Cheers! Bottoms up or goodbye, depending where you stand!

If you are from the United States saying “cheers” typically means bottoms up, or wishing people well, celebrating life, and encouraging them to enjoy their drink. In the UK it also is a common sign-off, just like saying “goodbye.” Read on to find the history of this curious phrase, and where it’s ok to use, or not! Hint — it’s OK, so go ahead and start now.

Cheers – To you health, bottoms up, or drink up

There are a shocking number of ways to say “cheers” around the globe. Sobriquets for a toast include prost, skoal, salut, sláinte, and even Å’kålè ma’luna. We made a word cloud to try to capture all of the phrases, and also found a very nice pronunciation guide here.

All of the ways to offer a toast around the globe!
All of the ways to offer a toast around the globe!

It was on TV? What’s a TV?

Of course no one can forget the TV show Cheers. Love it, or hate it, if you have watched it you will remember it. This very popular show ran for 11 seasons on NBC from 1982 to 1993. And in reruns, reruns, and reruns.

Logo used in the television show Cheers
“Where everybody knows your name”

The network almost cancelled the show when it launched in 1982 because it’s premier was one of the lowest rankings in the ratings (74 out of 77 for that week). They gave it a bit of time, and it became one of the most watched shows on television. It’s finale had 40% of the US population, 93 million viewers, watching. Not quite the 125 million that watched the finale of M*A*S*H, but a very respectable number.

Was Cheers the best comedy ever?

Many consider Cheers to be one of the best network television comedies of all time. It’s certainly up there on the list with contemporaries like Taxi, and Seinfeld, also shows about modern life with no overriding themes or messages. It’s often considered as important culturally as earlier shows like All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore, and M*A*S*H, although those were filled with social commentary on topics like racism, women’s right, and the Vietnam war. Cheers is also sometimes mentioned alongside all-time TV comedy classics Dick Van Dyke, The Honeymooners, and I love Lucy. While it may not be the best ever, its certainly in the top 10 or 15. Polls and critics often give the top rating of all TV comedies to Seinfeld. Cheers to you Jerry!

What a cast!

The cast from the TV series Cheers
What an amazing cast!

Cheers featured an ensemble cast that either were or became very successful, including: Ted Danson as Sam, Rhea Perlman as Carla, George Wendt as Norm, John Ratzenberger as Cliff, Nicholas Colasanto as “Coach,” Shelley Long as Diane, Woody Harrelson as Woody, Kirstie Alley as Rebecca, Kelsey Grammar as Frasier, and Bebe Neuwirth as Lilith. Wow!

There’s a real Cheers bar? No way!

The Bull & Finch Pub is the basis for the bar in Cheers
The bar in Cheers was based on the Bull & Finch Pub

This author had a drink one time at the Bull & Finch in Boston, the pub which was the model for the bar in the show. It’s since been renamed Cheers . . . well why not! It was a quintessential pub, surprisingly like the bar in the show.

Go ahead and move the map image, or zoom in . . . that is the Bull & Finch which has been renamed, as you can see in the map.

Cheers – Australian for thanks, English for farewell, and for the Americans . . .

Across much of the English speaking world, including England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, and far beyond, “cheers” means goodbye as well as all its other meanings.

bye bye polar bear, goodbye
Polar Bear saying goodbye

Cheers as thank you?

In fact in many of these English speaking places, especially Australia, “cheers” also means “thank you” or “thanks.” This is a relatively recent development, especially in England where it has only been observed since the mid-1970s, according to the OED.

In American movies the phrase often get’s used cliche-style as “cheers mate.” Of course we, as well as many of you, have heard that spoken with sincere intent, so please go ahead even if it can feel awkward.

What about the Americans?

What about Americans? Is it ok for Americans to say cheers at the end of a conversation? What about signing off in an email? The double meaning of goodbye and thanks, both things you might say at the end of an informal conversation or correspondence really seems to work. This American author has done it, and nothing terrible has happened, so we urge you to ahead and give it a try . . . what can happen?

But what about the applause?

A crowd cheers at a rock concert

Cheers can also mean applause or appreciation. Clapping, singing, screaming. As in, “the crowd went wild with cheers!” It’s just another great use of the phrase to keep in mind.

So use it, and cheers to you!

Really, its OK to use “cheers,” even closing off an email. We challenge you to try it, even once. We think you won’t turn back! Let us know what you think. And check out our other posts about language. Cheers!


Haps & Hols – a better and quicker holiday greeting!

“Haps & Hols.” It’s that time of the year to wish your co-workers, friends, and family a happy holidays. But you don’t know what to say . . . those “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas” greetings are so saccharine, and leave you feeling blah when you should be filled with cheer.

Haps & Hols to the rescue

We’ve got you covered. In a nod to the digital messaging and texting shortening our speech, we propose Haps & Hols replace the much longer and b-o-r-i-n-g Happy Holidays. It can also fill in for all of the other holiday salutation you use like: Warmest Holiday Wishes, Wishing you Joy and Peace (we might go with Joypeace!), Merry Christmas, Peace on Earth (just Peeeace?), Good Tidings for the Holidays (quaint and long), Season’s Greetings (just don’t!).

A very Haps & Hols to you with festive lights and ornaments on a holiday bush
A holiday tree adorned with Haps & Hols; photo courtesy @eyesofavery

If it fits your cultural context you can add in Happy Hanukkah (or Happy Chanukah depending on your spelling preference). You might say “Matunda ya Kwanza” to note the Kwanzaa celebration, which was created in the 1960s (read more here).

If you are inclined to good deeds, or have just lived in England or a former English Colony you might wish someone “Good Works on Boxing Day.” This is a tradition dating from Good King Wenceslas the 10th centuryDuke of Bohemia, of charitable giving the day after Christmas. Much of the charity has faded from Boxing Day, but the holiday remains in many parts of the world.

And of course when the year changes we have Happy New Years. Just make sure it’s in the right context. Of course with our penchant for simplifying language, we might go for Haps 21!

While scholars may argue that texting is ruining our language, we like to think of it as a very normal, evolutionary process. We don’t speak Elizabethan english for a reason . . . our language has evolved.

So what are the Haps and the Hols?

OK, let’s break it down. What exactly do we mean by Haps & Hols.

Haps is more than a short form for Happy. It conveys all of the good wishes we might have for someone to find Happiness. For the season, for the year, and for their lifetimes. Any time of year you can close a conversation with the quip: “Haps.”

Hols is the short form for Holidays. Not just Holiday. Not just Christmas. This is a salutation representing all of the days you might celebrate or consider celebrating this season. When you say “Hols,” you are telling someone you wish them to have a wonderful season of holidays, all going well for them, their friends, and their family. Pretty powerful for just a few letters!

What about the Holly?

Holly looking very happy growing wild
Holly growing wild in Northeastern PA

Hols can also encompass the joy from the decorations found in nature. Holly is any of 46 types of Aquifoliaceae, but usually applies in our common usage to either opaca (eastern United States) or aquifolium (Eurasia). Both have spiny-margined evergreen leaves and bright red berries.

Holly is a beautiful plant, and is often woven into wreathes, or gifted as a potted plant. We love to find it in nature as well, and encourage you to look for it as you travel.

So a greeting of Happy Hols most likely would mean our shortened form of Happy Holidays, but could also be a compliment on a really nicely growing holly plant.

Our Hols, along with Holly and Holy all trace back to origins in Old Germanic which became Halig. In Middle English (yes we are back to Elizabeth) Holin was used.

Holly growing alongside other bushes . . . one can just imagine the Happy Hols this can inspire!
Happy Hols!, more Holly growing nicely in PA

Hols can also refer to Holy, either as “consecrated to God,” or in its less formal form as “morally and spiritually excellent.”

Don’t confuse either Holly or Holy with Holey. Something “holey” would of course simply be filled with holes, and that would just be wholly (chuckle) unsuited for our holiday greeting.

Use it or be left behind

Actually, you should feel free to use any holiday greetings that feel right to you. We offer Haps & Hols only to give you another go-to option when the usual suspects feel too stuffy.

We’ve already tried it out this season, and its been received to mostly good effect. We had one question mark, but the rest of the feedback has been positive.

This is another in our series of posts on language, many of which are also about simplifying our phrases to fit (or even get in front of) modern usage. If you haven’t read it, check out our posts on “prahps“, and “don’t skep my nav,” they are both worth a read.

A bow in a festive holiday setting for a  Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and good cheers for the new years all in one.  You might even say Joypeace!
A bow on the season brings Haps & Hols all around; photo courtesy @eyesofavery

We wish you Joypeace! Please make sure you let us know where you’ve been able to put Haps & Hols to work. You feedback is always appreciated.


Live in a Cube House- What Me? Cubes!!!

If you ever visit Rotterdam, Holland you should check out the Cube Houses. The structure of a Cube House is fascinating – but can you truly imagine yourself living inside of one of these cubes?

The Cube Houses of Rotterdam

Don’t be mislead by the simple cubic design – these houses are pretty sophisticated. Piet Blom, a master Dutch craftsman, built all 38 cube houses in the 70s and 80s. He called them the “Kubuswoningen”, which is the direct English to Dutch translation of “cube houses”. Each unit stands approximately 22 meters tall (a bit over 70 feet).

Cube Houses in Rotterdam
Courtyard view of Rotterdam Cube Houses.

Why a cube?

The Cube Houses of Rotterdam might look like tumbling dice but they are actually architectural marvels.

I have always loved the ideas of cubes. In fact, I remember carrying a pair of dice around in my pocket with me as a kid. Now, I would even suggest that cubes are generally really fun! Their geometric symmetry is fascinating and perhaps Blom was really onto something here.

Aren’t all houses cubes in a way?

Think about your own home or neighborhood. You are almost certain to find houses with some sort of cubic orientation. Intuitively, this design makes sense and has been widely accepted for ages. Most of us live in geometrically formed cubes or boxes.

Cubes and gravity

Gravitationally, right angles make sense for our homes because they have proven to be among the most stable design choices. And what a better design choice than a cube to fulfill the definition for a right angle, right?

Up on end – Cube Houses break the plane

What’s amazing about the Cube Houses is they are turned on their side (or at least appear to be). They use the trick of extending the beams to create cube forms that are upended. This is whimsical, structurally important to the integrity of the units, and part of the architectural vision for these homes.

Little boxes on the hillside . . .

There is a song written by Malvina Reynolds and made famous by Pete Seeger (in 1963) called Little Boxes that pokes fun at suburban tract housing, a far cry from our Rotterdam Cube homes. But even so, seeing them lined up one can’t help but think of the fun Reynolds and Seeger took in calling out the irony of modern living.

Pete Seeger singing Little Boxes, embedded YouTube

Pete Seeger and Folkway Records, no Cube Houses here

Seeger died in 2014. He is remembered for the huge impact he had on folk music, and for his political activism. Many remember him for his wonderful collection of children’s music American Folk Songs for Children put out on Folkways Records in 1953, and reissued a number of times over the years since then.

Would you live in a Cube House?

Yes? No? Maybe? Cubes are part of everyday life in some shape or another. But can you see yourself living in one because I know I might really have to consider it for myself. Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Also, be sure to check out our other posts on architecture including our last post on Habitat 67.


Prahps, or praps not . . . That is the question!

Perhaps. Such a simple word to express a complex equivocal answer. In our hurried modern context it has become Prahps and even Praps. Here is the story of how this has come about, and some guide as to where you should or should not partake . . .

“Perhaps” you say

Perhaps means possibly, but not certainly: Perhaps it will rain later today. Or it can be used to introduce subtle vagueness. Her inclusion of chocolate is perhaps a brilliant addition to this recipe.

There are other words that serve this purpose . . . but not as well. We might say “feasibly,” but that is very squishy and implies some engineering calculation. Or “potentially,” but that is longer and more equivocating, tuned to business cases exploring eventualities, and lacking the subtlety of perhaps. We could simply say “maybe,” but that would risk sounding like a 10 year old that can’t make up her mind.

Hamlet Tries To Follow His Father's Ghost, 1835, Eugène Delacroix.  An inspiration for our exploration of the word prahps.
Hamlet Tries To Follow His Father’s Ghost, 1835, Eugène Delacroix

Shakespeare had Hamlet lament “Perchance to Dream” in the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy. A beautiful word choice. But in the last 400 years perchance has fallen at least a bit out of favor and we would not likely call upon it today.

Prahps it’s time to shorten

So we are left with “perhaps” as a strong word choice in countless situations . . . and we propose formalizing the way it has been used in short form. That’s right, we want to shorten it! As in cut off letters and even an entire syllable. Prahps. Or if you must one of the other shortened forms like Praps, Prhaps, or even P’rhaps. Read on and you can decide which form works best.

Why Prahps?

Simply why not! Purists and traditionalists often push back on lingual evolution. But if our language is to continue to evolve, if we are to continue to evolve, worlds like prahps will continue to become part of our lexicon. It saves a syllable, sounds pleasing to the ear, and conveys the point without confusion.

The Apollo 1 crew in training, we wonder if they pondered the question of prahps (or praps) going into space
The Apollo One crew training –
prahps we should go to space, or
prahps we should just enjoy this sunny day

Did we invent it?

Prahps we did. The single syllable spoken seems to be in at least modest circulation. Although the use is typically written as Praps, which has additional meanings which we will explore below. In our editorial group and our families we have been using the phrase as shorthand for Perhaps for a few years, which is what prompted this post. We aren’t certain how widespread this is, so it’s hard to stake the claim to the spoken.

However, we do think we have coined this written form and spelling! Some searching and sleuthing turned up no other uses. In fact all of the search engines tried to “correct” our spelling. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been used this way before, but to our best evidence we are first! It’s fun to invent a new word, and we think we may have done so here! And you, dear reader, are along for the ride.

Why this spelling?

There are a few obvious (or less obvious) ways to contract or shorten perhaps: that would be p’rhaps, prhaps, or prahps . While we think we are first with any of these three, we prefer the last, and here is why . . .

What about the contraction?

Most contractions follow the form of eliminating a letter or syllable and replacing it with an apostrophe. But in this case if we eliminate the e and insert an apostrophe we would get P’rhaps. This would potentially backfire, and praphs (did you see how we did that) lengthen the pronunciation to the three syllabic Pa-er-haps. At best we would still emphasize the R as Prr-haps, no real benefit over the original two syllables.

And of course the contraction ‘re means are, so a new use of ‘r might lead to confusion.

So why ah over ha?

This is one of those cases where grammar rules and spelling rules run short. Or prahps they don’t really encourage either of these spelling options, so we are out on our own.

There are relatively few words in English that include an ah spelling. That works against us.

And there are many words that use an ha form like mishaps, describing things gone wrong, or even phaps, which is an out of use term for wild pigeons.

A wild pigeon, also know as a phap.  The ha spelling is common but not descriptive, and helps us understand the ah spelling for prahps.
A phap, also known as a wild pigeon
Phap, Phrap, and fraps

The CDC runs a Public Health Associate Program (PHAP), not to be confused with the Public Health Prevention Service (PHPS) it partially replaced. That’s a lot of acronyms.

There are also near match words like phrap. Very different from a frappuccino (also sometimes referred to as frap or in plural fraps), phrap is coding language used in DNA work. Along with its related phred, there is some science going on there that we prahps should stay detangled from.

So why choose the more awkward ah form? Because it better telegraphs the pronunciation, is more elegant, and better conveys the meaning and intent of the word:


Think Brahms. Johannes Brahms was one of the great Romantic music composers. Go ahead and say “Brahms” out loud. That smile and soothing feeling that 19 out of 23 people we surveyed on this reported are what we are going for here, and we are betting you now understand what we mean. The ah spelling gives a smooth ahh sound, and telegraphs perfectly how to pronounce the word.

Johannes Brahms, a Romantic era composer, born 1833, died 1897.  This photo dates from 1889.
Johannes Brahms, 1833-1897

With absolutely no proof we are going to assert that Prahps is more elegant than Prhaps. Most of our admittedly small survey sample of 23 thought so also, but every once in a while we like a bald assertion, and this is it.

While it has more of a flair to it, another critical thing to note is that when you type it, your computer won’t try to autocorrect your single syllable to the original Perhaps. Try it. Really . . . go ahead and try it!

Meaning and Intent

The most important question to ask is will people understand what you mean when you say it. In this case the ah is the most productive for communicating intent. Our undersized survey confirmed this for us, telling us that people equally understood the two choices, but preferred the ah form. Both forms won out over the street slang form of Praps, and the contraction P’rhaps, as well as the vowelless Prhps which fared the worst.

What about Praps?

The phrase prap or praps seems to be in at least some use. So why not just adopt praps? For one its a sloppy shortening that doesn’t immediately telegraph its intent or meaning. From context a reader can figure out what the writer means, but that’s never an elegant solution.

Praps in slang usage

For another, there seem to be several meanings for this slang term. The top definition from the Urban Dictionary is drunk or high. They ad that a prapser is someone who frequency gets drunk or high.

One use of prap that we rather like: a description of the combination of Pop and Rap music. This is actually quite a witty way to describe this not so uncommon but maybe misguided combination.

Apparently “gangster” slang includes use as a description of the sound of gunfire, as in “prap! prap!

And somewhere buried in these forms, praps can mean maybe or perhaps.

PRAP the acronym already means quite a few different things

The P.R.A.P. acronym is in reasonably wide use.

There is the Psychosocial Risk Assessment in Pediatrics (PRAP) which is a screening tool developed by a team at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

The retirement program offered by United Airlines is called the Pilot Retirement Account Plan (PRAP).

There are two related but different medical uses: Prolactin Receptor Associated Protein (PRAP), and Proline-rich Acidic Protein (PRAP). Some PRAPs may inhibit cancer growth, so hopefully we will hear more about them if they develop into viable drugs on that front.

The Pylos Regional Archaeological Project (PRAP) is “a multi-disciplinary, diachronic archaeological expedition” to investigate the history and settlement “centered on the Bronze Age administrative center known as the Palace of Nestor” in Greece. If exploring this further means a trip to Greece, count us in!

Ruins of the Palace of Nestor at Pylos, Greece.  It is part of PRAP the Pylos Regional Archaeological Project. This helps settle on prahps and rule out praps which increases the risk of ambiguity.
Archeological site at Palace of Nestor, Pylos, Greece

So Prahps it is!

Sometimes it really is OK to let our language breathe, and adopt a new phrase. It’s how language evolves, and it can be a good thing. We’ve done it, and you can too!

So first, we encourage you to drop a “prahps” into your everyday conversation, and see how it feels!

Next, please let us know what you think about our daring linguistic adventure! We had some good comments about our last language post about “not skepping anyone’s nav” which delved into the gender differences in how we develop and talk about technology, and also coined what we think is another turn of phrase “don’t skep my nav” that we think people should adopt.

And finally, if you hear prahps, praps, or even another way to say perhaps, please let us know that as well.



Habitat 67 – even better than when first built in 1967

Along with the “underground city” and Mont Royal, Habitat 67 stands out as a Montreal must see! It just may be the most interesting housing development anywhere in the world. And, it looks like its been constructed out of lego!

Habitat 67 from a street view; you can see the lego-like structure rising up.
Habitat 67 in Montreal as seen from the street

A modern approach to building urban homes

Modular habitat construction

The project is constructed from modules. These modules were manufactured on site. Then they were lifted into place using cranes. Each one is about 600 square feet. And each of the modules, along with internal walkways and three elevator cores, acts as part of the load-carrying structure of the complex, held together with tension rods, cables, and a lot of welding.

A crane lifting a prefabricated module for Habitat 67 into place.
A crane lifts one of the prefabricated modules into place during construction.

The design features wide spaces between clusters, and open lanes between units. This helped create a sense of privacy and space similar to what private homes in the suburbs could offer.

In the late 1960’s the Habitat was part of a broader movement towards inexpensive pre-fabricated homes that could help provide affordable housing. It also became an important part of the movement to make livable spaces in dense urban areas.

Modern oasis in an urban apartment setting

There are 385 modules in all. They are interconnected to make what was originally 158 housing units. They range from small 600 s.f. one bedroom apartments to much larger 1,800 s.f. “homes.” And each unit has a roof garden!

The gardens provide every unit with access to sun and air. And the units all have privacy not common in apartment settings. Along with the grand views and open floorpans, the design intentionally combines the most desirable features of suburban housing with the economics and benefits of high density urban apartment dwellings. This 1967 complex became a highly visible execution of a broader movement in architecture, and has remained relevant over the past fifty years.

Actually living in Habitat 67

From all reports, the residents love the living space and the way the complex is laid out. Also because of the thick walls of each pre-fab unit, residents note how excellent the soundproofing is!

Since the original configuration, some residents have bought multiple units and combined them to make bigger spaces. So, today there are 146 residences, down from the original 158.

A beautiful view of Habitat 67 showing the structure against a blue sky.
Habitat 67, Photo by Thomas Ledl

All of the units have views on 3 sides, and as noted above, come with landscaped terraces. The largest units spread out over three floors. The residents of 67 are “Special Partners” of a Limited Partnership structure.

How a student project morphed into the word-famous Habitat 67 complex

When he was still a student, Moshe Safdie designed a model housing complex for his master’s thesis at the School of Architecture at McGill University. Safdie had a vision for building a private and natural environment within the confines of a dense urban space.

A portrait of Architect Moshe Safdie in 1967 during the construction of the  pavilion for the Expo.
Moshe Safdie in 1967

Safdie has been recognized as one of the great architects of the 20th century, and it was this project that put him on the map.

Several years after school Safdie submitted a proposal to the organizers of Expo 67 to build his thesis design. Even though he was relatively young and not yet known, the organizers, along with Canada’s Prime Minister Lester Pearson, gave him the go-ahead.

The complex was built in a surprisingly short time in the years leading up to the Expo, and was financed by the Canadian government.

Expo 67 – one of the most successful word’s fair in the 20th century

The 1967 Montreal World’s Fair or Expo 67 is widely considered to be one of the most successful world’s fair of the 20th century. It vies with New York (twice, in both 1939 and 1964) for that honor.

Broad view of Expo 67, the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal
The 1967 International and Universal Exposition

Expo theme: Man and His World

Formally named the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, the fair attracted huge audiences. The theme of Expo 67 was “Man and His World.” An astounding 62 nations participated. And on the third day it set the single-day attendance record for a world’s fair with 569,500 visitors!

Official Logo for Expo 67 showing matchstick figures of man linked in friendship.
The official logo of Expo 67

Highly regarded logo, but with some debate and criticism at the time

Montreal artist Julien Hébert designed the highly recognizable logo. The basic icon is the matchstick symbol for man. It is shown in groups of two linked together to represent friendship. The circle design of repeating icon pairs is meant to indicate friendship around the world. While highly appreciated afterward, at the time there was debate in Canadian politics over the logo, even reaching Parliament.

Habitat 67 – built as an Expo pavilion

Habitat 67 was initially built as a pavilion for Expo 67. Because housing was one of the expo themes, the organizers wanted a dramatic statement showing the importance of design in urban residential architecture. The Habitat fit that bill, and was designed and built just for the Expo. Many of the 50 million Expo visitors came to the pavilion, and they were able to view up close the Expo’s vision of the future of a model community and urban apartment living.

In addition, many of the visiting dignitaries to Expo 67 stayed in the Habitat 67 complex. While we can’t determine exactly who stayed where, some of the famous visitors to the Expo included: Queen Elizabeth II, President Lyndon Johnson, Princess Grace of Monaco, Jacqueline Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Haile Selassie, Laurence Olivier, Charles de Gaulle, Bing Crosby, Harry Belafonte, and Marlene Dietrich.

A comeback for the habitat movement?

While the ideals that Habitat 67 were built on never left the architectural scene, similar complexes that were once planned in New York, Puerto Rico, and Jerusalem never came about. That is largely because the economic returns that private investors look for in real estate development were hard to deliver with a less dense and open structure.

In cities the land and development costs just don’t support less dense structures. That is why we have so many boxlike apartment buildings . . .the density is economically attractive, but the outcomes are unattractive in so many other ways. In fact, without Canadian federal funding, the initial complex would probably never have been built.

Over the years there has been a resurgence of interest in habitat style developments, especially in Asia. The original breakthrough was adding a sense of space and privacy to urban living. We will have to wait to see if a new crop of Safdie inspired buildings spring up.

So does it really look like Lego?

It’s OK to admit it. The complex looks like it’s built out of Lego!

Building blocks including Lego bricks

Even Lego got into the action, recognizing the complex in 2012, with many models built over the years (just google Lego Habitat 67). However, even though they hinted at issuing a Habitat 67 set in 2012 and again in 2017 it never happened. But we can hope!

Lego model of Habitat 67
A lego model of Habitat 67

In several interviews Safdie actually acknowledged he used Lego to build the initial models of the project! At one point he said, without a hint of embellishment, that he “used all of the lego in Montreal” to make Habitat 67. Apparently he bought up as many Lego sets as he could find, and he built prototype after prototype to try different variations until he got what he was looking for.

Find out more about Habitat 67

There are a couple of great sources to find out more. First is the website for the Habitat 67 complex. You can take a 90 minute guided tour the next time you find yourself in Montreal. In addition, there is the website from Safdie Architects which features a detailed background on the project.

Tell us what you think!

We will keep adding posts, for example see all of our posts on Architecture. We want to know what you think, because it helps us focus on things that are interesting to readers like you. Please use the form below and tell us! And thanks for reading!


Don’t “Skep my Nav.” GPS designed by men may not be ideal for women

Language has a funny way of evolving, sometimes to fit technology we use, and sometimes to describe our times. I was driving the other day and my co-pilot asked over and over “are you sure this is the way?” All I could say was “please don’t skep my nav!”

They looked dumbfounded so I had to slow down to explain. This post is for you in preparation for that moment when someone close to you uses utterly incomprehensible language in their frustration over navigation.

Skep = Skeptical

Nav = Navigation

Don’t Skep My Nav = please don’t ask questions about my sense of direction, I will get us there if you just sit back and enjoy the ride

Why are men less likely than women to want to clarify where they are headed?

A New York Times article from years ago offers a clue to the mystery. It notes that men tend to navigate by motion and vectors, while women use landmarks and references.

Image of Man Driving a Car, he might be saying don't skep my nav
Does he really know where he is going?

But use of mapping software tends to skew male. More men download Google Maps than women, even though smartphone penetration and drivers licenses are relatively evenly divided. Why is this happening?

Men designed the GPS apps

It turns out that most mapping software is designed by men. In fact over 80% of the engineers on tech teams at the leading technology companies are male. The engineers that create these apps are designing for what intuitively works for them. But half of the users are women, and as we noted above, women tend to navigate differently from men.

Google maps icon - app for Navigation using GPS, please don't be either skeptical or skep someone's  nav skills
A challenge for the engineers to take the entire audience into account!

If we skep the app, will it change?

The most popular GPS mapping apps and software including Google Maps, Waze, Apple Maps, or Mapquest are all designed to show a map view, and are not good at providing visual queues or landmarks. The challenge is for one of these companies, or a new upstart, to develop a visually oriented mapping system that delivers navigation instructions in a way that is more intuitive for women.

Please think twice before “skepping someone’s nav”

So the next time you tell someone not to “skep your nav,” this little bit of insight might lead you to at least think about where their question is coming from. Please drive safe, and may all your navigation end with you where you set out to go, or somewhere else at least as interesting.

More on GPS, navigation, and the gender gap

As followup, there is an interesting blog post on this topic from Geospatial World on Why men use navigation apps more than women.

There are also statistics and background on what they are developing from Google itself on their cloud blog.

And if you enjoyed this post, you can check out more of our language posts here.

Don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments below. Especially if you have had a chance to try out the phrase “don’t skep my nav!”


Peds? When you say “watch the peds,” how exactly should I take that?

The word “peds” has more meanings than most people think about. Today’s post is to clear up some of the ambiguity about this shorthand phrase, and talk about some of the ways it has worked its way into our everyday language. Read on to find out all the ways to use this term, and what unintended meanings to watch out for.

Breaking up the confusion

We will disambiguate these seven uses and homonyms:

1) Feet

The first and most obvious use of peds is to describe feet. Because this is from the latin root, it is safe to say this language has been with us for a very long time.

Ancient statue showing feet, also known as peds.  This is from Cyprus dating to the early to mid 6th century B.C.
Feet of a colossal male statue, 6th century B.C., Cypriot.
Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

In fact you might recall the scientific name for things that go on two feet as bipeds. Four footed creatures are known as quadrupeds. In fact anything with more than one foot is a multiped (or as an adjective multipedal). And you guessed it, there are words for both six and eight legged creatures, but they pick up the greek root “pod,” hexapod and octopod respectively.

Image of H.G. Wells Martian Tripod, as illustrated by Henrique Alves Corrêa for the 1906 French edition.
Martian tripod
from the 1906 edition of H.G. Wells’
The War of the Worlds

Most life on earth is characterized by having bilateral symmetry, or an even number of limbs on each side. But science fiction is teeming with speculation about beings with uneven appendages like heptapods, which would be seven legged aliens! H.G. Wells 1898 The War of the Worlds featured Tripods, or three legged fighting machines.

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean please don’t step on my feet!

2) Shoes

In addition to the feet that fit inside of them, shoes are often referred to as peds as well. Humans have been wearing shoes for close to 10,000 years. The earliest shoes were sandals and moccasins. Today we have dozens of types of shoes which we wear for work, play, comfort, and style.

Comfortable shoes, often called "peds,"  in the sunlight

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean please don’t scuff up my shoes!

3) Pedestrians

Just some people walking. The word pedestrian describes a person walking in the same space where motor vehicles are operating. Along a road, for example. Pedestrians are of course just the plural form.

Pedestrians, sometimes called peds, crossing the street.
Pedestrians; Image courtesy Jay Mantri

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean please drive carefully and don’t run into those people walking near the car!

4) Pedestrian (as in ho-hum everyday boring)

Instead of saying “that novel is so pedestrian,” meaning dull or nothing new here, you might instead use the shortcut . . . as in “this book is so peds, I’m not going to bother finishing it.”

Old looking books.

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean please make sure you are not being BORING!!!

5) Pediatrics (abbreviation PEDS)

The medical profession typically abbreviate the study of children, or pediatrics, to P.E.D.S. In fact the American Academy of Pediatrics regularly uses this shortened form.

A pediatrician, practioner of pediatrics also known as PEDS, holds a stethescope

So when I say “watch the P.E.D.S.,” I mean observe what these doctors who practice Pediatrics are doing.

6) Children

While medical practitioners of pediatrics refer to their patient, they revert to the latin root of their discipline’s name, referencing the children they treat as “peeds.” But there is no actual accepted spelling for that term, and it can be found as “peds” as well, although often pronounced by medical professionals with a long e sound.

Children, also known as peds, holding hands walking down street.
Will you be my friend?

In slang usage, the short e pronunciation comes into play, often children referring to even younger children in a mildly derogatory way, as in “what are those peds doing playing on my baseball diamond.”

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean please be careful not to bump into the children nearby.

7) Performance Enhancing Drugs

Just say no! Performance enhancing drugs are often shortened to the acronym P.E.D. by the various agencies and sports federations that monitor their usage by athletes.

Most sports ban drug use by competitors. Examples of banned drugs include anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, erythropoietin (EPO), beta-blockers, stimulants and diuretics. And these are just the start of some very long lists that run into many pages for some sports. The US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) has a guide which spells out what drugs are prohibited and how athletes will be tested.

Bicycle Race

Hundreds of athletes have been sanctioned or banned from participating in their sport after testing positive for drugs. There is a staggeringly long list on Wikipedia.

So when I say “watch the peds,” I mean stay off those drugs or you will be disqualified from your sport.

Could peds have even more meanings?

There are likely another dozen meanings, or at least variations on the definitions above. For example we didn’t show some of the other latin or greek forms like Peditatus for infantry foot soldier, etc. because we would never use them like we might the ones on the list.

Nor did we go very far with the greek root “pod” with its influence on iPods, tripods, and learning pods.

Just for fun . . . a Pedometer records the number of steps we take, Pedomotive means a conveyance powered by feed (think Fred Flintstone), Pedopathy describes any disease effecting feet, Pedoplania is the phrase for flattening of the foot, Pedagogy or Pedagogical describes the art of science of teaching or methods of teaching, and a Pedicure is cosmetic care for the feet and toenails (getting your nails done).

And there are other real word examples. For instance, there is an actual socks and leggings company called Peds, maybe you even own some of their products.

Tell us about how you use peds!

If you use “peds” in any other way that you think is worth sharing, please let us know in the comments below. And also check out all of our other posts related to words and language.