Friday, October 23, 2009

Sorry - suggestions...

I had not checked my email box for quite some time {sigh} and it looks like all the mail was lost in there.

If you have sent me an email recently, please re-send with any suggestions you have for the Mainah Glossary.

Even better, just post a comment here!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Not entirely on topic but still...

I agree with this reporter's opinion. As someone who has visited Boston all her life and lived there for 6 years, I don't see the Big Dig in as negative a light as many other people. I also toured the Big Dig site twice before it was opened - absolutely amazing engineering project.

Yes, it was expensive but picture Boston today without it. I don't want to...

Apr 9, 2009

Big Dig and other marvels

Albert B. Southwick

The three most impressive engineering achievements in Massachusetts history are:

No.1. The railroad from Boston through Worcester to Albany, completed in 1842. It opened up New England to trade from the west via the Erie Canal and ensured that this region would not wither on the economic vine.

No.2. The construction of the Quabbin Reservoir and aqueduct, completed in 1937. The 25-mile aqueduct, dug mostly through solid rock, sometimes 600 feet below ground, is the size of a subway tunnel and is a gigantic siphon that daily sucks 600 million gallons of water uphill from the Quabbin Reservoir to the Ware River diversion and then downhill to the Wachusett Reservoir in Clinton from which it is distributed to Greater Boston. It ensures that eastern Massachusetts (and Chicopee) will have enough water for centuries.

No.3. The Big Dig, Despite all the horror stories, it rates as the most complex and brilliant engineering project in Massachusetts history and has turned Boston from a dingy, traffic-clogged nightmare into a modern city with a bright future.

The Big Dig has become a symbol of waste, fraud, runaway costs and tragic blunders, which is too bad. Its long-term benefits vastly outweigh all those negatives. Despite its inexcusable cost overruns, it already is lowering expenses for commuters traveling through Boston by millions of dollars a year and is reducing air pollution by an estimated 14 percent.

In 1995, the Central Artery, an ugly, rusting eyesore, and the two old tunnels to East Boston were carrying 168,000 cars a day. The idea of putting all that traffic underground was daunting. Many of Boston’s building foundations are below sea level. Much of downtown Boston sits on thousands of tons of fill of questionable stability. And its underground is laced with utility lines, sewer pipes, water mains, and subway supports. It seemed hopeless. But Fred Salvucci, then working for the Dukakis administration, was convinced that it could be done, and he proved persuasive. Design planning began in the 1990s.

The actual construction over the years has been done despite staggering difficulties. Thousands of cubic yards of clay, fill and gravel had to be excavated and carted away. Much of the old utility complex underground had to be rebuilt. Meantime, the old Central Artery had to continue carrying its daily load of 100,000-plus vehicles, and the two old tunnels were loaded to safe capacity and beyond. But when it finally opened, it moved Boston into a sparkling new era.

With the help of Holly Sutherland of the Mass Turnpike’s public relations office, I undertook an estimate of what the big project means and will mean to Boston and eastern Massachusetts. In 1995, the Central Artery and the two old tunnels were carrying about 168,000 vehicles daily. By 2005, the Big Dig and the Ted Williams Tunnel were carrying about 207,000. Average speed through Boston had increased from 13 to 36 miles per hour, which meant that the average motorist probably saved a half hour or more and possibly a half gallon of gas. That would add up to 100,000 hours of time and 100,000 gallons of gas saved daily.

One estimate concluded that the new complex, by reducing traffic delays and accidents, saves $500 million a year. In 10 years, that would add up to $5 billion. But that is only part of the story. Had Boston done nothing, according to estimates, traffic on the Central Artery would have ground to a crawl 16 hours a day. Boston’s neighborhoods would have endured a miserable era of traffic strangulation and air pollution.

The quality of life in Boston will be notably improved and has been already. The noisy, ugly barrier that divided Boston is gone. The daily torrent of more than 200,000 vehicles and their pollution has been removed from the city streets. Neighborhoods have been reconnected. More than 260 acres of surface have been reclaimed for park, recreation, memorial and other purposes.

Fred Salvucci, who had so much to do with the idea and launch of the Big Dig, has had no connection with it for years. Wondering what his thoughts were now, I called him at his office at MIT, where he is a research professor of transportation logistics.

He said that he is impressed by some of the brilliant engineering that was done on the Big Dig, but also appalled by some of the fraud and shoddy work, such as what led to a fatal roof collapse of a tunnel entrance. But he has no doubts as to the big project’s long-term value to Boston and eastern Massachusetts.

“Just try to imagine what Boston would be like if nothing had been done,” he remarked.

The Boston to Albany Railroad, the Quabbin Reservoir and Aqueduct, the Big Dig: sometimes it pays off to think big.

Albert B. Southwick’s column appears regularly in the Telegram & Gazette.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Article: Colloquialisms abound, A to Z

Some day I would like to read the Dictionary of American Regional English. Until then, I will have to look into what these amazing people are doing:

Monday, March 23, 2009

Colloquialisms abound, A to Z

Regional expressions go native

By Ryan J. Foley

If you don’t know a stone toter from Adam’s off ox, or aren’t sure what a grinder shop sells, the Dictionary of American Regional English is for you.

The collection of regional words and phrases is beloved by linguists and authors and used as a reference in professions as diverse as acting and police work. And now, after five decades of wide-ranging research that sometimes got word-gatherers run out of suspicious small towns, the job is almost finished.

The dictionary team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is nearing completion of the final volume, covering “S” to “Z.” A new federal grant will help the volume get published next year, joining the first four volumes already in print.

“It will be a huge milestone,” said editor Joan Houston Hall.

The dictionary chronicles words and phrases used in distinct regions. Maps show where a submarine sandwich might be called a hero or grinder, or where a potluck — as in a potluck dinner or supper — might be called a pitch-in (Indiana) or a scramble (northern Illinois).

It’s how Americans do talk, not how they should talk.

“It’s one of the great American scholarly activities and people will be reading it for a century learning about the roots of the American language,” said William Safire, who frequently cites the dictionary in his “On Language” column in The New York Times Magazine. “It shows the richness and diversity of our language.”

Doctors have used it to communicate with patients and investigators have referred to it in efforts to identify criminals, including the Unabomber. Dialect coaches in Hollywood and on Broadway have used the dictionary’s audio recordings of regional speakers to train actors.

Author Tom Wolfe has called the dictionary “my favorite reading.”

In awarding the two-year, $295,000 grant that will get the final volume into print, National Science Foundation reviewers called the dictionary “one of the most visible public faces of linguistics,” and a “national treasure.”

The concept dates to 1889, when the American Dialect Society was formed. But the project did not start in earnest until 1965, when English professor Frederic Cassidy dispatched workers to 1,000 carefully chosen U.S. communities to interview residents and make audio recordings of their speech.

Workers often slept in “word wagons” — vans emblazoned with the UW logo — and even were chased out of a few Southern towns. The field work alone took five years and collected 2.5 million different words and phrases.

Since then, linguists have painstakingly researched the words using print materials to decide which should be included. The dictionary project has about a dozen workers and a $750,000 annual budget.

Cassidy died in 2000, still looking toward publication of the final volume. His tombstone reads: “On to Z!”

Hall, who has worked at the dictionary since 1975 and been editor since 2000, said the complete series of five volumes published by Harvard University Press will contain about 75,000 entries.

Draft entries for the final volume are still being reviewed. During a recent visit to their offices at UW-Madison’s English department, one was tracing the history of the word “stone toter,” a type of fish found in parts of the eastern U.S.

After the final volume is published, the next phase of the project will be to put the dictionary online. Hall envisions an online edition that will be updated constantly.

Hall said her all-time favorite word is bobbasheely, used in Gulf Coast states as a noun meaning a good friend or as a verb meaning to hang around with a friend. It comes from the language of the Choctaw tribes.

Two people interviewed in Texas and Alabama in the 1960s used the word. Further digging revealed that Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner had once used it in a novel, and it was used in the early 19th century by a colleague of former vice president and duelist Aaron Burr.

The dictionary has occasionally been put to serious use.

Forensic linguist Roger Shuy said he occasionally referred to the dictionary when he studied the Unabomber’s writings in the 1990s for clues to the writer’s identity. His profile didn’t help catch Ted Kaczynski, but it turned out to be pretty accurate: He guessed the Unabomber had a doctorate, grew up near Chicago and was older than some investigators initially believed.

Hall also was sought for help by reporters who didn’t understand President Bill Clinton’s comment in 1993 that an Air Force official who had criticized him “doesn’t know me from Adam’s off ox.”

Hall said the phrase is used west of the Appalachians in place of the more popular “he doesn’t know me from Adam.” The “off ox” refers to one of the two oxen once used to plow fields.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What American accent do you have?

Supposedly mine is from the West.

I guess a combo of growing up in Maine, living in Boston, London, DC, and CT! I've become "neutral!"

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ah, winter in the country...

Dear Diary:

Aug. 12 - Moved into our new home in Maine. It is so beautiful here. The hills and river valleys are so picturesque. I have a beautiful old oak tree in my front yard. Can hardly wait to see the change in the seasons. This is truly God's Country.

Oct. 14 - Maine is such a gorgeous place to live, one of the real special places on Earth. The leaves are turning a multitude of different colors. I love all of the shades of reds, oranges and yellows, they are so bright. I want to walk through all of the beautiful hills and spot some white tail deer. They are so graceful; certainly they must be the most peaceful creatures on Earth. This must be paradise.

Nov. 11 - Deer season opens this week. I can't imagine why anyone would want to shoot these elegant animals. They are the very symbol of peace and tranquility here in Maine. I hope it snows soon. I love it here!

Dec. 2 - It snowed last night. I woke to the usual wonderful sight: everything covered in a beautiful blanket of white. The oak tree is magnificent. It looks like a postcard. We went out and swept the snow from the steps and driveway. The air is so crisp, clean and refreshing. We had a snowball fight. I won, and the snowplow came down the street. He must have gotten too close to the driveway because we had to go out and shovel the end of the driveway again. What a beautiful place. Nature in harmony. I love it here!

Dec. 12 - More snow last night. I love it! The plow did his cute little trick again. What a rascal. A winter wonderland I love it here!

Dec. 19 - More snow - couldn't get out of the driveway to get to work in time. I'm exhausted from all of the shoveling. And that snowplow!

Dec. 21 - More of that white sh*t coming down. I've got blisters on my hands and a kink in my back. I think that the snowplow driver waits around the corner until I'm done shoveling the driveway. *sshole.

Dec. 25 - White Christmas? More freakin' snow. If I ever get my hands on the sonofab*tch who drives that snowplow, I swear I'll castrate him. And why don't they use more salt on these roads to melt this crap??

Dec. 28 - It hasn't stopped snowing since Christmas. I have been inside since then, except of course when that SOB "Snowplow Harry" comes by. Can't go anywhere, cars are buried up to the windows. Weather man says to expect another 10 inches. Do you have any idea how many shovelfuls 10 inches is??

Jan. 1 - Happy New Year? The way it's coming down it won't melt until the 4th of July! The snowplow got stuck down the road and the sh*thead actually had the balls to come and ask to borrow a shovel! I told him I'd broken 6 already this season.

Jan. 4 - Finally got out of the house. We went to the store to get some food and a god*mn deer ran out in front of my car and I hit the bastard. It did $3,000 in damage to the car. Those beasts ought to be killed. The hunters should have a longer season if you ask me.

Jan. 27 - Warmed up a little and rained today. The rain turned the snow into ice and the weight of it broke the main limb of the oak tree in the front yard and it went through the roof. I should have cut that old piece of sh*t into fireplace wood when I had the chance.

May 23 - Took my car to the local garage. Would you believe the whole underside of the car is rusted away from all of that d*mn salt they dump on the road? Car looks like a bashed up, heap of rusted cow sh*t.

May 10 - Sold the car, the house, and moved to Florida. I can't imagine why anyone in their freakin' mind would ever want to live in the G0d forsaken State of Maine.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A YouTube video you can't miss...

I'll admit it - I'm not a fan of YouTube. I've probably seen less than 6 videos on YouTube but this one you have to watch. Priceless.

Maine Man Song

See - aren't you glad you watched it? And now it will be stuck in your head the rest of the day. You're Welcome!!

- L.