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Our Voice Speaks for Itself
Condensed from Pictorial Review (April '26)
OW strangely they speak-these Americans!" I overheard an Englishwoman say to her companion, in Paris. "Always through their noses, isn't it? Haven't they any vocal chords?"
"I think not, my dear," was the prompt retort. "Their vocal chords seem to be er-The Lost Chord'."
Recently I made bold to ask a young man-a descendant of a Revolutionary general-if he had ever had any suggestions either at preparatory school or university regarding pronunciation.
"Naw," retorted he with characteristic elegance. "My profs were all suh busy gettin' sumpin' into my bean they didn't have time for that."
Since then I have asked numerous other college men the same question. Invariably I get the identical response. These young Americans come out of their halls of learning with no ability to speak English.
Now, what are the chief faults of our average American voice? To begin with, it is flat, shrill, and without any body. Why, indeed, should it not be? For clarity begins at the diaphragm, and that's the last thing which we think of using in our conversation. No, what we do is to improvise a chirp high up in the throat and then project that chirp against the nose.
In the perfect rendition of this nasal twang which is our favorite melody from coast to coast the flat American "a" is almost an essential instrument. These are the "a"s which occur in such words as “mask,” “ask," "past," "last," "grant," "dance," etc., and which we pronounce with the same Vowel-sound that occurs properly in "cat"-only worse.
Now, I do not hold to the doctrine of the extremely spacious "a" in the
group of words I have just mentioned. What I strive to do is to give an intermediate sound-something between "cat" and "calm." When I make a real success of this vowel I consciously open the lips-aye, more, my very jaws and give the poor old starved "a" some room.
The other day I was listening to a stenographer in a New York office and this is what she said: "I said to Lil, 'Whatcha gonna do 'bout it? If I gotta stop eatin' tuh get thin, 'sme for thuh stylish stouts. Trouble with me is I just love t' eat, uhn when we have sumpin' good at noight-yuh know, like a roasta pork-I just keep pickin' uhn pickin'."
The words were humorous enough, but oh, the way she said them! upper lip was drawn down and held rigidly straight across her teeth. Her lower lip, parted faintly, may have moved, but, if so, as reluctantly as a boy told to go out and pull weeds. Her voice was manufactured somewhere in the mouth and the product was expelled entirely through the nose.
Here was an extreme case of an almost universal American defect. is really no wonder that we speak through our noses. There is often no other exit available. For, as a nation, we are lazy-lipped and lazyjawed. We keep our mouths closed like the front room of an old-fashioned farmhouse, and when we do move our lips they are as stiff as an old gentleman of 90.
I recall the story of a girl who was selected for a part in an amateur production. When she turned up in the first rehearsal the professional actor called on to direct the production tore his hair.
"My dear girl," said he, "send that nose of yours to a rest-cure and use
your lips--also your jaws. After all, they're perfectly respectable members of the human organism."
Aside from the faults of our toneproduction, we American women have a tendency to scream. What a noise we make when four or five are gathered together! Just notice the next time that you go to a tea and admit that almost every guest makes the circus-barker sound like the murmer of Summer bees.
We are an excitable people and it is reflected in our voices. We raise our tones because we are nervous and we become nervous because we raise our tones. As a matter of fact, I know of no more reliable sedative than to hear oneself speak in a low tone. Try it and see. Truly, a soft answer turneth away our own wrath--or any other over-strained mood.
Now as to the crimes of our mispronunciation. The chief of these are committed against "you." "Haveyuh," "didyuh," "whatcha," and so on through a long list of misdemeanors! A great help is constituted by these in perpetuating the nasal twang. In fact, if you separate your pronoun and your verb; if you say, "Did you," "Have you," etc., with care to give each syllable its full value, you will find that it is almost impossible to implicate the nose.
Along with "juh" and "yuh," "gonna" is also become one of our national deities. This is another great aid to nasality. Say "going to" instead of "gonna" and you will notice the difference. In this same breath let me speak of the way in which we often drop our final "g"s-just as if they burned the mouth or tasted like ipecac or something. Do let us taste our "g"s, and in time-like olives and caviar-we may learn to like them.
There is a host of other inaccuracies which one hears on every side. Instead of using the correct short "o" in "coffee" many say "cawffee." In place of "londry" one usually hears "lawndry." Many say "awranges" for
"oranges." Indeed, some people treat a short "o" as if it were the most disreputable member of the alphabet.
But one of the most flagrant examples of our slovenly speech occurs when we say "yes." We should, of course, open our mouths and emit a clean, crisp, short "e," but our favored method is to hold the lips rigid and then drag out "y-a-a-s" through the one available exist. Similarly, we say "suh" for "so." And as for the "the," if the following noun begins with a vowel we are all too prone to make it lose its indentity altogether and to say "th'elevated" or "th'eel."
Finally, how about "car"? Usually we slam this word straight against the nose. Now, one doesn't exactly have to say "cah." I believe in final "r's," but I don't believe in them as a gargle.
My last word on the subject of our great national blemish concerns the obstinacy with which we use "will" and "won't" in the first person for "shall" and "sha'n't" In the grammar-school we have learned that "will" expresses opposed volition and that "shall" expresses futurity. Apparently most of us believe that this bit of knowledge has no more to do with our daily lives than has a Sanskrit dictionary. Therefore in this country we hear many a university professor say, "I won't be long"-just as if he were encountering the most ferocious opposition to his will.
Alas and alack! And in London the very cabbies say, "I sha'n't be long!" It is one of the most irritating of the slipshod ways which have given us among Europeans the reputation for inelegant speech.
How long are we going to mar our chic, our wit-all our superior endow. ment-with a speech that is a cross between a Mother Hubbard wrapper and a magpie? How long are we going to permit the European of all nationalities to shrug, "Charming! But just listen to them speak!"?
Down on the Fish Farm
Condensed from the Scientific American (April '26)
N the platter the waiter set down before us reposed a broiled trout, glistening with the golden melted butter running down its sides. We slipped our knife under the skin to lay bare the firm white meat, vision. ing as we did so the hip-booted angler in some mountain brook casting his bright colored fly to lure this morsel to our table. Then, imbedded in the fish's tail, we saw a small metal tag with the letters "NYSSCO" and our picture of the fisherman vanished. This brook trout had never seen a brook.
Back of that metal tag lies the story of an important and growing industry. To get that story the writer sought a typical fish hatchery in Paradise Valley up in the Pocono Mountains. It is not only the largest com. mercial institution of its kind in the country, but it is complete, supplying hotels, restaurants and markets with trout for food, furnishing fish eggs to most of the state conservation commissions and selling small trout to wealthy sportsmen and fishing clubs to stock their streams. For, today, whether you catch a trout in the brook or order it at the hotel, its first home was the hatchery.
As with every hatchery, the water supply is all important. Preferably it should be spring water free from limestone. Here are ten mountain springs bubbling up with water ineredibly soft. al converging into one rapidly flowing pool with sluices and gates to control the supply readily in the event of freshets. Below are a score of pools surrounding a long wooden hatchery building, the whole enclosed by a high wire fence to keep out poachers.
Each pool is at a lower level than the one preceding it, the water from one spilling down into the next and
so becoming aerated. Each pond is an elongated hexagon in shape. Were it rectangular the water would be likely to lie dormant in the corners, the current running through the center. Each pond is cleaned frequently by draining off the water and sweeping out the sediment with a broom.
Trout swim thickly about in each pool, the big fellows in one, smaller in another, still smaller in a third, and so on. If by some chance a large trout wiggles through a wicket into a pond of smaller ones, every man of the organization drops whatever he is doing and joins in the chase after that one trout. He is a cannibal and if he should be left undisturbed there soon would be none of the little trout left. If necessary, they shoot him.
In these pools the fish are carried along until they are two years old. The water, coming out of the ground close by, is warmer than the air and never freezes over, except in the last pond, where it is so deep the trout can swim about freely far below the ice. In the spring time they are fed twice a day; the rest of the year, they are fed once daily. For the older fish the food consists of chopped beef hearts or sheep pluck. In some hatcheries chopped fish is used for food.
It is interesting to note that scarce. ly a day passes when the fishing season opens, without several fishermen who have had no luck in the brooks, coming to the hatchery to fill up their creels.
November is the spawning time. The trout are caught in nets and carried in tubs into the hatchery, where there are two divided troughs. Into one end of a trough the fish are dumped. One man, acting as a stripper, grasps the fish, tail down, with his left hand, and rubs his hand firmly, pressing not too bard, down the
From the female fish, from 400 to 600 eggs squirt. Each cream-colored egg is about half the size of a pea. The milt from the male fish is stripped in a similar manner into the same pan. After each fish is stripped it is tossed into a trough of running water, the males in one trough, the females into another.
After handling about 30 of the three-year-old females, the stripper has a quart and a half-or 15,000 to 18,000 of eggs. These eggs, together with the milt from the male fish are then washed, spread on a screen bottomed tray and leveled off. The dead eggs are picked out. A pair of little wooden pincers is sometimes used for this. A better method, however, is to take a small syringe, blow about until you find a dead egg, suck it in against the mouth of the syringe and blow it off into a refuse basket. A dead egg may be recognized by its white color. If it is not eliminated from the others it will contaminate them.
Washing the eggs enables them to fill up with water, a condition necessary to their fertilization by the milt they have been mixed with. Each tray is then set gently into one of the many hatching troughs that fill the building. These troughs are the incubators-the home of the embryo trout until they graduate from eggs into "fry.' They must be handled as little as possible, although every other day they must be sorted over and the dead ones removed. The warmer the water is the sooner they will hatch.
In 30 to 45 days the eggs begin to "eye up." Two black spots appear; they are the eyes, the first part of the creature to show in the hatching process. The eyes grow stronger, the body develops and in 20 to 45 days more the eggs hatch and the tiny wisps of shell fall through the tray's mesh bottom.
Each tiny fry comes free of his shell carrying his own lunch basket. This is a sac attached to his abdomen and it holds the nourishment he absorbs as he grows. The food sac gets smaller as the trout grows larger until the sac is completely absorbed. Then the baby trout at this stage swims up to the top of the water and dives about as if looking for food. This is about 35 days after he has hatched from his shell.
His first food is finely ground beef liver. As the fish grow, the quantity of food is increased and is ground less fine. At first the fish are fed five times a day.
Until spring the fry are kept in the troughs. Then they are put in brooding pools and as they grow they are thinned out to give them more room. When they get to be the size of a man's finger they are called "fingerlings." They continue to grow and to be sorted into other pools until they reach the age of two or three years, when, with the help of the stripper, it is their privilege to achieve parenthood. Such is the cycle of trout life at the hatchery.
There are many natural enemies to be outwitted. A fish hawk swoops down, snatches up a trout, plays with it, drops it in a field and then goes back for another one. Last summer a small boy with a gun, at 25 cents a bird, brought down 80. Or a blue heron comes at night, and the next night invites all his relations to join him. Or a kingfisher perches atop a fence post to survey his intended catch. The thing to do with him is to set a spring trap on the post.
Or a water snake makes trouble. There was one that worked its way through a valve and held his mouth up to a wire screen and drank in the small fish as they came against it. And there is the small green heron, the frog, the barn rat-all are creatures of prey constantly to be fought.
Beating the Broadway Drum
Condensed from The American Magazine (April '26)
An Interview with C. P. Greneker by Mary B. Mullett
CORES of men and women employ
a "publicity representative"; someone whose business it is to keep their names before the public. These persons include politicians, business men and women; social leaders; writers and lecturers, actors and actresses. Within the past ten years "handling publicity" has become a recognized profession. The big idea is to keep a person, or an enterprise, before the public, and in a favorable light.
To get these stories into the papers is not easy, for the competition is fierce. Every day, batches of news items about the Shubert productions are sent to more than 1000 papers all over the country. These shows may later reach these towns; if not, some of the people in these towns may visit New York. Mr. Greneker wants them to be interested in advance; and the best way to get them interested is to have things printed about the productions in local newspapers.
"One of the best ways to get people interested in a play, or a star," Mr. Greneker explained, "is to make use of something in which they are already interested. Some years ago, for instance, Gaby Deslys, the French star, was brought to this country by the Shuberts. At the time, everybody was talking about the high cost of living, especially the high cost of
eggs. The scarcity of eggs was a topic of universal interest, so I made use of it. I cabled Gaby to bring a hen with her. Then I sent a story to the newspapers, saying that she had heard of the scarcity of eggs in America, that she could not exist without a fresh one every morning, and therefore she was importing a hen in order to be sure of a daily supply. When Gaby arrived, she actually had with her a hen, which she had christened "Henriette." The newspaper men photographed Gaby with the hen; and these pictures, with the amusing story, were printed all over the country. Not because the papers believed the story, but because it was in line with what people were interested in.
"But I didn't let it drop there. Henriette made the entire tour with the company. I had hundreds of jewel boxes made, costing $2 apiece. At each town, the editor of every local paper was presented with one of these boxes containing a fresh egg on which was rubber-stamped, 'From Henriette, with the compliments of Gaby Deslys.' In San Francisco, we made a good story about Henriette laying an egg on the stage. She really did it. The only time in the whole tour," he added, "that she laid an egg at all!
"Sometimes an important news event can be used in getting publicity. After the "Titantic' disaster, the 'Carpathia' rescued many of the passen. gers. When the 'Carpathia' arrived in New York, I invited the captain and his officers to be the Shuberts' guests at the Winter Garden. They occupied a box that evening and were given a great ovation by the audience. Naturally, every newspaper printed a story about it.
"When the 'Carpathia' arrived on her next trip, I had another stunt