Sunday 16 June 2024

Misunderstandings in Shakespeare

We all know that "Wherefore art thou, Romeo?" means "Where are you Romeo?" Juliet is on her signature balcony calling down to her lover in the garden. Isn't she? Actually she is soliloquizing and has no idea her lover is listening. "Wherefore art thou 'Romeo'?" she asks, adding "Deny thy father, and refuse thy name". She is a member of the Capulet clan, and he is a Montague, and the families have been at daggers drawn for decades. Or the other way round. She means "Why are you 'Romeo'?" She adds:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

The essence of the thing is not contained in the name, said philosopher Ernst Cassirer. Juliet is being quite deep.


If it were done when 'tis done t'were well
It were done quickly

The witches have told Macbeth that he will be "king hereafter". So why not fulfil the prophecy by killing King Duncan?

He ponders: If it's all over when the deed is done, then it's a good idea if it's done quickly.

He is punning on two meanings of the word "done" – "over" and "achieved". But as Agatha Christie proved so often, you commit one murder and then...


There's husbandry in heaven – their candles are all out.

Banquo is walking around Macbeth's castle. He is uneasy and can't sleep, and tries to work out what time it is, observing that the stars can't be seen. "Husbandry" means thrift: the inhabitants of heaven have put their candles out to save money. But it's also a pun – he means that husbands are doing what husbands do after lights out. In the dark he bumps into Macbeth, who is on his way to murder King Duncan. 


Hoist with his own petard clearly refers to suspending someone by a giant skyhook – doesn't it? It means "blown up by his own mine". Here's what Hamlet said:

For 'tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petard; and 't shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines
And blow them at the moon.

Friday 7 June 2024

What People Say They Want 3

@DrJenIzaakson The chasm between what people say they want vs what people actually want.

She wanted to make it clear to me that no woman wants to see her husband cry, even though women say men should be more emotional. That’s just what they saaay. Women want strong men. (Via Twitter)

@NatalieKelda (writer): People say they want original ideas but most prefer the same thing just slightly repackaged... It's so sad bc agents and editors keep saying they want unique/different stories but then go "No, not like that" so people from a different cultural background are forced to water down and Anglicise their story to a point they lose their distinct voice.

And while people around the globe think they like spicy food, Mexico is the only country that really does, so chilli Doritos have to be made spicier there. Meanwhile, she says, “even the tiniest level of heat” is too much for Russia. (Crisp flavour creator, Guardian Dec 2023. Conversely, you’ll be safe eating “hot as Hell” food in the US.)

In a 2020 McKinsey U.S. consumer sentiment survey, more than 60% of respondents said they’d pay more for a product with sustainable packaging. A recent study by NielsenIQ found that 78% of U.S. consumers say a sustainable lifestyle is important to them. Yet, ask any CPG executive if this matches actual sales figures for these products and services. ( Presumably “...and you’ll get the answer ‘no’.”)

@FABRICIONAKATA: 70% of straight women say they want a partner over 6ft but only 15% are partnered with a man over 6ft tall (in econ we call this revealed preferences). (In common sense, we call it “availability”.)

@SLCPaladin: 72% of households SAY they want a walkable community, but only 22% actually live in one.

And then there is the more meta problem of personal qualities people say they want to find in others versus what they really want - and what they really mean. Be spontaneous – no, not like that.

And you can’t get much more meta than this: 

@theotheroliver: Do you guys think there is such a thing as an intentional disconnect between what people want and what people say they want? Like "communicate!" etc but more like a lot of people want to get something while specifically not asking for it or denying that they want it? (Now I want you to be totally honest...)

@JennaHollan Many people are rationalising, not rational. They say they want honest communication but feel attacked and take everything personally if you actually offer it.

@sgbrownlow Most of what people say they want is what they believe others think they should want. Most people don't want what they need, or even what their soul cries out for. They desperately want to fit in. So they play it safe, asking for only what they imagine others will approve of them having, determining that through context clues and mind reading.

@sam_d_1995 The problem with "just listen to what people say they want" when it comes to housing and transportation policy is that most people don't know what they want, and even more people want things that are inherently contradictory (you can't have more housing and less development!).

Nice girls. Men say other men should marry nice girls, and that girls should be nice and marry nice men and have nice children. But they go for the painted ladies. And they don’t want to get married.

A year ago, we were in the middle of a General Election campaign. And there was one message I heard loud and clear on the doorstep: We want things to be different. (David Cameron, 2011)

@spectator British couples are having just 1.6 children. However, when you ask them how many they want, the answer is 2.3. 

@Botanygeek Pretty much every ‘heritage’ / ‘heirloom’ tomato you buy in fancy stores… They are usually a mix of weird shapes and colours bred in the last few decades to match what we like to *think* oldy worldy tomatoes were like.

@DelLuna25 People say they want diverse adult animation but then throw a fit any time we get it and it attracts an audience that isn't cishet white college dudes. (He’s talking about anime porn.)

@KebidooO This is a black Muslim man taking public office at a major metropolitan before he’s even 50 and seems to have a clear realistic objective. Why is he getting so much hate when this is what people said they wanted – a young diverse government?

By Heck sausage maker ditches meat-free products due to lack of demand. (Daily Mail 2023-05-05)

The crowning ambition in my life is to be able to be with another person. That’s what we all want. We say we want world peace… (Sue Perkins, Times, 2013)

Spontaneity is a virtue that we wish to have ascribed to us but don’t actually want to act out. (Steven Poole, paraphrase)

Americans like laundry products that are advertised as smelling of lavender, but actually smell of vanilla. (Harper’s Magazine)

What is it about late capitalism that allows a profitable literary industry to be built on telling us we should appreciate simple pleasures, get back in touch with nature, express ourselves creatively, attend to human relationships rather than material things, come to terms with our mortality, and so on? (Sam Leith, Guardian, 2012)

People say they don’t like laugh tracks, but they prefer programmes with laugh tracks.

Everybody says they want to be different. They even claim they ARE different. But they’re very surprised when they meet someone who really is different. They’re convinced you’re normal underneath.

People say they like subtle colours in the garden, like pale pink old roses. But in garden centres, it’s the brightly coloured flowers that fly off the shelves.

More here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday 4 June 2024

Outdated and Unexpected Stereotypes

@QcWynter: I have decided to be "openly Caribbean" tomorrow as I go about my chores and errands in and around Upminster. How best to show it? I know. I shall be "vibrant" and, if I can find it within me, "exuberant".

Alan Frame on being Scottish: Ah, see, that’s what happens when you are a son of Calvin, grandson of Lord Kelvin, nephew of DCI Taggart, great-great grandson of Adam Smith (his “invisible hand” is everywhere, but not in a creepy way). Uncle Iain (M) Banks is much talked about in therapy, but the “Scottish Enlightenment” worked two ways – we are expected to know everything about everything, even when the crystals cannae tak it, Captain.

@QuetzalThoughts: As an immigrant, some American racial stereotypes still leave me baffled. Why is it such a joke that Black people enjoy fried chicken and watermelon? It's so confusing since everyone eats these foods to the point that I have no idea how the premise even took off. (See Wikipedia – circa 1900 there were cartoons of little black boys grinning while eating a slice of watermelon, wearing tattered straw hats, plaid shirts, dungarees held up with one strap, and no shoes.) 

@AlCabbage045: I love that almost every group seems to have the notion that they’re characteristically late to events. I’ve heard of “running on Black Time”, “Arab Time”, “Muslim time,” etc. (And we’re all the nation with the dry sense of humour, and say sorry when someone steps on our toe. And we say "thank you" to the bus driver. In England, Canada and Burma nobody can say "no".)

MNateShyamalan: The saddest thing is when you visit a city that’s not New York or Chicago and they’re like “We also have a distinctive pizza style!”

My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone. (Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Wollstonecraft wanted women to regain the rights they had lost in the 18th century. We're getting there.)

Many Yorkshire people are immensely proud of both their county and their identity, embracing the popular nickname of God's Own County, which appears on mugs and tea towels and was first used by the writer Nigel Farndale, himself a Yorkshireman, as a headline in a special Yorkshire edition of Country Life magazine in 1995... T
here is a British saying that "a Yorkshireman is a Scotsman with all the generosity squeezed out of him"... Yorkshire people are often stereotyped as friendly but "bloody-minded", stubborn and argumentative. (Wikipedia. There’s also a suggestion of sticktoitiveness.)

The town of Dhamar is itself quite dull and can best be described as the Reading of Yemen: in the middle of nowhere, containing nothing of interest and bearing a generally depressed atmosphere. Despite this the female population of Dhamar have acquired a reputation as being stubborn, hot tempered and quick to violence. (Via FB)

@TristinHopper: Vancouver Island Facebook groups: "Does anyone know of any vegan, sex-positive carbon-neutral employers that will accommodate flexible hours and alternative non-verbal forms of decolonized communication?"

@Burinstou_Pete: I’d like to find out where the woke, anti-Brit sentiment started.

@DaveHeywood16: Probably over a few plates of tofu at a North London dinner party for tree-hugging vegans, no evidence for that just a wild guess. 

(This one is harder to get right. Tristin nails it, but Dave is inaccurate and out of date. TV series get the current psychobabble right, whatever it is. Jim Bergerac: It’s like being bombarded with popcorn.)

double-denim clad luvvies – who are too woke, apparently. (This person has their stereotypes crossed – it’s chavs who wear double denim. See also very young people who condemn Gen X, Y, Z, Millennials, Xennials, the teens, the noughts, the 90s, the 80s, the 70s for being so uncool as to sport side partings and A-line skirts. Please note: it was the 70s. Every decade since would have cringed at side partings and A-line skirts. Likewise serving hatches are not 80s but 50s and 60s and probably 30s and 40s.)

Lefties all live in Hampstead on a diet of muesli. (They’ve been priced out of Hampstead and you can get muesli in Tesco now.)

LibDems in sandals? Most men wear sandals in hot weather.

Place names that are a byword for provincial, narrow-minded, unsophisticated: Kankakee, Sheboygan, Peoria, Wigan, Weybridge. (Disgusted, Tonbridge Wells)

Is your hair real?
But all Japanese are straight-haired.
Um... actually, some people have curly hair like myself.
Oh, OK. But since this show is for 'American audience', and they think Japanese are straight-haired, so...

Actor Yuki Matsuzaki. He also pointed out that the text on a hanging scroll read “Safe and fresh, Habu-snake Pharmacy”, and that you don’t find a gong in a dojo. A fellow-actor, supposedly speaking Japanese, just mouthed gibberish. He refused to learn the lines phonetically because “American audiences don’t care”, and complained it was “racist” to make him speak Japanese. “He did actually end up practicing his lines and performing in Japanese. Even though it was completely butchered, I still give him credit for swallowing his pride and trying it.” He was told: "Since you’re Asian, you can’t be the lead." The same producer's comments include, "She's, you know, very 'Japanese'. Obedient. She’s a good girl." An American actor comments that he gets “The Japanese won’t know the difference” in Japan.)

@juliamorizawa: Or the scene where the Japanese woman seductively teaches the white man to use chopsticks. A classic trope I could never play because I’m terrible with chopsticks.

@edwest: The common American idea of the French as dainty weaklings, rather than the most militaristic and belligerent country in western Europe, is v strange. (“They have a 35-hour week! They retire at 50!” A country can only compete if everyone works 24 hours a day until they drop, without frills like healthcare, pensions, maternity leave etc.)

I was shocked to learn how much the English enjoy visiting the pub and having a drink because their stereotype is that of a stuffy, refined Englishman. (Quora)

23-year-olds in East London with handlebar moustaches and watches on fobs selling their home-fermented kimchi by the peck and bushel and their signature kefir by the scruple to punters who have cycled simply leagues on their penny farthing to try it. (Giles Coren, Sept 2021. Aren’t hipsters all 35 by now? He means "watches on chains". The fob is the thing that anchors the chain in the opposite waistcoat pocket.)

@Lord_Steerforth: Americans still bang on about the fog, more than 60 years after the last London smog. (British journalists refer to every faint sea-mist as a "peasouper". Before the Clean Air Act, the London fog was a mixture of water vapour, smoke from coal fires, and smoke from power stations – burning coal in larger quantities. It was lethal.)

Cartoon: Cliff edge bristling with signs “yield, stop, danger, no, warning, beware, skull and crossbones”. Car drives off cliff. Driver and passenger are cows with rings through their noses. Caption: No one could have predicted this! (BSE is 35 years in the past, but what better avatar for Brexiteers than a couple of mad cows? Bulls, but not cows, have rings through their noses.)

@DrBritWilliams: My tolerance for hot sauce has lowered and I know it’s because I’ve been in Minnesota too long.

According to Aerial America, each state is supposed to contain people with a particular personality. In Missouri they say “Show me!” etc. For Southerners see Florence King

And for London stereotypes, see Glenys Roberts, Metropolitan Myths. If you want to pass as a native, claim that North Londoners never go south and vice versa.

A five-foot tall British woman was pursued down the street by a Hong Kong trader calling out: “We have big sizes for you!” (A male Chinese colleague used to go to Hong Kong to find clothes small enough, and I’ve been deluded by Chinese and Indian clothes marked “big”. I really am large.)

An Indian couple on Nothing to Declare tried to smuggle home-cooked food into Australia. The man kept smiling and saying: “We’re Indian, you see, we’re Indian.” It cut no ice. 

What’s wrong with England? Asks someone on Twitter.

@rodkelly50: The fact that they all believe the hype and yearn for an England that never existed.
@whododgenik: This is true of every single country in the world.

An episode of Perry Mason featured a South African diamond firm. All its personnel were terribly British. One of them even wore a bowler hat!

Did any woman ever lie down with a face pack and cucumber slices on her eyes? There was a moment when every beauty product contained cucumber. Teabags on the eyes might be more effective, but wouldn’t be photogenic.

Why do ghosts wear sheets and clank chains? The sheets are the shrouds people were buried in (woollen, according to an Act of 1666). The chains bound them in the afterlife – see Marley (and Marley) in A Christmas Carol.

Do Tory ladies wear hats and a blue rinse in their hair? People went on calling them “blue-haired” long after the rinses (blue, mauve, peach) had disappeared.

Hillbillies were always “feudin’” and lived in hilarious poverty. They're related to “hicks”, as sent up in the musical Oklahoma.

Pearl-clutching – even “pearl-wearing”. Pearl necklaces haven’t been fashionable since the 1980s.

More here, and links to the rest.