Saturday, November 29, 2014

Give vs. gift: is the battle lost?

When I saw this sign on Madison Avenue in midtown Manhattan, I was mightily discouraged. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I'm a bit of a usage stickler; not too much of one, I hope, but still determined to hold the barricades on some (and I'll fight that one to the death). Not too long ago, I posted this, decrying the use of the noun "gift" as a substitute for the verb "give." My rationale was, this does nothing to enrich the language, since there's already a perfectly good word for it, and it doesn't simplify things, as "I gifted" is actually longer than "I gave." Also, "gifted" as the past tense of "to gift" could be confused with "gifted" as an adjective meaning what all the children in Lake Wobegon are.

Since then, in part because of a discussion on Facebook, I've come to realize that "to gift" is a back formation of a novel verb, first reported from 1995, to re-gift, or sometimes un-hyphenated "regift." This means "to give (a previously received gift) to someone else." Here I'll confess, "re-gift" has an ironic zing that "re-give" lacks. I can see how this led to the original giving of the gift becoming "gifting." Does this bother me? Yeah, sorta. Still, substituting "gift" for "give" to describe the giving of a gift doesn't seem that big a deal. The confusion of the past tense "gifted" with the adjective seems curable by context.
It seems my neighborhood Kiehl's store is treading the margin. The sign leads me to believe they are using "gifting" here to mean "gift-wrapping." That could actually be a useful usage. "May I gift that for you?" has an advantage of economy over "May I gift-wrap...?"

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cavalleria Rusticana in Brooklyn Heights

My wife and I attended Saturday evening's performance of Pietro Mascagni's one act opera Cavalleria Rusticana at St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church, performed by the String Orchestra of Brooklyn (which does not shy from its acronym), the Grace Chorale of Brooklyn, and a stellar group of vocal soloists. Set in a small Sicilian town on Easter Sunday, Cavalleria Rusticana ("Rustic Chivalry") is a tragic tale of love, betrayal, jealousy, and death that plays out against a background of religious devotion and festivity.

The action begins when Santuzza (Sarah Hetzel; photo above by Arielle Doneson) finds her lover Turiddu (Alex Richardson) in a passionate embrace with Lola (Joan Peitscher). Santuzza first seeks solace with Turiddu's mother, Lucia (Kirsten Sollek), then confronts Turiddu and Lola, then lets Lola's husband, Alfio (Richard Lippold), know he's been cuckolded; he then vows revenge. After the Easter mass ends, Turiddu encourages the townspeople to celebrate while he and Lola share what seems to be the Dogpatch ham of wine bottles. The jollity ends when Turridu is confronted by Alfio, who challenges him to a duel, leading to the fatal conclusion.

Hetzel's rich mezzo voice gives full expression to Santuzza's despair, jealousy, and rage. Richardson's Turiddu, in blazer and open collared shirt, is a sexy good old boy; his ringing tenor runs the gamut from amorous to celebratory to furious. Peitscher, another mezzo, plays Lola as a shameless hussy in a bright flowered dress, dispensing seduction and scorn. Lippold's Alfio, in suit and tie, is a smug yuppie who enters bragging, in his confident baritone, about his good job and having scored a trophy wife on his first pass. Sollek's Lucia is understated, her alto registering emotion in muted but compelling tones. The orchestra, under the sure direction of Eli Spindel, was flawless, as was the choir, directed by Jason Asbury. Overall direction of this superb performance was by Sam Helfrich.

Re-posted from Brooklyn Heights Blog.