Yesterday, my wife and I had lunch in a coffee shop/café whose name is rendered


with the O as a stylised coffee bean. My linguistic analysis never completely stops, and I asked the waitress how this is pronounced. She said “Jez-ve”, so that’s not an O after all, but simply a stylised coffee bean. I then asked her what it means, and she said she didn’t know, but she’d ask the manager. If she did, she didn’t return to tell me, so I had to do some research when I got home. (What did people do before the internet?) If you don’t know, can you remotely guess?

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A shop in a major shopping in Sydney’s CBD has a very large ad for GORILLA PERFUME. Before I search online, I want to speculate. Is this perfume for gorillas, or perfume made with some component of gorillas, or perfume which smells like gorillas, or a mis-spelling of guerrillas (in which case the same questions apply), or someone’s silly joke?

I typed ‘[name of company] gor’ into the search bar, and the search engine suggested ‘[name of company] gorgeous [+/- moisturiser]’ and ‘[name of company] gorilla [+/- perfume]’, so it seems like it’s a thing.  Continue reading

Seon-mi / Sonmi

I have a student named 선미 (Seon-mi). Her name reminds me of the character Sonmi in Cloud Atlas (novel by David Mitchell, movie written and directed by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Lilly Wachowski – trailer, spoilerific final sequence (subtitled in Turkish, of all things!)), but the names aren’t necessarily the same.

Korean ㅓ approximates to the English ‘short o’ (as in John) and ㅗ to ‘long o’ (as in Joan). There is no indication as to how the book/movie character’s name is spelled in Korean: the book doesn’t include any hangeul (and very few Korean words) and the movie has hangeul only on buildings and vehicles in the background. (Korean Wikipedia’s page on the movie doesn’t transliterate the names of the characters.) The difference in pronunciation is sometimes small or non-existent: a ㅗ followed by a syllable-final consonant sounds very much like ㅓ – a suburb is a 동 (dong), which is always pronounced with a short o. Continue reading

Maxim Mocha Gold Mild Coffee Mix

(Prescript: After I posted this, WordPress kindly informed me of this related post)

A product which is ubiquitous in Korea and among the Korean community in Australia is Maxim Mocha Gold Mild Coffee Mix (맥심 모카 골드 마일드 커피 믹스, mak-shim mo-ka gol-deu ma-il-deu keo-pi mik-seu), a long, narrow sachet of coffee powder, milk powder and sugar or sweetener. It is notable that this product uses six ‘English’ (or at least non-Korean) words in a row. I put ‘English’ in inverted commas because four of them are, in turn, loanwords into English.

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Catz and Dogz

I remember seeing outside a veterinary practice a sign including the words ‘Catz and Dogz’ (or vice versa). I didn’t remember the name of the practice, but I knew exactly where it was/is, so was able to search by location online. The practice’s website  contains no mention of ‘Catz and Dogz’ and indeed mentions ‘Boarding Dogs and Cats’, but mentions ‘groomz Pet Salon’. Even if my memory of ‘Catz and Dogz’ is faulty, the linguistic issues it raises – pronouncing and spelling final ‘s’ as ‘z‘ – are still valid.

I suspect that many native speakerz of English do not realize that the pronunciation of the ‘s’z on the endz of most plural nounz is actually ‘z’. I didn’t until I starting reading semi-seriously about linguistics. (Or maybe not even then. I didn’t consciously know about the similar alternation of ‘d’ and ‘t’ in past simple verbs until the class component of my first TESOL qualification.) But some wordz stay with the ‘s’ pronunciation. If you say ‘Cats and Dogs’ very slowly and carefully, you will hear that ‘Dogs’ is actually pronounced ‘Dogz’ and ‘grooms’ as ‘groomz’, while ‘Cats’ stays as ‘Cats’.

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