When I was growing up, documentaries, science magazines, time traveling soldiers, and ruler wielding nuns all called our prehistoric offshoots Neanderthals. Note the “h” in the last syllable. In high school, skinny girls who could accurately tell you the calories hidden within a slice of dry wheat toast were called anorexic. Note the “x” at the end.
Probably because chefs, sommeliers, and Michael Stipe began to expand their sphere of correctable mispronouncements, scientists, protective of what they considered their domain, got angry and lashed out in the only way they knew how: through television. The History Channel, Discovery Channel, and TLC (which, archeologists will prove, did once actually air non pregnancy/child rearing programming lo those many years afore) changed pronunciation overnight. “Neanderthals” became “Neandertals.” “Anorexic” became “Anorectic.” It passed without notice by many. The few who saw the truth were already marginalized by frequently correcting their friends over “cache” and “forte.” Well played scientists.
There is a new change afoot. I walked into a Mediterranean restaurant that I had never before visited. There were no gyros but there were descriptions of wraps on the menu that read as if they were gyros. They were called “shawarma.” Stepping into the unknown, I ordered this “shawarma.” It was a very good gyro.
I thought nothing of this enigma wrap until I saw The Avengers movie last Sunday. SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! At the end of the movie, Tony Stark/Iron Man suggests they all go try this new shawarma restaurant. The change is coming. Hollywood has joined the cause. There is no use resisting. Gyro. Donair. Shawarma. All the same (troll, troll, troll) thing we once referred to as a gyro, but recently, probably because everybody behind the counter at any pita wrap shop in the country finally reached their limit of “Jai -ro” orders, decided to say screw it to “gyro,” another name has emerged. As a group, these workers no doubt recoiled at the possible garbling of the last syllable of Donair; is it like corsair or does it just fade off like “don-eh” as the French would do it unless they were saying “cashe” or the anglo-saxon “forte.” You also have the problem of the Donair Party platter. “Shawarma” they could get behind. Even the most late night munchy post Widespread Panic concert crowd could say it properly. I venture they would imbue it with new meaning, raise it on high and become it. “Shawarma… pfft…shawarma. Dude, get the… (pause)… shawarma.” Laughter.
The change is coming and I support it. Just remember that you read it here first. To quote Paul Newman in his role as Butch Cassidy, “I have vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals.” Let’s take that quote to mean what the authors thought it meant rather than pointing out that bifocals are corrective lenses that give those who need them the capacity to see as clearly as the speaker, or to point out that Butch got shot a lot by an army which, at least according to the movie, he did not see coming. Let’s take it to mean that I noticed a change in the cultural zeitgeist and noted it on these electronic pages.
Shift to something different. I want to read a book while holding it upside down so that if I’m ever about to get caught spying on someone and have to quickly act casual by grabbing a book and pretending to read it, if I am accidentally holding the book upside down I can claim that that is something I do on occasion and beat a lie detector test when called upon to do so. I need something short without to much dialect. As an author’s interpretation of what they hear, dialect can be hard enough right side up. I need familiar, simple words to read upside down. Lots of “o”s, “l”s, and “x”s would be a plus.
I was thinking about P.G. Wodehouse as his novels are short, brilliantly written, and so funny they are hard to put down but I fear that the pace would lost and I’m not much for rereading. I don’t want to suffer through one of his books with the knowledge that I will never reread it and enjoy it as I should. At the same time, I don’t want to double down on hardship by reading something that I dislike in addition to it being upside down. I am open for suggestions.