June 17, 2010

"The NYT is totally on this important urban trend story."

The Catio. That's from The Corner, but it made me wonder what's going on at Stuff White People Like these days. SWPL used to be all over stories like this. Now, it doesn't even manage a post a month. And yet the NYT still comes up with those style articles that were once mocked so skillfully there under the heading "White People in the News."

Here's one from April 2009 about people doing yoga with their dogs. Like the new "catio" article, it had a cutesy, pet-related coined word: Doga. The best part of these old "News" posts, was the list at the end of "Stuff Mentioned in the Article"
#53 Dogs
#15 Yoga
#26 Manhattan (now Brooklyn too!)
Portland, Oregon (Book)
#11 Asian Girls
#92 Book Deals
#101 Being Offended
Each item links to an old post that added an item to the master list of stuff white people like (or refers to the SWPL book). I guess we could do that ourselves for the catio article, but I can't help but feel that SWPL has been the victim of its own success. It can't be bothered, even when powerfully baited. I can't be bothered with it either. Plus, I can't put up with actually reading an article about city folk who encase their tiny balconies in wire fencing so the cat won't jump over the railing. If it were sickening hipsteresque, it might be fun, but that's just pathetic to put yourself in a cat cage.

The newest SWPL piece, from a couple weeks ago, is on the timely topic of the World Cup, which I've noticed the NYT is featuring right at the top of its front webpage these days. I thought Americans didn't care, but SWPL was never about white people or white Americans generally. It's about the subcategory of folk who read the NYT. Anyway:
[B]efore you start planning out long watching sessions with white people you should be aware of exactly why white people get so excited about the World Cup. Though you may be waiting on baited breath for your favorite sport on a global scale, white people like the World Cup because it allows them to pretend they are European for a few weeks....
By the way, the expression is "waiting with" — not "on" — "bated" — not "baited" — "breath," and if this guy knows so much about what white people like, he ought to know we like proper spelling, proper use of prepositions, and knowledge of idiomatic expressions. I do anyway.
Geoffrey Taylor, in his little poem Cruel, Clever Cat, 1933, used the confusion over the word to good comic effect:
Sally, having swallowed cheese
Directs down holes the scented breeze
Enticing thus with baited breath
Nice mice to an untimely death.
Cats! They're heartless killers. Of mice and, now, an unobscured view from the balcony.


kent said...
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kent said...

Cats! They're heartless killers. Of mice and, now, an unobscured view from the balcony.

Meh. One appropriately resolute German guy with the right pair of shorts and some significant anger management issues can always remedy that pesky li'l problem, if need be.

MPorcius said...

These cats are pussies. (Ha.) When I lived on 74th street in Manhattan a guy across the street let his cat wander around the fire escape, no fence, no nothing. I even documented this phenomenon with a crappy digital camera.


Andrea said...

Re the "catio": Um, we've had patio and porch screens in the South for years. All these people are doing (and some of them very unnttractively -- chain link fencing and pvc pipe? I'm surprised that one couple were allowed to uglify their balcony that way) is screening in their patios or porches. People in New York really are provincial.

Pogo said...

I'm waiting for John Travolta to do a musical turn in a Cats version "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble."

Balfegor said...

By the way, the expression is "waiting with" — not "on" — "bated" — not "bated" — "breath," and if this guy knows so much about what white people like, he ought to know we like proper spelling, proper use of prepositions, and knowledge of idiomatic expressions. I do anyway.

That may be true, but part of the appeal of the site was that it treated White people as exotics -- one of the reasons people speculated, at one point, that the writer was Asian (or at least Asian-American). A lack of perfect fluency only completes the whole Margaret Mead image -- the outsider expert who doesn't quite get as much as he thinks he does. See also English as She is Spoke.

Expat(ish) said...

I think one of those "bated" should be "baited."

One of my pet peeves, thanks for bringing it up.

No go and slay the "tough road to hoe" dragon.


virgil xenophon said...

Correction, Ann. SWPL is written for the kind of people who obsess over the SUNDAY NYT Book Review & Style Section.

c3 said...

Boy this post has a lot of different stuff in it.

-dying blogs and the unspoken question
"What happened to so-and-so"

-NYT and "Stuff White People Like". SWPL was/is about stuff white yuppies like, and that's the core readership of the NYT

-pets in an urban environment. IMHO,cats are meant to be "partially feral"

holdfast said...

I love that while criticizing SWPL's homonym error/typo, you made a typo. Or am I just bating you?

former law student said...

Germans have been on top of this cat protection racket for years:


They will screen or net your windows, balcony, patio, or entire yard. Indoor screening is also available.

The latest urban trend being inflicted on the innocent around here is Zumba.

c3 said...

Here's a partial explanation for SWPL's focus on pets; owning a pet is much more of a "white" thing. And owning a cat is really white.

c3 said...

and re: catio

Interesting from a Phoenix perspective. Here the issue is protecting your cats from the coyotes. A catio would be a solution to that problem but I don't see them catching on in AZ.

Calypso Facto said...

For a far funnier contradictory take on why most non-NYT white people DON'T follow the World Cup, read The Other McCain's Soccer May Be Gay, But at Least It's Not Canadian.

Paul Zrimsek said...

if this guy knows so much about what white people like, he ought to know we like proper spelling, proper use of prepositions, and knowledge of idiomatic expressions.

Oh, he does.

chuck b. said...

Expat(ish) made my comment for me.

edutcher said...

Instead of baited breath, The Blonde says worm on tongue.

As to the World Cup, I don't think that many people, white or otherwise, are watching in this country. Some who want to show off how 'international' they are, maybe, and immigrants, but that's probably it.

Having played soccer as a kid (you had to go to private school to be exposed to it in them thar days), I understand the game, but find it one of those things more interesting to do than to watch.

WV "sayousic" How they greet you at the door of some hospitals.

traditionalguy said...

Many of the 30 Somethings have spent several month long trips touring Europe in the prosperous times, and they are wishing they could be like the cool Europeans. Meanwhile the Europeans wish they could reconquer their devine right to their North American Colonies. I say beware Euros bearing gifts.

Rich B said...

This falls under SLWPL. Like when Rush refers to the NAALCP.

Rich B said...

And while we are at it, how about fighting "hone in" when they mean "home in". And the people who pronounce "important" as "impor-ant".

There are benefits to word misuse, too. I had a former boss explain to me that you had to "feel up" your clients, instead of "feel out". I was too timid to put his suggestion into practice.

E.M. Davis said...

Maybe, one day, Catios will be featured on Stuff White People Used to Like

Like slavery. Or potpourri.

Pogo said...

I winced every time my secretary used to tell to me to sign something by saying "Put your John Henry right here".

MadisonMan said...

From the NYTimes Story:

The cats, they like to sit out there,

From the Sharron Angle story:

Our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason,

MadisonMan, he doesn't like this clumsy sentence construction. The people, they should stop talking this way.

MadisonMan said...

A cat that is stupid enough to jump off a balcony is too dumb to be a pet.

Class factotum said...

Cats! They're heartless killers.

Ha. I wish. My cats are heartless trappers of and players with mice, but they will not kill them. Maybe scare them to death, but not kill. They only growl at rabbits from the safety of the bedroom window. I must admit that the rabbits weigh more than they do, though.

Calypso Facto said...

@Tradguy: "Bearing gifts"--beware. "baring gifts"--bring it on!

Though, dare I say, it may lead to "baited breath"?

Michael said...

I did something like this for my cat when I was living at home with my parents after college. My cat liked to go outside but she we getting bullied (ie bit) by other cats in the neigbborhood. So one day I made a little catio out of chicken wire so my cat could go out on the deck. We kept the window open and the cat could go out on nice days with out having to deal with other cats. This worked great until a chipmunk decided to visit. My cat then brought a live chipmunk into my parents home and proceeded to tear around the house going after the little rodent. At one point the cat cornered the chipmunk but the chipmunk made a run for it and the cat was still staring where she thought the rodent was but the chipmunk was long gone. So we opened all the doors and we think the chipmunk left. That was the end of catio and beginning of my cat being an indoor cat.

traditionalguy said...

We have a 9 lb indoor tabby cat. Once in a while she shoots out a crack in a closing door before we can stop her. Usually she is crying to get back in 10 minutes later. Then last month she did her blurred run for a crack and stayed out all night. The next AM she proudly came to the door with a large dead squirrel she had hunted and killed. We treat her with more respect now.

jayne_cobb said...
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Ann Althouse said...

Typo corrected. One tempts fate to criticize other people's spelling. It's so easy to typo homophones. But in my defense, I know right from wrong. Most people who write "baited breath" are really thinking of bait.

halojones-fan said...

@Ann: I don't think they're thinking of "bait", I think that they just heard the expression "bated breath" and liked it but don't actually know how it's spelled.

It's like how everyone was saying "free reign" last year. (It should be "free rein".)


SWPL: Oh snap, race-baiting gets boring after a while? Too bad.

Ann Althouse said...

"Free reign" drives me crazy. I rarely see "free rein" anymore.

virgil xenophon said...

Very few people ride horses anymore, Ann.

former law student said...

virgil: a fair number of people still ride horses -- even in Dane County: