Like a ton of bricks

I overheard a colleague tell a second colleague that a third colleague had told the first colleague that the third colleague was going to do something otherwise than by standard procedures. The first colleague then said:

If he does that, I’ll jump on him like a ton of bricks.

My first thought was that bricks don’t jump, even a ton of them. 

At home I first searched for jump ton bricks (without quotation marks), which found no exact uses of the expression in any form, but, not surprisingly, dictionary entries and uses of be/come (down) on sb like a ton of bricks, hit sb like a ton of bricks and jump down sb’s throat. Searching again for “jump on him like a ton of bricks” (with quotation marks for an exact match) found a small number of exact uses, as did most combinations with jumped, me, you, herit, us, them, someone and somebody. I was surprised to find that some people even jump on it like a ton of bricks. 

So I’ll say that jump on sb like a ton of bricks is used, just not very much. Pre-internet, would there have been any way of finding those? 

(Would anyone say “The wall came down on him like a ton of bricks”, or is that too literal?) 


When I lived in Korea the first time I saw a handbag proudly bearing the logo


A few days ago I saw a t-shirt proudly bearing the logo

Gaevin Klien 

I don’t know and can’t guess whether the manufacturers of those items don’t read English or don’t care or they want to take money from people who don’t read English or don’t care or who know perfectly well it’s fake but they buy it anyway, or whether they did it deliberately to avoid or at least defend an intellectual property infringement suit. But accidentally or deliberately misspelling the brand name doesn’t make the item any less of a fake.

Ralph Laurne is widespread on the internet (but appears to be a typo rather than referring to handbags or anything else in Korea), but I couldn’t find any instance of Gaevin Klien. 

By the way, my ajumma students quite proudly flaunted their fake designer goods, perhaps more so than their genuine ones.

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.

Signs of ambiguity

Youtube more-or-less randomly showed me two ads with similar taglines: 

We’re built for growing businesses.


Your business matters.

Ambiguity in English arises for a number of reasons. One is that a gerund-particle (like growing) can be used in a noun-type way (We’re built for the purpose of growing businesses), or an adjective-type way (We’re built for businesses which happen to be growing). In this case, the ambiguity is small, and probably deliberate. 

Compare Moving pianos can be dangerous (which can have both interpretations), Tuning pianos can be dangerous (which can only have the noun-type meaning) and Falling pianos can be dangerous (which can only have the adjective-type meaning). Note that the ambiguity can be resolved by using a different verb tense: Moving pianos is dangerous (gerund) v Moving pianos are dangerous (participle).

Another reason for ambiguity is that many words ending with –s (like matters) can be a plural noun or a 3rd person present simple verb. In this case, the full stop probably forces the verb interpretation. Even without the full stop, most people would find the verb interpretation, which creates a complete sentence, in preference to the noun interpretation, which creates a noun phrase: compare Your business matters are important to us

Last weekend we went for a drive in the Blue Mountains. I saw a sign saying Falling rocks, and thought that it probably doesn’t, especially from the height of the cliffs there. Another sign said Slow buses, in which slow might be an adjective or an imperative verb. In this case, most people would find the incomplete adj + noun interpretation. In the imperative verb + noun interpretation, there are further options if you are the bus driver, a super-hero or a pedestrian. 

Today we drove in another direction. We visited a business which proclaimed Growing since 1919. Especially apt for an orchard/nursery/garden supplies business. One of the banners in the outdoor furnishing section stated Dark matters, which I couldn’t quite figure either way.  


An article on the Sydney Morning Herald website (and presumably in the print edition) states:

Stand-up paddle boarding lives up to the hype
I’ve discovered just how much work it takes for what I mistakenly assumed was a mainly sedentary sport.

Sedentary, as in “requiring or characterised by a sitting position” (from Latin sedēre, sedēns)? Maybe,  because’s second definition is “accustomed to sit or rest a great deal or to take little exercise” (emphasis added). Etymology isn’t destiny.

And cheers to the writer for actually doing it. Because of my (non-)sense of balance I wouldn’t be able to stand up, let alone paddle.

(Note: the writer/subeditor uses stand-up paddle boarding. The Wikipedia article is titled standup paddleboarding.)

Korean painters

I saw a tradesperson’s van announcing that:


I wouldn’t have thought that there was much money to be made from painting Koreans. Perhaps they should try painting houses instead. Ha ha. I wonder if any non-Koreans hire these painters because they are Korean, or because they are professional and experienced.

In 2015, during my second stay in Korea, my wife and I went to Dongdaemun Design Plaza. A number of young artists were painting caricature portraits of people. We got ours done. It was (and is, as I look at it now) very apparent that the artist was much more experienced in painting Koreans than foreigners. I’m recognisable, but that’s about all. (Looking at it again, I can see that’s it actually pastel.)

When I taught English, I had a set of flashcards of occupations (and still have them). Two were/are of a painter, which showed someone painting a house, and an artist, which showed someone painting a painting (which, when completed, really should be called a painted).

(Korean painters might also be these people.)


For one or two weeks, a large part of the east coast of Australia has received very heavy rainfall, with flooding and deaths in some parts. My city has been spared the worst, and I’ve been working from home anyway, so I haven’t really been affected. But two of my choirs have started in-venue rehearsals, so I’ve had to venture out at times. Yesterday evening I caught a train to the city for my church choir rehearsal. The train I’d intended to catch was cancelled and the next train was slow at best and stationary for long periods. During the longest delay, the guard made several announcements. The first time, he explained that the rainfall and flooding had caused “de … ruptions” on the network, seemingly caught between delays and disruptions. The second time he clearly said “deruptions”, the third time “delays” and the fourth time “disruptions”. 

Deruption is not an English word, though it possibly could be. But what it is about the word which makes it sound so awkward? After some thinking, I can’t decide. De– has a range of meanings including “privation, removal, and separation; negation; descent; reversal; intensity” (thefreedictionary) and rupt– means break, burst, and is found in abrupt, bankrupt, corrupt, disrupt, erupt, interrupt, irrupt and rupture ( Rupt is not a word by itself, but it’s not necessary that the root of a word is a whole English word, for example, decide.

In fact, searching online found two songs titled Deruption, which appear not to be typos, but searching for more information gets overwhelmed by results for disruption and eruption.

I slept (or sleeped) and dreamt (or dreamed)

Some time ago I posted about the alternation between leaned and leant, dream and dreamt etc. I said that I had more-or-less decided to use leaned and dreamed, mostly because they are clearer for second-language listeners to understand, but then I quite naturally used leant when talking to one second-language listener. 

My work team has been working from home (mostly full-time but at least part-time) for almost two years. Alongside work-related emails, we send social/personal ones. One of my colleagues is studying psychology and is particularly interested in dreams. I can’t remember enough of most of my dreams, but occasionally one will persist after I wake up. A few days ago I sent an email with a brief description of my dream, starting “I dreamed …”. Another colleague picked me up this, so I explained the alternation and my decision, with a link to my blog post. She commented that the song from Les Misérables really couldn’t be I dreamt a dream. (With a side thought about the alternation between I dreamed/dreamt a dream and I dreamed/dreamt, and also I had a dream.) 

Along the way, because of its connection with dream, I also thought about sleep, which has the strong irregular form slept. But sleep now means something like to place a computer into a power saving mode. We can sleep a computer, and sleeping a computer is also common, but do we say I slept my computer or I sleeped a computer? At the moment, the usage isn’t common enough to be sure. There are a handful of results for I slept my computer and one for I sleeped my computer. Most people avoid the problem by putting their computer into sleep mode. Compare Stephen Pinker’s example of The batter flied out to centre (<my Australian-set auto-correct changed center to centre), not The batter flew out to centre. Because of my almost zero experience of baseball, I don’t have to worry about that, though.

Despite what I wrote in the title to this post, I definitely slept, but I may have dreamt or dreamed.

Verb it!

I’ve been struggling for ideas for posts, so I turned to the online discussions I had with my classmates during my masters study in 2010-12, which we were able to save as text files.

One involved the use of technology-related nouns and verbs. The discussion thread was Google it! As the name of a website, Google is a noun (and upper case), but people soon began using it as a verb and writing it in lower case. Many people decry the verbing of nouns and/or using registered company or product names as generics (see generic trademark) but both are common procedures in English. I can remember people faxing (though fax was never a proper noun, and was an abbreviation of facsimile (another common procedure in English – I don’t think anyone ever facsimilied (btw when was the last time you sent a fax?))), and references to people telexing (which was originally an upper-case proper noun). Before that, people telephoned, then ’phoned then phoned. All of these are transitive verbs: Google it, fax the document to me, fax it to me, fax me the document, ?/*fax me it, phone me, ?telephone me. (See also telegram, telegraph (including its metaphoric use) and wire.) (I can also remember an advertisement (?for a graphic designer) informing us that we could ‘fax or modem’ our requirements to them.)

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