“Please change your onion”

My wife is possibly the first person ever to speak those words together. I am certainly the first person to write them where Google can find them.

For 10 days I have been battling a cold, the major symptoms being a very sore throat, a dry tickly cough, a partial loss of voice, two days off work and two choir rehearsals missed. I have ingested a wide range of medications and folk-remedy cures. On Tuesday night I woke up three times, coughing loud and long and waking my wife. On Wednesday night I woke up twice, coughing a bit. In the morning, I went downstairs, ate breakfast and went back upstairs, and my wife pointed to a plastic container of chopped onion on the bedhead. She explained that my first waking had woken her, so she’d looked on the internet on her mobile phone, found references to chopped onion as a remedy for coughing, come downstairs to chop some onion and taken it back upstairs – all without me noticing.

I checked ‘onion cure coughing’ on the internet. Yes, there are references to it; no, I’m not convinced that it works. Having ingested about 10 different substances in various combinations, it’s impossible to be sure exactly which was the cause of the reduced coughing. In any case, after nine days at that point, I would expect to be improving anyway.

Yesterday evening, as I was about to go upstairs, she handed me another plastic container of chopped onion and said ‘Please change your onion’, viz, ‘replace the previous container with this one, as the vapour from the previous one has diminished’. Last night I woke five times, but didn’t cough much.

One of the substances I ingested was a syrup apparently owned by a Western pharmaceutical company but very popular in Korea. I think it’s hideous but my wife swears by it and literally pours it down my throat. (Just checking on the internet, I’ve found that it targets a chesty cough, which I didn’t have.) Last night, I reluctantly swallowed some, then so did she, and said ‘Tasty’. Linguistic gears grinding. ‘Tasty’ literally means ‘having a taste’, but then almost everything has a taste; ‘tasty’ applied to food universally means ‘having a good taste’. On the other hand, ‘smelly’ literally means ‘having a smell’, but universally means ‘having a bad smell’. Conversely, ‘tasteless’ applied to food means ‘having no taste’, but applied to literature, movies, comments etc  means ‘in poor taste, lacking in tact’. ‘Smellless’ doesn’t exist, maybe because of all those ls. The nearest equivalent is ‘odo(u)rless’. A good smell is ‘aromatic’. So, tastes are expected to be good, and smells are expected to be bad?


One thought on ““Please change your onion”

  1. “…smells are expected to be bad?”

    uh huh, but ‘scents’ or ‘aromas’ are expected to be good. With everything that’s going on in my life, the stress and lack of sleep has made my brain mush. There are many examples in the English language of similar sameness/difference but I’m too mentally exhausted to remember the term.


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