Sounds legit

A document referred to someone submitting a statement from what the submitter called a “legit financial institution”. While legit is attested abbreviation of legitimate, it is still rather informal, and calling a financial institution legit makes it sound anything but.


Maths v math

In bookshop I saw two books:

Help your kids with maths – An Australian step-by-step guide


Help your kids with math – Revised edition

There is no particular reason why British, Australian and New Zealand English speakers say and write maths and USA and Canadian English speakers say and write math. We just do. 

Or maybe it’s not that simple. Google Ngrams shows that since 2010 math is more common that maths in BrEng, though it doesn’t show how much of that is mentions rather than uses (that is, talking about the word rather than actually using it). Conversely, maths is very rare in AmEng.

Surprisingly, the two abbreviations have been widely used only since the 1950s. Further, in AmEng, math has now overtaken mathematics.  

(Compare mathematics and the almost non-existent mathematic (either as a noun or adjective).)


The phrase a/the member of a/the family unit is used in various pieces of Australian legislation, defined in various ways for various purposes. One legal office abbreviated it (in writing) as MOFU. Unfortunately, I can’t see that without thinking of something else less legal (indeed illegal) involving a member of a family unit.

Google’s first results are sales and marketing websites explaining TOFU, MOFU and BOFU, which apparently are the top of the funnel, the middle of the funnel and the bottom of the funnel respectively, which a) isn’t what I was thinking of, and b) makes me none the wiser.

Abbreviation on the menu

Two items on the menu of almost every Australian pub are schnitzel (veal unless otherwise specified, or chicken) and parmigiana (chicken unless otherwise specified, or veal). Partly because of lack of space on signboards, and partly because Australians abbreviate almost everything we can, these are often abbreviated to schnitz, schnitty or schnittie, and parmi, parmie, or parmy. Google reports:
schnitz 337,000 – schnitty 104,000 – schnittie 5,490
parmi 233,000,000 – parmie 166,000 – parmy 1,990,000

The result for parmi are skewed by the fact that it’s the French word for among. In fact, the translation appeared at the top of Google’s search results, before any reference to food.

For plurals, schnitz must become schnitzes, schnitty can become schnitties or schnittys, and schnittie must become schnitties. Parmi can become parmis or parmies, parmie must become parmies and parmy can become parmies or parmys:
schnitzes 4,5000 – schnittys 4,730 – schnitties 5,190
parmis 200,000,000 (again skewed by the French word) – parmies 241,000,000 (I can’t explain this result) – parmys 1,670,000 (there’s something very strange going on here – the results for plural schnit– are much lower than for the corresponding singulars, but the results for plural parm– are way higher. 

We have to take these numbers with a large amount of caution. I was prompted to write this post because I spent a wet weekend sorting through old documents, and found a piece of note paper with numbers from approx 2(?) years ago, which are way different from these. 

Does anyone know? No (partly because both words are borrowed from other languages). Does it matter? No (but I can imagine some people getting pasDo I have a choice? If I had to stick my neck out, I’d go for -ie(s) in both cases, if only because these spellings are more common in Australian abbreviations.

(By the way /ʃn/ is another initial consonant cluster not found in English which English speakers encounter in other languages. We generally have no trouble with it, partly because of familiarity and partly because it is phonetically very similar to /sn/.)

PS some Facebook friends mentioned parma, which I hadn’t included because I’d never heard or seen it. Google’s numbers for that are skewed by the Italian city. Some of the sources I read while preparing this post also have parm, which is just wrong. The first result for parm is parmesan cheese, which I have never heard or seen, either.

vegetarian and vegan

While eating lunch at a riverside café yesterday, I pondered that there’s no unambiguous way of distinguishing a vegan menu item from a vegetarian one using any abbreviations, because all the letters in ‘vegan’ also occur in ‘vegetarian’, therefore, any abbreviation of ‘vegan’ might also mean ‘vegetarian’. On the other hand, ‘vegetarian’ has several letters that ‘vegan’ doesn’t, so VGT or VT can only mean ‘vegetarian’, while VGN or VN might mean ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’. From what I have found on the internet, there is no universal solution to this. If in doubt, ask the waitstaff. 

This is more important to the vegans than to the vegetarians, because vegetarians can eat vegan food, but not vice-versa. What’s more, omnivores can eat vegetarian and vegan menu items, and indeed, my wife and I both ate vegetarian meals, and they were delicious and healthy. 

In my previous post I mentioned Australia and Austria. The Olympic code for Australian is AUS, while the one for Austria is AUT. See also Niger and Nigeria, India and Indonesia and (probably less crucial) Mali and the Maldives.


An advertising screen in the city included Satday 13 June in the corner. If there isn’t enough space for Saturday, then surely the solution is to use Sat. Sunday, Monday and Friday have six letters and would fit, but Tueday, Wedday and Thuday look varying degrees of weird. I’ll have to go back there on those days to find out what they do.

Saturday is already truncated from Old English Saternesdæg and Latin Sāturnī diēs. Many people pronounce it as or close to Satday or Satdi.

Write on queue

A few days ago I had to ring a government department. I hate ringing government departments, but I couldn’t find anything on their website about this particular issue. The call took an hour and 44 minutes in total, being about one minute talking to the first person, about one minute talking to the second person who the first person put me through to, about three minutes talking to the third person who the second person put me through to, and about an hour and 39 minutes listening to ‘on hold’ music, announcements about the information I could find on the website, and automated recordings telling me that I was now the [number]th caller in the queue, starting from 59th between the first person and the second person, and 68th between the second and the third  and gradually counting down.

I mentioned this on Facebook, and one online friend who lives in another English-speaking country commented, using the spelling que three times in an otherwise perfectly written comment. I sent her a private message asking whether that was her usual spelling, or was widely used in her English-speaking country. Continue reading

Hurricane winds: D, S, H and M

The US National Hurricane Center’s forecast maps show wind speeds as D, S, H and M. There is the explanation that D winds are less than 39 miles per hour (63 km/h), S winds are 39-73 mph (63-117 km/h), H winds are 74-110 mph (117-177 km/h) and M winds are more than 117 mph (177 kn/h). I’m sure that people in the forecast path of M winds don’t stop to wonder what these letters mean, but I’m safely on the other side of the planet, so I do. I can’t think of any set of four words beginning with these letters which would describe hurricane-force winds, In other contexts, and by themselves, S might mean strong, H high and M moderate, but that can’t be the definitions here (moderate winds are certainly not the highest category, and what’s the difference between strong winds and high winds?) The US National Weather Center’s website doesn’t have an explanation, and I can’t find anything anywhere else. Any guesses?

I can’t imagine any emergency authority saying ‘Evacuate the area immediately. M winds are forecast for the next 48 hours.’


When I was in grade 6 (last year of primary/elementary school), most of the two grade 6 classes went on a 4 or 5 day excursion to another regional city in the same state. We were hosted by the families of the students of a local primary school, visited some of the local attractions and socialised with the students. One evening, we watched a movie which, over the years, I retained only vague details of. A young boy and girl at an English school ‘get married’, so that they can always be together. Once the internet became a thing, I’d vaguely thought of searching online, but where to start?

Continue reading