Friday, April 18, 2014

The Notell Hotel goes Airbnb

I guess this was inevitable, but it seems that Airbnb is suffering from the “from our house to whorehouse” syndrome.

This we learned earlier in the week when that bastion of journalistic integrity and intelligence – and yet an occasional source of excellent scoop - The New York Post, reported that, just as civilians can save on steep hotel bills with Airbnb, so, too can hookers. No more sleezoid Notell Hotel. No more paying through the nose for someplace upscale. Nope, now it’s all the comforts of home – and more – at Manhattan apartments.

One person who found herself an unwitting madam-for-the-day is Jessica Penzari.

“She [the renter] told me that she was in the Army and needed a place to hang out before she got shipped out,” Penzari said of her Airbnb “guest.”

“She said she was being deployed that week. She was asking for places to go out with her friends.” (Source: NY Post)

Ah, yes, another version of “thank you for your service.”

But when a hooker got slashed by a client in the West 43rd Street apartment over the price of his “massage,” Penzari got a call from cops.

When she returned, Penzari was shocked to find telltale remnants including baby wipes and “at least 10 condoms.”

No word on whether the condoms had been, ahem, unfurled and fulfilled. (Double, triple, quadruple EWW.)

Penzari said Airbnb put her up in the swanky InterContinental hotel in Times Square for two nights — with room-service meals — and also paid to change her door locks, clean her apartment and replace her pillows and other belongings.

Which does not exactly make up for the full double, triple, quadruple EWW factor, I’m guessing.

I suspect there’s a new apartment in Jessica’s future.

And Jessica is not, of course, the only one whose digs are being compromised. One working girl told The Post that her escort service rents Airbnb flats for days at a time.

“It’s more discreet and much cheaper than The Waldorf,” said the sex worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Hotels have doormen and cameras. They ask questions. Apartments are usually buzz-in.”

Smart business move, no?

And speaking of working girls and not-so-smart business moves. Many years ago, my husband and I were in the lobby bar at the NY Hilton on 6th Avenue. Sitting at the table next to us were what we assumed were, based on our eavesdropping, a prostitute and a prospective john.

I remember feeling terrible for the girl – who seemed very young, maybe 20-21 – who told the fellow that she was a model. When he asked who she modeled for, her answer was “Mostly for myself.”

She then agreed to accept a check, which didn’t seem like the shrewdest move on her part. On the other hand, if he used a legit check and tried to cancel payment, the girl would have a way to track him down. Wonder whatever happened with that transaction. Personally, I would have held out for cash.

There have been plenty of unseemly incidents involving Airbnb renters: an orgy that was promoted online; a flat that ended up used as a nude massage parlor; apartments pillaged; souvenir crack pipes left behind.

Although I do know some people who have done so – not as prostitutes, druggies, orgy-participants, or crack smokers; just as ordinary travelers - I’ve never used Airbnb. I have, however, used vacation-rental-by-owner services (including Vacation Rental By Owner), which are a bit more structured: references, contracts, security deposits required.

Airbnb maintains that all the unseemly incidents are nothing particular to their business model:

“The entire hospitality industry deals with issues like this, and we have zero tolerance for this activity,” it said.

Zero tolerance, sure, but also zero security measures – guards, cameras, front desks – that even the slimiest of Notell Motels would have.

Not that I was considering it to begin with, but I sure won’t be renting out my digs anytime soon.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

There’s even a popularity contest for spokescharacters

Someone over at Forbes had nothing better to do with their time than to get E-Poll Market Research to figure out which “spokescharacters” are the most popular. (Hey, it takes a time waster to know a time waster.)

Anyway, E-Poll is best known – that is, it would be best known, if they were known at all – for its celebrity rating service, which I guess is there so that marketers won’t sign up a celebrity spokesperson, only to realize that people detest him. (I mean, who wants to get stuck with Justin Bieber representin’ for them, when they really should have gone with Justin Timberlake?)

As Justin B., Lindsay Lohan, and untold others have amply demonstrated over the years, having a celebrity front for you – unless it’s someone 100% guaranteed for sweetness and light, like Jennifer Garner – can really backfire.

Which is why spokescharacters are so much the safer choice. Tony the Tiger is not going to get wasted and drag race and/or urinate on his neighbor’s front lawn. As the man says:

“Spokescharacters can be a very safe and memorable way to represent a brand as they won’t end up in jail or the tabloids and they won’t Tweet something inappropriate,” ” says Gerry Philpott, president of E-Poll Market Research.” The fact that they never age allows them to appeal to many different age groups and provides the marketing nirvana of ‘cradle to grave’ branding.” (Source: Forbes)

I don’t know how much we can trust E-Poll. I’m a tad bit suspicious, given that one of the little fast facts on their home page claims that “one-quarter of 16-34 year olds plan to purchase a Toyota or a Honda in the next year.” Even if I were a marketer at Toyota or Honda – make that especially if I were a marketer at Toyota or Honda – I wouldn’t be all that excited about this, as it sounds so obviously BS-y. Maybe one-quarter of 16-34 year olds who a) participated in our unscientific poll, and b) say they’re going to be a car next year, for whatever reason said they’d be buying a Toyota or a Honda.

But. I. Digress.

It’s all about the ranking of the spokescharacters.

First place is occupied by the Budweiser Clydesdales, and I have to agree with this one. I am a complete and utter sucker for an ad using a Clydesdale. Not that this translates into my actually purchasing a Budweiser. Still, those Clydesdale ads: the soppier and more sentimental, the better. Throw in a Clydesdale baby and/or a dog, and I’m there.

Met Life’s Snoopy is in the second spot, which is a nice nod to tradition. And it’s interesting that the first two spots are occupied by silent spokescharacters. (Does this make them non-spokescharacters?)

Insurance grabs the next two spots: Allstate’s Mayhem – one of two spokescharacters on the list that’s actually a human – is in third. Well, E-Poll never asked me, because I heartily dislike this campaign. (I was going to say “despise”, but it really does seem excessive to “despise” an ad campaign, doesn’t it?) But this is just me, apparently:

Allstate was ranked by Facebook to be in its top five brands globally, and the Mayhem page has 1.8 million fans.

Geico’s Humpday Camel comes in fourth. Not wild about this ad, but, in general, I find much about Geico irritating, including the Geico gecko and the Geico pig. Perhaps they would be less irritating if, like Snoopy and the Clydesdales, they didn’t give voice to their spokescharacter-ness.

Believe it or not, a real oldie but goodie places fifth: Smokey the Bear. I wasn’t even aware that this icon of my childhood – Only YOU can prevent forest fires – was still in play.

Shamu, who fronts for Seaworld, is next, followed by the Coca Cola Polar Bear. Awwww, those coca-bears are awful cute, but I pretty much resent the fact that Coke went after Worcester’s own Polar Beverage, which – as the name implies – has had a polar bear as its spokescharacter since time immemorial. And, by the way, Polar sodas are way-far better than anything that Coke has to offer. I highly recommend the Orange Dry and the Cape Cod Cranberry Dry.

The talking M&M’s placed eighth. Is it just me, or is there something vaguely obscene about these guys?

The E-Trade Baby – who I just love – comes in ninth, but he’s being replaced, I’m afraid.

And speaking about vaguely obscene, there’s the Pillsbury Doughboy rounding out the Top Ten.

All this got me thinking about the spokescharacters Reddy_Kilowatt_with_wall_outlet_poseof yesteryear: Speedy Alka-Seltzer, all those cereal spokescharacters, Chiquita Banana (is “she” still around), and my personal favorite, Reddy Kilowatt.

Mayhem? Humpday Camel? They sure don’t make spokescharacters like they used to.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Nice to know that some things haven’t changed. (Harrumph…)

My first job out of business school was for a company that sold software and data to Wall Street.

The confluence of technology and finance? Well, let’s just say it was a perfect storm of sexism.

Shortly before I’d joined the company, they had run an ad that was notorious, even for the times. (This would have been the late 1970’s.) I can’t remember all the salacious details, but it featured a mini-skirted chick, legs spread, shot from behind while walking towards a bunch of leering men. I have fortunately blocked the caption completely out of my mind.

At one point while working for this company, I was the product manager for a forecasting tool called AutoBJ, which I occasionally had to demo to the Wall Street crowd. Let the hilarity begin.

I will say that the techies were not quite as bad as the traders, perhaps because half the techies had a touch of Asperger’s, and were overtly more goofy than puerile-y sexist. But in general, the tenor of the place was often hostile to women. There were few – if any – women in policy positions, and some of the senior executives were complete and utter skirt chasers.

Fast forward to a new company, where I was still in the technology for Wall Street game, and where I was the only woman on a team charged with plotting the company’s financial services strategy. At one meeting, one of the charmers on the team said, “Think of financial services as a prone woman, legs spread, waiting for us to penetrate her.” It goes without saying that our strategy failed abysmally – as did that company.

Somewhere along the line  - yet another tech company, but one not focused (thankfully) on The Street - I made my way into the management ranks, where I quickly learned that a woman’s voice was like a dog whistle: only certain ears were attuned to hear it.

Truly, I would say something at a management meeting and it would be totally ignored. Until a couple of minutes later, one of the men made the same point. I soon learned that the best thing to do was to say something like, “Thanks, Joe, for supporting me on this.”

Truly a grrrrrr situation.

Meanwhile, one of my fellow “execs” – we were such a small company, it seemed ludicrous to think of us as executives, but, indeed, that’s what we were – was famous for doodling breast-like doodles throughout our meetings. This same fellow, at one point, thanked me for helping him prepare for a major presentation by saying “Thanks for being my wet nurse.” (I don’t think he was being sexist. I did mention Asperger’s, did I not? Still, it will give you some sense of the climate for women back in the dark ages of the late 20th century.)

Given all this, I was not surprised at a recent article in The New York Times chronicling the troubles that women continue to have in tech – especially women who are themselves techies. The article leads off talking about Elissa Shevinsky, who realized she’d had it with the tech sector over the positive (hee-haw) reception that an app called Titstare which enables “you to take photos of yourself staring at tits.”

Ms. Shevinsky felt pushed to the edge. Women who enter fields dominated by men often feel this way. They love the work and want to fit in. But then something happens — a slight or a major offense — and they suddenly feel like outsiders. The question for newcomers to a field has always been when to play along and when to push back.

Today, even as so many barriers have fallen — whether at elite universities, where women outnumber men, or in running for the presidency, where polls show that fewer people think gender makes a difference — computer engineering, the most innovative sector of the economy, remains behind. Many women who want to be engineers encounter a field where they not only are significantly underrepresented but also feel pushed away.

Tech executives often fault schools, parents or society in general for failing to encourage girls to pursue computer science. But something else is at play in the industry: Among the women who join the field, 56 percent leave by midcareer, a startling attrition rate that is double that for men,according to research from the Harvard Business School.

A culprit, many people in the field say, is a sexist, alpha-male culture that can make women and other people who don’t fit the mold feel unwelcome, demeaned or even endangered. (Source: NY Times)

I find this colossally disheartening, especially since I am a major proponent of young women pursuing a STEM education and career.

Alas, the number of women in the computing field is actually going down:

In 2012, just 18 percent of computer-science college graduates were women, down from 37 percent in 1985, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology.

Which is really too bad, especially because this is where a lot of the good jobs are going to be.

It’s not just the jerk quotient that keeps women out of tech. It’s a complex combination of factors that Pink Slip is certainly not going to come up with a solution for.

And I will say that I very much enjoyed working with most of the techies I met over the years, and that some of my best friends are engineers.

Still, I’m bummed that 30-plus years after I started in technology, it remains a tough go for women.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A stroll down a not so pleasant memory lane…

Last April 15th, I/we were still guardedly optimistic about the treatment for my husband’s recurrent cancer.

Yes, we got that it was “treatable, no curable” But we hoped that “treatable” would translate into some sort of long and glorious remission, or something like “cancer as a chronic disease” in which, as long as you could tolerate the chemo, and the cancer kept at bay, “it” was just a condition you lived with.Like arthritis or hay fever.

So, feeling guardedly optimistic, last April 15th, we spent the morning at MGH for Jim’s chemo session, and had our traditional post-chemo lunch at Scampo’s at the Liberty Hotel. After which I had my traditional post-chemo, post-Scampo’s nap while Jim watched TV. He gave me a shout when the news came on about the Marathon bombings in Copley Square, which is maybe a mile from where we live.

My quick response at the time “What was up until 2:50 p.m. at glorious day” has a title that somewhat exaggerates the case. How glorious is any day on which your husband is being treated for a recurrence of the cancer that’s inevitably going to kill him? Still and all, Patriots Day has always been a glorious little holiday, mostly because it’s quirky and pretty much all ours.

My longer response, “That was the week that was,” pretty well sums up how I felt at the time – and pretty much still do.

Over the summer, some wildly misplaced romanticism about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev got me a bit irked. (“Free Jahar?” Give me a break.” More recently, I blogged about B Strong, the Red Sox-ized version of the ubiquitous Boston Strong rallying cry that took over the town last April.

And now, here we are, a year later.

It almost goes without saying that Boston’s media has been consumed with the anniversary of the bombing because that’s what the media does. And because it’s Patriots Day, which is our personal and particular thing, and because it’s The Marathon, which is another of our personal and particular things, that just happens to take place on Patriots Day, which this year falls on Monday, April 21st. So the consumption with the anniversary will take place in two parts, the actual anniversary (today) and next Monday, when The Marathon is run.

I’m sure that over the next week or so I’ll walk over to The Marathon finish line, and take a look at whatever’s going in Copley Square. I’m sure on Marathon Monday, I’ll turn on WBZ midday and watch stuff. And take a bit of a walk about to see the runners walking about wrapped in their baked potato jackets (the silver Mylar blankets the finishers are given).

But mostly I’m sure I’ll be thinking that, last April 15th, we/I were still guardedly optimistic about what the next year was going to bring.



Monday, April 14, 2014

In (department of) defense of the shoe industry

Although my “real” career has been in high tech marketing, I did make an early professional foray into the shoe industry.

Professional may be too grand a word to describe my minimum wage job at H.H. Brown. There I worked near the end of the assembly line as a finisher, responsible for putting shoe polish on the exposed seams of combat boots (black for the Army, brown for the Air Force – or was it the other way around?), and for using acetone to remove glue and other gunk that got onto the boots while they made their journey from piece of hide to shoe box. While I was busy as a finisher, my friend Kim – now a partner in a major Boston law firm – was working a few tables behind me as a “heel podder”, gluing thin strips of leather on the inside heel position of a boot.

My biggest nightmare as a shoe factory hand was the day they took me off finishing and set me to the task of removing boots as they came down the vertical conveyor belt from the second floor, and pulling out any nails that were protruding from the innards of the boots.

It took me about two minutes to figure out why the other folks who performed this task had their fingers swathed in adhesive tape. But I had no adhesive tape, so I had to feel around in those boots very gingerly.

Since I was so slow, I did not in the least keep up with the boots raining down on me from the second floor. I just let them go back from whence they came, while I slowly did my voyage of nail discovery, and yanked any nails I found out with a pair of pliers.

It was only when the former came raging over to me to tell me I was useless, and sent me back to finishing (where I bled all over those exposed boot seams for the remainder of my shift), that I found that if I didn’t remove a pair of boots from the conveyor belt, it dropped off somewhere in the bowels of the factory.

Live and learn that I really had no future in shoe biz.

Not that many folks in America did, especially in New England, where, by the time I was working at H.H. Brown, most of the shoe factories had gone south. Since then, they’ve mostly migrated to China and Vietnam.

But, apparently, the combat boot business stayed in the U.S., thank to a World War II era law:

Under a provision of 1941 legislation known as the Berry Amendment, the Defense Department must buy boots, uniforms and certain other items that are 100% U.S.-made. (Source: WSJ Online)

There are Berry Amendment get-arounds:

It can make exceptions if U.S. manufacturers don't have the capacity to make what it needs, and has done so for athletic shoes needed for boot camp.

The Army, Navy and Air Force "allow members to select and wear the type and size of athletic shoe that provides the greatest comfort and reduces the potential for injury," regardless of where they are made, a Defense Department official said.

Well, the shoe industry – particularly in the M-states: Massachusetts, Maine, and Michigan, where sneaks are made – are pushing lawmakers to get rid of the sneaker exemption.

Shoemakers have to demonstrate that they’re capable of producing the sneakers that the armed forces need. If they do so, the Department of Defense may rule that G.I. soft footwear be born in the USA.

Local shoe darling, New Balance, is one of the companies lobbying for home-grown athletic footwear. New Balance:

…is the only U.S. maker of athletic shoes with large-scale production in the U.S. Its five U.S. plants in Massachusetts and Maine make about 25% of its shoes sold in the U.S.; the rest are imported.

New Balance spokesman Matt LeBretton said the company has spent more than $1 million on equipment and training to produce the midsole, which is normally imported. Orders from the military could create 200 jobs at New Balance, which employs about 2,900 in the U.S., and more at suppliers, he said.

Reebok and Converse are also from around here. Don’t know that much about what Reebok’s up to, but if the military’s worried about safety, it’s hard to believe that Converse’s Jack Purcell’s or canvas high-top Chucks would fit the bill. (In case you’re wondering, Jack Purcell was a badminton player. Chuck Taylor was a salesman/shoe evangelist.)

The armed forces give recruits stipends of about $65 to $70 to spend on athletic shoes, though sometimes it makes them buy a particular brand. Mr. LeBretton said New Balance could supply shoes in that range. "This might actually save them a few bucks," he said.

Sixty-five to seventy bucks, huh? I guess that rules of Nike Lebrons…

While New Balance is already making shoes domestically, Wolverine – which has Keds as one of its brands – could make sneakers in Michigan, if they had a market for U.S. made sneaks.

The military still has to be persuaded that U.S. shoe companies can ensure all recruits get the right fit and style. Wayne Hall, an Army spokesman, cited the stresses soldiers undergo during long runs at boot camp.

Worried about fit, style, and stress? Whatever happened to, This Is The Army, Mr. Jones?

Anyway, I’d just as soon have the sneakers that our service men and women wear made in the USA.

Forget that old saying about the Army moving on its stomach. The Army runs on its athletic shoes.

Let them all be made in an M-state.


Thanks to my sister Kath – who also put in time at H.H. Brown, I believe as a shoe boxer - for pointing this article out.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Forget what font it’s in: just get it in writing.

When it comes to fonts, you only need to take a look at Pink Slip to appreciate that I probably don’t spend a lot of time worrying about things like look and feel. (For the record, this is Georgia, which looks a lot like Times New Roman to me. I.e., it’s a bit less type-writer-y than Courier. Pink Slip aside, I tend toward Calibri, Verdana, and Tahoma. They just look  cleaner. However, I have been told that serif fonts are, however, easier to read than sans serif.)

Oh, well.

Anyway, while I don’t dwell on fonts, I do like them. And while I’m mostly a content person, I enjoy design as much as the next guys. I just don’t typically practice it.

And, in terms of the written/typed word, I think the world was getting along just fine when, it seemed, that there were only two choices, Times and Helvetica (which was pretty much the Arial of yesteryear).

But I like the idea of designers creating new fonts, making minute and subtle changes that most of us don’t notice one way or another: how thick is the outside of the capital O, how high does the i get dotted, where do you cross your t’s?

And I don’t like the idea of designers squabbling over their business after one gets screwed out of said business by the other.

Tsk, tsk.

But this has happened with what was once the partnership of of Jonathan Hoefler & Tobias Frere-Jones, of the company Hoefler & Frere-Jones, which over the course of many years developed some mighty important fonts, the most prominent and famous of which is Gotham, a font as sleek and modern as Gotham, a.k.a., Manhattan.

Gotham has appeared on Netflix envelopes, Coca-Cola cans, and in the Saturday Night Live logo. It was on display at the Museum of Modern Art from 2011 to 2012 and continues to be part of the museum’s permanent collection. It also helped elect a president: In 2008, Barack Obama’s team chose Gotham as the official typeface of the campaign and used it to spell out the word HOPE on its iconic posters. (Source: Business Week.)

To others in the business, the team of Hoefler & Frere-Jones was considered a sure-fired pairing: peanut butter and jelly, green eggs and ham, Barnum and Bailey. Or, in the hallowed words of Debbie Millman, the head of the trade association for designers: “They were like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.”

The couple – Jonathan and Tobias, not Brangelina -  got along together for 15 years:

Last year, the duo won the AIGA Medal, the profession’s highest award. It seemed to be one of those rare situations whereby two successful soloists had combined to make an even better supergroup. Hoefler was asked if there were any troubles in their working relationship for a video produced for the AIGA in 2013. “We do have a longstanding disagreement over the height of the lower case t,” he said. “That is the only point of contention.”

…Within the industry, Hoefler is widely seen as the driver of that end of the company, with Frere-Jones credited for being the creative force.

And from Frere-Jones perspective, they were in a true partnership: both names on the door, even steven, one for all and all for one, etc… Then, after all those years of verbal agreements and an implicit understanding that they were, indeed, in it together, Frere-Jones started pressing to get it in writing. Then, and only then, did he find out that, whatever words had been passed between them, however many times their relationship was – for marketing purposes – referred to as a partnership, whatever the outside world thought they were about, they were just another unequal pairing of boss and minion.

Frere-Jones decided to sue, but Hoefler (surprise, surprise) believes the $20 M suit is sans merit.

According to the company statement, Frere-Jones was not Hoefler’s partner but a “longtime employee.”

And behind the curtain, the company that was doing business as Hoefler & Frere-Jones was actually a legal entity called Hoefler Type Foundry. Not to mention that Frere-Jones had, in 2004, somewhat dopily – especially in hindsight – “signed an employment agreement describing him as an employee of the firm.” And which includes a non-compete.

Frere-Jones doesn’t contest this, but claims that he only agreed because Hoefler was “always promising to formalize the partnership soon.”

Oh, my dear, sweet, naïve, trusting Tobias Frere Jones. (You really thought he’d respect you in the morning?)

Anyway, after 15 years, Frere-Jones decided he wanted to make the relationship officially official. Hoefler’s response wasL ain’t gonna happen. And, in anticipation that he may have ticked his partner, oops, employee, off enough to get him to leave, Hoefler registered a bunch of URL’s that someone named Tobias Frere-Jones might want for himself:

…,, and Anyone who types these URLs into a Web browser is now redirected to, the homepage of Hoefler&Co. When asked about the domain names, Hoefler writes in an e-mail: “The company maintains dozens of domains that are variations of its registered trademarks, in keeping with best practices.”

To me, the broken partnership promise makes Hoefler look like a snake; grabbing the URL’s that Tobias Frere-Jones might want to claim, and directing them to his homepage, makes Hoefler look like a Grade A bastard.

Several designers I spoke with said they were under the impression that Hoefler was almost exclusively focused on managing the business in recent years, leaving design to Frere-Jones. This makes it easy to cast Hoefler in the role of the villain exploiting the work of a naïve genius. But Hoefler and Frere-Jones’s relationship was more complicated than that, says Mike Essl, who teaches design at Cooper Union. Hoefler had all of Frere-Jones’s design chops, but also had the ability to propel Frere-Jones to prominence in a way he couldn’t have done on his own. Business partnerships rarely last forever, says Essl, and when they end, it’s often ugly. “Van Halen isn’t going to be Van Halen forever,” he says. “Someone is going to leave.”

Maybe Hoefler’s business savvy did propel Tobias Frere-Jones to the point where Business Week is writing about him (and Pink Slip is blogging about him: talk about prominence!). And maybe Hoefler will have the law on his side.

But I suspect that in the court of public opinion, Tobias Frere-Jones is winning. Too bad that’s not worth anywhere near the $20M Frere-Jones wants from Hoefler.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

What’s in a Word

I read recently that Pawtucket Rhode Island’s own Hasbro -  maker of such classics as Lincoln Logs and Mr. Potato Head, toys-come-lately like Furbies, as well as gamesters who bring us half the board games you can think of  - is reaching out via social media to update some of their games.

For one thing, they’re asking for play-ahs to suggest rule changes to Monopoly. Soliciting suggestions for new rules shouldn’t be all that hard, as there can’t be three people on the face of the earth who ever played Monopoly who didn’t make up their own rules at some point. Most of those rules were ad hoc, of course, and situation-dependent. Do you want to speed up the game because there’s no end in sight? Keep the game going by keeping players from folding? Help your pals (or the little kids) out with under the table, no interest loans?

Let’s face it, nothing could spoil a game of Monopoly faster than someone invoking the real rules.

It will be interesting to see what vox populi comes up with here.

I was certainly not impressed by the popularity contest decision to jettison the flat iron game piece in favor of a cat. I am personally opposed to replacing an iconic, historic, token-of-my-childhood with anything, let alone with a cat, of all things. But I suspect that cat fanciers have been lobbying for a cat piece since the Scottie dog debuted in the 1950’s. But replacing the flat iron….Have you no sense of decency, you Facebook Monopoly voters?

It’s not just Monopoly that Hasbro is looking to crowdsource. They’re also asking for words to add to the approved Scrabble lexicon.

For a word person, I was always pretty indifferent to the charms of Scrabble. Maybe it’s because I came of game-playing age in the house of weird, in which we had a low-end version of Scrabble called Keyword. (Of course, the fact that we also had the low-rent version of Monopoly, a game called Easy Money, didn’t stop me from adapting to Monopoly, which our family eventually owned.)

Anyway, I played some Scrabble over the years, but never as a blood sport. There were rarely any fights over whether a word would count, and those that did occur were settled by someone grabbing Merriam Webster. Who knew or cared what Scrabble officialdom had to say?

From my vantage point, for word games, give me Boggle, any old day.

But I do acknowledge that there are legions of serious Scrabble players, for whom a word must be blessed in order to count.

So, recognizing that languages grow and mutate over time, the makers of Scrabble are reaching out to its fans to figure out what to add to the lexicon.

Here’s a look at the words that have made the Sweet Sixteen.


Well, this certainly tells me that I am a completely out of touch old fogey.


Wazzup with me that I was not familiar with this one. Which, by the way, I think is an extraordinarily grand word. This generation’s version of what we used to call a lucky duck, with the era-appropriate monetary overlay.

Booyah is was familiar with, and, while I have used it, I don’t quite get it, as booing anything doesn’t sound like it’s all that good.

Next bracket down, I had never heard the word phablet (big-arse phone that looks like it’s a tablet), but it’s a good one. What I’m unclear of if this is kind of a cool thing – like those big-arse baseball caps that I despise – or whether it’s an uncool thing, almost as embarrassing as having a non-smartphone. (And speaking of embarrassing, there’s also a sexual meaning – thanks Urban Dictionary for your help with all these words – which I’m sure that the gray-haired ladies and gents playing Scrabble will ignore.) 

And I hadn’t heard the word emotypo, either. Rather than a word for a mistyped emotion – like putting the smiley ) in a frownie ( direction – I’d rather see a word for the texting howlers that appear if you don’t check what you’re texting. (For whatever reason, when I type the word “what” it “autocorrects” to ebay. (Huh?))

Moving right along, how can zen not be in the dictionary already? Or is what’s at play here is zen moving down the word chain from a Proper Noun to an uncapped everyday word?

Woot apparently comes from Dungeons and Dragons. And/or hackers. ‘Nuf said. Other than to say it means “woohoo.”

I finish out the left hand brackets in good shape, thanks to having two bestie, adorbs teenage nieces.

Moving right along, I have never heard the word hangry, but I have, at times in my life, experienced something approaching it. Maybe not angry-angry about being hungry, but being annoyed because, say, we hadn’t yet made the dining out decision for the evening.

Nowish I can see my self using. When? Nowish.

I don’t retweet, but I know all about it.

As for ew, I much prefer the eww spelling. (Take that, Scrabble-istas.)

Bitcoin hurts my head; and geocache would, too, I suppose. But probably not as much as bitcoin. (Geocache is something to do with using GPS to orienteer, which seems kind of cheater-pantsy to me.)

Cosplay stands for costume play, which is what sci-fi and anime fans do. (I was actually hoping it was co-splay, as when two folks simultaneously, say, splay their fingers. But what do I know. Nothing about anime, that’s for sure.)

We could all use a few lifehacks, i.e., “tools or techniques that make some aspect of one's life easier or more efficient.”

One of mine is turning off the Red Sox when they’re behind by more than six ones. Definitely makes life easier.

Anyway, Scrabblers will be weighing in on their choices.

I vote (metaphorically) for luckbox, lifehack, bestie, and ew/eww.