Dog

I saw a business named I ❤️ DOG, which I thought could be unfortunate given (some) Koreans’ well-known but diminishing consumption of boshintang. My guess was that it was either a pet-friendly cafe or accessories shop (or both). Looking more carefully the next time I passed, I saw that it was an accessories shop and grooming service. In standard English, I love dog can only mean as food.

I also saw a woman’s handbag with various texts, including I love a dog. This is grammatical, but sounds strange to me. One would usually specify which dog one loved (I love my dog) or state a love for dogs in general (I love dogs). Saying I love the dog would be even more confusing. I really would want to know which dog in particular you  love.

Koreans take their dogs very seriously. I have seen several dogs being wheeled along in what otherwise look like baby’s prams. There is an old saying “Dogs have owners, cat have staff”. Maybe not here in Korea.

(I’ve had students say “I love dog”. Also, from a post in 2015, about a class in 2006-8:

One of my classes was focusing on animals. I`ll mention that dogs are (occasionally) on the menu in Korea. One of the questions was “what characteristics are associated with each of these animals” eg industrious ants, busy bees, wise owls. We got to dogs, and several people said “loyal”, “companions” before one stopped the class by saying “delicious”.)

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Extraordinarily unique

Wikipedia’s article on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan quotes “US officials” describing it as “extraordinarily unique”.

Some style guides advise or prescribe against any modification of unique. Either something is the only one of its kind, or it’s not. It can’t be (for example) very unique. While modifying unique is probably best avoided in formal contexts, there can be no doubt that many people say or write it informally and normally. Google Ngram Viewer shows not (by far the most common), very, as, most, so, quite, rather, somewhat, almost and probably unique. Some of these are (probably) more acceptable, and others less so. 

Extraordinarily unique isn’t on Ngrams’ top 10 results (its usage is about one-tenth that of probably unique), but a general Google search shows about 391,000 results, starting with blind auditions on The Voice, the Atlanta Motor Speedway and the Villa Bismarck on Capri.  


It might just be possible to describe something as extraordinarily unique if it’s extraordinary as well as unique – a whole level more unique than anything else. Australia has many unique animals, but the platypus is extraordinary. Anyone familiar with jerboas will accept the kangaroo, but when the first samples of dead platypuses (?platypi, ??platypodes) arrived in England, the experts there thought someone here was playing a practical joke on them. But “except for its size and exaggerated security measures,” Bin Laden’s compound “itself did not stand out architecturally from others in the neighbourhood.”

Afraid of what?

A few days ago the chapter of the textbook was about comparative and superlative adjectives, and one question was something like “What are you most afraid of?”. One student said “I am afraid of ” something that sounded like duck or dog. Was she afraid of ducks (the bird) or duck (the meat), or dogs (the animal) or dog (the meat, in some countries, see later)? I might have asked for clarification then, but decided to let her keep talking. She said that when she was young, the toilet was accessed from outside, so she always asked one of her parents to take her. So did they have ducks or dogs in their backyard? I finally said “I don’t know whether you said duck or dog”. She said “No – daakk”. Aha. “Afraid of the dark.” Why do we say “the dark” rather than “dark”. Would Dracula say “I am afraid of light” or “I am afraid of the light”? Google Ngrams shows that afraid of the light is about twice as common as afraid of light. Continue reading