"Ashes to ass, dust to bust."
Mehtafictional reflections: Last time I forgot to mention the Kaavya Viswanathan Memorial Fiction Project. It's been sitting around for a while, and it still needs some (a lot of) work. For now one should focus on the results of a similar project.
Date: Sat Apr 29 16:49:08 2006
From: Robin Hood
Subject: German Etymology
Stumbled across your site during a research project . . .
Could you perhaps enlighten me as to what the origin of the articles Der, Die, and Das is?
A short answer to the question is something like this:
- Way-back-when German did not have (definite) articles.
- All markings for gender and case were part of the noun.
- Over time and due to a number of factors (shift to word-initial stress, language contact, general trends in synthetic languages, etc.) German started to lose case/gender markers as part of the noun.
- The definite articles (der, die, das, plus their accusative, genitive, and dative forms - dem, des, den, dem ...) arose, and serve(d) the purpose of marking gender and case.
But where did the der/die/das forms come from? A common theory is that definite articles often (can/do) arise from demonstratives, and so der/die/das would come from an unstressed variant of "diese(r/s)". For a more detailed answer, research the process of grammaticalization.
- Thesis Abstract, Päivi Juvonnen: Grammaticalizing the definite article. A study of definite adnominal determiners in a genre of spoken Finnish. [actual document]
- Therese Lindström: The History of the Concept of Grammaticalisation [abstract and thesis]
Date: Fri Jan 13 02:00:47 2006
From: kathrina batista <miss_cubana_mami69@[you know who].com>
Subject: i just have a few questions for you
why would you write a bunch of jokes about DEAD BABIES?????
what is so funny about a dead baby????
i don't think it is funny, not even remotely funny to make jokes about dead babies....
Thank you for your email.
Before continuing, I should perhaps correct a seeming misperception expressed in your mail: *I* did not write any of those jokes (as I stated on this page: http://www.skrause.org/humor/).
You then inquired as to what is so funny about a dead baby, and then proclaimed that you do not find it funny at all. Curiously, you are not far off the mark, for in analyzing the dead baby jokes provided, most often the humor has little to do with the dead baby, and in fact almost always lies somewhere else, often in the reversal of our expectations. This is in contrast to most ethnic and religious humor, which often relies on stereotypes about a given group (African-Americans, Jews, Latinos, etc.). The question then arises, what is the use of the "dead baby" in such jokes? More often than not, it seems, the baby stands in for something sacred or innocent, as well as cute or emotionally precious. Thus, I would hypothesize that in the jokes given, the baby could be replaced by a pet (dog, cat?) or even little old lady. Note, for example, that Number 2 is a variation on/of a joke told about violas and dogs.
That having been said, not all the jokes follow such a structure. Others, it seems, locate their humor (if it is to be found) not in the joke itself, but in the joke's relationship to other jokes, or to the list itself. Numbers 27 and 28 relate in the former matter, whereas Number 33, I might argue, is an example of the latter, for out of the context of the list, it is merely gross, but within the list it plays off our expectation that a baby appear somewhere (thus, we might also differentiate those jokes in which a baby is part of the setup, and those in which it only appears in the punchline).
In terms of content, many of the jokes in which the baby plays an important role rely either on bad puns or on the absurdity of the image created. Arguably there is a difference between those images that are too absurd to be real, and those that are potentially real enough to cause us discomfort. This latter category might cause one to laugh as an alternative to squirming; for others, though, it might only lead to a feeling of disgust, and in this regard it shares something in common with reactions to horror movies.
I hope I was able to answer some of the questions you had about the humor value of jokes about dead babies. If you have any other questions, do not hesitate to contact me.
All the best,
Curiously, I did not hear back from Kathrina.
Seven books in my possession were past due. I photographed a few relevant pages (or a couple hundred in one instance) ... lacking a scanner, I turn to my handy Canon.
Before coming to Berlin I never had past due books for libraries. Once in the 8th grade I was charged a 10 cent fine at the school library, but it was truly a bookkeeping error on their part, but one does not argue with librarians, either grey-haired old ladies or the nerdy girl fantasy image (relevant supporting material: A, B, C, and D). In Madison I often received late notices, but due to the grace period I never owed money. Since arriving here I have had two large fines. Today I told the man at the counter that it was my way of supporting the library system. He found it to be a noble goal.
From: "HU / UB / Zentrale UB"
Date: Wed, 03 May 2006 08:55:38 +0200
Subject: 1. Mahnung
1. M A H N U N G
Berlin, den 03.05.2006
Sehr geehrte/r Benutzer/in,
wir machen Sie darauf aufmerksam, daß die Leihfrist für die folgenden von Ihnen entliehenen Medien gebührenpflichtig überschritten ist. Wir bitten um sofortige Rückgabe und Bezahlung der Säumnisgebühren.
Gesamtsumme : 14.00 EUR
Diese Mahnung erhalten Sie als E-Mail, da Sie uns Ihre E-Mail-Adresse angegeben haben. Bitte teilen Sie uns mit, wenn Sie keine weitere elektronische Kommunikation mit der Universiätsbibliothek wünschen. Wir werden dann Ihre E-Mail-Adresse löschen.
Dieses Schreiben wurde maschinell erstellt und ist ohne Unterschrift gültig.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen
The kinky hot librarian is a myth (not of the Greek variety, but rather of the urban legend type). Today my fine was paid to a middle-aged and well-dressed/groomed man; the last time I paid my fine to a younger yet well-dressed/groomed man. At the neighboring counter stood a white-haired woman in her late 50s or 60s. When I got my "library card" last fall the person handling my account was a frumpy younger woman who was new on the job. At the Staatsbibliothek I was warned by L about the 30-something crazy and grumpy woman at one counter, so instead I went to the stereotypically jovial jumbo-sized guy behind another. Entrance to some reserved materials was controlled by an older man who resembled a security guard.
In Madison most of the workers at the check-out counters were of the aging hippy variety or of the grumpy professional mold. There were quite a few work-study types as well, as evidenced by my friend S and her husband J. In addition there was this friendly troll who has been in Madison as long as I have, I think. We're talking frizzy big hair beyond the scale of an afro in volume, though not quite resembling one in shape. Visually sort of a mix between Sarah from The Maxx and a midget Hurley from Lost.
Back in high school T.W. kept proposing, quite seriously, mind you, that one of the librarians was actually the niece of Eva Braun. I suspect that the high school library was my first real encounter with a not-too-friendly library ... it was not a place to relax or browse. Even the similarly-sized middle school library had a more comforting feel; there you felt as if the librarians, all old women who had been doing their jobs for decades, at least trusted you to be there and not cause trouble. My fondest memories, however, are of my elementary school library.
Mary McPherson Elementary School consisted of four buildings when I began my academic career: the original and central building consisting of a gymnasium/lunch-room surrounded by classrooms, offices, and a kitchen; a rectangular addition housing 3rd and 4th grade classes—it was merely classrooms (and bathrooms) connected by a long hall; the pseudo-octagonal 5th-and-6th grade annex; and the octagonal library, which also housed the room where hearing tests were conducted. When one entered, books for young readers were straight ahead and contained by several islands. There were a handful of low tables (accompanied by chairs) between other islands of books (some fiction, but mostly non-fiction and oversized books) that wrapped around part of the building to the left. Fiction of interest to slightly older readers lived against the outside wall. Far to the left, near the back, one could find reference works and the type of non-fiction that did not interest most readers. That corner just seemed darker than the rest of the library. The library did not quite follow any of the classification systems used by other libraries I have known, but it did have a card catalog.
The sections against the wall and nearest the entry door were home to some of the most popular books, including those by Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and Choose Your Own Adventure books. Although we were free to visit the library during recess (before school, lunch, during the day), all classes made a point of visiting the library once a week ("Library Day"), and it was often the case that as soon as we arrived and were given the go ahead to find books, there was a mad rush to the Choose Your Own Adventure section, and if you did not rush, you were likely to find nothing, or only something you had already read. Several other series of books had a similar but not as intense popularity. A 'non-fiction' series on such subjects as UFOs, Monsters, Ghosts, and the like helped to form my young mind. Special interests developed—some people always went for the books on planes, or guns, or cars, or horses, or dogs. Gender-specific tastes developed after the 3rd or 4th grade it seemed; during the first several years, we all picked from the same pool of books.
Other books had less illustrious careers, and more so than my peers I had a reputation for choosing lesser-read texts. In a school of 500-600 (K-6), it was not hard to be the only person in a grade to read a certain book, and often I was the only one in several years, or even more than a decade, to check out some volumes. Our hard-bound copy of The Secret Garden showed its age and had signs of use, but when I checked it out in 1984, I was the first person since the Carter administration to do so. Going to college out-of-state, living abroad, and chatting with people online are all activities that help us to find people out there who share our interests, and so it is that quite a few of my American friends liked Susan Cooper's "Dark is Rising" series as children, but during my time in elementary school, I was one of the only within a span of years to take them from the shelves. This information could be "tracked" by anyone, since the history of check outs was marked clearly in each book. One of my favorite books had no title, or rather, no title that I can remember. It had been rebound at least once, and it's black cover had only a white call number on it. I read it several times; it was the story of a young wolf and struggles against nature and man ... now it is only a vague memory, but I remember that hint of something more quite fondly. I never knew anyone else to touch it.
Throughout much of elementary school I acquired new books through the Scholastic and Troll book-order-forms that we were sent home with several times a semester. The former was also the source for Apple //e software. But later on there was also the once-a-year book fair to which to look forward, and it was at one of those, in the fifth grade, that I was introduced to fantasy novels in the form of Terry Brooks' first two Shannara books, and it is perhaps for that reason that despite their failings, I retain a certain fondness for them.
The librarian was kind and fond of children; she had patience with crowds of pupils, but she was also firm and it was her library. Teachers were authority figures, but the librarian was one of the first adults to whom I could talk if not as an equal then at least as an individual.
- Bohm, David, Wholeness and the Implicate Order. London: Routledge, 2002.
Bohm is, as I've mentioned before, much more reasonable than his followers and his biographer, though he is often a naive philosopher. Pluses and minuses, but overall a decent read, and I'll likely use his approach to Aristotle's four modes/types of causality in my work.
- Chandler, Daniel, Semiotics. London: Routledge, 2002.
This is the dead-tree version of Chandler's well-known and quite useful Semiotics for Beginners website, which I remember stumbling across 'back in the day.' The book is a nice, concise reference, and handy to have on hand, but the website is more up-to-date ... and free.
- Damasio, Antonio R., Ed., Unity of Knowledge. New York: The New York Acad. of Sciences, 2001.
This is published conference proceedings. Thus it lacks cohesion, but it is broad and interdisciplinary in its materials, and due to the range of participants, the papers, while containing specialized information, are accessible to the general public.
- Dreger, Alice Domurat, Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 2000.
A nifty volume that I came across by chance. It naturally cites the famous case of Herculine Barbin, but is much broader in terms of documentation and also more narrowly focused on the connection between the early medical profession and the establishment of gender/sex norms. It is a quick and easy read, and I would recommend it to all who are interested in the subject.
- Drewer, Petra, Die kognitive Metapher als Werkzeug des Denkens. Tübingen: Narr, 2003.
Truly an academic work intended for scholars with narrow interests. Excerpting a brief analysis and conclusion, as well as a significant but not extensive section on metaphors in the sciences in general, the book book focuses very heavily and specifically on two topics that are not directly related: a typology of metaphor and cognitive models on the one hand, and a study of the "black hole" metaphor on the other. Both main sections are strongly empirical in their own ways: the "theoretical" section aims toward completeness in its treatment of models and metaphors, whereas the "black hole" section provides not only a history, but tables and charts of references in academic journals, as well as detailed citations and analyses from these sources. However, I get the feeling that the black hole section could stand alone in a way, for the extensive first section is not necessary for what follows. Similarly, while the book's subtitle emphasizes analogy and analogical reasoning, the metaphor theory employed does not directly engage any scholarship on analogical reasoning separate from contemporary metaphor research.
- Gunia, Jürgen, Die Sphäre des Ästhetischen bei Robert Musil. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2000.
This, too, is a book for a small audience. At points the structure and such is nebulous, but reading the table of contents helps to indicate how a poetic framework (metaphor, allegory, and simile) has been snuck into what is primarily a psycho-sexual approach ... which is to say, while the book is called "the sphere of the aesthetic" it's really about how matters of sex make their way into and help structure Musil's work (or at least structure the author's interpretations).
- Otte, Michael, Das Formale, das Soziale und das Subjektive. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1994.
Since it is a small Suhrkamp volume, I am tempted to find my own copy. It's not a revolutionary or "must have" text, but like much German scholarship published in this format, it represents a certain comprehensiveness and organization of knowledge, and it looks like a nice, albeit tangential, reference work.
Yogurt. In particular, the "Onken" line of Dr. Oetker ... recently acquired, it seems.
For months I have been buying small, 150g containers of Mibell low fat yogurt (Mibell being one of several brands owned by EDEKA, which also distributes "Gut & Günstig"). When Kjerstin visited in March she picked up a 500g container of Onken rhubarb & vanilla yogurt ... highly recommended, let me tell you. The vanilla yogurt is only so-so, but rhubarb & vanilla ... that's something special.
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