Friday, August 20, 2010

Things I Wonder Today

1) How come when we try to spell names from languages with foreign alphabets, such as "Nguyen" or "Kyrgystan", we spell it in our alphabet in a way that renders it unpronounceable in our alphabet?

2) What is the point of a gift registry? The recipient has already picked out the gifts, so it doesn't require much if any thought to pick the gift you're giving them off of the registry. Isn't it the equivalent of just paying them cash so they can buy the gift they picked?

3) Fresh cut flowers are pretty and all, but isn't there something a bit morbid about shearing off the top of some living thing to display it until all life is extinguished from it? (And yes, I never got that job at Hallmark...)

4) When common languages first began to develop into foreign languages (such as Latin getting split into French and Italian, etc.) did neighbors on each side of the language divide at first just think the other guys were using some lame new slang?

5) How is it that jackboots became associated with totalitarian militaries (the Nazis, the Soviets, etc.) but not democracies? Is there something inherently undemocratic about jackboots?

6) Why do they call it "Lake Michigan" rather than "Michigan Lake"?

7) What percentage of people that you see on the street talking into their cell phone are actually just talking to themselves?

8) Before cell phones, how were people able to be rude to one another in social situations? Did they just pick up a book during a conversation?

9) With fees for checked baggage and carryons and snack boxes and drinks, what new indignities can the airline industry invent in the next decade? I predict bathroom charges.


  1. On 9, I just saw someone link to an article saying American is going to start charging more for "good" seats in coach (the ones in the front).

    NO. All seats in coach are per se BAD.

  2. They do charge for the bathroom on some of the cheap european know the ones who charge only $5 for a one way ticket between Dublin & Edinburgh, but then charge you $75 when your bag is over 20lbs...I mean, what American travels to Europe with a bag that weighs less than 20 lbs?

  3. Jenny and ESW--this is all going to result in my ultimate dream goal--the Supertrain!

  4. As far as #2 goes:

    I just made my wedding registry online (I used , and I think that registries are really more for the the convenience of the gift recipient rather than the giver. There are just certain occassions that are for gift giving (weddings, babies, bdays, graduations, etc), and registries let everyone know exactly what you want.

  5. Re: #6 - don't know, but I can think of several other examples: Superior, Erie, Huron, Ontario, Travis, Baikal, Anna, Tahoe, Geneva, Champlain...

  6. They probably didn't notice it -- language moves from "dialect" to "another language" when people who speak the supposedly same language can't understand others (picture an uneducated hick from the Bayou trying to talk with an uneducated Scot from the highlands - they both "speak" English, but think they'll be able to understand each other?)

    So, if you're in Italy, on the French border, you think you're talking the same language as the French guy next to you, because the dialects are so similar. The farther away you get, though, the more the language changes until the dude on the Atlantic Ocean can't understand the guy on the Mediterannean.

    Billy Bryson and John McWhorter wrote some good books on the subject. I'll try to dig up the names.