Sometimes I find things of linguistic interest in unexpected places. The cafe near my house sells bottles of Burgundee Creaming Soda. That would usually be ‘Burgundy’ (indeed Pages for Mac autocorrected it), but possibly they changed the spelling to avoid getting a strongly-worded letter from the body in charge of geographically-based drink and food names in France. Or maybe they really did originally call it Burgundy Creaming Soda and really did get such a letter. Either way, they could argue/could have argued that burgundy refers to the colour of the liquid, not to any attempt to pass it off as coming from that region of France. (Pages for Mac also changed burgundy to Burgundy.)

But no-one in Australia is going to believe that Bundaberg brand Burgundy Creaming Soda is made in France. Bundaberg is a regional city in Queensland, and the Bundaberg Brewed Drinks Company is well-known for its range of soft drinks. In fact, the city is even better known for its rum, which I have just discovered is made by another company. If you ask for a ‘Bundaberg’ at an Australian pub, you will probably get rum. If you ask for a ‘Bundy’, you will certainly get rum. 

(As an aside, we wouldn’t expect boeuf bourguignon to be made in Burgundy (I ate it in Paris), but there are strict laws about Burgundy wine. Even so, dictionary.com lists ‘often lower-case’ burgundy as ‘any of various red wines with similar characteristics made elsewhere’.)

At the top of the label is the instruction ‘Invert bottle before opening’. And open it upside-down? Please invert and revert (or maybe evert, or maybe even convert) the bottle before you open it. 

Latin vertō, vertere, versus (turn), has given rise to a large number of English words (Wikipedia lists 120). Those in the form prefix + vert are: advert, avert, controvert, convert, divert, evert, extrovert, introvert, invert, obvert, pervert, revert and subvert. Closely related to these are words ending in –verse: adverse, averse, converse, diverse, inverse, multiverse, obverse, perverse, reverse, transverse, traverse and universe. In some of those words, the idea of ‘turn’ is more obvious; in others, less so. Most of the other words on Wikipedia’s list are derivatives of those, though there are some which aren’t (divorce and vertebra, for example). 



I made joke in Korean and my wife and her friends totally failed to get it. We had dinner at a harbourside fish and chip shop, and she bought ginger beer for me, despite that fact that she’s next seen me drinking ginger beer, which is because I never do. I said “I don’t drink this. I don’t like this.” She said “It’s beer. You drink beer.” I said “진짜 beer?” (jin-jja beer, (is it) really beer?). Haha.

I found out later that 찐자 (jjin-ja) means ‘steamed’, so with my pronunciation it might have been possible that I was asking whether it was steamed beer (whatever that is). I asked her after we got home, and she said she thought I had simply said ginger beer.

Ginger, 진짜 and 찐자 aren’t homophones, but are close enough for the joke to potentially work. Ginger is actually closer to 찐자 so if I ever have steamed beer, I’ll try again.


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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I’d like to talk to you about cheeses

During the week I edited an article which quoted a company spokesperson talking about the company’s pizza which included an “Edam, mozzarella and Cheddar” topping. Edam and Cheddar are real places (in the Netherlands and England, respectively), and their cheeses originally had an upper case letter (and often still do). Mozzarella is not a place; the name is derived from the Italian mozza, a slice. So do I really have to have that mix of upper- and lower-case letters? Fortunately not. The Macquarie Dictionary styles edam and cheddar (the cheeses) with a lower-case letter, so the magazine will have “edam, mozzarella and cheddar”.

Various food and drink products have “protected designation of origin” status; for example, only sparkling wine from that region of France can be called (upper case) Champagne. There is, in the European Union, at least, no such thing as (lower case) champagne. Continue reading