Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Few Words on Jam and Snobbery

Once again, I turn to the DIY Parody Motivator Generator to express myself.

[click to enlarge]
Uhura shares beauty tips with Janice Rand:
I wash my hair with jam!
I drink a lot of wine!
And, most important: I never read The New Yorker.

Here's the background:

I. Fruity Goodness

Taking an impromptu bath without anything to read, I was forced to read the bottles around me.
I discovered that my shampoo** advertises itself as
"reinforced active fruit concentrate" with "Fructose + Glucose".

Usually it's easy to figure out what effect advertising copy is going for, but this stumps me: Why is it desirable to imply I am washing my hair with jam?
"Active," at that! Would that be fermenting?

II. Queueing for Crumpets

If I had been thinking before I got in the tub, I'd have had a New Yorker to read.
Distress over my computer drove me to regress yesterday: like an older child sucking its thumb for comfort, I went to the library and checked out a pile of books.
I stopped in the library's used-books store on the way out and bought donated back issues of New Yorkers, for 25 cents each.

I have a dysfunctional relationship with the New Yorker, as with a bad boyfriend. Every few years I subscribe, missing its intelligence; and on other years, I cancel in disgust at its snobbery.

I hit the wall last year, for instance, when a writer sneered at a presidential candidate (now long forgotten) for mispronouncing "queue."
I warrant most Americans had never seen that word until Netflix introduced it. (There's an ad-copy mystery: why did they?) Much less knew how to pronounce it.
And why should we? Queues are like crumpets--we don't have proper ones.

You could argue that any U.S. president should be able to converse in British English so s/he doesn't embarrass us over tea at No. 10; but I do not believe for a second that's what the New Yorker writer meant.
He meant the candidate was the sort of déclassé person who would,... oh, say, go to Star Trek conventions.

III. Texting Whine

But I can't deny that, snobbery aside, the New Yorker gives good read.
This morning I got all gooey with gratitude for Louis Menand's funny, smart review of a book on texting and language. ("Thumbspeak," Oct. 20, 2008.)

He writes, for instance:
"The texting function of the cell phone ought to have been the special province of the kind of people who figure out how to use the television remote to turn on the toaster; it's a huge amount of trouble relative to the results."

I melt...

But then--damn--I come to the section where Menand discusses international texting. He explains that "nok" is short for Nicht ohne Kondom, German for "not without condom."
"French texters," he also writes, "have devised 'ght2v1', which means 'J'ai acheté du vin.'"
Menand provides no translation.

The gatekeeper to snobdom doesn't deem it important whether or not you can figure out that Kondom means "condom" in German; but if you don't know the French for "I bought wine"--and how to pronounce it--well, you'd better not queue for entrance.
This is both grotesque and pathetic.

Actually, it sort of surprised me. I didn't know French still carried that cultural significance. ( Louis Menand is in his late 50s, so I don't know if he represents the leading edge of cultural significance, but the editor let it pass so I guess his assumptions are au courant.) This only goes to show that I'm the sort of donut-eater who does, in fact, attend Star Trek cons.

So, I'm annoyed but I'm also delighted enough that I feel I can handle the relationship as long as the mag doesn't show up on my doorstep every single week. It sure beats reading labels.

* At least I hope that's what she's saying. I haven't studied French since high school. (So can only use the present tense.) Bite me, Louis.

** When I say "my shampoo," I mean the shampoo that currently sits on my tub's ledge, not a brand I swear allegiance to. I buy whatever brand is on sale.


momo said...

I love the Uhuru picture. And I have always been fond of Menand's writing. That piece on texting is useful to me, thanks for that.

fresca said...

It is a good piece, snobbery notwithstanding.