Must sell

I am a member of Facebook buy/sell/swap/free group in my local area. One member is selling an item of furniture with the explanation:

Must sell father in nursing home

Just … no.

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My dog has no nose

A; My dog has nose.
B: How does it smell?
A: Terrible!

At the risk of over-explaining a venerable joke (your mileage may vary as to how funny it actually is(n’t)), this joke relies on the fact that smell means both emit an odour and perceive an odour. B means How does it perceive an odour?. A’s response means It emits a terrible odour. But you knew that.

The same thing happens with taste, which means both emit a flavour (for the want of a better, short description) and perceive a flavour. Because dogs are more famous for their sense of smell than their sense of taste, and because we are more likely to smell dogs than to taste them (even in Korea), the following joke would not work (unless as a bizarre parody):

A: My dog has no tongue.
B: How does it taste?
A: Terrible!

(Actually, there are taste buds elsewhere in the mouth, so it has a reduced sense of taste.) Continue reading

rabbit holes, dudes, weir-poles and emulosity

Oh the rabbit holes of language-related website and blogs, words and meanings!

I was reading Niall O’Donnell’s latest post and noticed at the side a picture of Jeff Bridges’ character in The big Lebowski (which I have never watched, but recognise most allusions to). Niall’s Instagram post says “Probably from the Scottish word for clothes ‘duddies,’ where we also get the word ‘duds.’”

On the other hand, dictionary.com says “An Americanism dating back to 1880–85; origin uncertain” (but being an Americanism doesn’t stop it being “from Scottish”). The first dudes were “excessively concerned with clothes, grooming, and manners”, which hardly describes Bridges’ character; partly because of this movie, one would now expect a dude to be rather scruffy and laid-back.

The five contemporary examples and three of the historical examples are unexceptional, thought we might have to think for a moment whether the writer means a ‘fastidious dude’, a man from an Eastern US city vacationing on a ranch, a ‘scruffy dude’ or just ‘any dude’’ll do.

The two others caught my eye, not for dude, but for something else in the sentence:

I allow you to—er—ornament my weir-pole, and ’tain’t every dude I’d let do that.
Cape Cod Stories [1907, short stories, scroll down to The mark on the door]
Joseph C. Lincoln

Having a dude puncher on our range kind of stirred up my emulosity.
Out of the Depths [1913, a western novel, scroll down to chapter XXI]
Robert Ames Bennet

Continue reading

“a privately-owned solar system”

An article I subedited referred to a company having Australia’s largest privately-owned solar system. The context made it clear that the company owned panels and generators and batteries, but I couldn’t help thinking that it owned a sun and planets and moons, even though this is impossible in practice – there’d be nowhere to put it, for a start.

A major search engine thinks that solar system means a sun and planets and moons. To get an image of panels and generators and batteries, you need to search for solar energy/power/electric system.

(Compare Douglas Adams’ character Hotblack Desiato, a member of the biggest, loudest, richest rock band in the history of history itself, who went from being a man who despised the star system to being a man who buys star systems.)

What?!

Sanitation has gained importance on the global development agenda, starting in 2008 with the UN International Year of Sanitation, followed by the recognition of the human right to water and sanitation in 2010 and the call for an end to open defecation by the UN Deputy Secretary General in 2013.

You’d think the UN Deputy Secretary General would have known better …

Oh, wait …

Typhoon Soulik

For the past few days Korea has been battered by a typhoon, though fortunately the damage seems to have been contained.

I looked at the Korea Herald website for information. I noticed that the story contained information which seemed to be superfluous, for example, “Daejeon, South Chungcheong Province, about 140 kilometers south of Seoul” and “The southern port city of Busan”, as well as “Busan, some 450 km southeast of Seoul” in a photo caption.

Given that the Herald’s readership is predominantly a) Koreans who want to practice their English, b) English-speaking people in Korea, and c) English-speaking people elsewhere who are interested in Korea and have gone to the Herald instead of any other news site, I would have thought that the Herald’s readership would probably know where Busan is and possibly know where Daejeon is. 

On the side of the page was a list of the top 10 recent stories. Among a number of typhoon-related stories, was: “Filipino-Indian couple caught stealing plastic bins from kimchi factory.”

entertaining cheeses

Today I sub-edited an article about “entertaining cheeses”. My first thought was of them singing and dancing for us. My second thought was of us singing and dancing for them. My third thought was of us chatting together, while eating the cheeses and drinking a nice bottle of red.

And I didn’t know until today that Camembert and Brie are towns in France.