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I'm a sucker or language trends flying under my radar, and Ann Althouse pointed to one: The “-ification” of Everything

For example: I spent last month hunting for a new apartment in Chicago. All I wanted was a unicorn: an old building in a historic neighborhood, with humane updates and classic fixtures. Instead, I was confronted with a drab and seemingly ubiquitous new aesthetic. Like any U.S. city, Chicago has been beset by the constipated whimsy of as-seen-on-TV home renos: gray floors, gray counters, and the pallid ingenuity of an open floor plan. The look is “inoffensive, inexpensive, innocuous,” as Amanda Mull described it recently in The Atlantic. Call it, as the headline of that piece does, the “HGTV-ification of America.” Have you noticed it, too? Not the gray laminate but that suffix: “-ification.”

I see it cropping up everywhere. In addition to “HGTV-ification,” The Atlantic has covered the “flu-ification of COVID policy.” A recent piece in Esquire considers the “merch-ification of book publishing,” and the Daily Beast, writing on the Netflix docuseries “Harry & Meghan,” declared the “Gen Z-ification of the royal couple.” Vox has lately published articles on the “old man-ification” of television, the “Easter egg-ification” of celebrity beefs, and the “ ‘You’re doing it wrong’-ification” of TikTok influencers. Last year, Teen Vogue announced the end of Pete Davidson’s “Kim Kardashian-ification” after the actor, who’d sharpened his look while dating the image-conscious star, wore a hoodie at a film première following their breakup. (The New Yorker has proved reticent on this particular kind of neologism, although, as far back as 2002, the magazine did refer to fears of “le Big Mac-ification” of French life.)

I will await further clarification.

Also of note:

  • Another bit of language abuse… is illuminated by James Lileks from a recent dead-trees issue of National Review: Banner Year. With apologies in advance, a long:excerpt:

    The Temecula Valley Unified School District didn’t want to use a particular book in its schools. Governor Newsom said Oh no you don’t, or rather Oh yes you will and threatened fines. He said the school’s actions constituted censoring of the book, as if it had the power to make the words vanish from all extant copies.

    Of course, declining to put a book in a library, or teach it in class, is regarded as a BAN — another word ground into meaningless powder by vigorous misuse. It seems to go like this:

    What the parent says: “I don’t like this cartoon book called ‘The Adventures of Hieronymus Hindquarters and Lolly Lube on Sodomy Island’ in the elementary school library!”

    What the administrators hear: “Donald Trump had an election stolen by a cabal of pedophile child-brain harvesters!”

    What the blue-haired teacher with a cowbell attached to their septum hears: “This way for the gas, ladies and gentlemen.”

    What the press reports: “Parents in this conservative school district are objecting to the very existence of gay people, a move strikingly reminiscent of Republican opposition to the civil-rights movement.”

    The result: School board actually looks at the material, is surprised to find they’re defending a comic book with sex tips for middle schoolers that includes sections on “stump play” for amputee enthusiasts, and decides Yeeaaahhh, maybe this one should be for high schoolers only.

    In other words, they BAN it. Next step: Someone posts a tweet that shows how they added The Adventures of Hieronymus Hindquarters to their Little Free Library, next to The Diary of Anne Frank, and gets lots of likes and retweets by people who are absolutely certain that fascism is behind all this oppression, and we must redouble our efforts to have drag queens tell stories to four-year-olds to keep the spark of liberty alive. Why, if the Weimar cabarets had sent their fishnet-clad sirens into the schools of Germany in the early ’30s, Hitler would’ve gained no purchase.

    The Portsmouth Public Libray doesn't carry Ian Fleming's From Russia with Love. (See below for more on that.) Are they banning it?

  • A reason that only works one way. Joe Lancaster has an an example: Biden Credits Falling Profits for Lower Inflation. Is Corporate Greed Over?

    It's an article of faith on the political left that any number of problems can be explained by corporate greed, and inflation is no exception. In 2021 and 2022, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) complained that high grocery prices were the result of "a handful of giant chains" choosing to "force high food prices onto Americans while raking in record profits." When the price of eggs more than doubled during 2022, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and former Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich each named "corporate greed" as the singular cause.

    Today, grocery price inflation is cooling, but egg prices have fallen dramatically, from a peak of $4.82 per dozen in January 2023 to $2.09 in July.

    If corporate greed was to blame for rising prices, then is the opposite—corporate benevolence—to credit when prices fall?

    I'm sure someone is asking Warren, Sanders, and Reich (et al.) that question directly, right?

    By the way, the AAA says the US average regular gas price is $3.869/gal. And that's up thirty cents from a month ago.

  • I think this explains something. Emma Camp reports Janet Yellen Accidentally Ate Chinese Magic Mushrooms but Swears She Didn't Get High

    America's chief macroeconomist accidentally microdosed on Chinese "magic mushrooms" last month. Well, sort of.

    Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen accidentally dined on hallucinogenic mushrooms on a recent diplomatic trip to China. However, she swears she didn't actually get high from the dish.

    "There was a delicious mushroom dish. I was not aware that these mushrooms had hallucinogenic properties," Yellen told CNN's Erin Burnett. "I learned that later."

    Omitted from the article: Yellen's addition of "man" to her sentences. "There was a delicious mushroom dish, man. I was not aware that these mushrooms had hallucinogenic properties, man. I learned that later, man."

Recently on the book blog:

Recently on the movie blog:

Last Modified 2024-01-11 2:59 PM EDT

Olympus Has Fallen

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Yes, I'm still in my Big Dumb Movie mode. And (also) yes, it's only been a few days since I watched White House Down, a remarkably similar movie to this one. Both were made in 2013. This bit of IMDB trivia claims both movies were based on the same Vince Flynn book. (Flynn died in 2013, but apparently not from suffocating under the huge piles of cash Hollywood dumped on him.)

The broad strokes are the same: both feature an ultraviolent White House takeover aided by a traitor inside the building. The perpetrators advertise one motive to the public, but actually have an even more dastardly plan. There's a kid in danger. The evildoers are thwarted by an outsider with unexpected talents.

I liked this one a bit better. It's rated R, while White House Down garnered a PG-13. Why? The language is saltier, and there's more violence, and a lot of it's pretty explicit. And it seemed that White House Down was considerably jokier, if that makes sense.

Last Modified 2024-01-11 2:58 PM EDT

From Russia with Love

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So I have a reading project in progress: Ian Fleming's James Bond books. (This is number five of fourteen.) And (for some reason I don't understand myself) I want to own the books.

Complication: the edition I wound up buying (not pictured) has the bowdlerization notice up front:

This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace. A number of updates have been made in this edition, while keeping as close as possible to the original text and the period in which it is set.

I hate this. I'd prefer to read what Fleming wrote, not what some oversensitive censor thinks I should want to read instead. But the original editions were taken out of print, and their prices at Amazon (predictably) rose.

So (don't laugh) even after buying the expurgated book, I discovered that the University Near Here Library had a copy of the 1957 edition. It was very beat up, but that's what I read instead. And whenever I came across something that "might be considered offensive", I checked the new edition to see if it was altered,

Reader, I only found one "update", near the beginning of chapter 18, where Fleming decribes two "gipsy" women about to fight each other to the death. Original:

They were both gipsy-dark, with coarse black hair to their shoulders, and they were both dressed in the collection of rags you associate with shanty-town Negroes—tattered brown shifts that were mostly darns and patches.


They were both gipsy-dark, with coarse black hair to their shoulders, and they were both dressed in the collection of rags you associate with shanty-town people—tattered brown shifts that were mostly darns and patches.

Even I can't work up a lot of dudgeon about that edit. It's unnecessary and thoughtless, but eh.

There may be other "updates", but that's the only one I found. There's plenty more to be offended by, though. See this Goodreads review from a reader who was offended by… well, nearly everything. Except for the "rampant homophobia" described here.

Not that it matters, but I also noticed the original edition had a comma in the title: From Russia, with Love. That went away in more recent printings (and the movie).

And (fun fact): James Bond doesn't show up until we're nearly 40% of the way through the book. The first part is devoted to the bad guys: SMERSH, the Russian "death to spies" agency, and its plot to kill Bond "with ignominy" employing the psychotic defector Red Grant. ("I am an expert at killing people. I do it very well. I like it.") The semi-innocent bait in their plot: the lovely Tatiana Romanova, who assures MI6 that she can deliver a "Spektor" code machine if Bond will come over to Istanbul to woo her.

I found this to be a real step up in quality compared to the first four books in the series. Although there's still way too much travelogue.

Last Modified 2024-01-11 2:58 PM EDT