I just updated my MacBook Air to Mac OS X 10.8.2, and got a delightful surprise in the release notes: Dictionary.app now includes a French dictionary. To activate it, open the Dictionary app, go to Dictionary > Preferences, and check “Multidictionnaire de la langue française.” Once you’ve added it there, French will show up as an option in the dictionary Dashboard widget, too.

The dictionary’s copyright holder, Canadian publisher Les Éditions Québec Amérique Inc., made me wonder whether Apple had chosen a dictionary of Canadian French without realizing it was different from Metropolitan French, so I spot-checked some words that are different in the two dialects. In fact, I found, it’s a pretty good dictionary of international French. Some indicative highlights:

  • The Anglicism job is marked as masculine, although in informal Québéc usage it is usually considered feminine. (Q.V. this.)
  • Autobus is marked as masculine, although in Metropolitan usage it is usually considered feminine.
  • Placoter, meaning “to chit-chat,” and abrier, for “to cover,” are both marked quite accurately with the note “Québécisme.”
  • Amancher, an old word for “to assemble” or “to fix” that’s now rarely heard outside of Québec, isn’t defined at all.

An interesting lexicographical note: French spelling and pronunciation is so regularized that the dictionary doesn’t bother including pronunciations, except for occasional sentence-length explanations on the rare words that aren’t pronounced according to the usual rules. For femme, for example, it notes “La première syllable se prononce fa [fam]; le nom rime avec dame.”

It also specifically notes that shampooing (which is by the way a noun for the stuff, not a verb for the act) is not pronounced like the English: “Les lettres oing se prononcent oin, [ʃɑ̃pwɛ̃] (et non *ou).”

I’d love it if this dictionary included etymological notes like these, but even without them, this seems so far to be a solid dictionary and a very nice improvement to Mac OS X.

Wikipedia’s list of sandwiches

I find this strangely captivating.

Philip Glass used to drive a taxi

According to WNYC’s Studio 360, via Mark Ho-Kane:

In 1976, Philip Glass was an unknown composer – almost pushing 40, and driving a taxi to make ends meet – when he got his break: a new work performed at New York’s echt-prestigious Metropolitan Opera House.

Einstein on the Beach was composed by a New York City taxi driver. That completely blows my mind.

Also, as someone who got an early start and then watched as everyone caught up with me, I’m always encouraged by those who become wildly successful rather late in life. Maybe there’s hope for me to make a comeback.

Hello world

I’ve decided to use this place to start writing things down. It’s been a long time since I’ve written much besides marketing copy for Lincoln Center, and I figure that can’t be good for my brain or for my future ability to actually write a book.

I think better when I write, and so here we are. Wish me luck.