Driving into a small country town in the lower Blue Mountains, I saw a sign saying “STRIPPER FOR HIRE”. Continue reading


“Nice Korea” and “Naughty Korea”

For some years there was a free commuter newspaper on Sydney’s and Melbourne’s trains, generally focusing on lighter news and popular culture rather than incisive journalism. Each day of the 2012 summer olympics in London, it published a medal table and stories of interest. After several days of competition, South and North Korea were fourth and fifth on the medal table. The paper named them “Nice Korea” and “Naughty Korea” respectively. The (North) Korean Central News Agency was not impressed, issuing a statement accusing the paper of “a bullying act little short of insulting the Olympic spirit of solidarity, friendship and progress and politicising sports”. (I think there should be a comma after progress”.) It went on, seemingly without irony, “Media are obliged to lead the public in today’s highly-civilised world where [the] mental and cultural level of mankind is being displayed at the highest level”. Including, presumably, the (North) Korean Central News Agency. It might have been worse; they might have referred to them as “nasty Korea”.

On Thursday, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea held a military parade. Last night, the Republic of Korean hosted the opening ceremony of the winter olympic games. Take your pick.

mesdames et messieurs, ladies and gentlemen,  신사 숙녀 여러분

At the opening ceremony of the winter olympic games (video, article), announcements were made in French, English and Korean. French is a holdover from the pre-World War I origin of the IOC. The opening formulas in each language are mesdames et messieurs, ladies and gentlemen and  신사 숙녀 여러분 (shin-sa sung-nyeo yeo-reo bun, gentleman/men, lady/ies, all people) (thanks to my wife for the last one; it hasn’t cropped up in Korean for foreigners books, as we are unlikely to be giving formal speeches).

French and English puts the women first. Is this just courtesy to the “fairer sex”? I once read somewhere that the formula was originally ‘my lords, ladies and gentlemen’, addressing the men and women of the nobility and the men with knighthoods, but I can’t find anything about that now. And that doesn’t explain the French. Most French nobles had their heads or titles removed during the revolution. The wording “gentlemen and ladies” does exist, but is about one-tenth as common as “ladies and gentlemen”. Conversely, “boys and girls” is about four times as common as “girls and boys”. “Gentlewoman” is now obsolete. Continue reading


Two days ago the textbook had a reading about a course for “speedaholics”. I started simply by writing speedaholic on the board and asking them what they thought it meant. They quickly figured out that it was somehow analogous to alcoholic. One student guessed it referred to cars – a car provides speed in the same way that a drink provides alcohol.

The suffix -(a)holic means “a person who has an addiction to or obsession with some object or activity”. When you think about, it really should be –ic, because alcoholic is alcohol+ic, but no-one would understand speedic etc. Continue reading

Gogol Bordello

Maybe I shouldn’t look too closely at tattoos on people on trains.

Last night, just before my train got to my station, I moved towards the door, along with several others. The man in front of me had a large number of large tattoos. Looking in the general direction of the floor, I noticed that the one on one calf said ‘GOGOL BORDELLO’. I just couldn’t put those two words together. I know who Gogol was, and what a bordello is, but the two words together just didn’t make sense. Continue reading


I really should put linguistic analysis on hold while I’m in church, but a young woman several rows in front of me was wearing a jacket with the words “SCHOOL RUINED MY UFE” on the back. I have no idea why any clothing company would make such a thing, or why anyone with any knowledge of English would buy and wear it. My theory is that someone in a clothing company in a non-English speaking country saw “SCHOOL RUINED MY LIFE” and wrote it down, but wrote the L and I too close together. (end of linguistic analysis at church, beginning of reflection and research at home.) Or maybe it’s a play on “youth”.

Except that there is a song called “School ruined my ufe” (strong language: one f-word right at the end) by a singer named The Pyrate Queen (Rebecca Isbill Davis) of Greenville, South Carolina. But she semi-rhymes “ufe” and “youth”, when she could have used “truth”, “uncouth” or “forsooth”. (implied strong language after the break)

Continue reading


Two days ago I went to an automated teller machine to withdraw some money. I inserted my card, entered my personal identification number (PIN), selected “withdraw”, selected the amount, touched “Display balance on screen” (that is, don’t print a receipt) and touched “No” to answer the question “Do you want to save this as your favourite transaction? – at which point the machine told me that I had had entered my PIN incorrectly. Right, then, why didn’t you tell me that immediately after I’d entered it? In fact, I had entered it correctly, but I’d used my credit card instead of my cash card. (It was Monday morning and my two cards are the same colour.) Continue reading