Saturday, April 26, 2008

Let's go Eat at...Uhhh...

Any sizable city in America has at least one "Alternative Weekly" paper. At the risk of sounding callous, they are pretty much all the same. Arts and Entertainment, local highlights, cover stories about "the little guy" - be it a business, a renter, a prisoner, whatever. That isn't to say some are not better than others, quite the contrary, there are some I really like, but structurally they share roughly 80% of their elements.

One of those elements is the annual insert highlighting restaurants/pubs/bars, etc. Not surprisingly, this insert, wherever you may go, has the word "Menu" in the title. Here is Nashvegas we have the Nashville Scene, which recently ran their Menu of Menus (okaaaay).

Finally, I said to myself upon seeing this, we will have a decent selection of establishments when we eat out. We eat out so infrequently now that we don't want to waste any opportunity.

I could not have been any more wrong. In Nashville, a city with a metropolitan population of 1.4 million people has only 39 restaurants featured in their Menu of Menus. I am forced to conclude that either the editors are total snobs, the ad rates were exorbitant, or , there are only 39 interesting "restaurants" here in Nashville.

Maybe we'll find an italian place like this.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I Can Mow My Own Yard, Thank You

There is a business segment around here known as "Doing Yards" or "Cutting Grass." On first hearing the terms, I assumed that this was a southern idiom for Landscaping, but I have learned it is not. These people who "do yards" cut grass and nothing else. They don't trim bushes or trees, they don't pull weeds, they don't spray herbicide or pesticide. They cut grass, and make a pretty good living doing it I understand.

I have been solicited cold twice in the last 3 days to have my yard cut. Apparently, these folks drive up a down the streets looking for, well, yards like mine. For the prices these guy want to charge me, I would think they could do more than trouble themselves to ride a mower across my yard, but that just isn't the case.

These businesses, and by businesses I mean "guys with trucks," exist for three reasons.

Very few houses here are landscaped, at least in the Californian sense.

My current working theory here is that because everyone has yards, and big ones, no one takes special interest in the condition. So 95% of front yards can be described thus: grass, 2 shrubs, some flowers around the house, and 1 tree. You won't find beds, edging, trimming, or any real effort given to make the yard distinctive. Perhaps one might find that in more suburban areas, but even in the ritzier areas of Nashville, landscaping is haphazard at best.

Everyone's yard is HUGE and all grass.

They say Texas is big, and down there everyone gets an acre of their own. Tennessee must come in second. I suppose with any yard, there is a formula: [Yard Niceness] = Area/Effort. When you have a lot of turf, that ratio is hard to maintain. For example, my current back yard is bigger then the entire yard of my last three residences in California combined. It takes a lot of time to mow a football field with a push mower.

The grass here grows like a damn rainforest.

I put off the initial post-thaw mowing for a few weeks, and when I finally finished, I wiped my hands, rolled the mower back into that basement and said to myself "That's that." But, comrades, the VERY NEXT DAY that grass was back, angry and making up for lost time. The grass here requires mowing at least twice a week, which is a frequency that is both inconvenient and unreasonable.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Why is Everyone Calling Me Sweetie?

It's can't be a Term of Endearment, I know that much. I'm hearing it all the time. At the Grocery Store, at work, among mixed company, formally, informally, everywhere. I can not get away from being called Sweetie. Its not uncommon for familiar terms to differ across generations: I once had a boss that constantly called me "Guy." As in, "Hey, guy" and "Good work, guy!" It was infuriating.

I'm getting called Sweetie by nearly every southern female I encounter. Because the South was "Polite Society" for a long time, there is plenty of lingering condescension in the language of today (see Vocab: Bless Your Heart). I would expect to hear Sweetie from elders, supervisors, and superiors in their own mind, but I hear from ladies across the age, business, and social strata.

It isn't as infuriating as the boss who only called me "guy," but Sweetie is at once condescending, quaint, and disarming. From what my close friends tell me, I am anything but a Sweetie, so like most social and societal issues, it's something I am just going to have to live with.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

This Can't Be Real Weather

I remarked to some new friends here today that the temperate part of California I hail from really only has 2 seasons: Fall and Not Fall. Fall is when its a little windier and late fall is when it rains. Other than that, you can't really tell the difference.

Well, it turns out that in Nashville, and I suppose the South at large, there are actual seasons. And it also turns out there are FOUR of them.

The current season, called "Spring" (and I'm not sure why) is a real puzzler. We are expecting a full week of hot days, high humidity and alternating sun and deadly lightning storms (or so the widget indicates).

Really? 78 Degrees and Thunderstorms? It's hotter on that day than on the sunny days? And that current temperature of 64 Degrees, that's at 9PM. This is the season called "Spring." I'm told there is also a season called "Summer" when it actually gets hot.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Gone Native: Ya'll is Actually a Useful Word

There is no second-person plural pronoun (or "corporate you") in Standard (or colloquial) American English. We use the or second-person singular "you" in both singular and plural contexts. To make matters even worse, we use "you" for subjects and objects; somewhere along the line English speakers decided we would be better off without the Dative Case as well. Thanks for that. But on to the example:

Singular: "I'm so glad you called!"

Plural: "I'm calling to invite you to my party!" (who's invited?)

We use context and constructs to work around this ambiguity, but these solutions are incomplete. This is actually a bigger problem than one might think. It has been demonstrated that ambiguous pronouns, in addition to tending towards confusion, take longer for listeners to process. In situations that are time-critical (elevator pitch, job interview, emergencies) or low-context (e-mail, phone, non-native speakers) the problem compounds and split second of ambiguity can cost you your desired message.

Enter Ya'll.

Obviously, "ya'll" is a contraction of "you all" which is one of the constructs American English speakers have adapted to compensate for the glaring lack of a second-person plural pronoun. That fact alone demonstrates the need for such a pronoun - one has been created in common usage. It does retain a certain stigma due to the popularization of it's southern origin, and "hill billy" associations, but they did get something right:

Singular: "I'm so glad you called!"

Plural: "I'm calling to invite ya'll to my party!" (who's invited?)

That isn't to say it is always appropriate. Humans are very good at adapting communication styles based on context; I don't talk to friends the same way I talk to my 1-Year-Old. Given that, like many words, "ya'll" is not accepted as "proper English" in every context, I do not use it everywhere.

Language, though, is a tool. You've got to choose the right tool for the job. Or as the saying goes: when faced with an collective, plural or indeterminate second-person sentence subject or object, don't choose the objective personal pronoun.