My wife has a very good friend named Min-ja Lee (이민자). I was suprised to see her name on the front page of one of Sydney’s Korean-language community newspapers. Except it wasn’t. 이민자 (i-min-ja) is also the Korean word for immigration, and the story was about how the number of visa holders to coming to Australia has fallen in the wake of new regulations brought in by the Australian government recently.

I asked my wife about this, and she said that all Koreans are aware that this rather common name is a real Korean word. I am trying to think of a real English name which is a real English word. This Buzzfeed article (your sensitivity and sense of humour may vary) doesn’t provide any, and joke names like Amanda Hugginkiss aren’t ‘a’ word.

I previously knew the related Korean word 이민 (immigrant), which is often used to advertise migration services; they are immigrant agents rather than immigration agents. Although the surname 이 is pronounced Lee in English, it is pronounced ee in Korean, for reasons I’ve never been able to discover. Continue reading


I’d like to talk to you about cheeses

During the week I edited an article which quoted a company spokesperson talking about the company’s pizza which included an “Edam, mozzarella and Cheddar” topping. Edam and Cheddar are real places (in the Netherlands and England, respectively), and their cheeses originally had an upper case letter (and often still do). Mozzarella is not a place; the name is derived from the Italian mozza, a slice. So do I really have to have that mix of upper- and lower-case letters? Fortunately not. The Macquarie Dictionary styles edam and cheddar (the cheeses) with a lower-case letter, so the magazine will have “edam, mozzarella and cheddar”.

Various food and drink products have “protected designation of origin” status; for example, only sparkling wine from that region of France can be called (upper case) Champagne. There is, in the European Union, at least, no such thing as (lower case) champagne. Continue reading

499th post – first day as a magazine sub-editor

Today was my first day as a sub-editor for a small publishing company which produces business-related magazines. Compared to my English teaching job, it’s full-time, permanent, during the day, closer to where I live* and, possibly most importantly, quiet and self-focused, ideal work for an introvert. (Editors are not only allowed to be introverts, they are possibly expected to be.**) Because this blog is semi-anonymous, I’m not going to tell you the names of the magazines, publisher or location.

Before I became an English language teacher, I worked in two different editorial jobs for about eight years, mostly for one of Australia’s leading legal publishers. I also did some work for them after I returned from South Korea the first time, and an associated part of my English language teaching has been producing materials for my colleagues who teach interpreting and translating. I had applied for a number of jobs, not just in the field of editing but also anything else I thought would be vaguely suitable, and had had (I think) 12 interviews in the last 13 months. One problem was that I am very much a jack-of-all-trades-and-master-of-none, and would lose out to someone who had actually been doing that job for the last up to eleven and a half years. Finally …

I hope to continue this blog, but I might not have so much to write about. But I’ve got a lot left over from English language teaching, my masters study and ideas I’ve collected along the way, so there’ll be more yet.

*In the morning, I left with plenty of time to get there. In the afternoon, I left work at 5.06 and was arrived home at 6.01.

**Most of my colleagues are quieter than I am!

Speaking and listening to Korean

My wife’s sister-in-law is visiting from Korea, less to visit us and more to visit her daughter/our niece, who is living with us while she studies at university her. Her English is very limited (essentially just those English words which are used in Korean), so we must rely on my Korean to communicate. My listening is the worst part of my Korean, and three instances of a mis-hearing have stuck in my mind.

On the day she arrived, her daughter/our niece caught a train to the airport, met her, they caught a train back and I picked them up at our local station. I said hello, it’s nice to see you (in Korean). She then said something which flummoxed me. The Korean word for wait starts with 기다 (gi-da). I heard 기도 (gi-do), which is the Korean word for prayer, and I couldn’t figure out why she was asking me about praying. Our niece eventually translated (she’d said Have you been waiting long?). Continue reading

Casting the first stone

The South Korean women’s curling team has done unexpectedly well, and will compete in the final tonight against Sweden. Australia’s affiliated broadcaster didn’t show last night’s semi-final against Japan in its entirety, or even give updates during the men’s ice hockey semi-final, so my wife and I downloaded the tv station’s app and watched on her mobile phone. The game finished after 1 am Australian Eastern Daylight Savings Time (11 pm Korean time), so I went downstairs to get a drink of water. I briefly posted on Facebook “Oh, the excitement. Last throw (?terminology) win to Korea.” “Throw” just didn’t look right, but I couldn’t think of any other word. Given that the projectile is called a stone, maybe they could use “cast”. Before the game starts, the two teams need to ascertain who will cast the first stone – the player without sin, presumably. 

This morning, I set out to find the terminology. Wikipedia doesn’t help, using terminology inconsistently. I found the webpage of the World Curling Federation, which uses deliver(y) throughout, so I could/should have written “last delivery win to Korea”, but that doesn’t sound as dramatic. (Cricket also uses the term delivery, alongside ball: “last delivery win to Australia” or (probably more likely) “last ball win to Australia”. Continue reading

Travelling in boots

A few days ago I was scrolling through the complete New South Wales road rules (for work-related purposes). My eye was caught by rule  headed ‘persons must not travel in or on boots’. I immediately thought of footwear, but why specify boots? And what kind of boots? Think of all the people travelling in workboots or fashion boots (or, in western Sydney, ugg boots). But how do people travel ‘on boots’?

Oooohhhh … not those boots, but the rear luggage compartment of car, what my North American readers would call trunks, but ‘persons must not travel in or on trunks’ is a) not standard Australian English and b) really not much better. The actual rule states ‘A person must not travel in or on the boot of a motor vehicle’. Oh, all right then.

This rule is redundant, anyway. A previous rule prohibits travelling in a part of a car which is ‘designed primarily for the carriage of goods’, unless it is enclosed and there is a seat with a seatbelt, which covers the rear-most part of an SUV or station wagon. So that covers travelling ‘in’ boots. Another sub-rule of the same rule prohibits travelling ‘in or on a motor vehicle with any part [or all parts] of the person’s body outside a window or door of the vehicle’. So that covers travelling ‘on’ boots. (There are a few exemptions, which are not relevant.) There is no specific rule against travelling on the bonnet/hood or roof, so why specify boots?

(I guess that very few people actually read the complete road rules. Learner drivers are given the Road Users’ Handbook (also available online) and do a computerised Driver Knowledge Test, but the is no formal requirement for reading, studying, knowing or being tested on the road rules beyond that. (And, for many drivers, it shows.))