No more unweder

For the last six days, the east coast of Australia has received very heavy rain, up to the average total for March each day in some places. Some parts have been flooded and more are waiting on rising river levels. Yesterday evening my wife asked me if there would be “more rain” today. Well, yes, in the sense of additional rain, but no, in the sense of a greater quantity of rain. Today was least wet day of the six; indeed it stopped raining, the clouds mostly dispersed and we got a few hours of mostly blue sky and sun. The entire night sky is now clear, and tomorrow’s temperature is predicted to be warmer than an average summer’s day.

Yesterday I mentioned an Anglo-Saxon word list. One of the words is unweder, extreme and unseasonal weather, which might be some comment about the weder in Angle-land. But a friend who moved from England to Australia commented on Facebook that Sydney actually gets more rain than London, which I had to check. Yes, Sydney 1,147.1mm/45.16in per year from 95 rainy days, and London 601.7mm/23.68in per year from 109 rainy days. So in Sydney, when it rains, it pours. Temperature (average and extreme) and hours of sunshine are other factors. I also suspect that London’s rainfall doesn’t change much from year to year, while Sydney’s does. Note that Sydney is at 33 degrees south, and London is at 51 degrees north



I shouldn’t get up and browse Facebook when I wake up at 1 am, but I did. I followed a link from a friend’s page to humour-based page. One post there was:

Cops just left, they said if I’m gonna walk around my house naked, I have to do it inside.

Many words have multiple meanings, and many jokes exploit this. The usual and natural meaning of “walk around my house naked” is “to various parts in”, but the joke uses the meaning of “a circuit of the outside”. Walking around naked outside is either not recommended or actually illegal.

At the risk of over-analysing the joke, would our understanding of the sentence change if it said:

I walked around my house in my pajamas


I walked around my house in my tracksuit


Meanwhile, it is possible to think of perfectly ambiguous statements: “I put up Christmas lights around my house”.

( lists 32 sub-meanings of around.)

What is art?

Youtube is suggesting a documentary by NHK Japan titled Art is trash without social impact. I first read that as Art is [trash without social impact], but I think it’s meant to be Art without social impact is trash (or Without social impact, art is trash), but I’m not going to watch it to find out. (Or maybe I will later – I’m in the middle of enough videos already, partly because Youtube keeps suggesting more.)

NHK World is the international service of Japan’s national broadcaster, and I have watched a number of their travel videos.

going to work

Australia has done a generally good job of containing the spread of coronavirus. I am lucky enough to have a full-time job I can do at home, so I worked at home from the end of March to the end of September (almost as long as I’d worked in the office before then). Then we started on one day per week in the office, then two (most of us Tuesday and Thursday), with the expectation of three from the beginning of next year. It looks like working at home part of the time is here to stay. 

Last week there was a small (by world standards) outbreak of coronavirus in another part of my city, and on Sunday we got a text message to work from home for the four days before Christmas Day and until further notice (most of us have next week off anyway). On Monday evening, my wife asked me “Are you going to work tomorrow?”. I said “No, umm yes, umm I’m going to work-at-home tomorrow”. 

Go can be a main verb and going to is one way to talk about the future, and work can be a noun or verb. Maybe she’d meant “Are you going (main verb) to (the place where you work (noun)) tomorrow?” (no) or “Are you going to (auxiliary verb) (perform the action of working (verb)) tomorrow?”.

Of all the possibilities, “Are you going to go to work tomorrow?” is possibly the clearest, but most people find going to go a bit of a mouthful. “Are you going to go the/your office tomorrow?” has the same problem, so “Are you going to the/your office tomorrow is probably the best choice all round.

For once, the problem wasn’t my wife’s second-language English, but something intrinsic to the language. On Wednesday evening, she asked me “Are you working at home tomorrow?”.

Relatedly, I would naturally say work at home, but work from home is more widespread.


On 29 May 1913, one of the biggest bangs in classical music history took place in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, being the premiere of The Rite of Spring, a ballet by Igor Stravinsky. A combination of the music, stage design, costumes, story and choreography led to a near-riot (or an actual one, depending on whose account you read. In an interview some time later, Stravinsky referred to Vaslav Nijinsky‘s “knocked-kneed and long-braided Lolitas”. There is very little information about the interview, but it is obviously some time later because 1) it was filmed and is now viewable on Youtube, 2) Stravinsky looks considerably advanced in years and 3) he uses the name Lolita in that way, placing the interview after the publication of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel in 1955 (when Stravinsky was 73). (Indeed, the poster of the video suggests the early 1960s.)

A lolita (more often lower-case, but Pages for Mac just upper-cased it), is now an alluring (at least to a certain kind of man) older girl or young teenager. (Nabokov’s narrator specifies the age range nine to 14; he also calls them demoniac, placing the blame on them rather than himself.) Even though The Rite of Spring is about a pagan fertility ritual, it is questionable as to how alluring the dancers were or are, or were or are meant to be.

But the name Lolita goes back further than Nabokov’s novel. Dolores is a good Spanish name (Maria Dolores, Saint Mary of the Sorrows), which became Lola, which became Lolita. 

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Comma or no comma?

You’ve probably figured out that I find Microsoft Word’s grammar checker rather too simplistic, but sometimes it throws up an issue which is subtle and interesting. A sentence was equivalent to:

After the first hearing the plaintiff wrote to me, because I had raised a concern that he had not mentioned physical violence in his written claim, and submitted that he had never been physically harmed by the defendant.

The grammar checker suggested removing the second comma. But that would change the meaning of the sentence. As it stands, the person who submitted was the plaintiff, because everything between the commas can be omitted:

The plaintiff wrote to me and submitted that he had never been physically harmed by the defendant.

Removing the comma means that the person who submitted was the legal officer:

The plaintiff wrote to me. Why? Because I had raised a concern [about one thing] and submitted [another thing].

At least that’s my reading on it, on the basis that plaintiffs, in general, submit. Legal officers, on the other hand, among other things, find:

I had raised a concern [about one thing] and found [another thing].

If the relevant verb was suggested, then the sentence could go either way; plaintiffs and legal officers can equally suggest.

This might all have been avoided by adding ‘to me’ (viz, the plaintiff submitted to ‘me’) or ‘to him’ (viz, ‘I’ submitted to the plaintiff). I didn’t have to decide, because my editing tasks don’t include inserting or removing commas. 

Added later: the more I thought about it, the more submitted seemed a strange choice either way. Legal officers don’t have to submit anything to a plaintiff, and a plaintiff will usually submit something supporting their case. Here, the plaintiff’s case was actually weakened by conceding that he had never been physically harmed.

How much do the scales weigh?

My wife just bought bathroom scales. The box says that they weigh up to 182kg. Clearly they don’t, because I can lift, hold and carry them easily. I estimate that they weigh less than a kilogram.

I’m being silly, of course, between different meanings of weigh. The scales weigh me, I weigh myself and I weigh ??kg.

I was caught between saying How much do the scales weigh? and How much does the scale weigh? In the olden days, scales definitely came in pairs, and I would normally have said scales here, except these are/this is battery operated with a digital readout and somehow seems less plural. In fact my wife bought two scales, one for us and one for our niece. I tried weighing one scale(s) on the other(s) but it didn’t work, so I can’t give you an exact weight.


One of my sisters texted that her husband had been offered a new job in his preferred area of sales. A few days later, she texted that “another rep had been hired”. I had to check “as well as, or instead of”. Fortunately, it was “as well as”. 

There are two sets of ambiguity about another. One is “as well as” v “instead of” and the other is “of the same kind” v “of a different kind”. These sometimes overlap. If you’re halfway through eating your pizza when I arrive, and offer me the other half, I might say “No thanks, I want another pizza”, I probably mean “of a different kind”/“instead of” (and might also mean a whole nother pizza*). Indeed I might say “I want a different pizza”. But if I’ve already eaten one pizza and say “I want another pizza”, I could mean “of the same kind” or “of a different kind”, but it has to be “as well”, because I’ve already eaten the first one. Note that if my brother-in-law had already started his new job, the ambiguity in my sister’s text would have disappeared; hiring another rep can only mean “as well”. My brother-in-law was caught in ambiguity time.

I have a random memory from many years ago, involving the same sister. One summer holiday we were staying at the house of a family we knew, as they were at their holiday house. On the Sunday morning we were sitting in the car waiting to go to church when that sister suddenly got out and said “I’m going to put another dress on”. Our father said “Won’t you be too hot wearing two dresses?”, which is such a dad thing to say.

* This is not my natural usage, but I couldn’t resist. And it’s older than you probably think.

sleep with

I slept with one of my students.
I slept. With one of my students.

The trains in Sydney are subject to occasional trackwork: the shutting down of all or some of a line for planned maintenance, theoretically to prevent unplanned failures. Buses take passengers from station to station in various configurations. Sometimes they take passengers from one major suburban station to another, where the passengers rejoin trains. Sometimes, when the whole line is shut down, they take passengers directly to the city. Today I caught a bus from my major suburban station to the city. Because most of the route is on an orbital motorway, it was actually quicker than the train it replaced, but I managed to doze off.

In the afternoon, I walked to where the return bus was leaving from (coincidentally in front of the office where I do my weekday job). There was a long line of people waiting, so I was one of the last people onto that bus. One of the last spare seats just happened to be next to … one of my students, who’d been waiting ahead of me in the line (I hadn’t seen him as I’d walked past). I sat down, asked where he lives, then explained I was very tired, so I might sleep rather than talk to him. And I was out like a light and woke up just as the bus was coming into my suburban station.

So I slept … with one of my students.

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