Tuesday, May 04, 2004

More Book Reviews

Yes, more proof of my depressingly pathetic life:

The Explainer, edited by Bryan Curtis of Slate Magazine.

If you're into Q&A books like The Straight Dope, this isn't a bad read. Nowhere near as smart-alecky as Cecil Adams or Joel Achenbach but providing the answers for a number of pressing questions such as "Why does Bush say 'New-cue-lar?'"

Apparently it's due to a process called metathesis which shifts sounds from adjacent syllables. ("Nu-clee-ar" becomes "nu-cu-lar" as "eye-ron" became "eye-yern"). The book doesn't mention it but back in Chaucer's era, English went through what is called the "Great Vowel Movement" (not to be mistaken for the "Great Bowel--okay, I'll stop). Basic vowel sounds shifted from corresponding to Spanish and other language vowel sounds ("i" sounding like "ee" as in "Si" to "i" sounding like "eye" in "like.")

Yes, I know that no one else on the entire web is vaguely interested in this.

A question that somebody might conceivably care about is "did Eric Rudolph, the American right-wing terrorist, really live off lizards like he said he did?"

Answer: Lizard meat has 50 calories per ounce (like chicken), meaning that even if he stuck to a starvation diet of 1,500 calories/day all winter, he would have needed 100-300 lizards a day. Lizards are not plentiful in the Western Carolina mountains where he claimed to have hid out.

Does this mean Rudolph is a lying sack of shit? You can probably answer that yourself.

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