What’s in the box?

In an idle moment I looked in a box on the shelf above my desk at work. It was full of a miscellany of small slips of paper for classroom activities taken mainly from the teacher’s resource books of the textbook series (plural) we use, but also from the internet. I don’t know who they belong to – certainly not me. They were a complete mess. The easiest thing would be to toss them all out, but there could be useful material there, and in some cases someone had gone to the trouble of laminating and exactly cutting the slips (I hate imprecisely cut slips of paper!) so I started sorting them out. An hour’s sorting produced slightly less of a mess. Some activities are self-explanatory, but others are baffling. My aim is to sort them all out, then find the instructions in the teacher’s book, then use them sometime to make it all worthwhile. I don’t know how long that is going to take. I put the more-sorted material at the bottom of the box and the less-sorted material at the top, which I realised later was the wrong strategy.

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Korea As one

While I was drafting my previous post, I also had in mind another instance of sporting cooperation between North and South Korea. In 1991, a unified table tennis team (called 코리아, Korea) competed at the World Championships in Chiba, Japan, and the Korean women won the team event. In 2012, a movie (Korean title 코리아, English title As one) was made starring Bae Doona (see also here) as the leading Northern player and Ha Ji-won as the leading Southern player. There is a short trailer and a 10 minute fan edit on the interweb, and there may be a full version, but it was taking too long to load, and I gave up.

The Wikipedia page on the championships shows that Li Bun-hui/Ri Pun-hui (Bae’s character) also won silver in the women’s singles and teamed with her (?then/future) husband for bronze in the mixed doubles. Note that Bae had to learn to play table tennis left-handed to portray Ri.

Marching together

In 2000, the chamber choir I sang in and one other similar choir were invited by Sydney’s biggest concert choir to join it to form the choir for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. We got the best deal of any of the performers – we got to see the whole ceremony from high up in stands. (We sang one verse of the national anthem and an excerpt from the Te Deum by Berlioz during the entry of the flame and the lighting of the cauldron. RIP Betty Cuthbert (d 6 August 2017).)

There were two rehearsals – a closed one, with some stops and starts, the previous Saturday, and an open one, essentially continuous, on the Wednesday. The entry of the flame and the lighting of the cauldron were omitted, and the parade of nations was represented by the placard and flags bearers only.

On both occasions I noticed that South and North Korea were missing from the parade. They weren’t filed under ‘K’ or ‘N’ and ‘S’. (This was six years before I went to South Korea, but I have always been interested in the countries of the world.) There was an announcement for ‘Individual Olympic Athletes’ immediately before Australia (the host country always enters last) and I vaguely thought the Koreans would be marching there.

On the night of the ceremony (15 September 2000), after Kenya had entered, I noticed a lot of people standing at the entrance who obviously weren’t Kuwaiti. (Kosovo now also comes in between.) The announcements were given in French first, then English. There was a long announcement in French, and the digital screen was filled with writing. My French was just good enough to get the gist, but I wasn’t sure until the announcement in English came:

The delegations of the Korean Olympic Committee and the Olympic Committee of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, marching together as Korea.


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Practical cats

A few weeks ago I mentioned the musical Cats, and commented about translating the title and the lyrics into other languages, including Korean.

The first song is ‘Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats’, which is not in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, so I guess it was in TS Eliot’s unpublished poems, along with Grizabella. Andrew Lloyd Webber consulted Valerie Eliot while composing this work. (Note that Trevor Nunn wrote the lyrics for ‘Memory’ (and see my previous comments about this song here.)) The song ends with a series of 22 occurrences of ‘adj cats’:

Practical cats, Dramatical cats
Pragmatical cats, Fanatical cats
Oratorical cats, Delphicoracle cats
Skeptical cats, Dispeptical cats
Romantical cats, Penantical cats
Critical cats, Parasitical cats
Allegorical cats, Metaphorical cats
Statistical cats and Mystical cats
Political cats, Hypocritical cats
Clerical cats, Hysterical cats
Cynical cats, Rabbinical cats

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‘To the egress’

At a railway station in central Sydney, I saw a door marked EMERGENCY EGRESS ONLY. I guess that at least 99% of such doors in the English-speaking world are marked EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY.

Egress is the slightly earlier word, dating from the 1530s. Exit as a stage direction (technically, a verb) as in ‘Exit, pursued by a bear’ dates from the 1530s, but from the 1590s it was used as a noun, as in ‘All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances’ and (occasionally) a ‘real’ verb.

From about 1650 to about 1850, the two words were used more or less interchangeably, but then the use of exit grew and egress declined, probably corresponding to the growth in public railway travel. Then in the early 1970s, the use of exit skyrocketed, for reasons I can’t think of, but curiously declined from 2000 to 2008. Most of this was due to the use of exit as a noun; exit really only began to be used as a verb in the 20th century.

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I used to be …

To illustrate the grammar point ‘I used to V’, I showed the students several photos of me as a child. One was of me at the age of three with my youngest sister at the age of less than one. One student asked ‘Which one is you?’.

On a previous occasion, a student said ‘Wow, you used to be cute!’.


My wife has three birthdays. Although the Gregorian calendar was adopted in Korea in 1896, people continued to use the traditional Korean lunar calendar for everyday purposes. So, her family marked her birthday as 196>년 6월 28일 (using the Gregorian year but the traditional month and day). But her grandfather or father didn’t register her birthday, or indeed the birthdays of any of her older sisters, until her first younger brother was born, and then he managed to get two of those dates wrong. Her oldest and third sisters, and her older younger brother, have the correct date, but her second sister has the wrong year and she has the wrong year and day. Her youngest brother, who was registered separately after he was born, has the the wrong month and day.

She said that this happened all the time in those days, and many people have official dates of birth one to three years away from their real one. It is possible to apply to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages or a court to have one’s official date of birth changed, but with the cost and effort, very few people bother. So, her official date of birth is one year earlier, on another day in June (but her lunar calendar birthday never falls in June anyway).

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