Your hedge fund outperformed the S&P by three percent.

America: It has never occurred to you that “the heat was hot” is redundant.

Bread: You have satisfied the munchies by eating one of your scented candles.

Seals and Crofts: You own a large collection of mismatched, partially shredded knee-highs.

Al Stewart: You’re surprised when the bartender doesn’t know what a kir is.

Rod Stewart: You still own—and wear—the outfit you had on in the family photo taken in 1970.

Jackson Browne: Ativan is now your favorite controlled substance.

Grateful Dead: You slept with your son's roommates at Tufts.

Pink Floyd: You married your dealer, then dumped him to run off with his dealer.

Bob Dylan: Haybuh homa fleege, trumuh fleege, maddle flooge.

Sammy Hagar: You keep your G.E.D. certificate in the back of your Ford Maverick, along with all your other possessions.

Ozzy Osbourne: You campaigned for Lyndon LaRouche, but only because you had him mixed up with a cartoon skunk.

Allman Brothers Band: Your kids call the Health and Human Services outreach specialist “Uncle Greg.”

AC/DC: If you can read this, you don’t really qualify as an AC/DC fan.

Yes: Your subwoofers are the envy of your assisted-living facility.

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Gaddafi: It only took me 20 years to look it up

I took a year of Arabic in college. I'm not sure why. I didn't have much educational guidance up to that point, or education, for that matter. I had dropped out of school without completing the ninth grade. So by the time I found my way onto a college campus, I was just sort of running around pell-mell looking at every educational opportunity as unbelievably neato.

What's more, I'd never had a chance to learn about much about the world outside of my beach bum community in central Florida and, as a result, tore through the class catalog like an Adirondack lottery winner tearing through a Sharper Image catalog.

Anyone with even the slightest interest in the Arabic language knows Moammar Gaddafi as the quintessential example of confusing transliteration. It's been spelled with a G, a Kh, and a Q, with variations in the subsequent letters as well.

In the class I took, we followed a transliteration system that used Q to denote the Arabic letter "qof," which has no direct English translation because it requires a throat clucking we don't make except, perhaps, after a regrettable trip to Taco Bell. We used Kh to indicate the letter "kha," which is a throat-rasping K sound that seems to be a little more iconic to the language, at least among Americans. G we reserved for the letter "ghain," which sound almost as if it begins with an R and was described to us as the French R (voice a good, rich "au revoir" and that's the sound we were taught to make). And that's the closest to an English G as you'll find in Modern Standard Arabic.

I knew Gaddafi started with qof, so when I saw it spelled Khaddafi, I figured it was just some alternate transliteration system.

But then at one point, the media started leaning away from the Khaddafi and toward a version that started with a G. I was baffled. Why on earth, in an age where everyone follows the Q-for-qof system when writing Al Qaeda, wouldn't they use a Q for Gaddafi as well?

Finally, I looked it up. According to this article, it's a dialect thing. In Gaddafi's Libya, the qof sounds a lot like our G, so we write it that way. Ironically, finally finding an answer left me just as baffled as I'd been before. Here's why: The first thing they taught us in Arabic class was that different countries and groups have different dialects, but they all speak and understand a universal language, Modern Standard Arabic, which was the language used by the media. To claim to "know" Arabic, you had to know the universal media kind plus at least one dialect. And some dialects varied greatly from Modern Standard Arabic.

And that leads me to wonder why, if the Arab-speaking world can have a whole language that's universal and a perfect fit for mass media, why can't English-speaking outlets take a similarly universal approach to just the Arabic alphabet? If Al Jazeera broadcasts to Libyan viewers in something other than Libyan dialect, can't we all just qof alike?

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It's National Grammar Day!

Celebrate by not looking surprised if someone says, "Happy National Grammar Day."

Other ways to celebrate:

* Impress a friend by using "whom" in a sentence.

* Annoy a stickler by not using "whom" in a sentence.

* Spread the word that there's no rule against ending sentences with prepositions or splitting infinitives.

* Spread the word that Strunk and White didn't understand passive voice.

* Tell a friend who believes "between you and me" is wrong that it's actually better than "between you and I."

* Brush up on one grammar term you either don't know or have forgotten, such as object complement, predicate nominative, or subjunctive.

* Start a sentence with "and."

* Warn a school kid or college kid that even educators can sometimes spread bad grammar advice and that he can always check facts in a good usage guide like Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, Garner's Modern American Usage, or Fowler's.

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