Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dan, Dan, Dan (Head Sadly Shaking)

I subscribe to Merriam-Webster's online Word of the Day. It's also the hard-copy dictionary I use. Today's word is irenic which means operating toward peace. Fine. But what really caught my eye was the spelled-out pronunciation: eye-REN-ik.

Hmm ... I've never seen that kind of spelling in a dictionary before. I snatched up the book and looked it up: i-'re-nik with a horizontal mark above the first i, making it a long i, which, if Mister Google would provide a wider selection of accent marks, I wouldn't have to explain.

I don't know if the online pronunciation is done "phonetically." I'm not certain of that term, but whatever it's called, I wonder why it's not presented the same way both in the dictionary and on the line. My first thought was that they're dumbing it down for online use, but that's just fear and snobbery talking. You can actually listen to a very formal fellow speaking the Word of the Day like the narrator in film strips from the fifties, so, really, the online user isn't dependent upon the written clues to pronunciation.

Then I thought maybe they just didn't want to repeat the pronunciation key online. It's on every page of the real dictionary. Space is no object, though. Well, somebody knows why it's done this way. I'm just not the one.

There's also a Did You Know? section on the online version. I really object to this title. That's for grade school, isn't it? for barely important side-facts? Did You Know ... that the world is round? It's just too cute for the serious yet exciting history of a word. In fact, today I learned that irenic comes from Greek mythology, from the goddess of peace, Eirene. That's where our old-fashioned woman's name Irene comes from, too, and "Goodnight, Irene," was the top song in my birth year, 1950.

What more do we need to know?

Here's the Book Report:
  • Sugar Cage by Connie May Fowler. I couldn't tell if I'm too depressed to feel or if the writing just doesn't move me, but there were scenes that should have been powerful, but weren't. I think this was her first novel, though, and I'm currently reading a more recent one from this Southern writer. I described one scene to Mike last night and he said, "Don't you read any happy books?"
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer. The six hundred and nineteen pages flew by. I kept reading long past bedtime, long after my eyes were begging for moisture. She's very good at all degrees of suspense, from real Don't open that door! scenes to simple eagerness for more. I don't know that I'd read her work twice, but reading it once is sheer enjoyment. I'm smiling now, just thinking of it.
  • Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier. Read it. She's good.
  • The Ballad of the Sad Cafe & other stories by Carson McCullers. I liked the title story best, although it was really sad (!). Damn Rebels!
  • The End of Overeating: taking control of the insatiable American appetite by David Kessler, M.D. I fear this is fiction after all. Still, I got some good information out of it. Because it's non-fiction, it took me a long time to read it.

He said a whole lot of interesting things in that book, and here's one of them. Our culture has devolved to the point where it's pretty much okay to eat any old time at all. When I was a kid, we weren't allowed to just eat when we wanted to. There were specific, regular mealtimes. I only remember gum as snacks. He said that European business meetings don't have the bagel tray and lattes.

Yikes. And look at movie theaters. True, I've not been in one in years, but when I was a girl (admittedly a frighteningly long time ago), there were popcorn and Milk Duds. That was true even fifteen, twenty years ago. There weren't hot dogs and nachos dripping with melted processed cheese spread, which actually comes pre-melted.

A couple weeks ago, Mike and I agreed that desserts in restaurants are always disappointing. The more layered they are, the bigger they are, the more disappointing they are, even though the photos and descriptions are so very enticing. Well, but then he made the exception of that Vienna Sumpin' Sumpin' Pie he always gets at Good Times -- ice cream with strawberries in a sinful sauce, on a crusty pastry of almonds. And I made the exception of the cinnamon roll at Panera (which is as big as your face -- yes, yours) and the Apple Strudel at Good Times.

So I suppose if I wrote Kessler's book, it would be something like The End of Overeating: except for things with cinnamon; well, and pizza; ooh! and vermicelli! by Barbara Nicolazzo, 2X.

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