August 5, 2020

At the Wednesday Night Café...


... you can write about whatever you want.

And thanks for using the Althouse Portal when you shop at Amazon.

Life, disrupted.

The confidante.

Did you know that's called a "confidante"?

I ran across that bit of furniture arcana after reading the headline "Biden confidants see VP choices narrowing to Harris and Rice" (at AXIOS). Maybe you're fascinated by the endless discussion of Biden's VP choice — it is interesting that it's between Harris and Rice, but didn't you already know that? — but I got distracted by the spelling "confidants." Is it "confidant" or "confidante"? Seems like the "e" belongs... or is that just something you add when the person is female?

"Confidant" is correct. The OED says it originated after 1700, although the noun "confident" — with the same meaning and an accent on the first syllable — had already been in use for a century. The "-ant" ending — as opposed to the "-ent" — comes from French. And it's because of French that you get the separate female form, adding an "e." It's what they do in France.

The female version — "confidante" — has a second meaning: "A name given by the English designer George Hepplewhite (d. 1786) to a species of settee.... 'an upholstered settee with somewhat triangular seats beyond the arms at each end.'" That strange item you see pictured above. It can also refer to "Two chairs coupled on an s-plan" or "three chairs, joined like the spokes of a wheel."

It's hard to come up with new ideas in seating! Once you invent the chair and the sofa and maybe the lounge and the stool, there really isn't much left that anyone is really going to want.

"Look. Come on, man. I know you're trying to goad me, but I mean, I'm so forward looking to have an opportunity to sit with the President or stand with the President and debate."

Joe Biden doesn't need a tell-an-elephant-from-a-lion test! Just watch him, listen to him and judge.

Now, he did say "I'm so forward looking to have an opportunity" instead of "I'm so looking forward to having an opportunity," but it's speech, man. Talking is what it is. Trump makes his own mistakes.

ADDED: "Yo, Semites" is hilarious, but think more deeply about it. It means that Trump has very little interest in our national parks. I'd like someone to ask him if he has ever, on his own, outside of any political or business reason, traveled through the great landscapes of America. Has he ever hiked in Zion or the Badlands or Glacier? Has he seen the sunrise in Bryce Canyon? Which parks has he visited it? Did he ever go to one just to see it? Has he ever taken a road trip across America? Can he even drive? What's the farthest he, personally, has driven a car? I can only picture him driving a golf cart! Distance: 18 holes.

"The faculty letter gives the impression that many Princeton professors believe their institution is rife with anti-Black racism and that the university must risk abandoning long-standing core values..."

"... to be anti-racist. But most signatories who responded to my queries hold neither of those beliefs.... Outside observers should be sophisticated enough to understand that universities are socially and politically complex communities where faculty members don’t always say what they mean, especially when asked to sign on to a group letter with hundreds of their colleagues in a moment of national crisis. 'Much as I’m averse to aspects of any letters signed by more than one person—chiefly that they represent a form of mostly benign and well-intentioned thuggery—I’m convinced we live in a moment where we have to be seen as being part of a solution to what is clearly a problem,' [humanities professor and poet Paul] Muldoon told me... in his thoughtful email. 'That means that, as in the case of the Princeton letter, some ideas may need to be overstated to be stated at all.' ... I am concerned that some faculty members are unwilling to publicly criticize a demand that they scoff at privately. Can they really be counted on to protect academic freedom in a faculty vote? And I wish more faculty members would say whatever they actually think with clarity and precision, rather than indulging in hyperbole that does more to muddy and polarize than to clarify."

Writes Conor Friedersdorf in "The Princeton Faculty’s Anti-Free-Speech Demands/Some of the signers of a controversial open letter don’t stand behind its most alarming demand" (The Atlantic).

Sunrise — looking east and west.

It was one of those mornings when the eastern view is distinctive:



But the clouds in the west are sumptuous and so there is a glorious western sunrise:



"Etymologists trace the term 'guys' to the historical figure Guy Fawkes. It’s evolved from the name of one man..."

"... who attempted to assassinate King James I in 1605 to an informal address for a group of people in contemporary American English. But when used to address your colleagues, it’s a gendered greeting that could be sending signals about who is ― and isn’t ― included in your workplace."

From "Instead Of Saying 'Hey, Guys!' At Work, Try These Gender-Neutral Alternatives/Raise your awareness of gendered language on the job" (HuffPo). Here's a list of alternatives (none of which question the "hey," which I grew up hearing was rude): "hey team, hey crew, hey all, hey folks, hey people, hey peeps, hey y'all, hey everyone, hey pals, hey friends." You could just say "hello" or "good morning."

Anyway, you can decide for yourself — or be bullied — about how gender-neutral you want to be about your greetings in various settings. I mostly wanted to express surprise that the term "guy" comes from Guy Fawkes. I looked it up, and that is the etymology of "guy." (Referring to a person. There is another line of etymology for the "guy" has to do with ropes and wires, and that's related to "guide.")

The evolution of "guy" for a man began with the effigies that were burned on Guy Fawkes Day. These were dressed in "grotesquely ragged and ill-assorted garments" — according to the OED. By 1836, the word was used to refer to "A person of grotesque appearance, esp. with reference to dress; a ‘fright.'" By 1847, in the U.S., it became another way to say "man" or "fellow":
1847 ‘Lord Chief Baron’ Swell's Night Guide (new ed.) 41 I can't tonight, for I am going to be seduced by a rich old Guy.
1863 C. Reade Hard Cash III. xiii. 270 I wouldn't speak to you in the street for fear of disgracing you; I am such a poor little guy to be addressing a gentleman like you...
1898 Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Sentinel 22 Jan. 4/7 I s'pose you got a Bible you'll let a guy look into....
When did "guy" become so common as a way to address somebody? I'm no etymologist, but I trace it back to the 1971 "Hi, guy" commercial for Right Guard:

Why am I getting tinglings of deja vu? Oh, yeah. I already wrote this post! Last year!

"His response was in fear, and now that he realizes what happened, he wanted me to say to the protesters … that he was sorry, that’s he’s profoundly sorry."

Said Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, quoted in "Husband of Los Angeles district attorney charged with pointing a gun at BLM protesters" (WaPo).
On March 2, David Lacey, the husband of Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, emerged from their home to point a gun at Black Lives Matter protesters on his front porch, telling them, “I will shoot you” in a viral video of the incident. More than five months later, the California attorney general’s office on Tuesday filed three misdemeanor charges for assault with a firearm against David Lacey, 66. The charges further complicate a stiff reelection battle for Lacey (D), who is Los Angeles County’s first Black district attorney and the first woman to hold the job. Amid a national reckoning with racial injustice, Lacey has been assailed by protesters for declining to charge police officers in violent incidents, and has recently lost the endorsements of several top California Democrats....
I don't know why I didn't notice this story at the time. The video — which I'm just seeing this morning — is very striking. Not only does Lacey point the gun directly at somebody, but he's got his finger on the trigger:

"Thousands of videos quickly popped up using the audio, with people carrying, caring for and kissing loaves of bread. But they picked the wrong carbohydrate."

From "Mi pan, su su su: how a dancing llama and a nonsensical song captivated TikTok/Acoustic remix of Miel Pops Russian cereal jingle becomes a strange anthem for a stranger time" (The Guardian).

By the way, I knew all about this days ago — from sitting around gazing at TikTok! If you don't understand what's so lovable about TikTok, that article might help.

"Is that normal?"

"The deputy director of the Department of Homeland Security says federal officers in Portland suffered 113 eye injuries while guarding a courthouse from activists armed with powerful lasers."

"The usually green beams produce uncomfortable heat, unlike common small red pointers, Ken Cuccinelli said Tuesday at a Senate subcommittee hearing on the clashes in Oregon. 'We’ve had a number of officers who have days-long blindness. So far they’ve all kind of come back, if you will,' Cuccinelli said. 'But you also get what’s called flash blindness. Think of it as the old Kodak cameras where you get that blue spot and you can’t quite see your entire field of vision for a period.'... Although Cuccinelli said all officers recovered their sight, he said activists appear to be aiming to maximize damage.... Cuccinelli said lasers create problems for officers, who cannot look toward the beams to identify suspects.... Cuccinelli said some protesters are indeed peaceful, but others aren’t. 'This is sort of the Portland formula: there’s peaceful protesting until 10 or 11 o’clock, and then they go away. And maybe some of them come back, but the group that comes back is A.) much bigger, but also they come back for violence,' Cuccinelli said."

The New York Post reports.

August 4, 2020

At the Monday [I mean Tuesday] Night Café...


... have a seat at one of the socially distanced tables, enjoy the WiFi, and write about whatever comes to mind.

And when you take breaks to shop, please think of using the Althouse Portal to go into Amazon.

"#MeTooSTEM founder admits to creating Twitter persona who 'died' of COVID-19/BethAnn McLaughlin invented @Sciencing_Bi, a Hopi anthropologist who died of COVID-19."

Ars Technica reports.
This certainly isn't the first time a fake persona has manifested on social media.... But the particular case of @Sciencing_Bi is unique because of its unusually long duration—the Twitter account was created in October 2016....

@Sciencing_Bi, identified on her profile only as "Alepo," claimed to be a female bisexual Native American anthropologist at Arizona State University who was involved with combatting discrimination and sexual harassment in the scientific community....
Wait. Wouldn't that have been easy to falsify? How many female bisexual Native American anthropologists could be at Arizona State University who were activated against discrimination and sexual  harassment?
In April, she announced that she had contracted COVID-19 and subsequently documented a months-long struggle with the disease. She specifically blamed her employer, ASU, for her plight, and she claiming that she and other teachers, staff, and students had been forced to remain on campus well into April. She also asserted that the school had cut her salary by 15 percent while she was hospitalized. Then on Friday, July 31, McLaughlin tweeted that @Sciencing_Bi—purportedly a close friend—had died of complications from COVID-19, followed by a series of impassioned tweets eulogizing her late friend. There was the usual online outpouring of condolences and grief alongside outrage at her plight and purported mistreatment by ASU....

A clever (or puzzling) sign.

Photographed by Meade today.

It's kind of hard to put it together, what with the disappearing "E." And once you see that "Bye Don," you have to wonder what exactly does it mean? To me, it's saying you're not really for Biden — you don't want that on you — but you just want to say "bye" to Donald Trump (who never gets called "Don," but... whatever).

"I ought to mention that he marked the parenthesis, in the air, with his finger. It seemed to me a very good plan."

"You know there's no sound to represent it — any more than there is for a question. Suppose you have said to your friend 'You are better to-day,' and that you want him to understand that you are asking him a question, what can be simpler than just to make a '?' in the air with your finger? He would understand you in a moment!"

Wrote Lewis Carroll in "Sylvie and Bruno," describing the gesture made while singing the words "this was their wish" in this stanza of a song:
“The Badgers did not care to talk to Fish:
They did not dote on Herrings' songs:
They never had experienced the dish
To which that name belongs:
And oh, to pinch their tails,' (this was their wish,)
'With tongs, yea, tongs, and tongs!'”
I print the entire stanza because of the badgers, of course, this being Wisconsin. But why — you might ask, marking the air with a "?" — am I fooling around inside "Sylvie and Bruno" this evening? I have an answer!

I was reading the Wikipedia article "Air quotes," which naturally traces the origin of air quotes. It gives Lewis Carroll credit for arriving at the basic idea — albeit only with parentheses and question marks — all the way back in 1889.

The oldest definite use of air quotes seems to be Glenda Farrell the 1937 screwball comedy, "Breakfast for Two":

Isn't that wonderful! But air quotes got too popular in the 1990s and became subject to derision, notably by Steve Martin, Chris Farley, and Dr. Evil. And here's George Carlin in 1996:

People got the message and restrained themselves, but air quotes were still around enough to make their appearance in the fall of 2002, in the thing I just watched that got me started on this little research project, Episode 3 of Season 9 of "Friends" — where Joey (ostensibly the dumbest person in the group) does not understand how air quotes work:

At the Crack-of-Dawn Café...


... let's have lunch.