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.


plurals, proverbs

Our boss is prone to saying random things. Or maybe there’s a context which I don’t hear before I hear the thing which sounds random.

(moderately strong language)

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When I press the button at the bottom of my mobile phone, the first screen has the time and date at the top and the instruction ‘Swipe screen to unlock’ at the bottom. In the middle are various bits of information, including notifications of missed calls or voice messages, and news from Google. Earlier today, the new was “New LPA to boost rains from habagat”. I have no idea what that means and equally no idea why Google would think I was interested. Some research was necessary.

Searching Google found the article on, the headline of which had one extra, even more baffling word “New LPA to boost rains from habagat, ‘Falcon’”. The first paragraph makes almost everything clear:

MANILA, Philippines — A new low pressure area west of the Philippines will further enhance the southwest monsoon and Tropical Storm “Falcon” (international name: Danas).

So an LPA is a low pressure area (is this really commonly used in Filipino news headlines?), a/the/- habagat is the south-west monsoon (“characterized by hot and humid weather, frequent heavy rainfall, and a prevailing wind from the west” and lasting May/June to Nov/Dec – Wikipedia), and “Falcon” is an officially named tropical storm. (For the rest of the year, the prevailing weather is the amihan – “moderate temperatures, little or no rainfall, and a prevailing wind from the east”.)

What it doesn’t make clear is why Google thinks I would be interested.

PS I can imagine an Australian news source using “low” and “high” in a headline, but not LPA or HPA.

Cyte, cite, site, sight

Yesterday I saw a car belonging to a pathology laboratory named 4cyte (presumably pronounced ‘foresight’). Cyte is not a word by itself: *“We’re going to take a sample of your cytes for testing” (indeed Pages for Mac just changed cyte to cute and cytes to cites), but it occurs in many words meaning cell, all of which are highly technical. At the beginning of a word, it’s usually cyt– or cyto-. 

The Greek word doesn’t mean cell, though, because the Greeks didn’t know about cells. Kýtos means container, receptacle, body, and was later applied to cells. Cell, meanwhile, is from Latin cella, small room (whence, obviously cellar).

Cyte, cite (Latin, to move, set in motion, summon before a court), site (Latin, setting down, position, arrangement) and sight (Germanic, a thing seen, later the faculty of vision – I hadn’t previously realised that see and sight are etymologically related) are all unrelated. And then there’s excite and excel. Excite is related to cite (set in motion) but excel is from -cellere to rise high < celsus high. (The one ‘l’ is clue. I originally thought that excell was ‘out of the cell’.)

The optometrist’s/optician’s advertising itself as ‘A site for sore eyes’ may be a joke. 

(information from various online dictionaries and etymology sights)

damp airs

Our editor wrote and posted an article including that some circumstance was ‘putting a damper on’ some company’s activities. While he was at lunch, a colleague asked me if that should be ‘putting a dampener’. After some thought and no research, I said that both were correct, and that I wouldn’t change anything our editor wrote unless is was clearly incorrect.

I asked my Facebook friends what they would say/write, and their answers were basically split down the middle. I did some research and found that damper is used far more than dampener, including in the phrase ‘put a damper on’. 

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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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