"The Americans," Walt Whitman predicted, will be "the most fluent and melodious-voiced people in the world -- and the most perfect users of words." \nWhile we wince as Tony Soprano wields a single Chaucerian vulgarity as noun, verb, adjective and adverb, it is easy to wonder over the poet's wisdom. Perhaps, however, wishful Walt did anticipate something terribly prevalent in the American character: our poignant desire to sound genteel, our sincere pursuit of stylish pronunciation, our flirtation with the fancy. \nAnd with the French. We are convinced that the French are haughty, stinky and perverse, and we deplore their government's unreliability as an ally. But we go gaga over their language. We call our coffeehouses "caf?s" and our dress shops "boutiques." We don't have drivers; we have "chauffeurs." (These words we pronounce perfectly, just as we do rendezvous, coup d'?tat, derri?re and m?nage ? trois.) \nTo name the galaxy of intimate female apparel, we adopted the French word lingerie. But its pronunciation we utterly mangle. (The vendeuse in Galeries Lafayette in Paris has no idea what the "lawn-zheray" department is.) To do it right, we need simply take our own "tangerine," replace the "t" with an "l" and drop the second "n." Voila! But instead, we came up with a bastardized pronunciation that seems to sound more Gallic. \nIt is probably the soup?on of nasalizing in the first syllable of lingerie that undermines our saying it correctly. (Ditto with ing?nue.) But how do we explain our bungling of that final syllable? Could it be that the sound of the French "?" with an acute accent has a certain cachet? \nPerhaps it was this yearning for classiness that caused Senator John Warner, just before the second Gulf War, to tell the CNN broadcaster Wolf Blitzer (a killer superhero name wasted on a mortal) that the "US military found a cachet of Iraqi weapons." \nOur rendering of "lingerie" would be understandable were we simply to Anglicize it, rhyming the first syllable with "tin" and the last with "tea." (This is how my Argentine ex-husband pronounces the word. He also accents the first syllable and -- sans logic -- uses a hard "g." The charming result in no way contributed to our divorce.) \n"Whence," though a term many editors deem arcane, is still in vogue. We reach for its high-minded sound, but in so doing often spoil its elegant shorthand by adding the redundant "from." \nLate US president John F. Kennedy, during a 1962 speech in Newport, Rhode Island stated: "We are tied to the ocean from whence we came." \nRoger Morris, when discussing his book Partners in Power, said: "They obviously didn't know from whence [former US president] Bill Clinton came." \nOnly Adelaide really gets away with it, when in Guys and Dolls she sings: "Take back your mink to from whence it came." \nIn our earnest striving for finesse, we sometimes embellish simple words, adorning them with extra syllables. \n"Genetical" and "melodical" feel more sonorous, less blunt, than their cleaner, three-syllabled selves. \nAn MSNBC anchor, speaking early this year of a possible war with Iraq, said: "Considering the dangerousness of the situation..." \nA few days later, an ABC newsman reported that "donators are giving over US$100 million of their Matisse collection to the Met." \nAnd on PBS, Charlie Rose, in a discussion of Dolly, the first cloned sheep, was searching for the tag to identify a bioethicist's field of study. The allure of the deluxe bioethicist was so great that rather than whittle back to bioethics, Rose grafted on, uttering "bioethicism." \nMyriad such utterances occur in print and on television, not least of them the misuse of the stylish "myriad." In late 2002, for example, Leon Panetta, the former Clinton chief of staff, told Blitzer of "a myriad of possibilities" for a new economics team. \nWe are often lured to the chichi sounds of plural nouns because we perceive the correct forms as vulgar. We react to a "stimuli," observe a "phenomena" and declare: "This criteria..." \nBill Clinton, in a commencement address, turned to JFK Jr. and said: "I understand that you're an alumni." \nThese errors result from our solemn desire to sound highbrow. But our misuse of the plurals threatens to bring about the extinction, in English, of the singular suffixes of Latin and Greek. \nThe impulse to sidestep coarseness produces "from everyone but you and I," with "I" seeming more polished than "me." \nOur horror of appearing uncouth leads us all -- kings and commoners alike -- to opt for the ubiquitous adverb instead of the terse, accurate adjective. "This perfume smells strongly," we say, or "The fish tasted strangely." \nWhen asked how he felt about life on other planets, Carl Sagan said, "I feel passionately about it." \nOne such construction is used so frequently that examples abound. Ben Bradlee of The Washington Post, discussing Jacqueline Kennedy's refusal to speak to him after Dallas, said, "I felt badly about that." \nEven Hemingway, master of the taut, wrote in A Moveable Feast: "I felt badly that Ford had been rude to him." \nNot one of the above, be assured, was bemoaning difficulty with his sense of touch. \nWe've borrowed again from the French to name a specific item of lingerie: the brassiere. We may abbreviate the word in the US, but the French have abandoned it altogether (especially on the Cote d'Azur). In France, a woman's undergarment for supporting the breasts is called a soutien-gorge, literally "throat-sustaining." \nSpeaking of "bras," have you ever met a yoga teacher who doesn't instruct her students -- once they've achieved shoulder stands -- to come down from their inverted positions "very, very slowly, one vertebrae at a time"? \nJerelle Kraus, an art director at The New York Times, is writing a book about Op-Ed pages and their art.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday last week, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯) wrote: “The KMT must fall for Taiwan to improve.’ Allow me to ask the question again: Is this really true?” It matters not how many times Hsu asks the question, my answer will always be the same: “Yes, the KMT must be toppled for Taiwan to improve.” In the lengthy Facebook post, titled “What were those born in the 1980s guilty of?” Hsu harked back to the idealistic aspirations of the 2014 Sunflower movement before heaping opprobrium on the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP)
Although China’s “reform and opening up” has become an empty slogan, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) still put on a show by touring southern China to mark the 40th anniversary of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone’s establishment. His motive was not to regain the international community’s trust, but to shore up his power in China. Externally, it was a response to diplomatic setbacks, and it even revealed his adventurist attitude of not being afraid to go to war. When former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) in 1992 conducted similar inspections, it was to suppress the “leftist wind” that was interfering with his
An increasing number of cafes and other businesses in Taiwan are keeping animals, which draw in people who are seeking the next perfect shot for their Instagram accounts. In the past these were mostly standard house pets, such as cats and dogs, which are accustomed to living indoors and being around people. However, raccoons have become popular, as well as alpacas and other “unusual” animals that require specialty care and specific environments to thrive. In late June, a customer recorded a video of the owner of a coffee shop in Taipei apparently unleashing a border collie on a raccoon, who was the star