Free cake

A colleague made a cake for his birthday and brought it to share. He explained that it was “vegan and gluten free”. As legal editors do, we discussed whether that meant it was (vegan) and (gluten free) (probably) or (vegan free) and (gluten free) (probably not), and further what “vegan free food” might actually be (as opposed to “vegan, free food” (which would probably be “free, vegan food” anyway)). 

The phrase can either be ADJ and N free or N and N free. Vegan can be a noun (My cousin is a vegan) or an adjective (?My cousin is vegan, This cake is vegan).  Compare organic and preservative free and additive and preservative free. Hyphens might or might not help: organic and preservative-free, additive- and preservative-free, additive-free and preservative-free.



I suddenly thought that a good name for a Spanish coffee shop would be Café Olé (or maybe Cafe ¡Olé!). Not surprisingly, other people (Spanish or not) have already thought the same thing (search and you will find). But I wonder how many other instances of café olé on the internet are mistakes for café au lait. The two are pronounced more-or-less identically in English. Spanish  has /leɪ/ but French has /le/, not that many English speakers can correctly pronounce the difference. 

Duffins, cronuts and olive jars

A trip to a local shopping centre yielded two linguistic snippets. One shop was selling duffins, which it helpfully explained as “not a donut, not a muffin”. Cronuts (doughnuts made from croissant dough) have been a thing for a while now (Wikipedia says 2013). Duffins appear to be new. Wikipedia does not have a page for them and several news stories online from earlier this month talk about the product’s launch, but the company’s own website says that “The duffin is back”. Pages for Mac auto-changes duffin to muffin and red-underlines it when I change it back. 

Hang on, though. If a doughnut made from croissant dough is a cronut, then shouldn’t one made from muffin dough be a muffnut? Maybe not …

(spelling: Google Ngrams shows that doughnut is used more in BrEng, and about equally with donut in AmEng. I don’t often write about them, so I don’t know what my natural usage is. (PS My diary for my first stay in Korea 2006-9 has three instances of donut(s) and none of doughnuts, but that’s hardly convincing.)) 

(pronunciation: I had always pronounced croissant with kw-. Various dictionaries give kr-, krw- and kw-, so there’s obviously no unanimity (Wiktionary gives the most options). The other issue is -ant, which can be -ant, -ont, -ənt or ɒ̃. A lot depends on how French you try to be.)   

My wife bought a jar of olives. Around the top is a message/are messages in four languages. 


I won’t discuss these at length, but clearly, different languages say equivalent things in different ways, and use a different number of words to do so.

PS 25 Jul: at a work meeting today my manager digressed and spontaneously mentioned lamingscones (which I have now discovered is styled as Laming-Scones). Non-Australians may need to look up lamingtons and scones.  

PPS 1 Aug: today I watching a Youtube video by someone walking around Seoul. I saw a bakery advertising croiffles. 1 Sep: Another video shows croffles.

PPPS 2Aug: I mentioned this on Facebook and a friend said her local supermarket sells muffnuts.

“Why aren’t there more fat Koreans?”

When I went to Korea for the first time, I spent several days surviving on convenience store food between going for some meals in restaurants with colleagues, sometimes with their adult students. I knew that I’d have to find a restaurant I could go to by myself and/or cook for myself (which required some planning because I had to buy cookware, crockery and cutlery – my manager provided a very nice studio apartment with bed and pillow, but nothing else). 

Most of the restaurants I could see into had low tables and floor seating, but I found one that had Western-style tables and chairs. The manager placed the menu in front of me, pointed to the first page and said “Rice” (which I could actually see myself), then to the second and said “Dock”. Was that duck or dog? I was afraid to ask, so I said “Rice, please”. She and/or (a) waitress(es) brought out a bowl of plain rice, several bowls of soup and a major array of meat and/or vegetable dishes (I seem to remember 13 – I didn’t record this story in my diary of the time). I got through the rice and halfway through the meat and/or vegetables. At the end of the meal the manager offered me a big cup of shikhye (a sweet rice dessert drink). I first declined, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I forced it down somehow. 

Along the way I discovered that she spoke passable English, having lived in Brisbane, Australia for some time. As I paid and left, I asked “Why aren’t there more fat Koreans?” She said “Oh, is all vegetables, is all healthy”.

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TV Tropes’s page on the Shrinking Violet character type gives the real-life example of the Norwegian playwright and theatre director Henrik Ibsen.

It is said that pr 1899, he and his colleague Bjørnson was invited by the king to a diner.

A diner? A small, informal, inexpensive American restaurant? I comfortably assume that’s a typo (see also the unexplained ‘pr’ earlier in the sentence), but it got me thinking about the word diner. Because of American popular culture, I’m familiar with the kind of eatery, but I haven’t encountered either the establishment or the word much in Australia. Either it’s a café or it’s a restaurant, but there used to be fish and chip shops and milk bars, many of which had quick-cooked food and booth-style seating. (Now, if anything, we have kebab shops, which are usually takeaway.)

In fact, searching Google images, one page is ‘The Ten Best American Diners in Sydney’, so the establishments and word exist here. Note that diners is (?has to be) qualified by American. Right next to it is ‘The Best Diners in America’. ‘The Best American Diners in America’ would be redundant. (Though I did go to a ‘Japanese garden’ in Japan (viz, a traditional one, not just any old (or new) one).)

Although TV Tropes explains the Shrinking Violet as “usually but not always female”, all but two of the real-life examples are male.

grapes and grapefruits, pines and pineapples, kiwis and kiwifruits, geese and gooseberries

At a Korean restaurant in suburban Sydney I asked for a bottle of grapefruit soju and was handed a bottle of green grape soju. I had vaguely wondered if there was a connection. On the face it, there doesn’t seem to be; grapes and small and green or purple, and grapefruits are big and yellow/orange/reddish. But when they are growing, grapefruits are much smaller and are found in clusters enough like a bunch of grapes for people to notice. I’ve just never seen grapefruits growing.

Pineapples look slightly like pinecones, but look and taste nothing like apples, and kiwifruit look and taste nothing like kiwis. The connection is the rebranding of Chinese gooseberries (which look and taste nothing like geese).

Flavoured soju and makgeolli

When I lived in Korea for the second time in 2015-2016, flavoured soju and makgeolli were a comparatively recent thing. But they don’t seem to have penetrated to Korean communities overseas. My wife’s restaurant stocks peach makgeolli and she sometimes brings a bottle home, but I don’t like it. My favourites are banana makgeolli and pineapple soju (but not together).

The men at our party yesterday evening expressed great surprise when I mentioned these drinks, and I had to jump online to find confirmation. An Australian liquor store stocks soju with blueberry, strawberry, yogurt, peach, citron, apple, apple mango and green grape soju from Chum Churum and with mandarin orange, ginger, lychee and Americano from Chateul Soorok (no sign of pineapple in there), and makgeolli with chestnut, green grape, banana and peach from Kook Soon Dang. Another site reviews cream cheese, chestnut, banana, citron and peach flavoured makgeolli.

No doubt your tastes will vary. Please drink responsibly, especially because the fruit flavours tends to hide the fact that you’re drinking alcohol.

The first time I encountered pineapple soju and mentioned it on Facebook, one of my Facebook friends asked “What’s soju?”. I explained that it’s a healthy vegetable-based vitamin and mineral drink, which is … mostly true.

Advent calendars

Advent calendars were first used by German Lutherans in the 19th century, and have been used in various parts of the Christian church since then. The original design had a picture, bible verse or prayer behind each door. Sometime relatively recently, businesses got the idea to use this as a way to gouge us of even more of our money, by including a different sample of their product behind each door. Drinking a different variety of tea for 24 days in a row is probably harmless or may even be beneficial, but a quick search shows versions with chocolate and candy. Aimed mostly at children.

Last week I saw a box of 24 bottles of beer (probably stubbies, 375 ml) branded as an ‘Advent’ calendar (aimed at adults). This is encouraging drinking alcohol 24 days in a row, if only 1.5 standard drinks a day. For some people, drinking only 1.5 standard drinks a day for 24 days in a row might actually be an improvement, but some people are no doubt going to drink more than that on some/many/most days.

A Facebook friend posted a link to an article generally about this in the Spectator. Which offered a gift of a bottle of whisky worth 30 pounds if I subscribe. Among other things, the author says “a feast ceases to be a feast if it is preceded by weeks of indulgence”. 

So all I want for Advent is solemn expectation and preparation. Have yourselves a solemn little Advent.