Saturday, July 29, 2006

More nosh (as I find myself eating my own words)

When I first posted my entry on Iran's attempt to expel Western words from Farsi, I wrote the sub-hedder as "Gnoshing on National Language Policies." The word is not spelled gnosh, however, but nosh (score another point for Occam's razor). Like many spelling bee contestants, I overthought the word. But I wasn't really thinking -- I think I was gnashing, and assuming an onomatopoeiatic spelling of the word related to the sound of chewing. Ding! (I exit the stage, tearful and red-faced, in the arms of a comfort counselor.)

Thankfully I have had food on the brain all day today (though, sadly, not comfort food), because it was only when I sat down to write this post did it occur to me to check that spelling.

I have had food on the brain all day due to two compelling articles I read online, pieces which are poles apart in terms of occasion and point of view, but nonetheless strike me as interrelated. In the first, Julia Keay at the British journal Literary Review writes a review of the book The Bloodless Revolution: Radical Vegetarians and the Discovery of India (Harper Collins), by Tristram Stuart. Keay's review, titled "How to be Lank, Fleet and Nimble," presents an adept and fascinating precis of Stuart's account of the history of vegetarianism. . . falling short only in failing to clue me in as to how Stuart relates that history to 'the Discovery of India.'

For like language, food is power, as cultures define themselves according to what they include and exclude in their native cuisine. In this respect, you are what you eat. Openness and/or resistance to foreign assimilation might be gauged by the diversity of available and acceptable food offerings; and, like language, it is hard to stem the influx of foreign influences, once they start pouring in. I am keen to learn, then, how vegetarianism, a positive form of gastronomic asceticism, relates to the covetous process of colonization, especially in India (mmm . . . korma). Might just look that one up.

Meanwhile, at the emphatically more prosaic online mag Salon, the iconoclastic and (recently) itinerant chef Anthony Bourdain has written an account of his past week spent in Lebanon, where he had been filming a segment of his Travel channel show, "No Reservations," when the bombs started falling.

Bourdain is one of those characters I'm not entirely sure what to make of. I'll be honest -- I find him kinda captivating. He found a niche in which to hone a distinctive voice (long before the likes of Gordon Ramsay arrived on shore to assault our ears); and, being French myself, and tending more to the omnivorous than the ascetic, I find his program absorbing viewing, especially when he takes care to derive the origins of the name of a particular food-stuff, and to spell out the cultural importance of that food-stuff to the society the program is featuring. Oh, who am I kidding, I just dig his passion (you should see me and my father sit down to a meal).

Writing this, though, I am keenly reminded of a graduate student party I attended years ago where I blithely commented that I didn't mind Tom Snyder (ugh, I can still hear the groans of the effete soughing across the room . . .). Whether Bourdain is your cup of tea or not (and many justifiably dislike him, he does strive for noxiousness), his dispatches from Beirut make for provocative reading, a biting first-person account that cuts through the conventional, sterilized media reports.


Elastic Loaves! Get Yer Fresh Hot Elastic Loaves!

*Noshing on National Language Policies

An AP article in today's Times online reports that President Bush's prolix pen-pal, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has ordered all Western words deported from Iran. The article is short enough to copy here:

Iranian President Bans Usage of Foreign Words

Published: July 29, 2006
Filed at 6:53 a.m. ET

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered government and cultural bodies to use modified Persian words to replace foreign words that have crept into the language, such as ''pizzas'' which will now be known as ''elastic loaves,'' state media reported Saturday.

The presidential decree, issued earlier this week, orders all governmental agencies, newspapers and publications to use words deemed more appropriate by the official language watchdog, the Farhangestan Zaban e Farsi, or Persian Academy, the Irna [Islamic Republic News Agency] official news agency reported.

The academy has introduced more than 2,000 words as alternatives for some of the foreign words that have become commonly used in Iran, mostly from Western languages. The government is less sensitive about Arabic words, because the Quran is written in Arabic.

Among other changes, a ''chat'' will become a ''short talk'' and a ''cabin'' will be renamed a ''small room,'' according to official Web site of the academy.

Astute readers will recognize in the decree the kind of linguistic lock-down that historically accompanies the consolidation of geopolitical power. Hitler was renowned for inventing German words to refer euphemistically to Nazi operations, e.g., Einvolkung ("one people"), to refer to Aryan assimilation, and Sonderbehandlung ("special treatment"), to execution. But the attempt to exterminate languages deemed foreign and threatening to national interests crosses all geopolitical boundaries and sensibilities.

Among Western European languages, the promotion of the native tongue accompanied the vernacular impetus of the religious Reformation and the centralization of the nation-state, as native languages replaced Latin as the language of religion and official state business.

In Italy, the Renaissance poet Dante Alighieri launched the Italian vernacular movement with his treatise De vulgari eloquentia (ca. 1300), in which he privileged the native tongue (locutio prima) over the learned languages, Latin and Greek. As Italy's city-states vied for dominance of the Appenine peninsula, la questione della lingua had Italians perennially debating which regional variety of Italian should be privileged as the vernacular standard.

In England, the London idiom, "the flower of English," was assumed to be superior to all other regional dialects. Instead, sixteenth-century English humanists protested the influx of words “englished” from Latin and Continental languages: Sir John Cheke opined that “our tongue should be written clear and pure, unmixt and unmangled with borrowings of other tongues”; and Thomas Wilson, who wrote one of the first rhetorics written in English, lamented that “some seek so far outlandish English, that they forget altogether their mothers' language.”

Wilson's use of the word outlandish is key here. Referring to language spoken in the "out-lands," and defining that language as irregular and eccentric, the term links English's linguistic boundaries to the country's national borders, as England looked to fend off any form of foreign invasion.

Unlike France, however, as well as present-day Iran, England never established a formal academy charged with policing the purity of the native tongue. In this respect, it is significant that the Times article does not specify what punishments will be meted to Iranians who continue to use the banned words: Who will regulate the new decree? How will offenses be prosecuted?

It goes without saying (at least in this blog) that language usage is nigh-impossible to police, and language change impossible to stem. That said, we cannot underestimate the punitive stakes of the legislation, or consider such a futile attempt to regulate speech immaterial (read: human rights advocates, on alert).

Nor can we consider the law foreign to our own legal and linguistic sensibilities, an outlandish instance of Islamic fundamentalism. After all, the "English first" campaign here is inseparable from debates over U.S. immigration, and millions of immigrants stand to suffer materially from what is legislated and enacted in both.

What will domestic enforcement of the Iranian language policy reveal more broadly about that nation's will to global power? (Here we might note that the word "Iran" is an Anglicized form of the name of the country, derived from same Sanskrit root as the word "Aryan.") How might "English first" policies be feasibly -- and responsibly (i.e., Constitutionally) -- regulated here?

Something to chew on while you eat your pizza (from Italian) in your summer cabin (from Spanish). Indeed, feel free to chat about it -- chat is native to English.

Update 6:04 CDT: Seeing as Mark Liberman at Language Log was kind enough to offer me a hat tip, let me return the gratitude with the link to his post, which he has just updated with a fascinating paper on Farhangestan guidelines. Do check it out.

*As I note in my subsequent post, I first misspelled this word as gnoshing. Mea culpa.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Oh the Thinks that Can Stink!

In keeping with my current project to check off “things we should see and do before we leave Chicago,” I took my six-year-old daughter and a bevy of her friends to see Seussical, the Musical at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) on Navy Pier.

Before I continue, I should note that I have served as a “Preamble” scholar at the CST for the past four seasons, delivering pre-performance lectures on the plays audiences were about to see in production. As words cannot express how abundantly I enjoyed these occasions, my readers should know that I am loathe to criticize, publicly, any production at that theater, and that my ensuing comments are directed to Seussical, the Musical, one of the many children’s productions the CST has featured (to their credit), and not to the CST itself. Are we abundantly clear on that issue? Okay.

Whoo, boy, what a stinker. Not worthy of Midsummer Night Dream’s Snout, the tinker. If I had my choice, I’d have raised up my voice, and said, the only Whos Who would watch this were drinkers.

I can’t keep this up, but you get the idea.

I knew that the musical had fared badly during its Broadway run, but was cheered, or encouraged, by reports that the entire production had been revamped for its national tour. For me, of course, the interest lay in how the musical would translate the distinct and idiosyncratic language of Theodor Geisel to the theatrical stage. This is a topic I took up regularly in my Preamble talks on Shakespeare: that is (I would say), if you found yourself having a hard time following the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English, you could look to the other unique resources of theater – gesture, tone, body language, blocking, setting, props, music, lighting, sound, etc. – which help convey the meaning of Shakespeare’s language and thus help you understand and follow the play.

My guess is that the CST might have thought this particular musical would illuminate this intricate process of page-stage translation. Having viewed the production, however, my feeling is that Seussical’s writers and producers would have been well served if they had observed some contemporary productions of Shakespeare (before turning to write their own). For what Seussical, the Musical fails to do is effectively translate the linguistic originality and whimsy of Dr. Suess to a theatrical medium.

Rather, by choosing to subsume several Dr. Suess stories under one overarching and, sorry to say, tedious narrative plot – anchored around Horton (he who heard the Who and who also hatched an egg) -- the musical underplays the vitality of Dr. Suess’s language, so as to render the musical ultimately and ironically un-Seussical.

It is easy to see the writers’ thinking behind this (though in theater, if you’re second-guessing the writers’ motivations, they have failed): they have tried to devise a dominant story-line to focus and hold their young audiences’ attention. In this respect, and perhaps I was off-base in my expectations, I thought the musical would comprise a series of mini-productions of Dr. Suess’s many -- and most -- popular books, such that each mini-production would be narratively contained and coherent. Instead, the production asserts one major story arc, but periodically inserts into this arch-story other highly abridged and varied Dr. Seuss plots. In all honesty, I had a hard time following along (and I’m used to sorting out Shakespeare’s plots, so it’s pretty hard to lose me . . .).

It would be easy to carp that the musical also didn’t feature many of the books we most associate with Suess, and hold dear: would one mere reference to Sam, and to Green Eggs and Ham, have been so hard to cover (sad I am)? Anticipating the occasion, I had prepped my daughter for the musical the night before by reading some of our favorite Dr. Suess books . . . and felt embarrassed (a horrible feeling, for a parent) that as the show progressed, I saw none such books theatrically represented.

While I didn’t see the original Broadway production, I understand from online reviews that it tried too hard to cover too many bases, such that Sam I Am, and Green Eggs and Ham, and Fox in Sox, and One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, and that environmentally forward-thinking Lorax, and, and, and – Oh the places you can go! – might have fallen prey to theatrical editing. Still, a Suess devotee, I was hard-pressed to recognize some of the characters and plots that were retained and featured, and, what’s more, the way they were represented invited scant interest (the object of theatre being to make you care about characters you don’t “know”). I kept looking around to see kids mostly fidgeting, and none of the rapt wonder Dr. Seuss should inspire.

In the end, it comes down to this: those of us who love Dr. Suess love the sound of his words, and the way they feel, the way his words trip over our tongues and lips -- and eyes! -- when we read them. Any production of Suess, whether in our children’s bedrooms or at a major city venue, has to foreground and feature that delight in language. I can think of myriad ways this might be achieved in the theatre – why couldn’t they?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Queen is Dead, Long Live the King

After an impressive run of 5 consecutive wins on Jeopardy, Lady Celeste was defeated today by Eugene Manning, an Army officer from Honolulu, HI. In light of the next post, do you reckon I should swear about it? Nah.

Celeste, it was a wonderful run -- so impressive, so entertaining. Brava!

Vigilus Salutus

Always vigilant, I saw that there was a piece in the Washington Post about soldier morale in Iraq, which I thought might help me save some face from an earlier post. The article, unmincingly titled "Waiting to Get Blown Up," notes (yet omits) the soldiers' abundant profanity when commenting on their role and responsibility there. If you recall, in my first post on the latest Ken Burns documentary, I had expected the profanity uttered by Burns' martial subjects to be directed to our current occupation of Iraq (when in fact the doc, titled The War, presents soldiers' recollections of World War II). Just covering all the (military) bases for swearing here (and there are indeed many).

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Just heavenly, Celeste!

Now a five-day winner on Jeopardy (click here for my report after her three-day win). I really thought this might be the one to take Celeste down -- "Matt," a literacy tutor from Richland, WA, was pretty sharp. But CelDi pulled it out on final Jeopardy, on a world capitals clue that was also something of a word game: to what African capital could you add two letters to make up the name of its nation?


6:48 CDT. Many are arriving here looking for Celeste, and I am happy to play the go-between. I have asked Celeste if she has anything to say to her fans.

7:39 CDT. Commenting on the program televised today, Celeste writes: "Well, all I can say is that I thought that Matt had me for sure. He was a demon on the buzzer, and hard as I tried, I could not squeeze a 'ring in' out of my signaling device for most of the game."

Well, if you were having clicker problems, C, it didn't show -- sometimes I think contestants make a big show out of the clicker when they just plum don't know the answers. I know from my aunt that the timing is tricky: you've got to wait to buzz in until after a series of lights surrounds the play board (though maybe they've updated the system since then. . .). Some people have that eye-mind-hand coordination down, and some people don't.

Hmm. Let's get Tim Rosendale in on this.

Meanwhile, are there any specific questions I can relay to Ms. D?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Hard Day's Nights at PBS: A Shout-Out (using our 'inside voices') to PBS Hostess Melanie Martinez

A couple of posts ago, commenting on the gauntlet the F.C.C. is throwing down to PBS regarding the latest Ken Burns documentary, I recalled a piece from The Onion in which the letter D was reported to boycott Sesame Street on account of the program's introduction of a gay muppet ("Roger"). Now comes word from the Times (through the AP) that Melanie Martinez, hostess of the PBS Sprout night-time program, "The Good Night Show," has been fired for having appeared in film shorts which "spoof" sexual abstinence PSAs. Not pornos. Parodies.

Before I carry on as usual, allow me to point out the rhetorical similarities between the Times report on Martinez and The Onion's scoop, er, spoof, on the letter D. Uncanny, no? No doubt The Onion has the discourse down pat, but I find the PBS release even more amusing: specifically, their claim that these videos are going to "undermine [Melanie's] credibility with [their] audience," (which is to say) two- to five-year-olds . . .!? Yeah, when they're jonesing for a toon, my kids are all about the cred. Good grief.

So how interesting, then, that while Ken Burns will campaign (successfully, I would think) to have his program on World War II aired, profanities intact, at the 8:00 hour, our gal Mel M. has been fired from PBS for airing her views (if you could call it that) off the clock, as it were, on her own time (in fact, seven years ago). And while I'm pretty keen on Mel M. for getting my children to do yoga (my son Ollie does a pretty mean "tree"), I have yet to see her slip in any messages about condoms (that is, between her introductions of "Angelina Ballerina" and "Thomas the Tank Engine"). Maybe that's what "Hush" the goldfish is mouthing, in his fishbowl off to the side ("wear some scuba gear, kids, if you know what I mean. . .").

As I could have made more explicit in that earlier post, the FCC policies the PBS Burns doc is negotiating attempt to restrict profanity from hours when children might be watching. Such regulations stipulate that, should the profanity remain, The War should be televised at 10:00 p.m.; Burns was expecting the prime time slot of 8:00 p.m., and not planning either to bleep his subjects or otherwise edit his program.

Besides stretching the bounds of their morals clause -- really, I would not have been aware of Melanie's participation in that parody had PBS not gone and fired her, and told us all about it -- and speaking out of two sides of their mouths -- that is, pushing for the profanity restrictions on the Burns' doc to be lifted, while firing one of their own, for questionable "dialogue" uttered off network -- PBS execs are missing what I thought was the entire point of airing a night-time show for kids: that is, PBS Sprout is the one place we parents can turn to when the main PBS network (and the rest of the cable roster) is showing something otherwise objectionable and inappropriate for children.

Now, you Puritan types who object to any and all TV for kids might object to airing any childrens' programming at night. When PBS launched the network, I myself was apprehensive that I would be fighting the clicker battle well into the wee hours.

But I have a child with a chronic illness that occasionally keeps her up at night. On these occasions, I have been exceedingly grateful for something to sedate her -- I am of no illusions that TV functions that way -- and that it was benign, (often sickeningly) saccharine PBS fare, and not the paean to violence featured on Jetix, or the mature innuendo-laced humor of Adult Swim. (In this respect, I should add that I believe that no parent can be expected to provide enriching, non-televised activities for their children 24/7; just as important, what child, sick and miserable at three in the morning, wants to feel pressured to be enriched?) For some kids, for various reasons, and under certain circumstances, the very self-medicating properties we (think we should) condemn of children's television can be a salve of limitless benefit both to the child and his or her family members, who may need the rest in order to care for others.

Indeed, just as it is wrong to assume that families come in only one flavor, it is wrong to assume that every family schedules their lives according to the false exigencies of "prime time." The industrial revolution structured the vague calendar of agrarian life in order to maximize factory output; we owe to unions the regulation of work and its restriction to the (more or less) standard 40-hour work week. Just think, however, of the extent to which our lives have been further regulated by television programming -- when we should, or should not, expect to be diverted from the said work week -- in order to maximize commercial (i.e., advertising) output. Even PBS, which claims not to advertise but finds other ways to make its sponsors known, subscribes to the outdated prime time model.

The truth is, just as many families do not fit the conventional mold, many families also do not follow the conventional schedule. I am reminded of this whenever I drive past the hospital where I gave birth to my two children, where there is a 24-hour day-care center for children whose parents work overnight at the hospital. But think of the many other non-conventional jobs and professions, which have parents working all sorts of hours, not only so they can provide for their children, but also so they can spend time with them, whenever they can.

The relative beauty of the balkanization of television (into the hundreds of assorted cable networks) is that people can choose not only what, but also when, to watch. And let's not forget that, with one slip of the clicker, children might view former prime time, now syndicated, and ineluctably adult shows (say, Friends, or Seinfeld) at five or six o'clock. When you look at the current media market, the F.C.C. regulations make no sense, and strike me as a form of collusion with the conventional networks to claim some last vestige of prestige for conventional "prime time."

So Melanie, while my dentist bills have spiked since you and your sticky sweetness have been on air at Sprout, I genuinely hope you land on your feet from this little kerfuffle, and that we'll be seeing you in something else soon. It just isn't right, kids, for so many reasons. Bon nuit.

We've heard it so many times before. . .

. . . but now that I've got own rendition I have to share it.

We had to vamoose the casa today for yet another brokers' open house, and I'm trying to use these forced exits as opportunities to cover things we want to do before we leave Chicago. Today we escaped to the Chicago Botanical Gardens: Blythe likes to play hide and seek in the English Walled Garden; Ollie goes nuts for their Model Train Gardens; and I bask happily in the beauty and fragrance wherever we are. A win-win-win situation if ever there was one.

In the car on the way, though, Blythe asked if there would be a "plejalli" in Canada.

"I'm sorry, Blythe, I didn't hear you right. A what?"

"A plejalli."

"Still not getting it. What do you mean?"

"You know, like I-pledge-allegiance-to-the-flag-of-the-United-States-of [and here she astutely paused]. . . Canada?"

"No, Blythe, you won't say that in Canada. I'm not sure what you'll say. Uhh, can I ask whether you know what you're saying when you say that?"

"No. I don't know what a plejalli is. And I don't know what a jence is."

There you have it. The morphological argument for libertarianism.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Three Cheers for Celeste DiNucci!

Now a three-time champ on Jeopardy, and erstwhile grad school confrere. Both students of the Renaissance, Celeste and I used to work with the same faculty member, who (as faculty members do) left for another university. I changed dissertation topics; she changed graduate programs.

As she noted in her chat with Alex on her second appearance, Celeste hosts annual "Shakespeare Jeopardy" competitions on Shakespeare's birthday -- she's a marvel at coming up with nifty topics (such as "Name that Cuckold"). In the one I last participated in (during a party in which we also assembled a miniature of the Globe theatre, a prop I use in my teaching to this day), one category was on stage directions, and I was abashed not to have come up with the most famous of all, from A Winter's Tale: "Exit, followed by a bear." What's worse, I think a "Victorianist" came up with it (grad student egos are unconscionably fragile).

With this shame in mind, I know that despite having won again today, and racked up a sum any hungry grad student would die for, poor Celeste is now suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune -- in the form of stunned e-mails and phone calls -- having missed the first clue in a category on "characters in Shakespeare plays" -- for us, a Cliff Clavin category if ever there was one. The answer: "Benvolio, someone else I can't remember, Mercutio." Piece of cake, no? High school students across the nation delightedly barked, "What is Romeo and Juliet?"

Well, here's the funny thing: I said the same thing as Celeste, in the form of a question, at exactly the same (televised) moment: "What is Merchant of Venice?" Go figure. My aunt, whom I was helping to move today and who was on Jeopardy herself in 1986 (having missed her final Jeopardy question on languages [!], marking Spanish, not Portuguese, as the official language of Brazil), was there to witness our synchronized error and our mutual chagrin. Thankfully, we easily sussed the rest of the category, and Celeste went on to win very capably, her run of the rest of the Shakespeare answers putting her well ahead of her two competitors.

Would that knowledge of Shakespeare would generally be so lucrative! When friends humor me by calling me doctor, I retort that I am available to treat any routine Shakespeare ailments: I need a gloss on this soliloquy, stat! . . .This Troilus is not going to go away on its own . . . Yes, I'm afraid you're suffering from an acute case of Coriolanus. . . Take Two Noble Kinsmen, and call me in the morning . . . (You get the idea.)

Keep it going, Celeste! We're rooting for five acts and an enriching denouement for our spirited protagonist.

Gross Headline Pun of the Day*

White Webbing

From today's Chicago Sun-Times, hedding an article on couples who webcast their weddings.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it an 8, because the pun effectively links the two subjects of the article, but the word "webbing" isn't actually in use by the internet community (hence 2 points short); and for having put that Billy Idol song in my head, and thus making the article good to dance to. Readers unfamiliar with American Bandstand are forgiven for missing the latter allusion. Perhaps you might have caught the Sesame Street, though, in which a Billy Idol-styled muppet rocks out to the "rebel L" . . . ?

* See my July 14 post, in which I announced that I would be starting a collection of gross journalistic puns.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Swearing In

My apologies to the loyal readers who have been visiting la Jardiniere in the past few days only to keep seeing that inside joke -- i.e., a joke that only makes sense within my own perverse mind -- in which I imagined the recent G8 summit as a fantasy football match. (My thanks to those who have gotten it, and have written me to say so . . .) I continue to be swamped with last-minute diss revisions, trying to sell our house, pack, emigrate, see friends, care for my children, etc.

I also have to admit that since I started reading Language Log on a regular basis, I have started to feel the kind of creeping self-doubts that loopy literary types like myself might feel around a bunch of hard-core linguists. Like, whoa, those folks can marshal statements resembling something like fact. (As you've seen, I tend to fly off on flights of fancy close reading.)

Oh well, gotta play to my strengths, such as they are.

Like Eric Bakovic at the Log, I was immediately struck by the headline in the Times today concerning the FCC troubles PBS is facing regarding a war documentary containing, er, "salty language" spoken by soldiers (that's the Times attributing sailor talk to soldiers, not me). Censorship, and self-censorship, of the fourth estate being a recent thread here, I was of course immediately interested. In all honesty, however, my first thought was that the featured soldiers would be those either in, or having returned from, Iraq. In fact, without having clicked on the link to read the story, I projected an entire narrative -- going off on one of my flights (few emergency exits) -- in which I assumed that the profanity was related to the war campaign in which we are currently (and ostensibly indefinitely) involved: even more specifically, that what would be objectionable to federal censors about the televised profanity was not merely the words themselves, but that they were directed to a government-sponsored occupation in a show on a government-sponsored network. How could those contradictions be logistically and ideologically reconciled, I wondered?

Well, I got the story wrong. The documentary is Ken Burns' latest six-year-production-in-the-making on veterans' recollections of World War II. Remember them? "The Greatest Generation."

As Elizabeth Jensen's article reports, "A new Public Broadcasting Service policy that went into effect immediately when it was issued on May 31 requires producers whose shows are broadcast before 10 p.m. to adhere to tough editing requirements when it comes to coarse language, to comply with tightened rulings on broadcast indecency by the Federal Communications Commission." Jensen also reports that "Mr. Burns, perhaps best known for his prize-winning series 'The Civil War,' insisted that 'The War' would be shown in the preferred time slot of 8 p.m. He said he was 'flabbergasted' that F.C.C. policy was being applied to documentaries, particularly when President Bush himself was inadvertently heard using vulgar language, broadcast on some cable newscasts, at the recent Group of Eight summit meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia."

Ah, yes.

Just think of the peculiar confluence of events, preoccupations, and, yes, hypocrisies here. After all, veterans' recollections of Guadalcanal, D-Day, and the Battle of the Bulge are hardly equivalent to a "wardrobe malfunction" inadvertently broadcast on a national sporting event. And, "Swift Boat Veterans" notwithstanding, we're all aware of our President's shabby showing during his own stint in the National Guard, let alone his recently reported profanity, and media outlets' angst in reporting it. In the end, while I feel abashed to have learned that the objectionable program is not about Iraq but about World War II, I still feel as though the kind of censorship the Burns program is negotiating, whether externally or voluntarily imposed, effectively serves to squelch any discourse about the experienced realities of war, which affects any statements, perceptions, or (dare I say) critiques of the current one.

And here you will find the difference between me and the folks at Language Log. They do have more answers there, whether their statements are facts or merely resemble them. I, on the other hand, tend to raise questions, voice doubts, and air anxieties, and play fast and loose with the facts and their contexts to see connections -- like those between the G8 summit and a fantasy football match -- that others, certainly not hard-core linguists, might not see (though that backrub Dubya recently offered Angela Merkal is starting to make my cheeky reverie look increasingly plausible. . .)

While I tune in for the occasional Frontline or Charlie Rose, I still associate PBS largely with Sesame Street, the chief purveyor of language and letters for children of my generation. I recall a piece in The Onion a couple of years back, during one of the GOP's most recent attempts to squelch the network, in which the letter D was reported to have pulled his "sponsorship" of the show on account of the new gay muppet who had joined the cast. I couldn't remember the new muppet's name -- my fits of giggles must've hampered my long-term memory -- but sunny day, wishing the clouds away, here's the link. Simply brilliant.

Of the roster of muppets we are all familiar with, who do you think would be most likely to indulge in salty language? I'm envisioning a scene in Grover's dressing room in which he takes long pull on a Pall Mall non-filter, and spits contempt at the effers in Congress . . .

Helloooo everyboddeeeee!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

If the G8 Summit were an Adidas ad . . .

Now that news agencies are going for more than just the shit, it's amusing how much their attempt to transcribe the entire tete-à-tete between Bush and Blair resembles my recent series of posts in which I attempted to translate the Jose + 10 ads.

In this scenario -- the G8 as World Cup, or, perhaps more aptly in Dubya's case, a fantasy match he plays with and against the world's biggest players -- I cast Blair as the stern Jose, and Bush as the jocular Pedro (aka Gordito).

Now reimagine the conversation . . .

From the selection of players:

Bush: Putin! (Vladimir Putin, of Russia, late of the KGB Squad)

Blair: Harper! (Stephen Harper, of Canada, of the Calgary Southwest)

Bush: Juni! (Junichiro Koizumi, of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party; we'll assign Koizumi the Brazilian mononym; I think Dubya would)

Blair: Prodi! (Romano Prodi, of Italy's l'Unione, who recently edged out Silvio Berlusconi for a place on the team)

Bush: Thatcher!


(but you never know: like Beckenbauer, the Iron Lady herself just might turn up. . .)

And then the game itself:

Blair: (nudging Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkal aside) Pita! (Pardon me, Angela, but I believe the bell has rung for dinner)

Bush: Vengamos! Come! (Come on! Eat!)

Blair: Aqui, Harper! (If you could be so kind, Stephen, to pass me the salt)

Harper crosses the salt over to Blair.

Bush: Oye, Putin! (Yo, Vladster!) as he directs the Russian President's attention to the rapidly advancing Harper. Putin tackles -- okay, shoots -- him; Harper falls to the ground and considers it a foul. Putin responds with a clipped Sorry! and carries on to attempt to deliver it to Bush, but drops it.

Bush: Tu, al banquillo! (You, to the bench!) Condi, ven! (Condi, come! He calls in US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, from the bench)

Meanwhile, Merkel has collected the salt and attempts to deliver it, but falls short of the mark, complaining about the lack of coalition support. Kofi Annan, on the sidelines, raises a flag. Unfazed, Bush hollers, "GOOOOLLLL!!" (Mission accomplished!), and runs triumphantly around the room, arms in the air, while Blair and Merkel argue over whether in fact the salt reached the table.

They are still arguing over the table when George Bush, Sr., emerges, having just vomited.

Papa: Junior!

Bush: Que? (What?)

Papa: A casa! (Come home!)

Bush: Shit!

Bush reluctantly exits his fantasy, as James Baker and Brent Scowcroft suddenly appear to escort him home.

Impossible is nothing.

On the Docket: Two Presidents

I'm swamped with completing various moving-related tasks, as well as preparing the final print of my dissertation. I've been reading Language Log quite a bit these days (and have some notes on "notes to self" to send Benjamin Zimmer), and think they've got the right idea over there, to have a steady rotation of different posters . . . While I'm still flying solo here, and running into some turbulence, I present in brief what I'd like to be writing about, and hope to, when I get the chance:

¶ Do you reckon that Laura has a swear jar for Dubya? (Maybe it pays for her secret smoking habit.) As with so many things these days, I'm of many minds on the stir. That is, who gives a shit if the president says shit, so long as the Middle East is still burning? The story, of course, lies in the President's hypocrisy (as Salon reports, Bush's erstwhile media-mom, Karen Hughes, once claimed she had never heard the President swear), and the administration-wide disconnect between speech and action, policy and reality. Really, wouldn't many of us appreciate more candor, even of the four-lettered variety?

Meanwhile, as said-Zimmer notes in his notes on the shit, U.S. news outlets are having tortured bowel movements as to how they should report the story -- that is, the word -- itself. Recall I mused recently on this topic in relation to Italian soccer player's words to Zidane, and objected myself to a recent sub-hedder in Slate, which I did not reprint. Isn't it odd that words themselves should impede our reporting on them?

¶ Jack Rosenthal, President of the NYTimes Foundation, subbed for William Safire this week in Safire's Times Mag column "On Language," the same week we're getting more information about Valerie Plame (from Robert Novak, however, not Judith Miller). Any takers on a connection between Rosenthal's Sunday musings on language and the late trials and tribs of the Gray Lady? Rosenthal's lede word: insolation.

I've been meaning to start a series of responses to Safire, whose practice of philology I find pretty objectionable, but perhaps it's apt if we start with the President. Where does the buck stop?

For now, however, back to packing and editing.

Friday, July 14, 2006

sPunmeisters: A Heddy Inquiry

Why do so many news headlines pun?

I've been mulling this question for some time, because Chicago editors especially revel in punning hedders. I, too, have been guilty of a few here: for example, "Between the Posts," the hed for my "Thinking Woman's Guide to Soccer," traded on three different meanings of the word "post."
1. Between the goal posts, or the frames containing soccer goal nets, and therefore what happens on the pitch, or how soccer is played. 2. Between the blog posts, as up until then I had been posting mainly about spelling bees and so forth, and thought that that post would be a one-off on soccer (not realizing how much I would generate from the World Cup) 3. Between the legs, as I began that piece with a riff on male private parts, to lead into observations concerning masculinity and sport.

If I were really keen here (and looking for a clever segue out of the World Cup), I should have started this post with some punning quips relating journalistic hedders to headers in soccer. After all, witness the many punning heds spun about ZiZou's devastatingly macho header on Sunday. But we're trying to move on here. Also, while I have been mulling this post for some time, it was finally precipitated not by Zidane, but by an argument I had with an editor at Slate over a sub-hedder there whose pithy salaciousness (I felt) was demeaning to both writers and readers of the on-line mag, inviting responses (in Slate's reader-response feature, "The Fray") of the worst, which is to say, ad hominem, kind. (Suffice to say, I gave it a red card for unsportsmanlike conduct.) It was an interesting exchange, and we managed to reach a fairly satisfying detente (the sub-hed having since been removed) . . . but the question remains for me: why pun at all? Aren't there other ways of grabbing readers' attention?

Of course, when I first learned that in journalism, the term is "hedder," not header or headline, my first reaction related to spelling. How interesting, I thought, that this field of professional writing distinguishes itself from other fields -- indeed from Standard American English (SAE) -- through spelling. Every trade has its jargon, but here the distinction in language extends to orthography. (Someone should write a dissertation about that -- oh, that's right, I did!)

Now: I am not a journalist, and have received no formal journalistic training. I am a lit crit type, and acknowledge full-out that academics are the worst culprits when it comes to punning titles (the paper I will be presenting at the MLA this year? "Manual Labour: Learning to Read the First Literacy Textbooks" -- mea culpa). But it strikes me that what's going on with academic puns has something to do with the way we revel, as a field, in the plasticity of language, our object of study (and our need, no doubt, to show we are clever).

Journalism works from a different set of materials and objectives. (Doesn't it?) While we are well beyond the stage when we expect "just the facts," and both writers and readers are now well-versed in spin, I find it peculiar that news stories, whose authority rests on "getting the facts right" (if such a thing were possible), lead off with phrases that effectively mislead the reader, by directing the reader to other meanings of words often wholly unrelated to the story that follows.

I wonder, do some types of periodicals pun more than others? That is, if we go down the journalistic hierarchy, from the first-tier publications to the broadsheets, would we find more puns in headlines, or puns of a different variety? The English tabloids, for example, thrive on gross puns: could we associate their punning with their avowed sensationalism, and the headline decorum of the Times or the Guardian with their waning stately manner? (anybody get that one?! tee hee I am terrible) Is there an ethical connection between the semantic scrupulousness of any given paper's headlines and its pretense to a certain journalistic integrity (to the extent that punners in blogs can get away scot-free. . . did they cover this at that KosMart out in Vegas)?

In the spirit of research, I'm going to start my own collection of gross journalistic puns. Not necessarily salacious. Just interesting. (To heady nerds like me.)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

All right, I give. . . (simplement une petite blague) . . .

Whatever your stance on la tete-a-poitrine (it is time to move on), you gotta marvel at the brisk ingenuity of the folks who came up with this little fixture, within hours of the final.

N.B. July 14: The game has gotten considerably more challenging -- and less satisfying? -- since I first posted it.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Voilà: The Word from ZiZou

I am copying this from BBC Sport. Am I allowed to do this? Folks from Adidas have been looking at my blog, and I'm suddenly paranoid. A scholar by training (and a wonk at heart), I feel anxious not supplying footnotes and complete lists of Works Cited at the end of each post . . . In one of my parallel lives (though this is another post), I would be a lawyer specializing in intellectual property -- that is, as a literary scholar of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when no such thing as "copyright" existed, I find the whole concept of intellectual property pretty fascinating: how can you own an idea? A set of words?

But I digress. Yes, I am copying this post from BBC Sport -- see? the _link_ functions as the twenty-first century (hypertext) version of attribution of due credit (wow: look at all those obfuscating nominalizations, how lawyerly of me!).

If you live in the States, please watch one or two of the many tedious forensic dramas on BBC America and buy one of those lawn mowers they relentlessly advertise, so the BBC can feel as though they're getting something back from this. As for my many valued international visitors, I am now well aware that you watch BBC World, and have yet to see what landscaping tools they foist upon you (I am, after all, ever the constant gardener).

But as we say in the classroom, let's turn to the text, which was translated by the BBC (and, yes, you can count on la Jardiniere to hunt down the French and assess the translation):

Zidane explains

Zidane spoke about the headbutt incident for the first time.

France captain Zinedine Zidane was sent off in Sunday's World Cup final defeat for headbutting defender Marco Materazzi in the chest. The midfield star, who has now retired from football, appeared on French television on Wednesday to explain his actions.

Here is a translation of what he told the TV channel Canal Plus about the Materazzi incident.

Interviewer: You know the Italian players well because you played in Italy for five years. Did you have any problem with any of them beforehand?

Zinedine Zidane
: Not at all. You always have friction with certain players...that is the game, it has always been like that. But I never had any clashes with anyone.

Interviewer: Nor Materazzi?

Zinedine Zidane
: No, never. There was nothing beforehand and nothing in the match until he started pulling my jersey.

He grabbed my shirt and I told him to stop. I told him if he wanted I'd swap it with him at the end of the match.

That is when he said some very hard words, which were harder than gestures. He repeated them several times. It all happened very quickly and he spoke about things which hurt me deep down.

Interviewer: Everyone wants to know exactly what he said...

Zinedine Zidane
: They were very serious things, very personal things.

Interviewer: About your mother and your sister?

Zinedine Zidane: Yes. They were very hard words. You hear them once and you try to move away.

But then you hear them twice, and then a third time... I am a man and some words are harder to hear than actions. I would rather have taken a blow to the face than hear that.

: He said these things about your mother and sister two or three times?

Zinedine Zidane
: Yes. I reacted and of course it is not a gesture you should do. I must say that strongly.

It was seen by two or three billion people watching on television and millions and millions of children.

It was an inexcusable gesture and to them, and the people in education whose job it is to show children what they should and shouldn't do, I want to apologise.

Interviewer: You apologise to them but do you really regret having done it?

Zinedine Zidane: I can't regret it because if I do it would be like admitting that he was right to say all that. And above all, it was not right.

We always talk about the reaction, and inevitably it must be punished. But if there is no provocation, there is no reaction.

First of all you have to say there is provocation, and the guilty one is the one who does the provoking. The response is to always punish the reaction, but if I react, something has happened.

Do you imagine that in a World Cup final like that, with just 10 minutes to go to the end of my career, I am going to do something like that because it gives me pleasure?

Interviewer: No of course not. But at the moment you exploded...

Zinedine Zidane: There was provocation, and it was very serious, that is all. My action was inexcusable but you have to punish the real culprit, and the real culprit is the one who provoked it. Voilà.

Yes, voilà. I have to give some thought to this, and, as always, welcome your comments.

A demain.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Prayer for Midnight's Children

La Jardiniere has had the honor of receiving many visitors from India. My thoughts go out to those suffering in Mumbai. Be well.

Pulling no punches

A compelling graf (rare these days) from The New Republic:

. . . Zizou turned, then crucially, he paused. This was no red mist--as neither was there in [Eric] Cantona's moment in 1995; back then Cantona had paused too, considering his best options (which turned out to be studs to sternum--we still shout, hurrah for it!). What was in Zidane's pause, more than a decade later? A consideration of centuries of unfairness, years of cheating and back-passes and Cattenacio, of Mussolini and the horrors of Sicily and rats in Naples; of the current, only-in-Italy scandals of entire organizations paying off referees; of how Fiat cars rust before all others; of grown men attending business meetings in leather shoes of the highest quality, but no socks? Against this Zinedine might have weighed the power of French wine, the sweep of the Loire, the heroic Résistance, and Paris. He was charged, at that instant, with bringing intellect to bear upon brutes--he used his mind against muscle, he had no choice--he, in the words of The New York Times, "approached Materazzi and head-butted him in the sternum." Oh, oh, down my joy, my heart! We were so proud of you, Zizou! Even the Times thought to choose its words carefully--the sternum!--the exact locus of Cantona's studs years earlier--Zidane, at that instant, showed how well he knew his history. It was not a cheap shot, Mr. Z--we love you for the cost of that pause--in that pause, you spoke to us all, all of us straining in our own lives against the inane, against hatred, against the numbing power of negativity.

Source: Luke Dempsey, TNR Online

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones . . .

. . . but calling ZiZou a "terrorist" is really gonna hurt.

Am I alone in feeling sadly ruminative since the final? In part, of course, because it's over now, and we all have to wait another four years -- not just the U.S. team. Well, not quite. Like the summer and winter Olympics, the European championships take place in the off-even years between the World Cup (the next tournament in 2008): a stop-gap for those of us who support European sides (and also fear having to see our sides play Argentina and Brazil).

But the dust -- and our stomachs? -- haven't yet settled over Zinedine Zidane's precipitous sending off on Sunday. Accounts from the conventional press have by and large (1) made it the sub-hedder (2) only referred, ever so briefly, to an "exchange of words" between Materazzi and Zidane (3) have not reported what those words were and (4) attempted simultaneously to venerate Zidane (from pre-match copy planned for "farewell" encomia?) and to condemn him for his actions.

Oddly, I can relate to the journalistic schizophrenia -- who hasn't furrowed their brow, and yet felt peculiarly gratified, upon hearing that Zidane was awarded the Golden Ball of the tournament? It doesn't feel right, and yet . . . hmmm.

Here's where my site monitor becomes an interesting index of where the conventional press is missing the ball. Many are arriving here now due to Google searches the likes of "reason head-butt Zidane," "Zidane sending off Materazzi," "why Zidane headbutt red card."

People are looking for answers.

In the most crass, or "crash," sense -- the kind that makes us leer at car wrecks -- people are looking for the actual words Materazzi said. After all, we know why Zidane was sent off -- a head-butt for the ages. We want to know what made him lunge. In Aristotelian terms, we know the material cause, what the thing is. What we're after are the efficient and (I suppose the pun here is inevitable) the final causes, what made the event happen, and why.

And it's not just the conventional press that's being evasive. Zidane himself (as of this writing) has not come forward to report what was said. Yet witness the wonder of Materazzi's own statement:

"It is absolutely not true, I did not call him a terrorist," Materazzi told Italian news agency Ansa.

"I'm ignorant. I don't even know what the word means.

"The whole world saw what happened on live TV."
Source: Sky Sports

Is Materazzi speaking philosophically here? Can we really believe that a 32-year-old European man does not know what the word "terrorist" means? I've devoted ample space in this blog to conducting translations (could we really be dealing with language barriers here?), but cannot come up with a lexicon to interpret these words, spoken in Anno Domini 2006.

A friend recently praised my posts on the World Cup, specifically how I haven't "lapsed into academic density." I fear I am regressing here, but also fear that we're seeing density abound -- on the part of Materazzi, on the part of the press, on the part of those who would feel Zidane were somehow justified (if that's indeed what Materazzi called him), as well as those who pontificate that there's "no excuse" for Zidane's actions.

So for those looking for answers, I have none here (density indeed), only guesses and hunches at how this incident is playing in our murky post 9/11 world.

My gut tells me that journalists are being evasive because no small part of us wants to shield this revered athletic competition from the real-world troubles of terrorism. I wonder, in fact, whether FIFA -- whose motto for the tournament was "A time to make new friends . . . Say no to racism" -- has been working round the clock to discourage inquests and analyses of this kind. ZiZou said no, all right. We all witnessed it. His reaction taps into our doubts about how exactly one should respond to terrorism (a problem we can only trust our leaders are working round the clock to solve).

His violent response, however, strikes us as intolerable, especially when we acknowledge that he was responding -- only? -- to words. Here's where the PC police (the Anti-Defamation League?) ought to issue a statement, if (only) to clarify for us when and how language really matters. Is there such a thing as verbal terrorism? Or are crimes against property the only ones we can prosecute?

Several weeks ago, I was taken aback when I unrolled the morning's Chicago Sun-Times to two competing headlines: on the top, in bold red, "Sears Tower Terrorist Plot" (discovered and foiled), taking up a quarter, maybe a third of the front page; more than half of the page was devoted to the Chicago White Sox coach Ozzie Guillen's MLB suspension, for his indecorous characterization of sports columnist Jay Marriotti. This struck me as wrong, that the ill-chosen words of a baseball coach should be allotted more space than a terrorist plot that would have affected all of Chicagoland, if not the nation and the world. Then, as now, though, I stopped to consider the power of words, and whether my personal response was justified. After all, a PhD in English, and a specialist in its history, my business is language, and my job entails trumping up its significance.

The doctor has no answers here, however, only more questions.

¶ What should Zidane have done, under the circumstances? Lunge for the ball, not Materazzi, for sure, but how else can one respond to such despicable slurs? Hail the ref? Tell the press? The situation calls for fresh analyses of a tournament previously, and widely, excoriated for the practice of diving.

¶ Would printing what Materazzi said have been tantamount to endorsing it? Does repressing language effectively negate its import, or only call more attention to it? I think of the old BBC injunction on IRA operatives: that is, perversely, the BBC would dub the voices of Sinn Fein leaders with that of a properly English speaker. I hardly think the policy prevented another Omagh or Enniskillen.

True to form (i.e., not shying from controversy), English tabloids such as the Daily Mail have employed lip-readers (conversant in Italian, no less) to translate what Materazzi said. And yet, I myself feel squeamish about reprinting them, or even supplying the links. I have to think about it. For now, however, you know what to search for. . . hope it gives you some answers.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Forza Italia! Viva la Azzurri!

I had the kids for much of the final, so I can't say I saw every moment of the match. That said:

The five worst moments of the World Cup 2006 final:

¶ When I learned that Dave O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa would be calling it. I'm sorry (and while I praised Robert Weintraub's article in Slate on the U.S. team, I disagree with him on this score): for a tournament of this magnitude, there shouldn't have to be a learning curve. Thankfully, I was watching the match at our local, the Celtic Knot, in Evanston, IL, where most of their inanities were drowned out by the crowd.

¶ Thierry Henry's substitution -- for his initial head injury, less than a minute into the match? Or a leg injury? Dunno. But a loss for France and World Cup fans alike.

¶ Francesco Totti's substitution. Ditto (except for the bit about the French fans.)

¶ Without a doubt, Zinedine Zidane's sending off, for head-butting (sort-of) Marco Materazzi. (1) You knew France was going to be in tough shape once their captain was sent off. (2) It's a shame to see ZiZou leave his last match for retirement under such circumstances, especially as . . . (3) To my knowledge, he was responding to Materazzi having called him "a filthy Arab" (so much for the World Cup theme of "A time to make friends. . . say no to racism"). I certainly hope to learn that that was not the case.

¶ That the match went to penalties. Call me crazy, but (again, in a match of this magnitude), I want to see the players fighting it out for a Golden Goal, until they're bleeding and crawling on the field, and the medics are coming out with defibrillators.

The five best moments of the World Cup 2006 final:

¶ Overheard at the Knot, (most evidently) from a French fan: "You remember when England invaded the Falklands?" "Yeah." "Well, Italy surrendered just in case."

That's why you go to your local (even when you've got a wide-screen TV the size of Cook County. . .)

¶ My husband stuffed the raffle box. . . (Shhhhhhh)

¶ Again, overheard: "If that had been an England player giving a head-butt, Materazzi would be lying bloodied on the pitch. If yer going to head-butt, finish 'em off."

¶ That spectacular Zidane-Buffon exchange: brilliant midair header by Zidane, breathtaking save by (Italian goalie) Buffon. Truly a clash of the Titans that should go down for the ages, if Zidane's sending off doesn't (sadly) eclipse it.

¶ That the match went to penalties. I knew that if France couldn't win during regular play, we would see a master class in goaltending from the phenomenal Gianluigi Buffon (I said as much in my post on the quarters, going so far as to say then that they would be indomitable). Give Buffon the Golden Ball.

For now, though, the entire Italian team is caressing the World Cup*. I look forward to the analyses . . . after all, it can't be over, not yet!

* In my original post, I called the trophy "Jules Rimet." A keen reader corrected me: the trophy has not been so called since the 1970 tournament, won by Brazil. Brazil was permanently awarded the trophy then, for being the first national team to win the tournament three times. Sadly, the trophy was stolen and melted down by thieves (in 1966, after England won, the cup was lost and found by a dog named 'Pickles' [!]). Just as well, then, that Jules rests in peace and the FIFA World Cup Trophy remains unscathed.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Dr. Dujardin's Definitive Translation of the Adidas Jose + 10 Ads

(World Cup Final Edition)

The doctor is in.

I defended my dissertation on Friday. (Successfully.) In the spirit of this capstone experience (a pleasure I could hardly deny my readers), I submit the final draft of the Adidas Jose + 10 ad, which I first proposed and outlined on June 14, drafted and revised on June 21, and have enjoyed as thousands of world-wide readers have since poured in (many more than my dissertation will ever see!). A final edition only seems fitting on the day of the World Cup clash between France and Italy, a match I could see going either way. I'm rooting for good football.

As with the PhD, this accomplishment would not have been possible without the help of many careful readers (in this case, none of whom I know personally): my thanks to Brian Bremen, "thetraytiger," Jordan, Jan from Germany, and several other anonymous posters for their shrewd input on the ad. I will note where each has contributed here, but please go to the comments section of the last draft to see their notes in full.

Dramatis personae:

¶ Jose
¶ Jose's amigo Pedro, aka Gordito
¶ A world-wide roster of professional footballers (sponsored by Adidas . . . after all, they ain't playing for charity!)

You can see "Jose" and "Pedro's" audition here:

As I noted, however, responding to an anonymous poster who pointed out that Jose's friend is named Pedro, I have yet to hear his name actually spoken in any version of the ad: has anyone? For me, he remains Gordito: cheeky, I know, but I'm very fond of the boy, whose imperious demands and loose body language bring his character into sharper focus than Jose's over the course of the match.

One more time, for posterity, the ad goes like this:

I. Equipo (the team)

As the ad opens, Gordito is bored, chilling out in an old arm chair (next to an abandoned car) outside, as Jose bounces a soccer ball off the wall nearby.

Gordito: Jose? Jugamos?/ Jose? Shall we play?

Jose: Si/ Yes.

The scene cuts to the courtyard where Jose and Gordito play even-odds to see who gets first pick of the players. As "Jordan" posted: "I think the game that they play is called shooting fingers, or odds/evens in English, and the "pares" means "evens." . . . On 'three,' they both hold out either 1 or 2 fingers. If the sum is even, whomever called evens/pares wins (2 in 3 chance)."

Gordito: Pares -- uno, dos y tres!/ Evens -- one, two, and three! (They each shoot some fingers, Jose loses the draw.)

Jose: Ach!/ Ach! (the international language of frustration). Gordito gets first pick; the players arrive, running in from various angles of the courtyard, some in their native team gear, some in their club kits, and some in more casual warm-ups.

G: Cisse!/ Djubril Cisse, of France, who broke his leg just prior to the Cup, and so will not appear in today's final against Italy. [Cisse played for Liverpool, but as of 7/11, will be going on loan to Marseilles.]

J: Kaka!/ Kaka, of Brazil (remember, lots of them go by one name), who plays for AC Milan.

G: Zidane!/ Zinedine Zizane (Zizou), captain of France, who is planning to retire after Sunday's final, both from national play and Real Madrid.

J: Beckham!/ David Beckham, captain of England until their loss to Portugal; also at Real Madrid (quite a powerhouse).

G: Defoe!/ Jermaine Defoe, a forward for the Tottenham Hotspurs, who was not selected to play for England in the Cup. . . tsk, tsk, Sven!

J: Kahn!/ Oliver Kahn, German goal-keeper, who won the "Golden Ball" (ringing Austin Powers?) at the 2002 World Cup, but was controversially benched in this tournament in favor of Jens Lehman; Kahn plays for Bayern Munich.

G: Messi!/ Lionel Messi, of Argentina and FC Barcelona.

J: Mm, Beckenbauer!

G: . . . [realizing what Jose had just said] Beckenbauer!? ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

The joke that they're sharing is that Jose has selected the player Franz Beckenbauer -- which sounds like "bake-un-bow-yea" in their idiom -- who was a German star (and former national team manager) from the late sixties and seventies (and an Adidas icon to boot). Just when they're laughing, however, Beckenbauer turns up, in the era-appropriate kit (and his old number, 5). Oliver Kahn is especially dumb-struck, and Beckenbauer approaches him first to shake his hand. Still a neat moment.

But having cottoned on to the kids' m.o., Zidane whispers in Gordito's ear the name of a French football icon from the late seventies and eighties, Michel Platini -- G: Platini! -- who duly arrives to hug his no. 10 heir, Zidane (i.e., Germans don't hug. . . though I know they could use one now. . .).

The players are stretching, smiling, and getting to know each other while they warm up, but Jose and Gordito are all business.

G: Oye, Defoe!/ Listen up, Defoe! Gordito throws Defoe the goalie gear, surprising -- and amusing -- because, as I've noted, Defoe is a forward; but we've established that these are the kids' teams, as Jose then makes explicit.

J: [the coin toss; Cisse stoops to pick it up; Jose swipes it from his hands] Soy capitan!/ I'm the captain!

G: [calling out to his players behind him] Oye, cuatro cuatro dos!/ Four four two! The standard soccer line up of four defenders, four midfielders, then two forwards, or strikers.

J: [to his team, very seriously] Cuidado Cisse, porque el corre muy rapido. . . vale? vale. / Watch out for Cisse, because he runs very fast . . . All right? All right. (Cisse nods and wags his finger in agreement). On this exchange, an anonymous poster generously contributes: "in the part where you say Jose says "Cuidado" I'm hearing "El cuidad con (something something)" but at least the meaning is still there =]." Further comments?

G: [pointing to two players in his backfield] Lampard, Robben, venga, ramos!/ Lampard, Robben, come on, to the wings! (or sides, of the pitch, with a gesture that tells them to switch -- which they do).

And that's Frank Lampard, of England and Chelsea (who has no reason to smile these days -- as he does in the photo above -- given the way he played for England in the tournament); and Arjen Robben, of the Netherlands and Chelsea (uh huh, another powerhouse).

II. Partido (the game)

The match begins when Jose shoves German player Michael Ballack to the side and says either pita!/ the whistle (has blown), or quita!, get back, referring to the ten yard clearance rule; "thetraytiger" hears quita, I still hear pita -- regardless, Jose takes the first touch and play begins.

G:Vengamos! Venga, corre!/ Let's go! Come on, run!

Jose tackles -- okay, trips -- the rapidly advancing Robben, who considers it a foul. Jose shrugs off his protest with a clipped sorry! to continue play.

J: (dwarfed by opponents) Aqui, Beckham!/ Here, Beckham! (who produces his trademark bending cross; I take it Jose doesn't ask much of him defensively).

Kaka ends up with the ball, advances, shoots, and Defoe -- remember, a forward -- manages to deflect it, with a laugh. Jose, disappointed in Kaka, orders, Tu, al banquillo!/ You, to the bench! -- in which the joke is who benches Kaka?! -- but then he shouts, Duff, ven! / Duff, come! Damien Duff, of Ireland and Chelsea, comes in off the bench. Play continues.

G: Oye, Zidane!/ Hey, Zidane! (whom he passes the ball). Zidane. . . eventually to Cisse. As Cisse heads up the wing, Capitan Gordito yells A Lampard!/ To Lampard! (thank you, anonymous poster), who is running up the center and ready for a cross.

Lampard collects the cross and shoots; the goalie, Kahn, grabs it.

G: Gol!

Kahn: "Nooooo!"

Lampard and Gordito's team consider it a goal. Kahn disagrees, and argues with Jose over the goal line. As Brian Bremen brought to my attention, this goal recreates the controversial cross-bar goal from World Cup 1966, won by England over Germany (funny how the English celebrate such a dodgy triumph). But as "Jan" from Germany added here, Kahn is saying "'hey, der war auf der linie, der ball!' which means as much as 'hey, the ball didn't cross the line!'" (danke schon, Jan!) Kahn and Jose are arguing when . . .

Jose's mother calls from the balcony: Jose!

J: Que?!/ What?

Jose's mom: A casa!!/ Come home! He shakes his head and throws up his arm in disappointment, and heads for home, as the camera pulls back to reveal noone on the "pitch," save for Jose and Gordito, reluctantly exiting their fantasy. . . Interestingly, I find it hard to pick out Gordito here, though assume he is there: was he part of the fantasy?

As we draw to a conclusion here, I want to add once again that in translating the ad to the letter (so to speak), I am aware that I am violating the spirit of the ad, which rightly supposes that kids all over the globe -- and fully-fledged grown-ups -- play "fantasy football," so that you don't need to know what Jose and his friend are saying to "get" the ad. But knowing what they are saying, and appreciating the sly wit rendered by the kids' particular choices, adds an additional level of fun, no doubt. I truly have yet to tire of it, especially given how slyly Adidas has put out the ad in so many different versions.

A round-up of other related information:

¶ You can see the making of the ad here, which includes other players not mentioned in the ad:

Can someone translate Kaka? Truly, a blur to me, given that Portuguese slurrrrs the sharp consonants of Spanish.

Such humble and generous readers! Since I posted this earlier today, an anonymous contributor has answered the call: "Found Kaka's translation on Adidas Performance's website in the Behind the Scene clip: 'They were great. They obviously played around, they are kids and want to have fun. They were good actors and behaved very well during the recording. They were truly fantastic children.'" Fantastico! Muchas gracias! (You'll still see this post in the comments . . .)

¶ In the first half of the ad, the tune is D'aloutte, by RJD2, which you can get on iTunes. In the second half -- that skimming "If you don't give my football back, I'm gonna get my Dad on you. . ." -- is by Jim Noir, the tune Eanie Meany. I have skimmed my way through many days since with that tune.

¶ As for Adidas, its initial press release for the ad can be found here.

That article includes the full roster of Adidas athletes appearing in "Impossible Team," many of whom I don't mention (or picture) here:

José’s team:

Michael Ballack Germany, FC Bayern Munich
Franz Beckenbauer Germany
David Beckham England, Real Madrid CF
Du-Ri Cha Korea Republic, Eintracht Frankfurt
Damian Duff Ireland, Chelsea FC
Steven Gerrard England, Liverpool FC
Kaká Brazil, AC Milan
Oliver Kahn Germany, FC Bayern Munich
Juan Román Riquelme Argentina, Villarreal CF
Bastian Schweinsteiger Germany, FC Bayern Munich
Patrick Vieira France, Juventus Turin

Pedro’s team:

Djibril Cissé France, Liverpool FC
Jermain Defoe England, Tottenham Hotspur
Kevin Kuranyi Germany, FC Schalke
Frank Lampard England, Chelsea FC
Michel Platini France
Shunsuke Nakamura Japan, Celtic Glasgow
Alessandro Nesta Italy, AC Milan
Lukas Podolski Germany, FC Köln
Raúl Spain, Real Madrid CF
Arjen Robben The Netherlands, Chelsea FC
David Trézéguet France, Juventus
Zinédine Zidane France, Real Madrid CF

Also, there is also an article on the English-language site of the German periodical Der Spiegel.

I myself am waiting to read a follow-up piece on how Adidas fared as a result of this ad (and, who knows, may write one myself . . .), though it would be hard to sort out the Adidas sales from this ad from the fact that Germany hosted the World Cup (Adidas is a German company). I trust there are people employed to do this kind of sorting.

¶ If you pick through the FIFA World cup site, you can find World Cup (and Adidas sponsored) players' "+ 10," or fantasy teams.

Michael Ballack's, for example, is here:

Lionel Messi's

Zinedine Zidane's

Franz Beckenbauer's

David Beckham's

¶ Finally, do read the international comments posted about the ad on YouTube, e.g.: spettacolo, or spectacular, in Italian; simplesmente fantastico, simply fantastic, in Portuguese; Que grande anuncio y grande cancion! What a great ad, and a great song, in Spanish; and (we'll let the Germans have the last word here), Ich find sie ganz cool, I find this pretty cool.

Those comments, as well as the number of countries represented thus far by readers in this blog, testify to the truly global reach of the World Cup. Kinda neat, and as I've said, a great way to feel as if I'm participating in this quadrennial event.

Looking forward to a good final today: Vale? Vale.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Jonesing for a Star

This morning I told my daughter that "Mommy passed her test yesterday." Blythe gave me a big squeeze (ahh), and, then, back to all business, asked if she could see my star.

"My star?"

"Yeah, if you passed your test they have to give you a star. Can I see it?"

For once I could think of nothing to say. Parenting is kind of an on-going defense, innit?

Friday, July 07, 2006

De-fense! De-fense!

No, I'm not talking about Italy's back line.

I just defended my dissertation.

Call me Doctor Jardiniere. . .

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Calling Malcolm Gladwell?

Just kidding. I used to like his New Yorker articles, but think his books are kinda silly, and his persona even more so.

The reason I ask, though, is that la Jardiniere has indeed passed a tipping point, now welcoming between three and four hundred unique visitors a day -- that, despite the fact that I have been consumed with preparing for my dissertation defense and have been posting very sparingly. (And England is out of the World Cup: I did manage to call the France-Italy final, though, no? Looking forward to it.)

I am under no delusion that visitors are pouring in to read about my preparations to move to Kingston, Ontario (though, funny enough, MalGlad was born in England and raised in Ontario). No, my guests are coming for Jose. Plus 10. And then some. And some more.

Having benefited from the wisdom of several visitors who have contributed their thoughts on what is said in the ad, I do plan to post a final edition of the translation (before the final, but after I defend).

Here's my question, though: why has la Jardiniere suddenly been graced by so many visitors from Asia? At this very moment, visitors from Taiwan amount to nearly 60% of the blog's readers, followed by Singapore and Hong Kong. I have noted how very few countries remain unaccounted for here, and how delighted I am to participate in the World Cup through the passing and volleying related to that post. But I am unavoidably curious as to how and why my blog has suddenly found such a readership out east (so to speak).

My theory is that the Adidas ads have just started to be shown there, and thus just sparked an interest in their translation.

But please, kindly visitors from Asia: enlighten me! Do me the honor of telling me how you have come to la Jardiniere . . . I am interested in how these blogs go viral . . . More than anything, however, I am grateful for your attendance.

Who needs a PhD in English, when American Idol and the World Cup supply such rich material?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

There Will Always Be an England . . .

No joke, one of the headlines from today's issue of The Sun:

I cut Ronaldo's nuts off
Racehorse owner has colt named Ronaldo gelded in red card revenge


This is for you, Sandra. . . grrrrrr

We're all trying to get past England's loss, I know, and the fact that England continues to repeat history -- well beyond tragedy and well into farce -- is worth remembering. I, for one, lay a great portion of blame for this particular exit at Sven's feet. Sure, Lampard stank up the joint. Also, one would like to think that had Beckham not torn his Achilles, he would have played the captain's role in diffusing the situation that led to Rooney's sending off. Finally, the loss contained all the hallmark features of a typical England tournament: 1. The critical player (Rooney) gets injured before the tournament, putting everything up in the air, and putting the English players themselves on edge. 2. England gets to the quarters, not without a little drama, but they get there. 3. Said critical player gets red carded, and is sent off. 4. The quarterfinal match goes to penalties, which they lose.

It's just silly, how many times I've seen this script replayed.

But Sven's tactics played a huge role in their questionable play throughout the tournament: that is, Sven chose to bring a forward (Theo Walcott) he never intended to play (just insanity, at a World Cup), which forced him to use that ludicrous 3-5-1 formation once Michael Owen was injured. If you have the right forwards, you're scoring, and it doesn't go to penalties. Further, had Sven had more strikers in -- er, why sub Crouch with Carragher, when the match is likely to go to penalties?? -- they might not have bombed the penalties so badly. While Rooney is famous for his temper, and I don't forgive him for that, noone was there to get him the ball, and if there's one thing Rooney doesn't do, it's dive -- which he could've easily done during the play in question. He wants that ball, and will stay on his feet to fight for it and play on.

Having said that, then, it's come to my attention that some of my mates haven't seen the replay of this critical scene concerning his sending off, so I have to present this. (Thank you, Sandra, a Leicester lass, for making me break my silence -- it was hard to talk about for a couple of days there . . . though perhaps the rest of you aren't so grateful!) I am now to the point where I do look forward to the next three matches. . . if Germany and Portugal lose, that is . . . Bile churning. . . grrrrrr . . . and of course this is all a creative distraction from the fact that I defend my dissertation on Friday . . .

But let's take a moment to review:

Just galling. No doubt, Ronaldo cannot return to Man U.

Nice to see Alan Shearer again, though. . . (mmm).

And the qualifiers for Euro 2008 start in a month.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Bright Side of Life?

Too gutted for words. Enjoy this instead.

Though aptly (at this moment), my favorite bit is when former England captain Alan Shearer red cards the ref.

11:21 a.m. CDT: 61' in England v. Portugal

I know it ain't over til it's over. . .But it's over. Rooney was just red carded. I've come outside, can't even watch.

Something like this happens every tournament.

In fact (trying to cool down here), maybe this is why the World Cup takes place every four years. It takes that long to get over the regrets of the last one.

103': After two extra-time periods, it's going to penalty kicks, which favors Portugal, no doubt. I have yet to see England win a match on penalties; Beckham is off, injured; and the remaining English players are dog tired.

I have been whiling away the rest of the match by playing Monopoly with my daughter. Ever the innovative competitor, Blythe came up with a rule that the bank pays you when you buy a house. Considering our current real estate woes, I found the new rule pretty gratifying (even though I still lost). On to the penalties.

It's over.

Today's World Cup Quarters

The two matches today: Germany v. Argentina, and Italy v. Ukraine; Germany and Italy move on to the semis. Two powerhouse teams that, historically speaking, you wouldn't be surprised to see in the final weeks of any World Cup. But my impressions from each match are surprising to me: that is, Germany is vulnerable, and watch out for Italy. Not at all what I was expecting to see from the day's play.

I admit I missed the first half of the Germany match to take my daughter to have her cast removed (she had broken her arm). I saw the second half, however, which was the half worth watching, apparently. Argentina scored first (the score was nil-nil at half time) -- but then proceeded, unexpectedly, to lose the plot. By contrast, it's always interesting to watch Germany react to such dire circumstances -- i.e., when they're down, on the home pitch -- because the Germans are an inherently cautious team, much preferring to take risks early on to score once, and then to sit on that score (often quite literally) in front of their net. For this reason, it was exciting to see the German players show some zeal (or anxiety), and to see whether they would in fact rebound effectively after Argentina's first goal.

I personally don't think Germany won the match, which went to penalty kicks in the end. Rather, Argentina lost the match -- they got disorganized, verklempt, not only allowing a German equalizer, but also failing to mount any subsequent offense (which sent the match into penalties). Was (Lionel) Messi's absence truly felt there? Possibly. It's hard to say what happened there, other than that they dithered between playing predominantly offensively or defensively, and ended up playing neither effectively.

But Italy shoud take heart from the Germans' lack of command in this match, when the Azzurri confront them early next week. Indeed Italy looked possessed in their match against the Ukraine.

The Italian side is suffering from a series of handicaps, including the injury sustained by their galvanizing full-back, Nesta, and the Azzurri legitimately verklempt by the recent suicide attempt by former teammate Gianluca Pessotto. I hadn't considered them a favorite until now -- but now see them as potentially indomitable, especially if Nesta returns. Watching the Ukrainian Andrei Schevchenko is like watching a master class in soccer; but the Italians played like a world-class team, offensively, defensively, and their goalie Gianluigi Buffon, truly inspirational.

That said, however, home-pitch advantage lends all sorts of odd powers, and Germany may come back roaring from the team's near defeat. In the meantime, we have yet to see England play Portugal -- to settle the score from Euro 2004 -- and France play Brazil -- a rematch of the World Cup final in 1998. The Portuguese are even more disabled than Italy in this next match, what with the slew of red cards handed out their chief players in their win over Holland. But as the Italians have proven, sometimes adversity proves the best possible motivator; and the England team is famous for blowing a sure thing. As for France and Brazil -- yeesh, I call Brazil, but hold in my mind the fact that no South American team has ever won a major tournament on European soil.

I had thought the Germany/Argentina match would be one for the ages (it wasn't), so feel apprehensive about saying the France/Brazil match might be. At this point, the greatest suspense lies in seeing what each clash of the Titans -- for no Cinderella teams remain, only the usual suspects -- might turn out to be . . . (how's that for a mixed metaphor?!). Enjoy.