Posts filed under ‘Humor’

Door #11: Academic Hilarity

Today one of the research fellows at work regaled my boss and I with the following joke:

[A classicist] goes into a bar.

[At this point, both of us started laughing already since the jokester used the actual name of our resident classics fellow.]

He walks up to the counter and says “Give me a martinus.”

The bartender says, “Don’t you mean a martini?

The classicist bangs his fist on the bar, ” If I wanted a double I would have asked for it, dammit!”

How do you say ba-dum-chuck in Latin?


11 December 2007 at 1:15 1 comment

Door #9: The Parasite Behind Crazy Cat Ladies?

Filled with reports of off-beat research (or off-beat implications of otherwise garden-variety research), the annual “Year in Ideas” issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine has become a highlight of my December.

This year’s most amusing item:  Rebecca Skloot’s piece on a possible biological explanation for why “some humans develop an unhealthful attraction to cats and apparently become immune to the smell of their urine.”

Just the first paragraph had me and my housemate in stitches:

Here’s a little-known and slightly terrifying fact: According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 60 million people in the United States are infected with a parasite that may migrate into their brains and alter their behavior in a way that — among other things — may leave them more likely to be eaten by cats. New research into this common parasite — Toxoplasma gondii — may offer clues to the phenomenon known to the unscientifically-minded as “crazy cat lady” syndrome.

9 December 2007 at 0:56 Leave a comment

NaBloPoMo Mid-Month Updates

I wanted to take a moment to mention some of the more unexpected results of this month of blogging. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click the links. All will be explained)

  • I now walk around singing “Moskau, Moskau, come and dance and love the fish! Mr. Disco summoned it! A-ha-ha-ha-ha!” Curse you Dschinghis Kahn with your catchy Euro-Pop! You too, Buffalax, with your nonsensical, yet oddly compelling anglicized lyrics!

[Note to readers: I am not responsible if you too find yourself watching the “Moskau” video and ending up with a brainworm.]

[Note to self: don’t google “brainworm” thinking you’ll find a link to some Wikipedia page talking about the idiomatic definition of brainworm as a song you can’t get out of your head. And especially don’t google “brainworm” over lunch.]

[Update: Before the pictures of the white-tailed deer autopsies had faded from my mind, I realized that a song that gets stuck in your head is an earworm not a brainworm. Maybe I have a brainworm eating my memory.]

  • Many people end up here via a search for Swedish military lip-balm and how to order it. Sadly, I don’t have any advice to offer. I buy two or three tubes every summer when I go to Sweden to visit my friends from my study-abroad year. If I run out, I ask one of my Swedish fiddling friends to buy some when they go to Sweden. If you know how you can get your hands on some without actually going to Sweden, post in the comments and let me know.

[Note to self: bring back extra tubes next year to sell to homesick Swedes and former expats.]

20 November 2007 at 23:50 Leave a comment

Lost in Transcription

One of Mark Liberman’s recent language log posts has turned me on to my latest guilty YouTube pleasure: foreign language music videos subtitled with a phonetic transcription of the lyrics that makes some sort of weird sense in another language.

Here for example is the Russian (?) German [so much for my linguistic acuity] group Dschengis Dschinghis Kahn singing their song Moskau, Moskau with the lyrics transcribed into an English-language approximation with lines like “Moscow, Moscow, please respect the caviar!” The “Golden Horde goes to Vegas”-style costumes only add to the appeal.

Liberman’s post contains links to other examples of this emergent video genre, which his informant, Ben Ostrowsky, has christened “Autour-de-mondegreens.” A mondegreen is a misunderstanding of a spoken or sung text. One of the best-known example might be the mishearing of “‘scuse me while I kiss the sky” as “‘scuse me while I kiss this guy.” Note that some of the video links are definitely not work safe.

A pleasant surprise was finding that these sorts of videos have been popular in Sweden where they’re known as “Turkhits.” Swedish Wikipedia provides links to some of the these videos including the most famous, “Hatten är din” (“The Hat is Yours”), a Turkhits version of the Lebanese song “Meen ma Kenty/Habbaytek.”

17 November 2007 at 23:59 1 comment

Goatwatch, The Sequel

If you’ve clicked about this blog, you may notice that I have an inordinate fascination for an enormous straw goat in a Swedish town called Gävle*.

In Sweden at Christmas time, you can find small straw goats decorating people’s homes and Christmas trees. The town boosters in Gävle** decided to go the tradition one further and set up the world’s largest straw Christmas goat (Julbock, in Swedish) in the town square. They erected the first Julbock in 1966, and in the 40 years since more than half of the goats have been destroyed or damaged by anonymous vandals.

To find out more about the Gävle Julbock and the variety of ignominious ends it’s met over the years, check out my first Goatwatch post from last year.

According to the Gävle Christmas site, this year’s Julbock will be on display starting December 2, Skyltsöndag. Skyltsöndag is the Swedish equivalent of Black Friday, the first official day of the holiday shopping season. Outside the big cities, stores (at least other than grocery stores) are typically closed Sundays in Sweden. On Skyltsöndag — literally “Display Sunday” — stores decorate their windows with special holiday displays and open for Christmas shopping.

And for the first time ever, the goat will have a blog, apparently in his own voice. I can’t even imagine what he’ll post when the vandals try to burn him down again. Perhaps that’s the point. If the miscreants know the goat will describe the agony of his injuries, maybe they’ll think twice about trying to burn him down.

* An interesting bit of Gävle trivia: if you mispronounce the town’s name — that is, if you say yehv-luh, instead of yev-leh — you’re actually saying a common Swedish curse word.

** Yet another interesting bit of Gävle trivia: The Gevalia in Gevalia Coffee is the latinized version of the town’s name.

14 November 2007 at 22:20 3 comments

Wacky Swedish Word of the Day

For the last six months or so, I’ve subscribed to a Swedish mailing list called Om Ett Ord (About a Word). Every weekday, they send me an email describing the etymology of particular word. The editors often pick foreign loan words, which happen to be the same (or almost the same) as the equivalent English loan word, so I end up learning as much about English etymologies as I do about Swedish etymologies.

For instance, did you know that clementines were named after Father Clement, a French missionary in Algeria who discovered a clementine tree growing in his garden? I didn’t either until I read the origin of the Swedish clementin.

I was baffled by today’s entry when I saw the subject line in my in-box:

Toffelhjälte — literally “slipper hero.” (Pronounced tof’-el-yel-tuh, for those of you who don’t speak Swedish. I couldn’t imagine what a slipper hero might be until I read the explanation (here’s my quick and dirty translation):

A toffelhjälte is a man who’s bullied by his wife. Today, the word toffel [slipper] is used, quite simply, to mean the same thing. And not just for married men, but even guys who ignore their friends in favor of the relationship.

The word is used only to describe men. There is no female equivalent. The word was borrowed from the German Pantoffelheld in the end of the 1800s. This usage comes from the expression unter dem Pantoffel stehen,” to stand under the slipper. Shoes and feet have often been seen as symbols of power and soft shoes as something typically feminine.

Yes, it’s sexist, but nearly as bad as some of the equivalent English expressions.

13 November 2007 at 23:14 1 comment

Happy Halloween!

I admit feeling a little guilty about writing a special Halloween post since I completely forgot this was anything other than a normal Wednesday until I checked the date on my watch this morning.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t resist linking to some of the most amazing jack-o-lanterns I’ve ever seen. All of these appear on Tom Nardone’s site. The past couple times, I’ve visited one of the local bookstores, I’ve leafed through his new book and laughed out loud at his wild and wacky pumpkins.

Here are some of my favorites:

31 October 2007 at 22:02 Leave a comment

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