“God save the king”

For 70 years, people in the Commonwealth realms and beyond sang God save the queen. Recently, some of us have sung God save the king. I haven’t had to yet. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I sang God save the queen, as it was replaced by Advance Australia fair in 1974. Being a moderate republican (note that a lowercase-r republican in Australia is very different from an uppercase-R Republican in the USA) I would probably decline to sing God save the king unless I really had to (frexample if I was in a featured choir). In fact, in fact, I struggle to remember singing Advance Australia fair since the opening ceremony of the 2000 olympic games.

Several days ago I watched a video about music in which someone talked about the use of repetition in music. He contrasted God save the king (which has no repetition) and Twinkle, twinkle, little star (which has multiple repeated phrases). But he didn’t use standard words (either God save the king or My country,  ’tis of thee, but a parody version I hadn’t heard before. I thought that was semi-interesting but wouldn’t have written a post about it. But yesterday a colleague mentioned that when he was young, he thought that one phrase was 

Santa victorious

Continue reading

“salad mice”

I happened on the Youtube channel of a young American couple apparently living and working in South Korea and touring occasionally. The auto-subtitles were on, and one video included the phrase

salad mice 

Because I could see their video and hear them speaking, I knew what they were talking about, but I’ll leave it with you with no context.

Continue reading


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.

Fortunately not

A Facebook friend posted some stunning photos of herself and friends hiking in Jirisan National Park. Facebook’s auto-translation of the post included the rather worrying “Cancer is not an option to postpone”. Reading the Korean original and some research allayed my concerns, fortunately. The Korean original is 사성암은 미룰 수 없어요. I know that 암 is used in the names of usually smaller Buddhist monastic establishments, usually translated as hermitage, by far the most famous being 석굴암, Seokguram. But 암 by itself doesn’t mean hermitage any more than 사 by itself means temple

So how did the translator get to cancer? The Korean word for cancer is 암, which I previously didn’t know because it’s not included in Korean for beginners or travellers books. The translator encountered a word it didn’t recognise and instead of simply transliterating it (which it did with several other proper nouns in the post), it guessed that the 암 on the end was the relevant part of the word.

Online translators don’t do much better. Google and Bing offer Sandstone cannot/can’t be postponed and Papago (which I have found to be the more accurate overall) the meaningless I can’t delay tetragonal cancer. But sandstone is 사암; 사성암, if it means anything at all, is four star cancer, compare 삼성, three stars. Even though it was the worst translation overall, Papago at least attempted to translate the whole of 사성암. [PS the next day: I commented on my friend’s post and she replied that 사성암 is ‘four saints hermitage’.]

The bigger issues here are how translators deal with proper nouns, and how they recognise that they are proper nouns. Do they transliterate them (eg 경복궁 as Gyeongbokgung) or (attempt to) translate them (eg as Brilliant Fortune Palace or Greatly Blessed by Heaven Palace, just the first two meanings I found)? I suspect that the more famous a place is, the more it is transliterated rather than translated. (There is a map of world countries giving the literal meaning of their name. I am typing this in Southern Land.)

A related issue is the use of common nouns as names. Two Korean-Australian friends named their first daughter 사랑, so once a year I see photos of “Love’s birthday party”. A Korean friend and his wife named their son 우주, so one post included the startling “I put the universe in the car”. 

That’s a moray

A document referred to someone transgressing the social morays of his community. Morays for mores is not a knew misteak. The Eggcorn Database (2005) and Language Log (2004) have both discussed it. I was surprised to find that mores is far moor common in general than morays – more often the misteak is using a moor common word in place of a less common one. That has to be wayed against the fact that morays is a moor obvious spelling. The traffic seems to be all one weigh – I can’t imagine that anyone writing about Muraenidae (I had to look that up – I am not a marine biologist) types mores by misteak. 

Social mores mostly come in plurals. A singular social more exists but is used less often. Technically, won of them is a social mos but I doubt if even the most ardent Latinist says or writes that.

Talking about this with my colleagues, I couldn’t help mentioning the song That’s amore. Many years ago I encountered the parody:

When an eel bites your knee as you swim in the sea, that’s a moray.

The next day one of my colleagues complained that the song had been stuck in her head all day. I said: 

When it sticks in your head as you’re lying in bed, that’s an earworm.  

(PS sea watt I did their?)

An ingenius genious

I have seen the spelling


enough times to notice it. It seems to be used either by mistake or sarcastically in response to something someone else has posted. It’s not a variant spelling; it’s plain wrong, which varius other people on the internet have pointed out. But inquiring linguistic minds want to know why. 

ius is a vary rare English suffix. In fact, it is arguable whether it is an English suffix. Dictionary.com lists 13 words ending with –ius, of which genius, radius and trapezius are the most common. All of them come directly from Latin, and some would only be found in ancient Roman contexts, for example denarius. All of them are nouns (as far as I can tell), but –ius is not a productive noun suffix. We can’t create new English words with it, unless we are trying to evoke an ancient Roman mood.
ious is a common English suffix. Dictionary.com lists 276 words, including various. Most of them come directly or indirectly from Latin, but there is no restriction on the contexts in which they can be used. All of them are adjectives (as far as I can tell), and –ious is a moderately productive adjective suffix. Some unknown person in the 19th century coined bodacious and Roald Dahl coined vermicious knid.

The relevant Latin adjectives had the forms -ius and -iosus, seemingly interchangeably, but the path from Latin to English is obscure because online sources don’t give examples from every step through Old French, Anglo-French and Middle English. The modern French equivalents are génie (compare Arabic jinn and English genie) and divers (compare diverse), which doesn’t help, but see furieux/furieuse

In You are a genius, genius is undoubtedly a noun. In That is a genius comment, it is still a noun but looks, sounds and feels more like an adjective (indeed, some dictionaries define attributive uses of nouns as adjectives). If any change of spelling ever happens, it will be that the second use becomes genious and the word becomes a genuine adjective. But not if word processor programs can help it – Pages for Mac just changed genious to genius and is red-underlining it now I’ve changed it back. Genius as a head noun is unlikely to change spelling, and all those –ious adjectives are simply never going to become –ius

Complicating all this is ingenious, which is undoubtedly an adjective but which is more distantly related, coming from genus and not genius (though those two words are related further back). So some geniuses are born and others are made.    

Take a photo for me

A document contained a sentence by an applicant similar to:

The police searched my office and took a photo for me with [another person].

The context made it clear that they took a photo of him. Take a photo of me has at least two meanings, but take a photo for me probably has only one (the second is possibly possible, but I can’t think of a context in which it would be a reasonable interpretation).

In the movie Airplane!/Flying High! a group of reporters attends the airport’s control tower (looking very un-1979). After asking the flight controller some questions, the chief reporters says to his colleagues, “Okay, boys, let’s get some pictures”. They then physically remove some framed photos from the wall. Get some pictures has two meanings in that context, but I’m trying to think of whether it would in my original sentence: The police got some pictures of me. 


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 (dictionary.com). 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.

Abeyance > obeyance

A legal officer wrote that a certain issue was “in obeyance” for certain reasons. Obeyance exists – it simply means obedience – but is very, very rare, even in comparison to abeyance, which means “at bay -ance” and is merely very rare. This is not a finger typo – o and a are too far away – but it’s improbable that anyone would pull obeyance from the back of their mind (I can’t recall ever hearing/seeing it, and had to check that it actually exists). I think the legal officer was momentarily distracted by the much more common word obey, even though the context had nothing to do with obedience

Non-compulsory suggestion: if you want to use obeyance, use obedience instead. If you want to use in abeyance and are not in the field of property law (in which case abeyance has an established technical meaning), use in suspension, suspended or on hold instead. 

PS Even though obeyance is in multiple dictionaries, it’s not immediately easy to find real examples. I found this page, the authoritativeness of which I’m not sure of.


Yesterday, a colleague advised us that it was International Chocolate Cake Day. Another colleague shared an image of a chocolate cake with the text: 

I had this delicious omlette this morning. I seasoned the eggs with sugar, oil and chocolate, and threw in a little flour for texture. 

Ha ha.

A third colleague pointed out that there should be an e after the m

Inquiring linguistic minds want to know why omelette is right and omlette is wrong. 

Courtesy of the Online Etymology Dictionary, the story begins with Latin lamina (plate, layer) (with a variety of modern meanings) and lamella (small plate, layer) (also with a variety of modern meanings) and progresses through French la lemelle > l’alemelle > alemele > alemette (which is a double diminutive) > omelette to arrive in English. American English prefers omelet. Omlette and omlet exist but are rare, and at this stage are probably still mistakes rather than genuine alternatives. Pages for Mac autocorrects omlette and omlet to omelette and omelet. So omelette has the first e because Latin lamella had/has one.

For me, omelette is solidly two syllables, but Dictionary.com gives the two- and three- syllable pronunciations.