Happy one New Year

I have always found the idea of a New Year rather too arbitrary to celebrate. Which may be because I was rarely invited to such parties. Which may be why I was rarely invited to such parties. I spent last night at a Korean church service. Here are some lines to read between / / / /.

So we choose one day with no particular significance, choose a prime meridian such that our time zone falls now instead of one hour sooner or later, ignore the fact that true midnight wanders around relative to clock midnight, ignore the fact that many southern hemisphere countries are on daylight savings (Tweed Heads on the NSW side of the border celebrates one hour before or after Coolangatta on the Queensland side), ignore the fact that a time zone covers at least several hundred kilometres, and all get excited … RIGHT NOW!

Wikipedia lists 46 New Year’s Days from around the world, or one every eight days on average.

Happy New Year, if that’s your thing.


death by overwork (no, not me)

From How your job is killing you by James Adonis in the Sydney Morning Herald (I try to avoid giving free publicity to companies, but I’ve got to credit my sources):

The Japanese have a word, karōshi, to describe people who work themselves to death. … In China the word used is guolaosi. … South Korea, too, has a term for this pervasive condition: gwarosa.

A little bit of linguistic knowledge shows that those are actually the same word, in the pronunciation systems of those three languages. Japanese and Korean have borrowed a large number of words directly from Chinese, and have also created new words themselves from Chinese characters.

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“Is there any my phone?”

On Thursday night my wife’s phone ended up on the table on my side of the bed. On Friday morning she asked ‘Is there any my phone?’.

Clearly, this is not standard English, and it’s not even any established non-standard variety of English I know anything about. Equally clearly, I understood what she meant, quickly found her phone and gave it to her.

So what exactly is the problem with what she said? (Before I go any further, I must stress that my wife’s English is a heck of a lot better than my Korean, and that if she makes more mistakes in English than I do in Korean, it’s because she speaks English a heck of a lot more than I speak Korean.)

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What’s in a name?

For about a year my English language college has had a significant proportion of its students coming from Pakistan, and a significant proportion of those have the name ‘Muhammad’ (in various spellings), either as a first or second given name or as a surname. We’ve had about 12 over the last year, but only five or six at a time. Fortunately most of them either already go by another name (eg their other given name if Muhammad is one of their given names, or a given name if it is their surname) or agree to adopt one for the duration of the class. Even this does not always help: at one time we had Muhammad Umar (known as ‘Umar’) and Muhammad Umer (known as ‘Umer’), but at least they looked very different. The second most common name is Ali. We’ve got two Alis at the moment and have to point at one or the other when I say his name, which defeats the point of having a name. And one of them is, yes, Muhammad Ali (he plays cricket). (He is actually (first given name) Muhammed Ali.)

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