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Mysteries of Vernacular: Clue

by Amy Azzarito


Jessica Oreck is an amazing documentary filmmaker based in New York. But she’s never in the city for long. She’s always off on some exotic adventure: to Japan to make a film about beetle mania; following mushroom hunters in Poland, Ukraine and Western Russia; and lately the Finnish Lapland, where she’s documenting a full year in the lives of traditional reindeer herders. In the midst of all that, she has developed an interest in the history and evolution of language. Feeling a little overwhelmed by film projects that took years to finish, she decided to create a series of short animations, one for each letter of the alphabet. It’s called Mysteries of Vernacular. Though only a minute and a half long, it’s one of the sweetest projects I’ve seen in a long time and makes me feel like a child in an English nursery. The first short is about the evolution of the word “clue,” and future episodes will answer questions like, “Why is the past tense of go ‘went’ rather than ‘goed’?” and “What do butterflies have to do with butter?” It’s also the perfect thing to watch while you drink your morning coffee. (Watch here.) I can’t wait for the next one! — Amy Azzarito

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