Ask Me About: How do you pronounce Mexico?

“Remarks like that were embedded in my head and took up precious space that should have been occupied with other things but wasn’t.” – Ray Midge, The Dog of the South by Charles Portis

One of the things I enjoy about dramaturgy (and writing!) is becoming a temporary expert on all kinds of unexpected topics. And once I learn those things, I want to share them! “Ask Me About” is a continuing series of posts about trivia and knowledge I pick up in the course of rehearsals and research.


The actor asked: “I know ‘Mexico’ used to be pronounced ‘Meshiko.’ Can you find out anything about when and why that changed?”

¡Claro que sí!

The Nahuatl (Aztec) name Mēxihco pronounced “meSHEE’ko” (/meːˈʃiʔko/). This was transliterated by Spanish explorers as “Mexico” — in Medieval Spanish, the letter “x” represented the “sh” sound.

Aztec Ictapa alphabet.

By the end of the 15th century, the letters “j” and “x” were both used to represent the “zh” sound in Spanish (like the “g” in “genre” or the “si” in “vision”). However, in the 16th century, the usage evolved so that “j” and “x” represented the sound “ch” as in “loch”. (The voiceless velar fricative, if you’re fancy: [x].) So the name of the country was spelled both “Mexico” and “Mejico.”

In the 1700s, the Real Academia Español established that “j” should represent the “ch/[x]” sound, and “x” should represent the “ks” sound (explicar, extraño). Due to the multiple spellings of Mexico/Mejico and other place names (Texas/Tejas, Oaxaca/Oajaca), the letter “x” continued and continues to be used to represent the “ch/[x]” sound in some words in Mexico, even though “x” in Spanish words should be pronounced “ks.”

So the progression went:

meSHEEko
Mezhiko
Mehhiko

The Real Academia Español has the whole evolution of the letter “x” — it’s written in Spanish, but Google Translate will do an okay job translating to English.

Desturnell Mexico.tif

Wrighting drama

With the holidays come invitations holiday parties, and with parties come the questions of “So what do you do?”

Depending on who I’m talking to, I’ll tell them how I pay my bills — “I drive a food truck” — how I want to pay my bills — “I’m a writer” — or what I’m actually working on right now — “I’m interning at Book-It as a dramaturg.”

The first two answers are pretty easy for people to digest. The third . . . not so much. Non-theatre people have never heard of a dramaturg. And plenty of theatre people aren’t clear on what, exactly, a dramaturg is or does. Many artists haven’t ever worked with one.

As a result, I’ve spent seven years assuring people that dramaturgy is not a word I made up on the spot and trying to explain what it is we do, with varying levels of success.

DAMMIT GRIFF I thought I told you to stop making up animals Continue reading

I Want to Believe: Skepticism, magic, and the truth that’s out there

It was a long, hot, busy summer this year. Having the apartment to myself for a week or so, with a Netflix account at hand, and some evenings where I didn’t have the energy to do much besides sit on the couch sweating meant that I finally started watching The X-Files, only twenty years after everyone else in the world. Spoiler alert: I LOVE IT.

Mulder and Scully.

The man, the myth, the monotone, and yet another tiny hypercompetent FBI agent. I have a type.

I should have known long ago that X-Files would be up my alley. Aside from the fact that it’s had an obvious long-lasting impact on American genre TV (Supernatural springing to mind immediately, with Hannibal close behind), it’s about a subject that I’ve always loved: unexplained phenomena.

I went through an extended period as a pre-teen/early teen where I read everything I could get my hands on about ghosts, aliens, cryptozoology, urban legends, mysterious disappearances, psychic powers. Ghosts were of particular interest; the theatre community I was part of at the time loved ghost stories, and I believed every single one I was told, to the point of evangelism and even clumsily faking a haunting for a week or so. It didn’t occur to me until years and years later that I could, and probably should, fact-check the stories about “oh yeah a person died violently in this very theater back in the ’80s.” The stories mattered more, the thrill up my spine and the possibility that one day I could have an unexplainable encounter.

I was a credulous kid. Except I was also a magician. Continue reading

Everybody look what’s going down

This is a brief post, because I don’t know what to say and I feel I have to say something.

Frankly, I’d been avoiding the news. I knew another unarmed young black man had been killed by cops. I knew there were protests and that the police were behaving badly. That was pretty much it. It’s practically boilerplate by now: the last few years have taught me the script, just like the one for school shootings.

I started this morning with my coffee, started catching up on articles and link roundups and tweets around the web, and ended up in tears, scared in ways I didn’t know I still could be over events like this.

I don’t know what to do. I know this is not okay. I know that there are times when my job as a white person is to sit down and listen, but eventually there comes a time when my job is to stand up and scream, and I think the moment when part of my country starts to descend into martial law and riot control that would make Bull Connor proud is a moment to stand.

But I’m over here, and they’re over there. This isn’t a situation where I can at give money to a relief organization and feel that that’s tangible helps — well, I guess I can, but I don’t know where to send my money. If anyone knows of organizations that are raising money for legal defense or anything like that, please let me know. (ETA: The ACLU has been suggested while I was writing this. Thanks, Kat! I’ll update this post with links when I have a chance.) If there are other ways I can help, or anyone can help, please let me know.

In the meantime, I’m adding my voice, since it’s all I have. Governor Jay Nixon needs to get this under control.  Police Chief Thomas Jackson needs to be held accountable for the horrifying tactics and behavior of his police force. And as a nation we have got to work to dismantle the institutional racism that allows cops to harass and murder young men of color with impunity. Require police to wear body cameras. Stop incentivizing murder by giving cops who kill paid leave (reportedly, the officer who killed Michael Brown is on paid administrative leave).

We can’t just let this keep happening. We can’t. We can’t.

ETA: Thirteen hours later, the situation in Ferguson looks very different, which is a relief. There are still things we can do to help:

  • Raise your voice on a local level. There are a couple of petitions going around the internet about changing policy to require police officers to wear front-facing cameras, which has been shown to reduce complaints against police and use of force by police. The petitions are a good start, but not an endpoint. Get in touch with your state government, your county government where applicable, and your city government, and see what work you can do to get camera policies enacted in your city.
  • If you want to make a financial contribution, there are a number of places you can give money (and these organizations may have other ways you can get involved, so be sure to click around):
  • As mentioned here, VOTE. Vote for federal elections, yes, but pay attention to local elections and vote in them too. Change starts at home, with you, in the ballot box.

This whole situation was — is — terrifying and sad. Every aspect of it: Michael Brown’s death, the police’s initial reaction, the police’s continued overreaction, and the fact that it could happen again. Maybe not in Ferguson — but hell, maybe in Seattle, we’ve got a terrible track record.

It could happen again, but let’s not let it. Not again.

Be the Match: Being change you want to see

This might be a bit of a long story.

Last week, I finished reading Chris Cleave’s Little Bee. I’m going to be working on an adaptation of this novel with Book-It next season, which I’m very, very excited about — but this isn’t about that. Little Bee (or The Other Hand in non-American markets) tells the story of Little Bee, a sixteen-year-old Nigerian refugee in England, and the intersection of her life with Sarah, a magazine editor from Surrey. The back of my edition reads “We don’t want to tell you what happens in this book. It is a truly special story and we don’t want to spoil it.” And I think whoever wrote that blurb has a point — part of the pleasure of the book is the way Cleave slowly reveals the heart of the story — but I feel okay telling you this much:

Keep Calm and Be Bone Marrow Donor.

Grammatically questionable, maybe, but on-point meme relevance. From BetheMatch.org’s Flickr.

Jesus it’s grim.

I mean, it’s about illegal immigration, the horrors of bureaucracy, racism, classism, atrocities, violence, rape, death, depression, grieving, and all of these things are very firmly rooted in the stories of real people and real places, and Jesus it’s grim. So I finished the book in a less than sunny mood. You read about the horrible things and you know they’re happening and you know there’s a very limited amount you can do about them and you feel helpless. You know?

When I got home and went to Tumblr to cheer myself up, one of the first things that came across my dashboard was one of those posts that frequently make their way around my corner of the internet: a post asking for help, in this case for a young man in Ohio diagnosed with leukemia. Michael Hunter is seeking information about his birth family, and hoping to encourage people to join the bone marrow donor registry.

Continue reading

Notallmen/Yesallwomen, secondary trauma and relearning everything for the sake of not killing each other

This is really, really thoughtful and really, really good and I really, really want my male friends to read it, because it gives men actionable insights into how women are feeling, how men might be feeling, and how we can all help each other. (Hint: it involves listening! It always involves listening. Listening leads to kindness and dammit, babies, you’ve got to be kind.)

All the things, all mixed up

(Hi again!  I’m basically the least consistent writer ever.  But this is on my mind and I wanted to try to write about it if I could.  Warning: I think I’m pretty frank, and also I swear a fair amount.  Also, I am writing from my perspective, not as a representative of women.  Just as a representative of me.  That said, I make the assumption that a lot of what I have experienced in the realm of sexual harassment/assault/intimidation is pretty across the board for women in my culture.  The #YesAllWomen meme resonates strongly with me).

Like most of my friends, much of the news, and many of the writers I follow, I’ve been caught up in the terrible, horrible killing spree of Elliot O Roger, his misogynist manifesto, and what this event reflects about our larger cultural reality.  And, like many (much better than me) writers and culture observers, I’ve observed…

View original post 4,692 more words

#YesAllWomen: Creeps and Crypts and the War on Women

ETA 6/4: Hey, I’ve written a follow-up post!

ETA2 6/4: Since this post was published Crypticon has put together a Code of Conduct prominently displayed on their home page, which is awesome. Thank you again to everyone who reached out, took my concerns seriously, and took immediate action.


 

I went to Crypticon 2014 to be creeped out, not to be creeped on.

Ugh, I sort of hate starting this post off like that, because in many ways I really enjoyed my first time at Crypticon. Elisa and I went primarily to meet the Soska Sisters, the directors of American Mary, a horror movie I highly recommend for people interested in female-centric horror and with a strong stomach. (There’s a graphic sequence of rape and several of graphic gore, surgery, and torture. Fun!) I was hoping to meet Doug Jones too, but timing didn’t work out. But we got to meet the twins, with Elisa dressed as American Mary herself, and they were incredible:

Jen Soska hugging Elisa while Sylvia looks on in GLEE

Believe it or not, these adorable ladies create horrifying yet compelling blood-soaked movies!

Jen Soska, Elisa as Mary Mason, Sylvia Soska.

LOOK HOW FREAKING CUTE THEY ARE THOUGH.

They were sweet, kind, and generous with their time, not to mention eloquent in their panel. Meeting them was inspirational in the best way. Continue reading

Tales from food trucking

My sister says I should be writing about food trucking, which sounds like the opening line to the weirdest diary-style YA novel ever written. Here’s some thoughts.


image

I work on three trucks right now: the pie truck, and two sandwich/burger trucks that sell at Boeing. On the sandwich trucks, I cook a little, but mostly I run the window, taking orders and money, delivering food.

At both sandwich trucks, I ask customers for their names so I can call out their orders when they’re ready. I make a somewhat concerted effort to learn the names of my regulars at the different trucks; it just seems like a nice thing to do, a welcoming, friendly, where-everybody-knows-your-name kind of thing. I’ve probably managed to learn thirty names and faces, but there’s another forty or so faces that I recognize but can’t put names too.

It’s easier to remember names that aren’t European, or are attached to non-white faces. Selam and Salim I learned quickly. Unusual names in general stick out, like Slim or Stokes or Ramses or Desi. People with custom orders stick out, too, like Susan or Patricia or May.

The real problem is the short, common men’s names. If your name is Joe or Scott or Steve, Jeff or Greg or Dan, I almost certainly can’t remember your name. There are multiples of all these names coming to the trucks every day, and generally speaking I’ve managed to associate one face with any given name, and that’s it. I know one Scott; the others are all “you’re that guy who was here yesterday.” Plus, weirdly, it’s hard for me to remember names if regulars from one truck come to one of the other trucks. It’s like how walking through a door resets your brain.

I guess the takeaway point here is, if you’re a regular somewhere and want the staff to remember your name, try giving something unusual: a nickname, or surname. And if we can’t remember your name, please don’t take it personally. We do remember you — and we’re just delighted you’ve come back again.


The other day I was describing my summer schedule to my friends Piper and Lasheena, and Lasheena asked “so you’re working six to seven days a week … how does that work with having a personal life?” And I kind of stared at her blankly for way too long and then said that I make it work, one way or another. Which is true!

But I also get a weird charge from interacting with people, especially my regulars. I’ve had conversations twice with regulars today about the horror convention I’m going to this weekend, extended ones about what horror movies we like and who I hope to meet. I don’t think these guys even know my name, they just know I serve them food four out of five days a week. But those interactions do a lot to recharge my extrovert batteries and satisfy the human need for interaction.

Although having some personal life is nice too.


This weekend, after more than a year in our current kitchen, we’re moving! Today was the last time I should ever be at that kitchen. Leaving tonight was like some odd rendition of Good Night Moon.

Good night to this kitchen
Where we did our baking
Good night to the alley
Where I spent so long waiting

Good night to the walk-in
I’m afraid this is it
Good night plastic flaps
That were covered in … gunk

Good night to the back lot
And your dumpsters and stenches
Good night to the crows —
Opportunistic mensches

Good night to the padlocks
Good night to the gate
That I loathe dealing with
When it’s cold and it’s late

Good night to the flag
That’s as big as the block
Be it red, white and blue
Or supporting the ‘Hawks

Good night to you, potholes
I hit in the dark
Good night, too, Safe Access
And so long, Skylark

Good night to you, bridge,
Where the cops lie in wait
For speeders or drunks
Or expired license plates

Good night to the shoe
Lying lost on the verge
Good night to the backup
Of cars waiting to merge

Good night to the route
Down to Fourth and Spokane
To avoid that damn merge lane
And its rush hour jam

And so long to Rainier’s R
Shining red in the night
I’ll see you again,
But to Delridge — good night.