Sunday, May 9, 2010

melty, flirty, jiggly, toasty

since late last year i have caught on to a mini-trend in advertising: using -y ending adjectives most associated with children. (i remember my little brothers using the word 'coldy'). i think there are two reasons for this strategy: one, these words are visceral, physical words that conjure up vivid physical impressions. and two, they are linked to childhood in a comforting sort of regression advertisers love to appeal to. (melty is used about cheese, flirty i saw on a women's magazine re: high heels, jiggly a women's mag 'melt jiggly fat in weeks,' toasty probably re: sandwiches/breakfast sandwiches).

i find it insulting to be addressed as a child. but that is what advertisers do best -- treat people as psychological components to be manipulated. the best example i can think of is the subway commercial from late last year, of the husband and wife and child walking past a subway, when the father erupts in a childish tantrum. i think he uses the word 'melty.' the mother and son try to calm him down. melty. yeah. we're all just little babies looking for solace in our sandwiches. patronizing. worse than patronizing: stigmatizing! and pretty similar to how many politicians pander to regressive, childish emotions and the urge to escape adulthood altogether. government: bad. washington: bad. taxes: bad. leaders: bad. freedom: good. me: good! if we really bought into these infantile rejections of modern life and shared responsibility, there would be no america, no country, nothing. we'd be like somalia and haiti, poster children for the 'small government' fantasy!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

pimsleur's romance

at new haven library i found a pimsleur intro course to syrian arabic. having struggled with arabic over the years, it has become a white whale, never to be conquered, but never to be given up either. knowing that i might actually be able to use a few words with my iraqi friends, as they had lived a few years in syria, i checked the cds out. i really liked the method -- simple, repetitious, slowly building. totally oral -- which is how we learned our mother tongue, by the way.

in lessons nine and ten, the examples become laden with a gendered, even erotic dynamic. male voice: 'do you want to do something, miss?' female voice: 'not miss, mrs.' 'excuse me, maam. do you want to do something?' 'no, thank you.' 'do you want to buy something?' 'no, i don't want to. do you understand?' 'ah, i understand. do you want to eat something with me?' 'no, i don't.' 'at 9 o'clock?' 'no, not now, not later.' i found myself laughing there on I-95 in the chevy truck.

no doubt part of my reaction -- titillation, laughter -- is due to having travelled once to syria, and feeling there that the farthest possibility was to talk to one of the beautiful women walking around. they would not let the tiniest sliver of an eye venture toward me. but in pimsleur's world, apparently, things are different! and according to my iraqi friend, men and women do talk there -- just not in ways known to me.

i tried out a few words with my friend's mom, who speaks 3 words of english, and was disappointed when she didn't understand some of them. syrians say 'behki' for 'i speak.' iraqis, apparently, say something like 'ah-chee'. say what??

old techniques

my wife told an iraqi woman friend of ours (moved last year as a refugee to here) about our difficulty in getting our baby to fall asleep in his crib. she told sara a simple, intriguing aid: when you put the baby down, place in his arms an article of the mother's clothing.

the idea was not only charming, an old piece of folk wisdom from a family-centric culture, it also has helped. i saw it work once, an amazing thing: a cranky baby, squirming in rebellion, suddenly quieted, stilled, by mommy's scent.