To shakespeare, or not to shakespeare

Just to have it written down….

I use this word with some frequency; I’m not sure if I’m the first to use it though.

shakespeare, v. prank by means of inserting a line from Shakespeare’s works into a conversation

The Hamlet-and-Polonius scene (fishmonger, clouds, what do you read?) is very good for this. Hamlet in general is quite good for this, actually. Although obviously the sophistication of the shakespearing increases with the obscurity of the work referenced. Use of the sonnets earns bonus points.

A successful shakespearing requires generally that the victim is unfamiliar with Shakespeare, or at least does not see it coming, and that there is at least one other person present who is familiar with Shakespeare and thus laughs. This reminds me of Henry Fowler’s definition of irony:

Irony is a form of utterance that postulates a double audience, consisting of one party that hearing shall hear & shall not understand, & another party that, when more is meant than meets the ear, is aware both of that more & of the outsiders’ incomprehension.

Police blotter inanity

From the blotters of the 24th and 21st.

El Camino Real and Peninsula Avenue, 8:37 p.m. A deer was reported but gone when police arrived.

4200 block of South El Camino Real, 8:04 a.m. last Wednesday A person who tried to talk to a man drinking from a bottle outside a pharmacy told police that all the man would say is, “Yes, Mom.”

“A short historical list of obscure prescriptivist bugbears”

Courtesy of Mark Liberman and his UPenn LING 001 course from Fall 2011. Specifically, his Lecture 3.

What part of this passage from Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia did “a London commentator” object to?

I only mean to suggest a doubt, whether the bulk and faculties of animals depend on the side of the Atlantic on which their food happens to grow, or which furnishes the elements of which they are compounded? [. . .] I am induced to suspect, there has been more eloquence than sound reasoning displayed in support of this theory; that it is one of those cases where the judgment has been seduced by a glowing pen: and whilst I render every tribute of honor and esteem to the celebrated Zoologist, who has added, and is still adding, so many precious things to the treasures of science, I must doubt whether in this instance he has not cherished error also, by lending her for a moment his vivid imagination and bewitching language.

So far the Count de Buffon has carried this new theory of the tendency of nature to belittle her productions on this side of the Atlantic. Its application to the race of whites, transplanted from Europe, remained for the Abbe Raynal.

The answer? Continue reading ““A short historical list of obscure prescriptivist bugbears””

Police blotter inanity

Haven’t done this for a while.

From the blotters of the 13th, 15th, and 16th inst:

Pilarcitos and Oak avenues, 11:56 a.m. Wednesday A juvenile in possession of a small amount of marijuana was walking with three others when an officer saw him exhale smoke from an apple. The juveniles and their parents were contacted as a result.

200 block of San Mateo Drive, 4:39 p.m. Wednesday A car was damaged by someone who placed a boulder on the hood.

1500 block of California Drive, 8:18 a.m. Monday Responding to what appeared to be a messenger bag left in front of a school, police located diapers inside.

Walnut Avenue near Paseo Padre Parkway, 3:30 a.m. Tuesday According to police, a male apparently fell asleep with a lit cigarette that came in contact with spilled vodka and set fire to his shirt. He was treated for burns that are not life-threatening.

Multiple locations, 8:38-11:45 p.m. Saturday Loud music complaints were reported on Redwood Avenue, Charter Street, Chestnut Street, Willow Street, Arguello and Alden streets, Grand Street, Hopkins Avenue, Broadway, Stambaugh and Buckeye streets, Seventh Avenue, Moonbeam Lane, Hoover Street, Oak Avenue, Quartz Street, and Belle Avenue and Rolison Road.

And then there is this old gem, from the blotter of March 5th, which deserves placement in a hall of fame of some sort:


1163 San Carlos Ave., 2:04 p.m. Friday A man who ran up a $70 food tab at Sneaker’s Restaurant and then out the door afterward without paying, was located and arrested on Elm and Cherry street. Further investigation revealed the man was on parole in Marin County.

(They call that “WTF coordination” over at Language Log. But this one is particularly egregious.)

Alcohol genes

It turns out that severe flushing reactions to alcohol (such as my mother has) are mediated by a mutated allele in the ALDH2 gene.

ALDH2 encodes for aldehyde dehydrogenase (hence the name), a crucial enzyme in the ethanol → acetaldehyde → acetic acid pathway. The defective iso-enzyme causes a buildup of acetaldehyde (causing the flush) and may be a risk factor for esophageal cancer—acetaldehyde is a known potent carcinogen. (My maternal great-grandfather, a drinker, died of esophageal cancer.)

The 23andMe SNP genotype includes a locus in ALDH2, and the 23andMe page on ALDH2/Alcohol Flush Reaction is pretty informative (better than the Wikipedia page, even). They do not, however, test at ADH1B, which encodes alcohol dehydrogenase (does exactly what its name suggests); according to them, these two genes essentially determine one’s alcohol sensitivity.