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All things to all people
Notes and letters
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1. “Heritage declares there is still something to be done with the American steakhouse,” wrote Brock Radke in our December issue, awarding Tom Colicchio’s Heritage Steak in the Mirage our coveted Restaurant of the Year Award. Heritage is “balancing tradition with creativity, branching out into interesting ingredients while staying dedicated to simplicity.” Some of our foodie readers are still chewing on that decision — like Misty Scott. “How does a restaurant that opened Labor Day weekend receive such an accolade?” she writes. “They haven’t been open long enough to establish themselves at all! I mean ... it truly sounds to me like a Tom Colicchio plug, or an advertisement disguised as an award. The legitimacy of such an accolade now seems full of pretense and vapid.” (For the record, the Restaurant Awards aren’t promotional gimmicks, advertising lures or pay-to-play scam awards — seriously, the ceremonious and possibly dangerous heft of the plaque itself should suggest the award’s import! — but rather a real prize awarded after bouts of highly principled bickering among our critics’ panel.) Does Scott have a better nominee? Of course she does! Misty proposes Poppy Den in Tivoli Village (“spot-on flavors,” “perfect portions” and, more dubiously, depending on your mom’s taste, “dishes looking like they came out of your own mother’s cabinet”) and downtown’s Eat (“the food is full of love”).
2. Jean Younker, a retired senior scientist with Bechtel-SAIC, had no gripes about Misti Yang’s January story about UNLV’s nuclear criticality safety program, “Respect the dragon.” In the piece, Younker sees an expression of appreciation for the unsung professionals working in the nuclear industry. “We spent our careers in the nuclear business and are pleased to hear UNLV has developed a program for nuclear criticality safety. We agree this specialty provides high value to nuclear energy companies, who are an important part of an intelligent U.S. energy future. We also want to compliment the author for presenting a well-balanced, objective discussion of the issues related to nuclear waste disposal and nuclear-generated electricity in this country.” You’re welcome. The program, one of only a handful in the U.S., teaches tomorrow’s nuclear engineers how to both avoid and address the things that can go wrong in a nuclear power plant, from core meltdowns to hiring Homer Simpson.
3. Finally, in the Peeved Gatekeeper of the English Language Dept., reader Philip Jordan took issue with our use of “hoi polloi” in the December issue. See, hoi polloi is Greek for “the masses,” not just “masses,” because “hoi” means “the” — well, here, we’ll let Jordan take the mic: “I am far from a pedant on the morphing English language, but if you must include old Greek tags at least get them right: ‘the’ in front of hoi polloi is superfluous since ‘hoi’ is a definitive in itself. You are not alone in this solecism nowadays but, as a sometime copy desk chief myself, it grates every time I see it. The phrase, as you rightly perceived, means ‘the masses’ or, in the more pejorative usage today, the plebs or the great unwashed. Using ‘the hoi’ is like saying ‘the the masses.’”
Jordan’s chiding must have triggered some deep, atavistic, English-teacher-pleasing instinct in us, because we wrote back, pleading our case: “Is there a respectable, descriptive-grammarian mantle for an ‘everyone’s doing it!’ defense? There’s some kind of academic doppelganger theory about this out there regarding how words taken directly from other languages aren’t those words, but useful and convincing simulacra that are owned and inhabited separately — sort of a relative of that other theory about ‘errors’ in language being the pin feathers of evolution ...” But Jordan didn’t buy it. He wrote back to us: “Nah, just ‘cos everyone else is doin’ it ain’t no excuse, boss. You borrow something from someone (like a phrase from the Greek) you use it carefully and give it back as you found it.” Call it the precious-and-highly-breakable-Hummel-figurine theory of language. In other language-police news, on Facebook, reader Janice Keiserman tsks-tsks us: “Unless you publish more than one version of your terrific monthly magazine Desert Companion, please stop referring to it as an ‘edition’ and start using the correct word, ‘ISSUE’! This is a pet peeve of mine as an ex-publishing executive.” Noted! We will do our best to euthanize your pet peeve.
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