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Newark USA

A fotojournal about LIVING in Newark USA, New Jersey's largest and most cultured city, by the author of the foto-essay website RESURGENCE CITY: Newark USA.

Friday, January 18, 2013

'No Gum'

I discussed here on December 5th the mess that gum on sidewalks and such make in parts of the city that have heavy pedestrian traffic, so was pleased to see, four days later, this sign that gives the rules for use of the park alongside the Ironbound Recreation Center. Note the fifth rule from the top.

If you can't read the last item because of the graffiti, it says:
"It is prohibited to deface, move, or remove any sign or structure placed by Park Management within the park."
I can never remember whether there are two F's or two T's in "graffiti" (or "grafitti"), and have to keep looking it up. This is yet another example of why I am a spelling reformer. (It's two F's, tho shouldn't be. One of the spelling 'rules' we try to operate by is that syllabic stress is often cued by the doubling of a consonant at the end of the stressed syllable. However, that often runs afoul of another 'rule', that a short vowel is marked by a doubled following consonant. So, altho the stressed syllable here is the second, there is no double-T to mark that, which fits one of the 'rules' mentioned above, in that the I represents a long vowel. Not a long-I, mind you. A long-E! Why do we write an E-sound with an I?
Still, in "graffiti", why is there a double-F? The A isn't short, as in "at", but a schwa, as in "about". That's not spelled "abbout". So why is there a double-F in "graffiti"? Because the word was taken in from Italian, and written in accord with such rules as might exist in Italian.

This is English. The spelling should have been changed once it became clear that the word would persist in English, to something like "grafeetee" or "grafeety". But nothing is changed in loanwords, for centuries. And thus does the 'English' language (now a misnomer) become ever more chaotic and hard to work with. ("English" originated not in England, but in Germany, and is an adjectival form of "Angle" within the language of the Angles. Originally spelled "Englisc", the language and the people gave their name to the country, not the other way around. Now, some 70% of all native speakers of "English" reside in one country: the United States. Some people have suggested a new name for the language to reflect its worldwide status. I've seen "Anglic" and "Anglish" (which advocates a return to a more Germanic form of English). Some people indignant about British haughtiness about "their" language, would like to see it called "American". Wouldn't that be a hoot? (A book called Anglic by Swedish philologist R.E. Zachrisson contains excellent argumentation for his version of English spelling reform.)
We bring in words like "açaí" from Portuguese. Almost nobody knows how to type a cedilla or accent over a letter, so it turns into "acai", which looks as tho it should be pronounced a.kíe, whereas it's actually pronounced oq.soq.ée (where Q is silent, used merely to show a short vowel by "closing" the syllable it appears in, as any sounded consonant would do) or oq.sie.yée. How would you even write that in standard English conventions? "Ahsieyee"? "Ahsahyee"? Don't worry about it. At the rate we're dealing with spelling reform, it will stay "acai" for hundreds of years, and be joined by THOUSANDS or even tens of thousands of other absurdly spelled borrowings and coinages.
I recently went into the pharmacy department of the East Orange ShopRite to look for vitamin E and gingko — or "gingko biloba"; the second word is unnecessary, since "gingko biloba" is the name of the tree as well as the dietary supplement, so you're not distinguishing the supplement from the tree by adding a second word. But, actually, the original spelling is the goofy and unexpected "ginkgo", as tho there is an NG sound built into the consonant series NK, plus a hard-G sound thereafter. Nobody says that. The more sensible spelling "gingko is thus an accepted variant.
It gets worse. An alternate pronunciation, which I have never heard but see at Dictionary.com, is jíng.koe! That's because G before E, I, and Y is often pronounced "soft", as a J-sound. (It is even pronounced like J before an A in "margarin/e" (which, in its spelling "margarine", can be pronounced with a long-E sound in the last syllable). Why do we put up with this crap?
How on EARTH — and why is there an EA in that word? shouldn't EAR be pronounced like the organ with which we hear? — is anyone, within an 'English'-speaking country much less in non-'English'-speaking countries (where more than a billion people at any given time are trying to learn English), supposed to master this madness?
Returning to my ShopRite narrative, I couldn't find gingko (biloba), because the dietary supplements and vitamins are NOT arranged in alphabetical order. That would make too much sense. The Whole Foods in Montclair (opposite the Montclair Art Museum, across Bloomfield Avenue) has a sign at the aisle where it offers vitamins that says, 'Vitamins A-Z', but in actuality there is no alphabetical order in that aisle either! When I was about to leave the E.O. ShopRite in annoyed frustration, I saw a new thing in a corner near the counter, something labeled "higi". Hm. What is it and how is "higi" pronounced? I didn't think to take a picture of it. Weird, isn't it? I'll take one the next time I'm there late, and there's nobody in the way or to wonder why I'm taking a picture. You can see a somewhat different version of a higi station here.
It turns out to be a FREE health-measuring device by which you can find out your blood pressure, weight (in clothing), Body Mass Index, and pulse rate. Curious as to my specifics and as to how the machine worked, I sat down and followed the written directions onscreen. At the end of your session, you can abandon that info or send it to yourself in an email. I sent it, and later opened an account so I can track these things. I was in good shape except for an extremely high pulse. I don't know why, but will see, in future visits, if it had anything to do with too much caffeine that day.
In any case, I looked on the higi website for how "higi" is pronounced (híj.ee, híe.gie, híg.ee, híe.jee, híe.jie, or what. The higi website says:
Although we hear "hickey" and "hi-guy" a lot, the correct pronunciation is hig-ee.
"Hickey"? How would anyone get that? There's no K. But people are so accustomed to insane spellings and unexpected pronunciations that some can make such a bizarre guess. If I understand what they write, they should simply have coined the name as "higgy", like "piggy".
In any case, if you'd like to locate a higi station, almost all of which are in the Northeast, there's a "locator" webpage you can consult.
Now, returning to our point of departure to this long aside, I wondered if other park rules signs also ban gum, so searched for a sign I knew I fotograffed at Riverbank Park in the Ironbound.

I found the one above, at the Somme Street entrance, which specifically mentions "chewing gum", fourth from the bottom. But the other sign I also fotograffed, at the entrance from Raymond Boulevard (shown below), gives a different list of rules, which includes no mention of gum (near as I can tell, trying to see past the defacement of that sign by flyers apparently pasted over it and not completely scraped away). By the way, I found out in December, when asking directions to the ice-skating rink at the Ironbound Recreation Center, that "Somme" Street in Newark is pronounced sóm.ee, not like the Battle of the Somme, saum. Was it named for the river and battle in France? If so, why is it pronounced differently? And if it is to be pronounced differently, why isn't it spelled as it is pronounced, "Sommy" or "Sommee"?

I shall have to look for other park-rules signs to see if "no [chewing] gum" is generally included. People would be well advised to consider it a universal rule for Newark's (and Essex County's) parks. It's a good rule to have, and a similar rule should be adopted city-wide, not just for parks: "Dispose of chewing gum properly or be fined $__." Then, if the City does somehow get (thru purchase or donation) gum-clearing machines, it will not have to devote much manpower to gum removal — if that ordinance is enforced.

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