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Jonathan's Coffeeblog: Less Ausgeschmueckt, More Aufgeputzt

2:29 PM Wednesday, July 23, 2008

[And the vocabulary of New York cabdrivers.]

Coffeeblog Makeover

I've tried it before. I changed the background color of the page templates for Jonathan's Coffeeblog, and found a color I didn't totally hate. And now, finally, I've taken the bull by the horms and, hopefully, made the ol' C'blog more useful and readable. In large measure I was able to do this due to the tactful guidance of a friend who is an interface designer for the Web and mobile devices. The Coffeeblog has grown organically and incrementally, like a huge fungus, although I prefer the metaphor of Rome and Paris which also grew organically from small beginnings. It has always been, and still is, my toy to play with powerful and interesting software for integrating text and images.

But Paris itself, between 1852 and 1870, also underwent a makeover. An urban planner, Baron Haussmann created many of the wide boulevards, rationally planned vistas, and landmark edifices which thrill visitors and Parisians to this day, but at the expense of gutting most of the old Casbah-like medieval city. Now I am no Haussmann, and the Coffeeblog is no Paris, having been founded at the end of 2004. And if anybody out there still gives a damn, you can see what the old "medieval" Coffeeblog looked like simply by visiting some of the older single-post pages, such as this one.

I have previously posted about the German word "Putz," a word carried via Yiddish to English, and from there to world culture. Incidentally, on Twitter and Plurk I ran across an Italian verb "cazzeggiare," which is probably a pretty direct translation of the Yiddish-English infinitive "to putz." But the German P-word has turned out to have direct bearing on the nature of the changes that I have made to the Coffeeblog. (Disclaimer: I am not a native German speaker, and although my Grandfather taught that language at Boys' High School in Brooklyn, most of my knowledge of that language comes via the Internet and a year's course in college.)

One might summarize the nature of the Coffeeblog makeover as a transition from a blog that was excessively ausgeschmückt to one that is modestly aufgeputzt. Now "putzen" in German has a mixed connotation (according to Internet dictionaries.) It generally means polished or cleaned up, but it can also mean "frilly," and the oldstyle Coffeeblog was way too frilly. However, as I understand it, ausgeschmückt definitely means decorated or embroidered. The Coffeeblog is making the transition from being overdecorated to being cleaned up, albeit still carrying a vestige of its former frilliness.

Now none of this would be worth any mention at all were it not for the Yiddishization of the words "schmuck" and "putz," and their absorption into American slang. I am certain that there are New York cabdrivers who learn both of these words days after their first arrival from Pakistan. And these cabdrivers must understand that both of these words bear reference to what the Romans called the membrum virilis. Unless they were former professors of German at the University of Islamabad, however (and it is not impossible that such a former professor might be driving a cab in New York), they are not likely to grasp the distinction between a blog which is ausgeschmückt and one which is aufgeputzt.

In any event, I now grasp the distinction, and you, the Coffeeblog reader, know it too. And I hereby wish you a warm welcome to the new, more readable aufgeputzt Coffeeblog.

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