Craic is Whack

Go to almost any Irish pub in the United States and you’ll probably see the word “craic” somewhere. It’s an Irish word meaning “news, gossip, or fun”.

Or is it? The word is actually English, and comes from the Middle English word crak, which meant “loud conversation” or “bragging talk”. Over time, the spelling was normalized to match the pronunciation: “crack”. The word was especially popular in Northern England and Scotland, where people would ask their friends “what’s the crack?”, in the sense of “what’s up?” or “what’s going on?” or “how are you?”. And if you’ve ever heard an English person say something was a “cracking good time”, it’s this meaning of fun and revelry they’re talking about.

There are scholarly works that mention crack being used in northern England as early as 1825. Sir Walter Scott also used it in Rob Roy (1817) as “I maun hai a crack wil an auld acquaintance here”. Another Scot author used it in 1813, while other written records confirm the usage of “crack” in this sense from 1865 (Cumberland), 1869 (Lancashire, Edinburgh), 1878 (Yorkshire), 1886 (Cheshire), and 1892 (Northumberland).

Linguists are pretty certain that “crack” entered Ireland via the Ulster Scots. This wasn’t until the mid 20th century, however. The first Irish records of the word are from the 1950s, and they clearly indicate its English origins by way of Ulster, and even spell it the “correct” way: in 1964, a linguist named John Braidwood said that “perhaps one of the most seemingly native Ulster words is crack… In fact the word is of English and Scots origin”. As recently as 1980 the word appeared as “crack” in works by Irish writers.

The Irish language has borrowed a ton of words from English, and crack was no different. The word was “Gaelicized” as craic, and the first written records of this appear in 1968. The word soon became part of not just everyday conversation, but of pub mottos and tourism slogans, too. The Irish, apparently unaware of the word’s English origins, eagerly adopted it in the 1970s and 1980s, such that “the craic” is as Irish today as “baseball and apple pie” is American.

But then a curious thing happened. The word came back to England, where it inexplicably retained the Irish spelling. The Irish craic, not the English crack, is what you’ll find now in most of Great Britain. And, just to show you how confusing language can be, even with all the modern tools at our disposal these days, and how very recently this all was, linguists still aren’t sure whether the “updated” spelling of craic came to Scotland by way of Ireland from the west or England from the south.

Needless to say, there are many English linguists who detest the existence of craic. Diarmaid Ó Muirithe, a retired senior lecturer in Irish at University College, Dublin, says that

“The constant Gaelicisation of the good old English/Scottish dialect word crack as craic sets my teeth on edge. It seems, indeed, that many people think that the word is an Irish one; hence we find advertisements proclaiming ‘music, songs, dancing and craic’; the implication is that craic = boozing and high jinks, great fun as it used to be…”

Others agree. While I doubt that most Americans will have such a strong opinion on the matter, we can still smirk at our nation’s Irish pubs, which heavily push craic as some ancient Irish idea of fun… where “ancient” in this case means “1968”.

And it’s really amusing that the term is now totally ingrained into Irish culture, given that it’s basically a tourism slogan. Remember Fahrvergnügen? It was a word Volkswagen made up for a 1990s ad campaign in North America. It was supposed to mean “driving pleasure” (from the German fahren, “to drive,” and Vergnügen, “enjoyment”). But even though the German language never met a compound word it didn’t like, there’s no such word in German. It’s as if if Americans actually started using the word seriously, and the word somehow crept back into usage in Germany. That’s crazy… or whack, like craic.

DOWNLOAD: Steelers 2014-15 Schedule for Outlook!

The NFL released the official 2014-15 schedule today, and for the 12th straight year, I’ve got your Pittsburgh Steelers schedule for Outlook ready to go!

Once again I have made a few changes to the schedule:

As with last year, I marked the end times of 13:00 games at 16:25 instead of 16:15.

Last year I dropped the asterisks for flex games, because I figured that if you like football enough to want to add it to your Outlook calendar, then you probably already knew how flex scheduling worked. The NFL made several significant changes to the way flex scheduling works for the upcoming season (summary here), so I added the asterisks for flex games back to the schedule,

Just like last year, I have put all versions of the calendar into one download package:

steelers_2014.csv is the Steelers schedule only, for Outlook\Yahoo!
steelers_2014.ics is the Steelers schedule only, for Gmail\iDevices
steelers_nfl_2014.csv is the Steelers schedule and NFL playoffs, for Outlook\Yahoo!
steelers_nfl_2014.ics is the Steelers schedule and NFL playoffs, for Gmail\iDevices

Please choose wisely when it’s time to import your calendar!

Pittsburgh Steelers 2014-2015 Schedule

For more information (including complete instructions), click the “Continue Reading” link below!

Continue reading “DOWNLOAD: Steelers 2014-15 Schedule for Outlook!”

Subtle Humor?

I have been a Georgia Tech fan my whole life. As I explained in this post, one of the school’s oldest and most cherished traditions is that of a fictitious student named George P. Burdell.

Created as a prank in 1927 when a student accidentally received two enrollment forms, “Burdell” went on to get a bachelor’s degree from Tech, as well as a master’s. Burdell went on to serve on many USAAF bombers and USN submarines in WWII, was listed as a member of Mad Magazine’s board of directors from 1969-1981, was a production assistant at South Park Studios, and, for a brief period in 1991, was the name and signature Kraft Foods used on rebate-refund checks sent to consumers.

That’s what made this week’s episode of The Blacklist so amusing. The episode had an aerial shot of a university:


which is actually Georgia Tech. But what name did the writers give the school?



Instagram: Looks gross, tastes great!

Looks gross, tastes great!
Looks gross, tastes great!

One of my favorite side dishes: one can of “Margaret Holmes” brand Tomatoes, Okra And Corn, with one pat of butter, a healthy dose of black pepper, and two heaping tablespoons of Jamaican curry powder. Stir it well, and heat through until bubbling and the sauce has thickened. It only takes 10 minutes to make, but tastes like some Caribbean-Indian dish you spent hours making from scratch!

Windows Explorer and that Green Bar

You might run in to this annoyance in newer versions of Windows: you open a My Computer or Windows Explorer window, then navigate to a folder. But Explorer becomes unresponsive, and a green bar slowly makes its way across the address bar:

(image via TechSpot)

The green bar might take anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of hours to complete its journey across the address bar, and Explorer won’t respond until it does.

What gives?

It’s a design decision made by Microsoft. Windows wants to “customize” folders which are predominantly populated by one type of file. So if you have a folder full of MP3s, Windows will read the metadata from each one and display the artist, song name, album name, etc. of each file, along with the file name. Or the dimensions of photographs and videos. It’s a bunch of information that’s sometimes helpful for most folks, but only rarely. And when you have a folder full of 11,000 pictures or 3,000 MP3s, it’s going to take Windows a long time to read all that data, which is why Explorer becomes unresponsive,

The worst thing is, it seems to happen at random. I have a downloads folder (not the official “Downloads” folder, but a different one I created). 99% of the time, Explorer will cheerfully open that folder with no problem. But sometimes – like, once every 4-6 months or so – it will choke, and I’ll get the green bar.

The fastest way to “fix” this is to open Task Manager (CTRL+SHIFT+ESC), end the EXPLORER.EXE process, and then click File > New Task, type EXPLORER.EXE and press ENTER. This restarts the shell and fixes the problem 99% of the time.

But for a more permanent fix, you need to turn off customization for that folder. In Explorer, right-click the problematic folder and choose “Properties”. Click the “Customize” tab and look for the “Optimize this folder for:” drop-down box near the top of the window. Change the setting from “Music”, “Videos”, “Documents”, or “Pictures” to “General Items”. Make sure the “Also apply this template to all subfolders” box is checked, then click “OK”.

You may revert back at any time by repeating the process and changing it back to “Music”, “Videos”, “Documents”, or “Pictures”.