Tag Archives: History

The Staff Picks: Week of May 9th

Well, hello again! It’s a new week and we have a new set of recommendations– books we love and can’t wait to tell you about.

See last week’s here.


Lucia Picks:

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, by Wells Tower

Viking marauders descend on a much-plundered island, hoping some mayhem will shake off the winter blahs.  A man is booted out of his home after his wife discovers that the print of a bare foot on the inside of his car’s windshield doesn’t match her own.  Teenage cousins, drugged by summer, meet with a reckoning in the woods.  A boy runs off to the carnival after his stepfather bites him in a brawl.  Wells Tower’s version of America is touched with the seamy splendor of the dropout, the misfit: failed inventors, boozy dreamers, hapless fathers, wayward sons.


BJ Picks:

22 Britannia Road, by Amanda Hodgkinson

“Housekeeper or housewife?” the soldier asks Silvana as she and eight- year-old Aurek board the ship that will take them from Poland to England at the end of World War II. There her husband, Janusz, is already waiting for them at the little house at 22 Britannia Road. But the war has changed them all so utterly that they’ll barely recognize one another when they are reunited. “Survivor,” she answers.

Silvana and Aurek spent the war hiding in the forests of Poland. Wild, almost feral Aurek doesn’t know how to tie his own shoes or sleep in a bed. Janusz is an Englishman now-determined to forget Poland, forget his own ghosts from the way, and begin a new life as a proper English family. But for Silvana, who cannot escape the painful memory of a shattering wartime act, forgetting is not a possibility.


Frank, Jr. Picks:

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

It’s the perfect time, Frank thinks, to revisit this classic. He’s been reading it again and trying to convince the rest of us to do the same.

Here’s where you should not go.


Lilly Picks:

Patti Smith 1969-1976, photographed by Judy Linn

“Linn’s collection of photographs is the perfect complement to Smith’s National Book Award-winning memoir, Just Kids . . . like Smith’s memoir, the photos-uninterrupted by titles, captions, or any other text-serve two purposes: they tell the story of young artists finding their voice and style and serve as a love letter to ’70s New York, four decades later.”

Lilly says:  “I LOVE it.”


Donna Picks:

French Leave, by Anna Gavalda

Simon, Garance and Lola flee a family wedding that promises to be dull to visit their younger brother, Vincent, who is working as a guide at a château in the heart of the charming Tours countryside. For a few hours, they forget about kids, spouses, work and the many demands adulthood makes upon them and lose themselves in a day of laughter, teasing, and memories. As simply and as spontaneously as the adventure began, it ends. All four return to their everyday lives, carrying with them the magic of their brief reunion. They are stronger now, and happier, for having rediscovered the ties that bind them.


Danielle Picks:

Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales, by Lucy Cousins

Eight classic stories take on new energy as Lucy Cousins ramps up her artwork. In this bold, funny, and unflinching collection, the beloved author-illustrator retains all the emotion and humor of the original fairy tales: the heroes are courageous, the villains are horrible, and the children are tasty. With her sly, simple language and vibrant illustrations, even the scariest fiends become the stuff of shared hilarity and shivery thrills.


Aida Picks:

The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake


Jane Picks:

The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca, by Tahir Shah

Jane says: “Having traveled through most of the Moslem nations in the bygone era when there were still kings and emperors in Afghanistan and Iran, Morocco always haunted my mind as being so very different as to seem a sojourner outpost from an alien galaxy.  Nothing was quite solid, pathways of energy ran unseen under the surface, reality always had a half-glimpsed twin slipping around a shadowed turn.  It wasn’t until I read The Caliph’s House all these decades later that those rather hallucinatory impressions began to merge into something coherent. At first glimpse, you might take it for a crazier version of other International House Hunter sagas like Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence and Frances Mayes’s Under the Tuscan Sun as one reviewer put it, “the…idealistic…pursuit of greener grass through domestic upheaval”.  But it has both a darker and a more luminous adventure to offer.  At the very moment Tahir Shah is signing the purchase papers for the crumbling palatial relic he has fallen in love with, a terrorist bomb goes off in the hotel across the street, shattering windows and blowing him and the attorney bloodied across the room.  With this sonic boom of penetration between cultures we are catapulted into a universe ruled by ancient and inscrutable tribal codes of honor and invisible meddling spirit jinns.  Restoring the Caliph’s house and garden courtyards to their full glory becomes a cultural, even spiritual, trial given vivid life by Tahir Shah’s sharp observations and sharper humor.  Full of bizarre events and characters, it’s a magical and very delicious dish.”

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Dude, this one’s gonna blow your mind!

Recently, an unyielding jar lid was complicating an already hassled situation.  I cried out to it “Help me out, dude!”  Didn’t think much about it until the other day while cleaning my back patio I accidentally whacked one of the chairs with the broom. “Oh, sorry dude!”.  Hmm.  No claim to fame for talking to inanimate objects, but what is it about dude?

You may never have bothered, but if you did actually look into dude you would find an avalanche, a tsunami, a veritable Mt. Everest of information and commentary. More than enough to possibly suck all the oxygen out of your interest. We can’t have that, so here’s my best distillation.  14th century dudde = “cloak, mantle”, of uncertain origin, probably a northern English dialect.  By 1560 plural duddes meant “ragged clothing”. By the 1800s, it had shrunk to duds (rags, ragged clothing) and a dudsman was a scarecrow. By 1897 its rag-tag scruffiness got it also associated with “counterfeit thing”, which by 1908 went as far as “useless, inefficient person or thing”, then to WWI’s dud “shell which fails to explode,” and thence to “expensive failure.”  We still use duds to mean “clothing” and dud to mean a failure.  And now for the even older Irish connection: Dúd in Old Irish (6th – 10th centuries)  means “dolt, numbskull, rubbernecker; a mopish, shy, foolish-looking fellow”, and by the 1600’s its diminutive form was “doddle, doodle”.

America, 1755. At the start of our War of Independence, British Army surgeon Dr. Richard Schuckburgh writes “Yankee Doodle Dandy”  mocking colonial soldiers with “doodle“, which in addition to dolts in rags might also be hinting at an 18th century slang term for “penis”.  Sticking a feather in your hat and calling it macaroni used another British slang term for a fop or dandy trying to affect European style. In short – limp, ragtag, foolish pretenders.  Once the colonists started to kick ass, they took over the tune as a patriotic prize and doodle/dood/dude began to spill over into casual use to

lampoon dandies and wannabes – limp, pretentiously-dressed losers.  Later waves of immigrants joined this developing party: German duden-pop (blockhead) made fun of fools, and Irish-Americans fired their venerable Dúd at slumming, wealthy, young swells. It took about 100 years for these ingredients to coagulate enough to “go viral” as we say now, which back in the day meant the newspapers got a hold of it. On February 25, 1883, the Brooklyn Eagle reported: “A new word has been coined. It is d-u-d-e or d-o-o-d. The spelling does not seem to be distinctly settled yet…Just where the word came from nobody knows, but it has sprung into popularity in the last two weeks, so that now everybody is using it…The dude is from 19 to 28 years of age, wears trousers of extreme tightness, is hollow chested, effeminate in his ways, apes the English and distinguishes himself among his fellowmen as a lover of actresses.”  So there you have it.  Dude was officially born.

Over the next few decades dude enjoyed casual employment continuing to poke fun at the excessively fashionable (males) and greenhorn wannabes (of either sex). The 1920’s enthusiasm for Way Out West added more juice: you could get all duded up with fancy hat and boots at a dude ranch for greenhorn tourists. And then!!…black ghetto slang took up dude in the 60’s and flipped it into a whole new universe – from beyond-the-pale dweeb to local Cool Guy!  Street corner homey dude quickly made his way into the hipster fringe of musicians, writers, and filmmakers.  “Of uncertain origin” has been the refrain at every dude-ly shape-shift, and the next flew the same freak-flag.  Some uncertain year (late 60’s, early 70’s), some uncertain someones in some uncertain part of the then outlier Southern California surf subculture started using “dude” instead of “man”.  Homeboys, hipsters, artists, and now the romance of fringe athletes!  This cool new incarnation simmered another decade until 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High added the final heat of “slacker”, and the brew exploded into the collective popular brainpan.  So there you have it.  Dude as we love it today!

Here are the footnotes.  Don’t let your eyes glaze over yet…I’m only giving you the best fun stuff.  What makes dude so irresistibly useful?  The University of Pittsburgh’s linguist Scott F. Kiesling has written the definitive paper on the subject (spoiler alert: “cool solidarity”). Scholarly, so can’t avoid a touch of dryness…but quite neato!  Why has dude triumphed over every other similar word (“man”, for instance), and freely abandoned gender bias?…check out Muffy Siegel’s paper (another linguist) “Dude, Katie! Your Dress is so Cute!” Skip down below item #10 to get directly to where the flavor really starts…do the whole thing if you like this taste. At the other end of the spectrum: if you must seek ordination as a dude minister then go directly to The Church of the Latter Day Dude.

Now for my own personal two cents. I love stem-cell-ish words like “dude”, words that manage to blow out their customary jambs and start to refer to almost anything – see my previous etymological trysts with “so“, “guy“, and “stuff“.  I take these free-love inventions of the human mind as an optimistic reminder that the bullying mean side of our natures is indeed naturally countered by a playful, sweet All-is-One side. Not so fond of the often saccharine New Age lingo, though.  Much prefer to give it up to the in-dwelling spirit of my patio furniture in the form of “thanks, dude!”.  Might remain mostly an American free-love expression, though…likely never attaining the world-wide employment that “guy” is achieving.  Most parts of the world prefer hierarchy to quite such indiscriminate camaraderie.  In my India ashram days, I remember the house staff being rather insulted by our democratic discomfort at being addressed with what we saw as the colonial “sahib” and “mem-sahib” and our resulting attempts to get them to use first names.  They did not want to be tossed into some vague mosh-pit of cool solidarity. They worked hard at their jobs and wanted the respect of formality.  Dude may be for everyone (and everything), but everyone may not be ripe for Dude.
P.S.  Alright, people!  Everyone in Southern California is a mere 2 degrees of separation from a surfer.  You know someone who knows someone who was a little surf-grom in the 70’s (’70’s, remember…waaay before Spicoli!).  Find them.  Ask them when they first heard or used “dude”. My sources are the Mickey Dora-era Malibu crew and they say they didn’t use dude, they called each other “man”.  They think “dude” came from Valley surfers.  Maybe.  But we have yet to hear from San Diego, San Clemente, Huntington/Manhattan, Rincon, or Valley surfers themselves.  The front row seats at dude’s most recent quantum leap could be at your very fingertips. Lurk no more…comment here with the fruits of your sleuthing on the surf-roots of Dude.


Etymological illuminations brought to you by Jane, our very own sweet Dude


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