March 15, 2008
Many middle-aged American Jews have identical memories of Yiddish - the language their parents spoke when they didn't want the children to understand. That's what Gila Haor remembers from her childhood in upstate New York. But at 33, she's trying to change things in her Pikesville household by speaking Yiddish as often as possible to her three daughters, ages 3 to 8. "It would make my grandparents - they are gone - so proud to know that I am speaking Yiddish," she says. Enthusiasts like Haor are few and far between.
November 27, 2005
SIGNSPOTTING Lonely Planet / $7.99 According to Doug Lansky, there are 406 million people in this world who claim English as their mother tongue and another 350 million or so who speak English as a second language. That's not the same thing as communicating with it, though, as Lansky demonstrates in Signspotting, a compilation of confusing signs from around the world. From Danville, Ill., for instance, comes the instruction for motorists: "To go left make 3 right turns." A roadside billboard for a Wisconsin Dairy Queen promises "Drive-Thru Seating."
November 7, 2005
ATLANTA -- Grandma Mary and Grandpa James, meet Baby Emily and Baby Jacob. Those are today's top names for newborns. Odds are good that Mom and Dad are Jennifer and Michael. Mary is the horse-and-buggy of girls' names, dependable for decades, now considered quaint. Along came Lisa, Jennifer, Jessica, Ashley and, most recently, Emily. John, a solid male favorite from 1890 to 1920, gave way to Robert, James, Michael and, since 2000, Jacob. Now the nursery's likely to be populated by Madisons and Hannahs, Joshuas and Matthews, according to The Very Best Baby Name Book by Bruce Lansky, who bases his rankings on records of the Social Security Administration.
August 26, 2001
ALL WEEK LONG, a word banged through our brains: Powerball. It made me think of Julius "Lord" Salisbury. And the word Powerball was attached to a number, $300 million, and we heard these words so constantly that I thought about William L. "Little Willie" Adams and Philip "Pacey" Silbert. And as the moment of selection came near, and millions anticipated the dawning of a new, Powerball-sponsored life of luxury, I thought about Robert "Fifi" London and Louis Comi. Powerball is a lottery game involving 22 states, officially sanctioned and supervised by governments, and played by millions of people who do not have to look over their shoulders for the cops as they place their wagers.
July 29, 2001
FOLKS LIKE vice because it's fabulous. That's right, gambling is a kick, cocktails taste good and porno flicks are arousing. Is it OK to say that out loud? Sure, because I don't do these things, it's other people. But the numbers from the business section and the smiles on American faces suggest a whole lot of other people. Last year, according to industry statistics, Americans spent $95 billion on alcoholic drinks, $10 billion on X-rated movies and, brace yourself, more than half a trillion in wagers.
May 2, 1999
LAS VEGAS -- The establishment in the "new" Las Vegas loves to talk about the explosion in family entertainment, the number of churches per capita ("Highest in the nation!") and the joys of living in suburbs that reach ever farther into the desert.Oscar B. Goodman loves to talk about the old days, when he busted up dozens of government attacks on reputed mobsters and kept Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro out of jail despite suspicions that the feared Mafia enforcer had committed nearly two dozen murders.