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October 17, 2010

Burning tires in New Jersey
Posted by Teresa at 01:23 AM *

I should have gone to bed, but the faint smell of something burning kept me awake. I checked the kitchen, basement, front hallway: nothing. Somewhere around twelve-thirty or a quarter to one, I noticed it was getting stronger, and now smelled distinctly like burning rubber. I checked the apartment again (nope), then opened the back kitchen window. A wave of burning-rubber smell came rolling in. I slammed the window shut and fastened the drapes together with clothespins.

The smell was even stronger when I stepped out onto the front porch, and there was a visible haze in the air. Clearly, something was on fire. But where? I couldn’t hear the fire trucks that should have been heading this way. I went back inside and tweeted:

Fire in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Don’t know where exactly, but the air is hazy with smoke, and smells of burning plastic.
That belatedly prompted me to search Twitter for fire plus brooklyn. I got the story from a number of twitterers, most notably those posted by 1PolicePlaza (shown here in reverse chronological order):
# RT @TVITERVELT: Fire in jersey! Now u see where the smoke is coming from! 19 minutes ago via txt

# Infidel007 Huge Fire in NJ -5 Story Building Tire Recycle Plant-Now a 3rd Alarm-FDNY going to call to call. 29 minutes ago via TweetDeck

The location of the fire is in Jersey City on Linden Ave East about 1 hour ago via txt

Reports of FDNY Marine Co.1 operating at the fire in New Jersey. about 1 hour ago via txt

FDNY Engine 148 is rolling down 14th Av for a mile wrong way… about 1 hour ago via txt

There’s a fire in a tire junkyard factory in New Jersey. The smell in Brooklyn is probably coming from there. about 1 hour ago via txt

FDNY Brooklyn dispatcher advising there is a big fire in Jersay att. Smoke is coming from there. about 1 hour ago via txt

Big parts of Brooklyn South have an odor of smoke. FDNY is rolling all over to locate the source. about 1 hour ago via txt

I put out my own version:
Aha! It’s a burning tire junkyard in NJ, so smoky that FDNY’s gotten a dozen+ smoke reports from locations all over B’lyn.
Then I hung a damp bath towel over the front of the living room AC, carefully tucking in the edges all round, and fastened the curtains in front of the bedroom AC. That smoke is nasty.


Stuart Bridgett has been taking photos from the top of the hill in Sunset Park, some blocks south of here, and posting them on Flickr. (Here’s where he is in relation to the fire). Here’s a photo of the fire itself, and one that’s just our neighborhood at night. In both cases, if you zoom in at the largest size, you can see how smoky the air is.


Did I mention that tire fires are an environmental nightmare, and can take an appallingly long time to put out?


I’ve changed the title of this post after belatedly recalling that the last big tire fire we had along the Northeast Corridor was in Pennsylvania, not New Jersey. What I was remembering was that it took out a chunk of I-95, causing traffic backups that stretched so far north into New Jersey that they got reported on some NYC morning traffic reports. We have got to do something about these damned tires.

Comments on Burning tires in New Jersey:
#1 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 03:12 AM:

Tyre recycling costs more than you might think, separating steel from rubber. There have been recycling places in the UK with huge stockpiles of old tyres that have lingered un-touched for years until they mysteriously catch fire. In other cases, the company doing the recycling work vanishes with the money, leaving a warehouse full of tyres and the rent unpaid.

It's hard not to be a bit suspicious when these fires happen.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 03:23 AM:

Dave, I don't worry much about who sets the fires. I figure it's enough that the parties responsible for the tires knew that they were a massive hazard, yet did nothing to clear them up. I've also been wondering how much these giant tire depositories contribute to the local mosquito and rat populations.

#3 ::: Billy ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 03:28 AM:

Tyres are you F'n kidding me? It's tires!

#4 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 03:47 AM:

Billy @3, it depends on whether you're using US spelling (tires) or UK-variant spelling (tyres).

Re: doing something about said fire hazard, I seem to recall that several years ago, some kid doing a science project came up with a way of recycling tires into roadbed, either as a surface or for substrate fill. (I would Google, but it's late and I can't keep my eyes open...) I wonder if the separation issue Dave Bell @1 mentions is why we're not doing more road-related stuff.

#5 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 06:52 AM:

I laughed at the instinct to comment on Twitter and *then* realising that others might be doing the same - that's exactly what I've done. Twice I've had great success with Twitter with searching on something small-but-local and finding others nearby discussing the detail that I was missing. It feels like the outskirts of the hive-mind and I love having access to it.

#6 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 07:54 AM:

Would steam rendering (the "anything-to-oil" process) be able to bypass the separation issue?

#7 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 08:04 AM:

Sylvia #5: That's true. I first learnt of the Haiti earthquake when a friend in Kingston tweeted about feeling the tremor.

#8 ::: a chris ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 08:09 AM:

Syd @4, I had to giggle a little at "tyre" being dubbed a "variant" spelling, as if to sneak in a tiny bit of disdain. I don't mean to suggest that you meant it to sound US-centric. As I say, it just gave me a little smile. Also, although I now live in the UK, I'm not sure I will ever be able to spell it "tyre" myself without it seeming affected.

#9 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 08:16 AM:

I remember when the A&J Tire Warehouse (in Rochester, NY) burned, and it was over 30 years ago. A building that apparently contained nothing but old tires and barrels of kerosene -- and the smoke went in a single unbroken line straight up the sky, and vanished, still a straight unbroken line, over the horizon into Canada on the far side of Lake Ontario.

Googling around tells me that recycling tires is very difficult. Tires are designed to be nearly indestructible under very harsh conditions, and so indeed they are. You'll find things ranging from freezing-and-shattering them to pyrolysis to chemicals to microwaves ... with the occasional obvious scam (buy our report to learn how you can set up a profitable tire-recycling business today!) thrown in. But still no consensus on the best way to recycle, or what products to recycle them into, and a huge backlog of tires (junk tires apparently generate at the rate of one per person per year) to deal with.

#10 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 08:28 AM:

a chris@8: ISTRT Fowler's Modern English Usage prefers the US spelling to the UK one, on the grounds that the word ultimately derives from 'attire' (my old Concise Oxford Dictionary's entry for 'tire' agrees tentatively with this derivation).

#11 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 09:20 AM:

The French word for 'tire' is 'pneu', from 'pneumatique', a word that a few decades ago was also used to refer to ladies who had their secondary sexual characteristics enhanced a tad beyond believable.

#12 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 09:32 AM:

A few months before I moved into my current apartment building, there was a tire-fire at the (very small) junkyard across the tracks. (I'm bad with distances, but call it fifty yards from the back of the building.) The smoke shut down both the railroad on that segment, although the main road not much farther away was open (and *massively* traffic-jammed).

The apartment I then moved into must have been empty at the time, because there was a nearly-invisible film of black dust/soot on the floors and other surfaces. I had to spend a couple of hours cleaning it up before I could move anything in.

[NoScript is warning of an exploit on the comment page. Let's see if this posts.]

#13 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 10:10 AM:

For some reason they thought to try burning car tyres at a cement plant down near Dunbar on the coast. Apparently it worked ok for a wee while, then the outlet and other bits of the rotary kiln got blocked with muck from the tires. There's just too much metal and stuff in the tyres to burn properly, and conditions that are right for combustion of limestone are not the same as those for combustion of tyres, so I don't know why they started, except it was just the usual corporate try and save money any way we can thing.

#14 ::: Marian ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 10:42 AM:

I do recall that someone had come up with a way to recycle tires into sidewalks. (and I found online)

Wish that they would do that here in New Orleans. The live oaks are beautiful, but they demolish sidewalk in no time. Imagine a rubber sidewalk that expands to accommodate tree roots. Yes--I know that I am crazy.

#15 ::: a chris ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 10:57 AM:

Steve with a book @#10: I did expect someone to come up with an argument relating somehow to the fact (well, I'm trusting Wikipedia here) that "tyre" only became standard in the UK a century or so ago, with the advent of pneumatic tires. The thing that strikes me about that is that what we know as a tire didn't exist before that (as much as I can sympathize with academics at the time wishing to retain the same word as had been previously used for metal or wooden wheel claddings). If the suggestion (Wikipedia again, attributed to The Cambridge Guide to English Usage by Pam Peters) that "tyre" was the spelling used in patent documents for the new invention is correct, it highlights what may have been a good commercial reason to call the new product something slightly different.

Fowler may easily have been correct about the etymology, and in his day I'm sure I would have been irritated to see the spelling change so apparently incorrectly. I would argue, however, that if the latest edition still prefers "tire," it's exceedingly stubborn and simply not a usable reference for current UK English. I've never seen any indication that "tire" would be considered an acceptable spelling in this country (nor, with less confidence, in places like India and Australia). It's become a treasured difference between British English and US English, which is why the word "variant" struck me funny.

#16 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 11:01 AM:

Serge @ 11 -- Lenina in Brave New World was described as "pneumatic". I never took the trouble to find out exactly what that was supposed to signify.

guthrie @ 13 -- Part of the idea of burning toxic-when-burned organic materials in a cement kiln is that the toxic byproducts react with the cement components, and are held longer to complete the oxidation and become non-toxic and/or become part of the cement mix. PCBs have been very successfully destroyed in cement kilns, with at least part of the chloride remaining in the cement rather than escaping as hydrochloric acid gas (HCl). If tires were burned in a cement kiln, the sulfur from the tires would mostly stay behind as sulfate instead of becoming a sulfur oxide air-pollution problem.

#17 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 11:05 AM:

Joel Polowin @ 16... In other words, very curvy - which I think is the original meaning of the word in that context. It makes you wonder about the love life of the person who came up with that comparison.

#18 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 11:10 AM:

Billy, #3: Welcome to Making Light. Do you write poetry by any chance?

#19 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 11:26 AM:

Looking as if certain parts were inflated like balloons.

#20 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 11:29 AM:

a chris@15: Fowler on 'tire', from a Google Books scan of what I think is the first edition of MEU. In my earlier post I was quoting from memory the edition that I used to have, which was the edition edited by Gowers; looks as though Gowers didn't change very much in the 'tire' entry. Dunno whether Burchfield changed anything in the entry when he edited the book a decade ago...

I certainly wouldn't recommend Fowler as the first port of call for English-usage disputes, but he's still entertaining to read. Much of the entertainment value comes from the unexpected things he gets angry about. He often sees American spellings (skeptic, -or instead of -our) as superior to English ones.

Several times I've tried to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the section on Shall and Will in The King's English but I always come unstuck. ("It is unfortunate that the idiomatic use, while it comes by nature to southern Englishmen (who will find most of this section superfluous), is so complicated that those who are not to the manner born can hardly acquire it[...]")

Early in The King's English he takes a contemporary author to task for Americanizing the English language—the author is, of all people, Kipling.

#21 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 11:39 AM:

Steve WAB, 20: It was explained to me thusly: "shall" is stronger than "will," as in "thou shalt not," except in the first-person singular, which is reversed. That's why LBJ said "I shall not seek, nor will I accept," a nomination for President. He didn't want the nomination, and he *really* didn't want to run.

#22 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 12:02 PM:

Steve-with-a-book #20:

I've internalized shall/will to the point where a few days ago I was chastising the next door neighbor's offspring who set off the bottle rocket right underneath my window, and said, "If this happens again I *shall* call the police!" without any forethought whatsoever.

#23 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 12:12 PM:

"If I cannot have her, nobody shall!"
- the evil Bishop in Ladyhawke

#24 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 01:10 PM:

TexAnne@21: and the first person plural, surely? As in the protest song 'We shall not be moved.'

#25 ::: Steve with a book ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 01:22 PM:

I can follow the usage of 'shall' and 'will' so long as things don't start getting subjunctive. A few pages into the section on Shall and Will, Fowler completely loses me when he starts tangling with the complexities of Should and Would. He clearly knows what he's talking about but I lose the thread every time. But then I'm not a Southern Englishman, tha' knows.

#26 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 01:24 PM:

The "shall/should" distinction is related to "shall/will", and has distinct legal standing. IANAL, but I've done a bunch of labour and aviation law stuff, and my understanding is that "shall" has regulatory force but "should" is best-practices guidelines. (this is especially true in certain official Canadian aviation documents, and appears to be true elsewhere.)

Like joann@22, I've internalized shall/should somewhat; it makes this Canuck sound even more British. Then again, I've always been a linguistic Anglophile; blame PBS for Masterpiece Theatre and all those intelligent Brit crime shows.

In twenty-odd comments we've gone from burning tires in NJ to grammar and legalese... awesome.

#27 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 02:45 PM:

Oh, yech, my lungs sympathize. I hope they put it out soon. Do you have a HEPA filter in your house? It might help. If you don't have one they're probably all sold out in Brooklyn now, like AC units during a heat wave.

Simpsons fans will probably be thinking of the Springfield Tire Fire, "Established 1989."

#28 ::: a chris ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 02:49 PM:

Steve WAB @20: I found Fowler less angry than I expected. Perhaps I projected onto my expectations a frustration built up over posthumous decades of being ignored or overruled! Strunk and White is another amusingly-grouchy one.

I don't know what to say about "shall" and "will." When I was younger, I thought "shall" was well on its way out. It's perfectly current among some people I know, though.

#29 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 02:53 PM:

Somehow, I got the impression that "I shall" was proper, but "I will" was not.

#30 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 03:04 PM:

Sometime around 1:30 or 2 AM I started to smell it. I took a quick tour of the apartment to make sure it wasn't something more local, because it sure would suck if our building happened to catch fire and I didn't notice because I thought it was some other thing. Chris's first thought was that her laptop might be burning. But no, the smell was strongest in our bedroom, which has the only currently-open window in the apartment.

#31 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 03:10 PM:

Car-filled our junkyards melt away---
In Jersey City stink the fires---
Lo, auto parts of yesterday
Are gone like Ninevahs and Tyres!

#32 ::: Jörg Raddatz ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 03:32 PM:

Serge @ 11: But perhaps this means just that, after burning, Francophone tires will be completely freed from the influence of the Demiurge and will enter the Pleroma divested of body and soul?

#33 ::: Kay "Why Delay the Inevitable?" Tei ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 03:45 PM:

Tyres, Tyres, burning bright,
In the junkyard of the night.
What skilled mortal hand, or eye
Could quench such dread immolat’ry?

What far streets or skyscrapers,
Obscure the vision of your fires?
What technologies, what wires,
Guide the hand that dares the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could still the cinders of thy heart?
And when thy passions start to flare,
What dread hand? and what scorched hair?

What the ladder? What the hose?
In what furnace dares repose?
What the trucks? In what dread grasp
Cause it’s mortal foes to gasp?

When the stars abandoned poses
Watering sensibly with hoses,
Did he smile, his work to see?
Did he who made the fire go free?

Tyres, Tyres, burning bright,
In the junkyard of the night.
What skilled mortal hand, or eye
Dare quench such dread immolat’ry?

#34 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 04:24 PM:

Arizona uses tires to make rubberized asphalt, which uses 1500 tires per lane-mile. The advantages, apart from using up the tires, is a quieter, more durable surface. It's being uses on concrete freeways to reduce noise and act as a wear layer that can be scraped off and replaced.

The chief downside is that the road surface has to be at least 85F for it to stick properly (it's someone helped by the pavement temperature usually being higher than the ambient temperature). This isn't a problem in Arizona, but can be in colder climates. It makes the construction season too short, or requires expensive artificial heating.

#35 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 04:33 PM:

Kay "WDtI?" Tei (33): ::applause::
Some playground surfaces are now being made out of recycled tires. Less likely to cause injury than concrete.

#36 ::: thanate ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 05:39 PM:

Does anyone else recall reading a John McPhee essay on a power plant-- somewhere west coast US, I believe-- designed to burn tires? My vague recollection is that half the essay was about the intensive air filtration system they had in place and the problem that, despite proving to be lower emissions than whatever the established power source in the area was, the public preconception of the toxicity of burning tires was about to do them in.

(hm... google tells me the piece is in Irons in the Fire, but I'm not immediately seeing anything that would help me look up what happened to the plant.)

#37 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 05:53 PM:

Jörg Raddatz @ 32... Don't you mean divested of body and sole?

#38 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 08:09 PM:

KayTei @ 33:

Beat Generation Applause! ** snaps fingers **

I remember a tire fire in the SF Bay Area, probably 1976. A dump in Milpitas, which at the time was not yet heavily built up, with a huge pile of tires caught fire and burned for days. The Bay tends to trap air at the south end, so everywhere from San Jose to Oakland on the east side stank for more than a week.

#39 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 09:24 PM:

TexAnne @ 21... "shall" is stronger than "will," as in "thou shalt not," except in the first-person singular, which is reversed.

"I shall return."

Was Douglas MacArthur a better military man than he was a grammarian?

#40 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 09:58 PM:

lan Hamilton, #34, Virginia has used rubberized asphalt for 20 years. The poor guys do it in the summer when we run in the high 80s and 90s.

#41 ::: Jörg Raddatz ::: (view all by) ::: October 17, 2010, 10:07 PM:

Serge @ 37
I wheel not try to pun back, I am too tyred.

#42 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 12:06 AM:

The reason I am amused at the conversation on the spelling of tires is that, given the word seems to have come to common currency in two different forms,; at the same time, they *are* variant, and this fire is burning in the US, so the use of, "tyre" to describe the fuel seems odd.

#43 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 03:59 AM:

Re: a chris @8, my intention was not to suggest that one spelling or the other was somehow more correct, and certainly not to demonstrate any kind of disdain for UK English. Rather, my intention was to indicate to Billy that there are varieties of English based on the UK form that might also use "tyre" instead of "tire", e.g., Canadian, Indian, Australian, Kiwi (since I don't know if there's an acceptable adjective formation of "New Zealand")... And it was late and I didn't feel like writing "UK English and its Australian, Canadian, etc. variants".

On the other hand, I suppose providing a stranger with a giggle isn't a bad thing...

#44 ::: a chris ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 04:14 AM:

Syd @43: I hope I didn't come across too aggressively. I also really didn't assume you were trying to put a spin on the sentence. I took your response as merely a civil and informative reaction in the case that Billy really wasn't aware of the use of "tyres." My silly bone just seemed to need to be heard.

If they use "tyres" exclusively in India, one might suspect that more people use that spelling than the other, worldwide, yet over the past day I've come across a lot of examples on the web of North Americans hurling abuse at others who dare to use this spelling, as though it were not only unheard-of, but offensive!

Interestingly (?), although we like our British spellings, in Canada we write it "tire." It's even enshrined in the name of one of our most venerable retail chains: Canadian Tire.

#45 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 04:49 AM:

So, the tyres are on fyre, probably set ablaze by an arsonist for hyre, and inspyring* KayTei to the poetical. I'm sure they tryed and couldn't find a byre for them.

It's funny that Twitter has taken roughly the place formerly occupyed by the town cryre.

I'm sure the smell is fairly dyre, but oddly enough, I didn't smell it here at all (in Hoboken, NJ); if you don't believe that, feel free to call me a lyre.

I have no desyre to get myred in a discussion of British vs. American spellings, but I blame Noah Webster for this one; certainly he's the syre of a lot of others. Guy should have been hung on a wyre. Perhaps we could all conspyre to change it back.

*Seriously, KayTei, that was magnificent!

#46 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 05:25 AM:

Joel #16 - thanks, that explains that then.

The 1919 edition of "Modern roads" (published in england) that I have uses terms such as rubber-tyred. It is most interesting reading about the old fashioned but often quite sophisticated methods of making roads, which then does make me wonder why modern road menders manage to get it so horribly wrong sometimes.

#47 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 08:32 AM:

My understanding of 'shall' and 'will' is this; 'I shall' expresses straight futurity, while 'I will' expresses determination. However, it is possible, if you are really determined, to use 'I shall', with the implication of 'This isn't just a resolution, it's a fact'. That may account for 'I shall return'. (Likewise 'We shall fight on the beaches'.)

#48 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 09:47 AM:


Of course the old Concise Oxford agrees with Fowler.

Take a look at the editors' names...

#49 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 12:50 PM:

Xopher #45: Why would you keep your tyres in a byre? The smell would be a bit much, surely?

#50 ::: jim ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 01:02 PM:

Alan Hamilton @34

So global warming will help us recycle tires!

It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

#51 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 09:47 PM:

*bows* A silly lyttle thing, but I appreciate the appreciation.

Fragano, clearly he keeps the tyres in the byre, 'cause the coop is full of...

uh. Chickens. Yes.

#52 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 10:06 PM:

No time to wallow in the mire
Try now we can only lose
And our love become a funeral pyre
Come on, baby, light my tire

#53 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: October 18, 2010, 11:55 PM:

Yo. It happens sometimes. Tires just explode. Natural causes. Spontaneous combustion. You gotta problem with that?

It's actually not the first time there's been a big dump fire affecting New Jersey - in 1989, a fire under I-78 melted the freeway, and in ~1978 a tire dump fire over on the Pennsylvania side closed the Commodore Barry Bridge.

#54 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 12:23 AM:

No, Serge #52, this -- oops, maybe I should say dis -- is New Jersey we're talkin' about. So

I've got a bad desyre
Ooooh, I'm on fyre

#55 ::: pm215 ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2010, 05:24 PM:

Steve@25: I'm a southern Englishman, and though I do use both shall and will I'm pretty sure I don't use them the way Fowler documents... My guess is that "educated southern English" usage has moved on in this area since the late 19th century so that section of MEU/The King's English is essentially documenting a dead dialect.

#56 ::: PurpleGirl ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 07:15 PM:

Sometime in the late 1980s, a co-generation power plant was proposed for the Buffalo area. It was going to burn tires to produce the steam for producing electricity. (I don't remember the company name.) I remember reading the company's rate filing to raise the amount they could charge customers for the power. Under NYS's utility law at the time, they had signed contracts for x amount and within a year or two were petitioning the PSC for a higher rate. I didn't follow the outcome of the case after I left the law firm where I was a paralegal in the Utilities department.

#57 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 07:59 PM:

The "shall" subthread has me wondering about a couple of things:

1) Was there a distinction between "shall" and "shalt"?

2) Was there ever a subject/object distinction for third-person neuter, that is "it"? That is, we have I/me, formerly thee/thou✌, he/him & she/her.

✌ : My understanding is that thee/thou picked up associations of intimacy (which is why they were retained longer in prayer), and were replaced by the former second-person plural, "you". Amusingly, Southern American dialect seems to have supplied a replacement second-person plural, "you all", sometimes contracted to "y'all".

#58 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 08:18 PM:

David Harmon (137): 'Shalt' is the second person singular form of 'shall', as in 'thou shalt'.

#59 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 09:06 PM:

David Harmon @ 57: The second person singular denotes intimacy or familiarity in many Indo-European languages. (Not familiar with languages from other families.) In French there's a verb, "tutoyer" which refers to this quality, especially whether two acquaintances are close enough friends to call each other "tu" (the French cognate of "thou") instead of "vous" (you). Thus the relationship between God and the individual, or vice versa, used "thou" in English versions of Scripture and liturgies until quite recently. By the time I was growing up in the 1950s it had taken on a sense not only of antiquity but -- ironically -- of formality.

And as for "y'all", other dialects of American English have other forms of the second person plural. Here in the Pittsburgh area, for example, the stereotypical native says "yinz", sometimes spelled "yuns" or (more formally, displaying it's original form) "youns" or "you ones". Yours truly has been known to "yinz" people and even to refer to myself as a "yinzer". Even my car wears a sticker that says "YNZ". "Youns" or other variants are known, I'm told, elsewhere, mostly downriver (the Ohio River, that is) in the midwest or upper Mid-South, but we Pittsburghers tend to think of this form as ours.

#60 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 10:27 PM:

Lois Fundis #59: Thanks! I wonder of one of the forms will eventually become standard?

And I see I managed to muff my slash ordering (twice!): before someone calls me on it, "thou" is subject (I/he/she), "thee" is object (me/him/her). Assuming I'm not really too sleepy to be posting, that is....

Mary Aileen #58: And is there any particular reason why second-person-singular of "shall" gets a variation, or is it just English Is Weird?


#61 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2010, 11:43 PM:

Lois, #59: Some Midwestern dialects (including the one I grew up with around Detroit) have the unisex "you guys" -- sometimes shortened to just "guys" -- as a second-person plural. Despite ghod-help-me 38 years in the South, "y'all" has never come naturally to me, though I can use it if I think about it. But my default word choice for that is still pure Michigander, which gets me odd looks sometimes.

#62 ::: Doug Burbidge ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 01:18 AM:

Lois Fundis @59:

Here in Australia the second person plural can be "youse" or "you's" (which I choose to believe is a contraction of "you [plural noun describing persons]" rather than a greengrocer's apostrophe).

Clearly there is a hole in the language, and it wants to be plugged.

#63 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 01:22 AM:

David Harmon @ 60... I managed to muff my slash ordering (twice!)


#64 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 01:48 AM:

It's notable that while all the Romance languages I know about, and most of the Germanic languages, have the singular/plural familiar/formal distinction, this usage postdates the Roman Empire: Classical Latin "tu" and "vos" is purely a usage of number, with no nuance of intimacy.

#65 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 05:21 AM:

Here in Ireland there are two distinct second person plurals: yiz in Dublin and ye everywhere else.

These exist in various cases, but yiz can probably work those out for yizzerselves.

#66 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 07:20 AM:

Tire dumps create breeding grounds for mosquitoes and rats, they are a fire hazard and are unsightly as well.

The DOT I work for has a policy on using old tires in large embankments in an attempt to reduce the huge surplus of them. The rules are so stringent (have to be above all water levels, several feet of soil surrounding them, etc) that few projects actually end up using them. Some attempts have been made to grind them up and mix the fragments into asphalt for road surfaces, and retaining walls have been built with them, but those efforts barely make a dent in the numbers of old tires.

#67 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 10:35 AM:

Dave Harmon @#60: And is there any particular reason why second-person-singular of "shall" gets a variation, or is it just English Is Weird?

It's a holdover from when English verbs were more highly inflected, in large part because "thou" fell out of use so its verb form never got leveled (linguistics term alert!) like the more-used forms.

Consider, for example, the modern use of the verb "have". I have, you have, he has, we have, you have, they have. Back in the day, it would have been I have, thou hast, he hath...; "thou" went away and "hast" with it, and "hath" took a slightly different set of sound changes than "have", to become "has". If "thou" hadn't fallen out of use, I'll bet it might have turned into "has" as well.

#68 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2010, 11:51 AM:

In my coursework I'm finding out a lot about alternative fuels- there hasn't been much mentioned about using tires specifically. I mean, they're high-energy, and coal plants deal with clinkers so they should be able to deal with the metals... I guess there's not enough money in it to turn an actual profit.

#69 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 09:17 AM:

Could old tires perhaps simply get thrown into active volcanoes, thus giving a new meaning to the term "vulcanized rubber"?

#70 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 11:05 AM:

Local man dumped 3,000 tyres, convicted, issued with ASBO forbidding him to ever be found in a vehicle containing tyres again.

#71 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 01:02 PM:

Something about that title has been nagging at me; this morning I realized that it scans to Rolling Down To Old Maui.

(sung by the dump owner:)

From Brooklyn's shore to many more
The stinking plumes now fall.
And we don't give a damn for the fireman
Who is forced to fight it all.
What we couldn't sell you'll be forced to smell
And to clean it off your wall;
All the rats will roam and will find new homes
In your basement and your hall.

Burning tires in New Jersey, me boys
Burning tires in New Jersey
The smoke is dire from the smould'ring tires
Burning down in New Jersey.

#72 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 01:12 PM:

Lois Fundis @ 59 The second person singular denotes intimacy or familiarity in many Indo-European languages. (Not familiar with languages from other families.)

Turkish - which is not Indo-European - has a similar convention. Confusingly, (at least for me) the situations in which it is appropriate to use the informal form differ subtly from those in French (or at least the French they speak in France: I know that in Quebec, and perhaps also in Stratford-atte-Bowe the conventions are different again.)

Given David Goldfarb's comment @ 64 I'm wondering whether how long this has been a feature of Turkish. (Is it a comparativelhy recent borrowing form the French? Was it a feature of Ottoman? Borrowed from the Greeks? Present in
Linked text)

#73 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 01:24 PM:

Cally Soukup@71: Very nicely done!

#74 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 02:10 PM:

Cally Soukup @ 71:

There's something about New Jersey that seems to attract this sort of thing.

For me, this suggests adding a verse to The Rolling Mills of New Jersey:

From Jersey City the stench will flow,
And soon everyone in Brooklyn will know
Where all their discarded tires did go,
The burning tires of New Jersey.

#75 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 02:37 PM:

Mods: thanks very much for freeing my comment @71.

Everyone else: For 'sausage' read 'hostage', and for 'Linked Text' read 'Azerbaijani' throughout.

#76 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 04:18 PM:

Carrie S. #67: Cool, I didn't know about have/hast/hath either!

#77 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 05:03 PM:

Here's another verse for a different poem:

We pray for one last landfill
For the Jersey tires that burn.
We enshrine our trash on the nearest shore;
For the cool, green hills we yearn.

#78 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 05:16 PM:

Just a slightly-irritated reminder from a New Jersey resident: the whole state isn't one big stinky tire fire (or tyre fyre). Parts of it are rather nice.

Please don't use New Jersey as a byword for "possibly toxic stench."

#79 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 06:34 PM:

Xopher #78:

But can we still hiss?

#80 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 09:45 PM:

Syd #43:

We default to 'Kiwi'; use of 'New Zealandian' will get you funny looks.

#81 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 10:11 PM:

Xopher @78

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to imply anything about all of New Jersey. I was versifying on the particular event that occasioned this thread, not New Jersey in general.

#82 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: October 22, 2010, 11:45 PM:

I grew up in a place that burned tires (lots of them) on purpose in little pots.

In Central Washington, in the 1960s, if the fruit trees budded early and spring came late, and you wanted a fruit crop that fall, the accepted thing to do was heat your orchard by burning old tires (as well as other things such as oil and sawdust) in smudge pots.

Since the Valley was a natural bowl, the temperature inversion would keep all of the hot air filled with black oily soot at pretty much ground level. I remember my mother covering all the good furniture with old sheets on nights the frost report said it would be bad.

#83 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 01:25 AM:

Cally Soukup (with whom I am again corresponding, hooray) writes in #71:

Something about that title has been nagging at me; this morning I realized that it scans to Rolling Down To Old Maui.
Burning tires in New Jersey, me boys
Burning tires in New Jersey
The smoke is dire from the smould'ring tires
Burning down in New Jersey.

Well, no, it doesn't scan, not really.

What you've written scans exactly like the filk parody "Falling Down on New Jersey," and with all due respect to the estimable Mitchell Burnside-Clapp, his song doesn't scan quite right, either.

Falling DOWN on NEW jer-ZEE, me boys...

In my experience, outside of this song, nobody calls the state NEW-jer-ZEE. I hear "new JER-zee." Mitch shoehorned the state into Stan Rogers's scansion, and so did you.

This flaw does not prevent people from happily singing his song, which is fine.

To be frank, Stan Rogers had his own shoehorn. If he wanted to write a song about Maui, he should have chosen a rhythm that was a better fit. As it is, he calls it "OLD mau-EE, me boys." There is no particular reason why Maui should be called "old" in this song. It's an extra syllable jammed in to fit the music.

Using "old" in this way is a crutch, common in mediocre songs. A peeve of mine.

Come to think of it, do people emphasize the final syllable when they talk about Maui?

Stan Rogers wrote some great lyrics, but this song's chorus is not his finest hour.

#84 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 12:33 PM:

Higgins @ 83

Sorry, but Stan Rogers didn't write the song. It's attested back to 1858 at least. He may or may not have altered the tune, but the lyric clearly puts an emphasis there in any case.

Since the sailors didn't mind putting the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLABle, I'm perfectly content to follow their lead.

#85 ::: bentley ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2010, 11:56 PM:

15 or 20 years ago, there was a short item in the Washington Post about a smoldering tire fire somewhere past the suburbs (I think it was in Northern Virginia). It had gone on long enough that it had become a minor tourist attraction, so someone had painted directions on the pavement. Next to a painted arrow, it said, "TARR FARR."

#86 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2010, 12:33 AM:

Cally at #84:

Well, that's not the first time there's been egg on my face. Probably won't be the last...

(I'm still cranky about the scansion, though.)

#87 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2010, 12:45 AM:

Higgins @ 86

Darned sailors. <nodding>

#88 ::: Edgar lo Siento ::: (view all by) ::: October 25, 2010, 11:51 AM:

61,Lee wrote:Some Midwestern dialects (including the one I grew up with around Detroit) have the unisex "you guys" -- sometimes shortened to just "guys" -- as a second-person plural.
A-ha! I wondered why I did that. That, meaning, used "guys" as a generic plural. I came from Ohio, but it drove my teachers in Nebraska nuts.

#89 ::: Cadbury Moose suspects it's spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 04:39 AM:

#89, if the gnomes could toast this spammer, please?

#90 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2012, 07:11 AM:

Carrie S.@67:
If "thou" hadn't fallen out of use, I'll bet it might have turned into "has" as well.

Here in Yorkshire it did. "Thou" (pronounced "tha"*) is still used by dialect speakers. The following verb form is identical to the 3rd personal form, usually abbreviated, e.g. "Tha's bin a-coortin' Mary Jane." A preceding verb may take the old form, e.g. "Wheer 'ast tha bin sin' Ah saw thee?"

*Actually right here, it's "da", which is why we Sheffielders are called "Dee-Dahs".

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