Everything is Simple

Wheel of Misfortune

(Let me nerd out real quick.)

I recently came across an article on Huffington Post called 'Wheel of Fortune' Maybe Screws Over Contestant on 'Seven Swans A Swimming' Answer.

But, there is no "maybe" about it.

Here’s the situation: One contestant pleaded her opportunity to solve the puzzle, saying, “Seven Swans A-Swimmin’” — an answer host Pat Sajak deemed incorrect. Moments later, another contestant claimed the solution to the puzzle was “Seven Swans A-Swimming” — an answer which satisfied the TV show host.

Sajak continued to clarify this weird and uncomfortable situation to the contestants by noting one contestant “left out the ‘G’ in ‘Seven Swans A-Swimmin.’”

Here’s the problem with this. Even Sajak didn’t produce the “G” in “Seven Swans A-Swimming” when he approached with an explanation.

You see, words are made up of phonemes. The “G” sound understood by all students of phonetics sounds like what you could expect it to sound like: the “G sound” in “GaGa” or “GoGo” or “Git-R-Done!” The phoneme /g/ is a voiced velar stop, which means that the manner of articulation required to produce the “G” involves the back of the tongue touching the velum (soft-palate) and blocking airflow.

But, when we look at “-ing,” we are typically looking at a very different sound. The form of “swimming” Pat Sajak produced did not actually feature a “G” sound at the end. Rather, it’s what is called an “eng” or an “engma” and is an altogether different phoneme: /ŋ/.

The engma, like the “G sound” also involves the velum for production. However, it is a velar nasal sound — which means that airflow is not blocked; rather, it is cycled through the nasal passage (like other nasals /m/ and /n/). If you don’t believe me hold an “M sound,” put your finger under your nose and feel the air emission. You can do the same when holding the engma at the end of “swimming.” Good luck holding a “G sound,” like at the end of dog.

Now, here’s the other thing.

Sajak mentioned leaving off the “G sound” in the “vernacular.”

What Sajak meant to say was that the contestant did not use the appropriate articulation he deemed fit. You see, the “American vernacular” (if that’s what we want to call it) is made up of dialectical differences across many cultural, socioeconomic, and regional boundaries. There are words that may be used in the South that aren’t in the North, the East that aren’t in the West, and vice versa.

Just Google “Dialects in the United States” and you might be surprised how many legitimate and accepted dialects can be found in the US.

Look, no one likes to admit their faults or that they may have messed up — but this seemed like a clear over-stepping of academic authority. And, really, I usually don’t care about the goings on on game shows, but this was uninformed pickiness and it would behoove anyone interested in preserving the intellectual sanctity of the show to issue an apology.

(Also, I study this stuff and I couldn’t resist.)

Bribing children with candy, or: That one time when I made a little girl really mad and found a way out by buying her a candy bar

Yesterday, one of my friends sent me a text telling me that she had her child with her, at school. This is the kid that I had gotten into trouble, last summer at Einstein Bagels, by laughing at her jokes, which provoked her to spin even more out of control and to the point that her mom needed to intervene and tell her to "calm down or [else]…" (something like that).

Anyway, I was excited to see this crazy, cute ball of ADD-induced energy, again. She’s really one of the cutest kids you’ll ever see. She has really big eyes, a smile full of teeth that are just slightly separated from one another, and whenever she laughs, she looks like she’s either going to pop or fall out of her chair.

I don’t remember what was said, but I responded to something (agreeing) with, "I know, it’s disgusting, isn’t it?"

But, for some reason, she suddenly crossed her arms, looked at the floor and pouted her lips. Everyone at the table was kind of like, “what the hell?” Her mom tried to explain that I was agreeing with her, but she wasn’t having it.

Conversation ensued for a few minutes before I asked, "Did I make you mad?" ::head nod:: "Is there anything I can do to make you not mad?" ::head shake:: "Do you like candy?" ::head nod:: "What’s your favorite kind of candy?" (her mom looks at me with the word Seriously. in her eyes.)

I ended up walking to Barnes & Noble on campus and buying a regular Hershey bar. Before I handed it to her, I was sure to ask, "So, if I give this to you, you won’t be mad at me anymore?" ::head shake:: “Awesome. Here you go.” She, then, hopped off of her chair, ran over to me, and hugged my leg.

After I sat down, the consensus among the ladies at the table was, "You’re going to be a terrible father. Your wife is going to hate you."

Doubt it.

"Forgiveness"

Yom Kippur is known as the Day of Atonement, or as my rabbi breaks it down, “The Day of At One-ment.” This is, hands down, the most important holiday on the Jewish calendar and is one I take very seriously.

What I find to be the most difficult is not the total fast, which most people hate, but the seeking out of forgiveness for transgressions committed in the past year. I like to think I’m a pretty decent person and that if I ever do anything that I need to apologize for, I do it in a timely fashion. However, there are those times when saying sorry, apologizing, isn’t so easy.

I’ve been struggling with a certain instance, it occurred last Spring, and I attempted to call this person — as they’re no longer at school. There was no answer, but there was a text message response. I told her that I really needed to speak with her. She asked if it could wait until homecoming, but I told her it couldn’t (I have ‘til Saturday night, people!) She evidently works the graveyard shift, somewhere, and gets off of work at 5 in the morning.

Look, I’m one of those people that when I say I need to talk to you, it means I need to TALK to you. Not text, not message, not e-mail. Fucking talk. All of you who are reading this, know that. She insisted on texting me and asking me questions and I ended up responding with:

Look, I just need to talk. I can’t go into it in a text. We’ll talk when you’re available.

Then, this morning, at 3:12 AM (I was asleep) she texts me:

Wht do u need to tell me?

So, I explained a little, without giving too much away — I really needed to do this in a verbal conversation — and the reaction was something to the effect of ”..why is it just now taking you this long?” And, the text ended with,

Fine whatevs i already gave my acceptance to your apology happy yom kippur bye

I really don’t understand why people don’t listen to me when I tell them I need to have a conversation with them, as opposed to having a textversation with them. And, really, this isn’t limited to this specific situation. At least two of my followers, on here, have refused to speak to me and have accepted textual-based means of communication as appropriate means of discussing an issue. I don’t hold it against them, but when it happens, it’s beyond frustrating.

I’d choose face-to-face over text-to-text every day.

As for her “forgiveness,” I didn’t feel it was genuine, or that it even counted, since it seemed hostile. But, I’ve always been told that if someone asks for forgiveness and it is not given, the burden then falls on the other person. Yom Kippur is not a holiday solely of seeking forgiveness, but also of granting forgiveness. I’ve always looked at it as a sort of “clean slate” holiday, but you don’t just get the slate… you have to seek it and put forth the effort.

I texted my rabbi to see what his thoughts were on her apology. He responded:

I would take the offer as it is. Apologizing and forgiving is a messy business. At least now you’ll be able to move beyond whatever the situation was.

A messy business, indeed.

The Red Ginger

Last day in San Diego and Grandma decides to take me to brunch before my 1:30 flight. This is simply easier due to airport etiquette and the distance from the apartment to the airport. And, of course, my grandma being a little old Jewish lady, she suggests we go to the local Jewish delicatessen (which we’d already been to twice in the past week), for said meal.

We are seated by the host at the same table we were at just two days ago. Out of the kitchen doors, walks a red-headed beauty, with pale skin, freckles, and amazingly straight teeth. She smiles and asks us what we want to order. I detect somewhat of an accent, at first, but she’s quiet and reserved, at first. My guess is that she’s new. Grandma wants pancakes. So, she orders two pancakes. When the waitress repeats the order, she says, “two potato pancakes.” Grandma didn’t hear, so I interjected. Then, the two of them argued over whether or not Grandma wanted pancakes of latkes for brunch, I butted in, yet again, and pointed to the buttermilk pancakes on the menu. It was like pulling teeth. So complicated. And, I ordered the French Dip.

When the waitress walked away, Grandma remarked about her voice. My guess was that she sounded French. Grandma said German. I went to the bathroom to take a photo of myself in the mirror for steviecathryn and returned to the table just before the waitress came back. Grandma, being the shy person that she isn’t, asked immediately about her accent. Before accepting the waitress’ answer, she informed her of our guesses. "I’m Russian." We both lost that one.

A Ginger Russian. A RED Ginger.

I love Russians. My best friend is convinced I’ll get married to a super-skinny, super-hot (way out of my league) Russian woman who knows little-to-no English, but adores me, and will smile and roll her eyes at everything I say.

The food comes out and almost immediately, Grandma identifies the pancakes as “too doughy.” She continues to eat them (God knows why) and almost chokes to death. Her 80-year-old self managed to run to the bathroom and return alive. Remember that communication breakdown earlier about the pancakes? Imagine what happened after the almost-dying situation.

When the waitress came to check on us, Grandma began explaining the pancakes. RedGinger began freaking out. She didn’t understand or know what to do, so she sought out the help of her senior waitress (who’s been there for 25+ years). At this point, grandma didn’t want any more pancakes. She wanted cake. A piece of cake. RedGinger didn’t understand. The senior waitress told us we could get two pieces of cake “on the house” because of the pancakes. Score! I walked over to the bakery with RedGinger to find the cake we’d gotten the other day.

They were out. Turns out, the "Pacific Coast" cake is a specialty cake that they don’t make in their bakery. Added confusion. We picked out a different cake and I explained to Grandma why the cake was going to be different. It was all good.

THEN, RedGinger comes to the table and says, "It’s okay if you get one cake free and the other you pay." Grandma responds, "But, the other girl said we’d get both free." The other waitress walks up and explains that the manager only approved one free cake. Grandma: "Oh, that’s fine. Is no big deal."

Then, we get the check and there’s all sorts of new information. The veteran waitress explained that we got all sorts of shit free and 20% off the entire ticket. Grandma left the RedGinger a very nice tip, because she knew she was being crazy-difficult. It turns out that the dough was actually prepared improperly. I tried a pancake and thought it was off. Grandma has a thyroid problem, so the dough-iness was definitely a legitimate concern. I really hope she didn’t break down and cry. It wasn’t even 11, yet.

There was no way I was going to comment about how hard the roast beef was on my French Dip.