I just saw a TV ad for a Restless Legs Syndrome drug called Mirapex, which the ad says might make you want to gamble.
I'm not kidding. Gamble.
I'm beginning to think the greatest achievement of modern medicine in the past couple of decades is to come up with ever more awesome new side effects for treatments of ever more ridiculously silly diseases.
It sure is great to live in a world where all the big problems have been solved, huh?
Okay, this one has bugged me for a long time, and I've just never been piqued enough to complain.
Beginning Spanish students learn on the first day how to say "My name is So-and-so": Me llamo So-and-so. It's a perfectly natural phrase to start off one's Spanish education with—the class is getting to know its members, people are introducing each other, it's perfect: people want to know each other's names, so let's do it en español!¿Como te llamas? Me llamo Brian! What fun!
And yet this is just about the worst trick that Spanish teachers could pull on their poor students, because me llamo Brian does not literally mean "My name is Brian". Llamo does not mean "name", as Greg Kihn happily maintained on his radio show this morning. Me does not mean "my". And the phrase Me llamo Brian is not mysteriously missing a verb.
The construction me llamo Brian means, literally, "I call myself Brian". ¿Como te llamas? means "What (or, really, how) do you call yourself?", and ¿Como se llama? means "What is it called?" Llamar is a verb, and it means "to call". The phrase me llamo is a reflexive verb form, something these bewildered, textbook-copying students won't encounter for weeks or months. And yet they start off being told that it means "My name is".
What's worse, few teachers ever bother explaining how the phrase works, what it really means, or why it's seemingly set up differently from everything else in Spanish; the rest of that first month, students won't ever encounter the word me again, and will be taught that the word for "my" is mi. Only later will they learn that me is actually a direct object pronoun, not a possessive—and only the really alert ones will make the connection, out of the blue, that it always was so, even in that odd first-day flashcard phrase they all learned by rote.
(The word for "name", by the way, is nombre—but mi nombre es Brian is about as commonly used in Spanish as "I call myself Brian" in English. They just do it differently, that's all.)
It especially pisses me off that popular culture does nothing to demonstrate any better understanding of this than a typical high school freshman—even when explicitly making a joke about it:
Brian: Hola! Um... me, me llamo es Brian. Ahh, uh, um... Let's see, uh, nosotros queremos ir con ustedes. Migrant Worker: Hey, that was pretty good, except when you said, "Me llamo es Brian," you don't need the "es", just "me llamo Brian". Brian: Oh! So you speak English! Migrant Worker: No, just that first speech and this one explaining it. Brian: You... you're kidding, right? Migrant Worker: Que?
Now, why would you write a joke like this that explicitly plays off of language literacy, where the whole premise that allegedly makes it funny is that the guy is a native speaker of Spanish—and not have the guy explain correctly how to say what your name is? This isn't some quirky exceptional Spanish phrase that doesn't follow standard rules—it's a perfectly normal grammatical construct that just happens to be set up differently from how we'd do it in English. Understanding me llamo requires only the knowledge that llamo is the verb "call" and me means "myself"—it needs a certain bit of educational buy-in, but is completely within the standard rules of Spanish grammar. And yet the guy makes like it's some special case where you're just supposed to remember by rote that "you don't need the es". Gaahh!
But, well, meh. It's not like Family Guy is some bastion of timeless comedy gold, nor—no matter how it likes to parade around dressed as such—a touchstone of cultural literacy. How far we've fallen...
(...On second thought, what is it with all this language humor involving the name Brian?)
11:01 - If you can't stand the heat, go to San Jose
Usually there's a sort of depression in temperatures in the middle of summer around here—our hottest months tend to be May/June and August/September, whereas July is usually cooler (I'm told it's because of a fog bank that forms in the Pacific when the first part of the summer evaporates a lot of water and then proceeds to flow into the Bay Area during July). But last year (or was it two years ago?) the temps were regularly spiking into the 100s at this time of year; this time through, the hottest it's gotten is the mid-80s.
It must be hell trying to predict trends from this sort of thing...
I've rapidly come to admire the excellent xkcd comic, whose math-geek humor encapsulates the way college felt better than being at college did. To say nothing of how well it recalls the 24/7 MarioKart parties that took place in Blacker room 40 throughout my junior year. It was a frequent source of profanities from me, if just from the noise.
But they did have a whiteboard at room 40, which I recorded for posterity à la bash.org:
Vote for First to Change their Major to MarioKart Because They Can't Do Anything Else (4860 hours = 202 days): --------------------------------------------------------------- Statement Votes --------------------------------------------------------------- Nick: "I have Chem 5." | Yifan: "It is fun to be the bomb." Andy: "I only have two classes with homework." | Amy: "12c isn't as hard as 12b." || Nathan: "I think MarioKart is part of E&AS." "I have to practice for 72." ||| Dave: "Turns? I don't understand..." || Eric: "There's a reason my 64 is in 40." Robin: "I played this all the time at home." Wedge: "Only if I can't hear it." Wren: "I just watch." Dan: "I'm a 3rd-term senior." Ben: "You mean I can't get paid to play MarioKart?"
And though that brings a smile to my face years after the fact, I have to say that the whiteboard of the creator of xkcd itself wins.