Questions, questions!

Several months ago, while waiting for my morning coffee, I heard a woman nearby say on her phone 

Are you still in bed, are you?

It’s certainly clear, but it’s not a standard question structure. We can easily have

You’re still where
You’re still in bed?
Are you still in bed?
You’re still in bed, aren’t you?
You’re not/You aren’t still in bed, are you?

and possibly

You’re still in bed, are you?

but not 

You’re not/You aren’t still in bed, aren’t you?

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Behind every (great/successful) quotation is a mis-attribution

A Facebook friend shared the following:

Winston Churchill loved paraprosdokians, figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected.

1. Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but it’s still on my list.
3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
4. If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
5. War does not determine who is right – only who is left.
6. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
7. They begin the evening news with ‘Good Evening,’ then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
8. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
9. I thought I wanted a career. Turns out, I just wanted pay checks.
10. In filling out an application, where it says, ‘In case of emergency, notify:’ I put “DOCTOR.”
11. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
12. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street…with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.
13. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
14. A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.
15. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
16. Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
17. There’s a fine line between cuddling and…holding someone down so they can’t get away.
18. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.
19. You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
20. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
21. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
22. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
23. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
24. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but now it’s getting harder and harder for me to find one.

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You compliment me

I saw a beauty parlour which invites people in for a complimentary consultation. (It was closed, so I didn’t take them up on it.) This is correct (complementary would be incorrect), but it made me think of the expressing a compliment meaning rather than the given for free meaning. Come in and we will say very nice things about you

I guess beauty parlour staff walk a fine line in their consultations. If they say too many positive things, the prospective client might decide they don’t need any treatments/products after all, but if they say too many negative things, they might just leave. 

smucky translators

A Facebook friend wrote

얀센 백신 접종 3일 차! 
주사 맞는 순간 조금 뻐근한거 말곤 일정들도 다 소화하고 아주 무탈하다. 감사할 일~

Facebook’s autotranslator provided:

Yansen vaccine Graded work car!
The moment when the injection is a bit of a bit of a bit of a bit of a bit of a bit of a bit of Something to be thankful for ~

Bing got closer:

Janssen vaccination day 3! 
The moment you get the shot, you’re a little bit smucky, and you’re digesting all the schedules and it’s very, very hearty. What to thank…

I would question why it has smucky in its dictionary. Apparently it means sweaty and yucky (Urban Dictionary and azdictionary, which also seems to be a user-contributed dictionary), but wouldn’t that be swucky? (Pages for Mac autocorrected it to sucky, which doesn’t help.) 

Papago (associated with Naver) has: 

Jansen’s third day of vaccination!
Aside from being a little stiff at the moment of the injection, I digest all the schedules and feel very free. Something to be thankful for~

Between them, I get the idea, but they’ve obviously all got problems, which I’m not going to get to the bottom of at 10 pm on a public holiday Monday before going back to work tomorrow. I have no idea where to start with all of that. I might start using Papago more often, though.

(By the way, Jans(s)en is Johnson & Johnson. The closest transliteration to my pronunciation is 전슨.)

PS I have no idea how autotranslators work or how to improve them.

PPS Smucky may become my all-purpose insulting adjective, alongside the nouns smuck or smuckiness and the verb smuck. (Smuck you, you smucky/smucking piece of smuck!)

vegetarian and non-vegetarian

A local kebab and burger shop is advertising:

Special vegetarian and non-vegetarian menus

The default kebab or burger contains meat. In fact the default main course food, whether at a café, restaurant or home, contains meat, so much so that English doesn’t have a word for food containing meat. A kebab or burger containing meat is hardly “special”, any more than a vegetarian salad is. 

I am also pondering the use of menus in that way. includes the dishes served (at a meal) as its second definition, behind, a list of of the dishes served at a meal, but “vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes” doesn’t quite suit a (mainly takeaway) kebab and burger shop. A dish is not only the container, but the also the food served on/in it. (Also a plate, as in “Bring a plate” to a community gathering and meal.)


My wife and I, along with a friend of hers, spent some time today walking on one of Sydney Harbour’s foreshore walks. To get there, we travelled on a road where extensive works are in progress. One sign said “No stopping. RMS vehicles only”. That’s easy – Roads and Maritime Services, best known for car and boat registrations and licences. Another said “No left turn. LSBJV vehicles only”.  Umm … something something something Joint Venture? I’m not going to search. I’ll just let serendipity show me the answer some other way. I suppose the point is that if you don’t know what LSBJV means, you are obviously not driving one of its/their vehicles.

PS One of my sisters, who is a regular reader (thank you) texted that she had to look it up. The LSB is indeed the three companies in the joint venture. One is famous, one is very famous but not for civil infrastructure, and one I’ve never heard of. It’s probably easier for people to say ‘the Westconnex joint venture’.


I don’t know whether Facebook simply decided to show me a post of ‘Words you can’t stand’ on some language-related Facebook page, or whether a friend commented on it, but I spent a few minutes scrolling through people’s discussions of the usual suspects.

One person said something like: “Any word with TARD in it, because you really mean the r-word”. 

I immediately thought of custard and mustard, and also bastard (which some people might take offence at, for other reasons) and bustard (which is close enough to be possibly questionable). 

The Free Dictionary has come to my aid with a list of words containing -tard, including, in their various forms:

tardy, dotard, petard, retard as a verb and noun and retarded as an adjective, costard, dastard, leotard and unitard, stardom, stardust, tardigrade and ritardando

Of these, the only objectionable word is retard as a noun, which is of course what the original commenter really meant, no doubt thinking about words like (you know which words I’m going to say after the break)

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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).

not ANZCA Day

The notice board of a local pub advised of the pub’s activities on ANZCA DAY, presumably commemorating the college of anaesthetists, or chartered accountants, or Australia, New Zealand and California, or Canada, or any one of the 315 other people, places and things listed on The Free Dictionary’s acronym finder. Several days later, that had been changed to ANZAC DAY, commemorating the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

See here for a discussion about whether it should be ANZAC or Anzac (and also generally on acronyms and initialisms. The public holiday is officially Anzac Day. (The pub’s notice board has upper-case plastic letters.)

Also note the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian involvement in the Battle of Gapyeong (22-25 April 1951).

grave adultery

English (and I suspect every language) has pairs of words which look, sound and mean like they are or might be related, but actually aren’t. I encountered two pairs this week. After work on Monday I had to attend to an official task, so in my last email to my colleagues I said I was going “to adult” after work. The next morning I said that that result of my adultery adulting was that I have to pay more money for an official task than I thought I would. 

So are adult and adultery related? I had vaguely assumed that adultery is something which adults do, which is kind of true, but … ummm … no. Adult is from Latin adultus, grown and adolēre, to make grow, and adultery is from Latin adulterātus mixed, adulterated and adulterāre, compare English alter, change and Latin alter, other. Adultery and adulteration are related, but the former now refers only to sexual activity outside marriage and the latter most often to food(s), milk, goods, article(s), samples, drugs, butter and liquors. I pondered whether the biblical commandment also refers to the latter meaning, given so many other laws against mixing things, but Wikipedia’s article only discusses the first meaning.

One of my colleagues expressed puzzlement at my use of adult as a verb, but it’s reached major dictionaries:

Informal. (of a young person) to do things and assume responsibilities that are associated with being an adult; act like an adult (usually used facetiously about minor accomplishments):

(not necessarily of a young person!)

The internet is full of words and images along the lines of I don’t want to adult today. I don’t even want to person. I want to cat or dog or goat. (Note that in the sense of follow someone or something, dog is a perfectly good verb.)

I’m not sure how I got thinking about the word grave, with its two meanings of a burial hole and solemn, which could be related: a grave mistake is one which will put you in a grave, and your friends will stand around looking grave. But, again, no. The burial hole is from Old English græf, cognate with German Grab. The solemn mistake or looks are from Latin gravis, heavy. But the first meaning is related to engrave and a graven image.

I am in the middle of a burst of activity in researching family history. I have a moderately large amount of material already, so my first task is collate that, but in confirming that with official sources, I have found a lot more. One of my ancestral families has the surname Grace. Along the way, I have found the website Find a grave. Now, I keep mis-typing the two words, especially because c and v are next to each other on the keyboard.