Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Dip Into the ATB Mailbag

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
Hey everybody!  Alison had an unexpected situation this week, so I thought I'd take the cheapest, easiest possible route for creating filler: dipping into the Across the Board mailbag!

If YOU have any questions for us, just fill out that little contact widget on the right-hand side.  I, or your other favorite Boarder would be delighted to hear from you.  Now, let's jump in!

Dear Stevesie,

Are the old children's books the "BerenstAin Bears" or the "BerenstEin Bears?"

- Loves Bear-Backing It

Hi, LBBI!  How funny you should ask.  I had dozens of those books, and I remember them distinctly.  It's the one with the "E."  Berenstein.

(Editor's Note: our fact-checkers have determined that it is actually "Berenstain" with an "A.")

Oh.  That's weird.  My mistake.  Sorry, everybody.

Dear Stevesie,

Is the big four-legged imperial walker in "Empire Strikes Back" pronounced "@@" or "A.T.A.T.?"

- Always Tracking A Transliteration

Hi, ATAT, in my humble opinion the correct pronunciation is "A.T.A.T"  Droid names with similar constructions have all their letters and numbers pronounced, and, perhaps most damning of all, how would you pronounce the name of the AT-ST if you used the phonetic method?  Still, colloquialisms are quite common, and it's a big galaxy out there, so maybe it's best that we just leave each to his own on this one.

Dear Stevesie,

Where in the Bible does it say "The lion shall lie down with the lamb?"  I've searched all over and I can't find it.

- Can't Help Understanding Real Holiness

Thanks for writing, CHURCH.  The verse you're looking for is Isaiah 11:6.

(Editor's Note: our fact-checkers indicate that Isaiah 11:6 actually states "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb...")

Wait, what?  Are you sure?  I could have sworn it was "lion."  Well, okay, nobody's perfect.

Dear Stevesie,

A friend of mine on Facebook loudly and with great certitude stated that putting two spaces after a sentence was wrong and that I should feel old for doing it.  Can you shed any light on the matter?

- Slightly Put-upon And Confused Everyman

Thanks for writing, SPACE!  Your friend is what we call in linguistics a "prescriptivist" (read: asshole.)  In other words, he likes to dictate what language usage ostensibly "should" be, as opposed to a descriptivist, who simply analyzes actual usage.

The truth is, there is no central authority for English language use, as the French have.  Every publishing house (not to mention corporation and government agency) has its own style guide.  While at work, you should, of course, adhere to your company's style guide, and when submitting writing, you should also adhere to the style of that publisher as best as you know how.  

Now, I could go on at some length about the aesthetic value of double-spacing sentences, not to mention its value in actual language comprehension (for instance, telling the different between abbreviations and hard stops) but I have an even simpler answer.  Removing double spaces from your manuscript takes about thirty seconds with a "find and replace" command.  Inserting them would take countless thousands of hours.  And since you'll never know which method the person you're submitting to may prefer, the "correct" answer seems obvious to me.

Dear Stevesie,

When did Nelson Mandela die?

- South African History Bluff

Hi, SAHB.  That's an easy one.  Nelson Mandela died in prison in the '80s.

(Editor's Note: our fact-checkers indicate Nelson Mandela actually went on to become president of South Africa and died in 2013.)

Hey, wait a minute, hold on there.  This is the third time you've corrected me.

(Editor's Note: yup.  Stop fucking up your facts.)

I'm not!  I distinctly remember all of these things.  Lots of people do.

(Editor's Note: perhaps you're all suffering from confabulation, the psychiatric condition where slightly altered false memories replace real ones.)

Thousands of people?  Hundreds of thousands of people?  All confabulating simultaneously?  How is that possible?  Check the damn internet.  A huge percentage of the population remembers the Berenstein Bears with an "E."  A beloved part of their childhoods and, woops, they all just flubbed it?  And Nelson Mandela dying?  That's a pretty major event, no?  And the Bible?  You're telling me all these people are remembering the freaking Bible wrong?  That's a pretty hard thing to confabulate when nuns are slapping your knuckles if you don't keep it right, don't you think? 

(Editor's Note: well, what do you consider the alternative?)

Well...what if (and just bear with me here for a minute) what if somebody were going back in time and tinkering with history?  What if in the future time travel is discovered and those future people decide to go back in time, Sam Beckett-like, to set right what once went wrong?  Something small in the past, say, preventing Bill Gates's parents from meeting, or ensuring that Hitler got accepted to art school, would lead to major consequences in the present.  History could literally be rewriting itself around us, maybe more than once, maybe multiple times, maybe even all the time.  Suppose the future were gradually tinkering with the past to make itself "correct."  And we wouldn't theory.  But the human brain is a complicated thing.  Perhaps it can be aware, to some extent, of time rewriting itself.  Maybe for some people, some memories are so deeply implanted - major things, like politics, a favorite childhood memory, even a favorite religious verse - become planted so deeply that they're actually remembered "correctly" even as history changes.  I once had a dark day where I was certain - absolutely certain - that Jeffrey Hunter had starred as Captain Pike through the entire run of "Star Trek" instead of William Shatner as Captain Kirk.  I had to look it up to disabuse myself of the notion.  But what if it was the records that were wrong and not my memory?  Maybe for thousands of people, millions even, the memory of the lamb laying down with the lion instead of the wolf is so deeply ingrained that it survived even temporal paradox.  Maybe it's even history's way of warning us that things are changing.  Maybe our neurons, our memories, are the only way that time itself can scream out in pain and attempt to alert us to the dark conspiracy all around us.

(Editor's note: or maybe you just remembered some shit wrong.)

Sigh...I guess we'll never know for sure.  Let's just answer this last letter.

Dear Stevesie,

Who is currently the president of the United States?

- Likes To Ask Simple Questions

Ah, finally, a nice cut-and-dry one.  John McCain is, of course, reaching the end of his second term as POTUS.  Thanks for writing, LTASQ.

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