Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

The passive voice is infamous as a style choice that we’re supposed to avoid. But for University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan, this isn’t a rule that should be set in stone.

“The advice, ‘never use the passive voice,’” says Curzan, “is a bit too sweeping to be entirely helpful.”

It’s easy to take for granted, but we use some pretty curious words for clothing. Blazer? Galoshes? What’s the story there?

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan, our resident expert on language, puts on her etymology hat to shed some light on what we call what we wear.


Roots are one of Chef Young's favorite offerings this time of year
flickr user Ruth Hartnup

Alex Young is the James Beard Award-winning chef at Zingerman’s Roadhouse in Ann Arbor and the founder of Cornman Farms in Dexter.

He’s cooked all over the world, and really loves fall and early winter in Michigan.

Anne Curzan
University of Michigan

It’s nearly the end of the year, and we’re seeing all sorts of end-of-the-year lists, including Word of the Year.

Anne Curzan is an English professor at the University of Michigan and co-host of That’s What They Say, and she joins us today to go over some of the words in the running for Word of the Year.

University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan has such a busy schedule, it's sometimes hard to find the time to produce our weekly "That's What They Say" discussion.

That led me to use the expression running from pillar to post, which in turn prompted a "hey, I wonder where that comes from" moment. 

We have lots of those moments, as do our listeners and readers, and that's why TWTS exists.

Where does the pillar to post reference originate?

What is a true cappuccino?

Dec 22, 2015
Guido Gloor Modjib/flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Pour-over method. Water quality. Solid extraction. The world of specialty coffee-making can seem a lot like chemistry class. 

This December some baristas may actually feel like they're in class as the Specialty Coffee Association of America is certifying coffee professionals this month. 

Todd & Brad Reed Photography

If there was ever any doubt about the beauty of Michigan, the new book Michigan: Wednesdays in the Mitten will convince your out-of-state friends they need to visit.

Ranging from some of the state’s most pristine natural areas to images of downtown celebrations, the father and son team of Todd and Brad Reed capture it in their new book. 

"Michigan has a story to tell and we love to help tell that story," said Brad Reed.

Michigan-raised artist Brenda Goodman is happy. That’s because she’s finally getting steady recognition from the art world, after years of rejection. This year Goodman won a lifetime achievement award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The 72-year-old thinks part of the reason she’s becoming more well-known is because people are sharing her artwork on social media sites, which helps her reach new audiences.

Goodman was born and raised in Detroit and was part of the Cass Corridor art movement in the 1970s. These days, Goodman lives in upstate New York.

With modern, accurate maps, it's clear how Michigan came to be known as "the Mitten State"
Ryan Grimes

It’s not hard to see why Michigan is often referred to as “the Mitten State,” but it is a little more difficult to figure out when folks actually started calling it that.

Stateside production assistant Cass Adair tells us he became curious about Michigan’s nickname over a Thanksgiving trip to Tennessee.

Christine Cha

If you’re already getting tired of the same old Christmas tunes this year, look no further than a new album called Creole Christmas. It’s by trumpet player and Michigan State University jazz professor, Etienne Charles.

The album combines, jazz, soul, and Creole music into a holiday mix with both instrumental tracks and vocal tracks that put a soulful spin on some standards, like Go Tell It on the Mountain and This Christmas to some holiday songs from Trinidad that you’ve probably never heard of.

Why are so few Detroit streets named after women?

Dec 16, 2015
Carolyn Gearig / Michigan Radio

Streets in Detroit have many origins. They’re named after civil rights leaders, forts from the 1820s, cities in other states, and early leaders in Detroit’s history.

 

But what are Detroit streets rarely named after?

 

Women.

 

A recent analysis by Mapbox developer Aruna Sankaranarayanan plots “male” and “female” streets on maps of major cities, including London, Mumbai, Paris and San Francisco.

 

Lauren Dukoff

Michigan native Garrett Borns is better known by his stage name, BORNS. He recently released his debut album, Dopamine.

Before wrapping up his U.S. tour, BORNS will be performing at The Shelter in Detroit on Wednesday. 

He explains the song Electric Love is his contemporary take on '60s and '70s glam rock. BORNS talks about the influence his favorite musicians had on him, like Michael Jackson and Prince.

R.J. Fox reading from "Love and Vodka"
screenshot

One of life’s greatest gifts is its ability to surprise us.

How could R.J. Fox know that going on the E.T. ride in Hollywood would lead him to the woman he’d want to marry? And from there, in the name of love, on to her home country Ukraine?

That’s where Fox was surprised by scowling old babushka-wearing ladies, a farmer who nearly beat him up for trying to photograph his goat, future in-laws he hoped to impress, and vodka. Lots and lots of vodka.

Fox tells the story in his new memoir Love and Vodka: My Surreal Adventures in Ukraine.

Like spending a weekend binge-watching House of Cards, some things we do not because it’s the correct thing, but simply because it feels right.

As it turns out, pronunciation can be like this too.

“Sometimes what dictionaries and grammar books tell us is technically correct in the language doesn’t sound quite right,” says University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan. “Which can leave us in a bit of a bind.”

thehavananote.com

In the decades since the Cuban Revolution of 1959, there has been wide gulf – literally and figuratively – between those who stayed in Cuba and those who left.

Ruth Behar was one of the latter. She is a professor of anthropology at the University of Michigan. As an academic and a researcher, she was able to go back and forth to Cuba when so many others could not.

Twenty years ago, Behar edited Bridges to Cuba/Puentes a Cuba. It’s seen as a landmark anthology of Cuban voices, including the works of artists, writers and scholars on the island and in the diaspora.

Chris Switzer

Olivia Mainville is a 19-year-old from Holland, Michigan. She’s releasing her first full-length album on Thursday.

Mainville describes her music as gypsy swing folk. Her playful voice has hints of a young Alanis Morrissette and sometimes Regina Spektor.

Mainville has already spent a lot of time touring the state playing music. She’s had more time on her hands than most teenagers. When she was in 9th grade, she decided to leave high school and become homeschooled so she could focus on her music.

flickr user Intel Free Press / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

If there’s a teen or 20-something in your life, chances are that you’ve seen plenty of “LOL” and “BFF” in your texting conversations.

It seems like text abbreviations are becoming an increasingly prevalent part of written correspondence. Are they making communication more efficient, or are they just making it harder to do so clearly?

There’s a lot of slang out there for things that are “good:” wicked, sick, even the word bad.

During one of her classes, University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan heard a new one (at least, for her): savage.

“So savage now means ‘good?’” asks Michigan Radio’s Rina Miller.

“Slang likes to turn things on its head,” says Curzan, “and make words that mean bad things, mean good things.”

Maybe that’s why we love to come up with slang words for the act of getting drunk.

Leonard Slatkin

Leonard Slatkin will step down as Detroit Symphony Orchestra music director at the end of the 2017-2018 season.

That doesn't mean he'll be putting down his baton for good.

Dick Siegel will mark the 35th anniversary of his album "Snap!" with a show at The Ark on December 5
Dick Siegel

Dick Siegel’s ode to one of Ann Arbor's signature breakfast spots sums up a perfect weekend morning.

“Angelo’s” is just one of the countless songs Siegel has written in his many decades as a singer-songwriter. It’s on the album “Snap!” and he’s marking the 35th anniversary of its release with a show this Saturday night at The Ark.

Courtesy of Nessa

Kelly McDermott’s musical career is well-established in the U.S., Canada and Europe with degrees in flute performance and music therapy from Michigan State and graduate degrees from Temple University.

McDermott talks with Stateside's Cynthia Canty about going from working as a teacher, a chamber and orchestral flute player to Celtic music. 

"I started to just really find some amazing kind of energy in singing these old ballads, the old really, really sad stories."

The new album, Ancient Song Discoveries Vol 1 is available now.

People who feel drawn to a comeback story are moving to Detroit bring their narrative and point of view to what the city is all about.

But sometimes these narratives and views of Detroit come from outsiders. 

Writer and critic Aaron Foley decided it was time to give the visitors and the newcomers a dose of Detroit realism.

His new book pretty much says it all: How To Live In Detroit Without Being a Jackass.

You’ve probably heard of the word eavesdropping, but what about the word easedropping?

“Eavesdropping can be easy, which is why some folks now refer to the act of listening in on other peoples’ conversations as easedropping,” says University of English Michigan Professor Anne Curzan.

Is this an act of lexical wrongdoing? Or is it, perhaps, a stroke of creative genius?


Post office in Kingsford, MI
Lucy Blair

Even in these days of email, Skype and FaceTime, we all know the purpose of a Post Office: to sort and deliver “snail mail.”

But Lucy Blair wanted to dig deeper. She and her wife Lina wanted to know what story the post office building tells about the community, and the people who depend on it.

We all admit to being a rabble-rouser once in a while, but no one wants to be a part of the rabble.

It’s even built into the language.

After all, how often do you see the word rabble without the word rouser attached to it?

“Not very often at all,” says University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan.

Much like some people, there are words that just don’t like to hang out on their lonesome.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

When composer Todd Machover asked Detroiters to send in sounds of their city to help create a "sonic portrait" of Detroit, he wasn't expecting 15,000 submissions.

But that's what he got.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gunner226/6871362474/in/photolist-btcwEN-eBcYq9-nTC8mq-5xi2mg-ajepEF-ajergc-ajhj43-ajhdso-ajeu92-ajexPx-ajewpT-aj86mz-ajdVcH-6Sg4JY-6SbYXa-6Sg4FU-6SbZ1V-6Sg4GG-6Sg4Lb-6Sg4J7-6SbYYK-6Sg4Do-6SbZ3R-6Sg4EE-eBcNyq-ajksWt-eBcxX1-5x
flickr user Gunner's Pixs / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Venice Biennale is considered the world’s top tier architecture show, and the city of Detroit will be in the spotlight when it opens next May.

That’s because the focus of the U.S. exhibition will be Detroit. The exhibit’s co-curators are Monica Ponce de Leon and Cynthia Davidson.

Anne Curzan
University of Michigan

Have you noticed that there are two pronunciations for the articles “a” (“uh and “ay”) and “the” (thuh and thee)?

Do you pronounce the word “often” with or without the “t”?

In this Stateside interview we explore pronunciation issues with Anne Curzan, University of Michigan English professor and co-host of That's What They Say along with Rina Miller here on Michigan Radio.

If you attended a symposium in the 18th century, you likely did so with an "adult beverage" in hand.

Now, the word symposium strikes a different image: a group of academics talking research, nary an "adult beverage" in sight. Why the change of heart, academia?

Our own resident academic, University of Michigan English Professor Anne Curzan, is at hand to provide some needed insight into the language of academia.


The Art Gallery of Knoxville/flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Emerging artists in Michigan may wonder: "How do I get the attention of an art critic? How do I get someone to write about my work if I haven't gotten to the point where I can mount a show?"

Lori Waxman, art critic for The Chicago Tribune, understands the challenges for artists trying to get honest feedback of their work.

In a rare event, Waxman will review any artist's work, no matter the skill level.

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