02 February 2015

Monday Amusements

The (young) woman next to me on the train is putting on make up and watching "I Love Lucy".

Meanwhile, I am reading the New York Times, cover to cover, as I am wont to do. Actually that's not quite true; the sports section rarely makes it past the recycling bin on the way into the house.

I love reading Margalit Fox's obituaries in the Times. A couple of days ago brought a lovely one for cruciverbalist Bernice Gordon. It was illustrated by a delicious photo of Mrs. Gordon, in front of a sea of colorful dictionaries, wearing a red shirt, vermilion nail polish, and fuchsia lipstick. Best might be the reveal that Gordon once did a set of commissioned puzzles for Xaviera Hollander, blue clues and all. Today's gem: Fox calls "Harry The Dirty Dog" a "cautionary ablutionary tale".

Elsewhere in the Times, I gasped at a heretofore new to me plural of a compound noun: culs-de-sac. That was in an article about merchandising tie-ins for the coming movie release of Fifty Shades of Grey. I was not one of "the female readers who passed the book around their suburban culs-de-sac" but I did read the article, bemused at the idea of Target selling vibrating love rings. Where would you look for such a thing? Next to the book? Near the condoms? Alongside the toothpaste?

Back to that plural: is culs-de-sac really the right plural? Cul-de-sac translates as bottom of the sack - which is the more important part? When you make a whole bunch of that certain summery drink, you make gins and tonic - gin being the important substance. In a group of Attorneys General, they are lawyers first, "generals" second. Isn't the sack the more important part, the head? After all, the "sack" is the whole of the dead-end road, and the "bottom" is the end where you have to turn around. I dunno. I was intrigued to find it in the first place.

It's been a rich full day, and it's not even noon.


Kizz at 117 Hudson said...

I don't anything about the words. The vibrating love rings are right up my alley, if you'll pardon the expression, though. In general that's something you would find near the condoms as Trojan are the folks who have been forging a path in that territory recently. They sell 3 different sorts of vibrators in most department and drug stores these days. However, I have also seen people posting pictures of dedicated display cases for 50 Shades tie-in products. They're the sort of flimsy cardboard displays that the newest James Patterson book is showcased in but they've got blindfolds and fuzzy handcuffs and the like. Those you might find closer to the books or the DVDs than the condoms but I can imagine it's a very delicate marketing choice.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I think they're gin and tonics, the whole being so much more than the parts.

Jocelyn said...

Interesting as hell. Inside most people's brains, I fear I'd get bored--not so for you and yours. Toss me in there any day, and I'll be well amused.

Yea, so online dictionaries are showing both forms of pluralizing cul-de-sac to be correct, but when a hard choice has to be made, put the "s" on the end of "cul." So I guess the "bottom" is more essential to that phrase than "bag," eh?

edj3 said...

I'm with readersguide: gin & tonics all the way. Ahem.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

Oh, I always say gin and tonics.

I wonder if the editors spent hours arguing over whether culs-de-sac was correct. Or if they just KNEW.

Anonymous said...

The French word cul is a noun meaning bottom or posterior or (informally) sex (or sex organs.)

The French seem to want to say the "bag bottoms" rather than "bottom of the bags" because the Dictionaire LaRousse says it is culs-de-sac.

MDTaz said...

In situations such as this, I change my vocabulary to avoid questionable plurals. "Passing it around the neighborhood" works fine for me (though I get it -- cul-de-sac connotes a certain kind of neighborhood) and "a gin & tonic for everyone" could suffice. Or "a G&T for every hand!"