Never said before

The following story from February last year randomly popped up in my Facebook feed:

Blind bisexual goose named Thomas who spent six years in a love triangle with two swans and helped raise 68 babies dies at the ripe old age of 40

(https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5365889/Thomas-bisexual-goose-dies-New-Zealand.html)

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Never said (or written) before

A McDonald’s worker who bludgeoned a customer to death in his own home using a statue of the Virgin Mary and a tin of mangoes is jailed for 19 years, but her motives for the killing remain unclear.

(source: ABC news)

Either the statue or the can by itself would have been bizarre enough. And for some reason it just had to be McDonald’s.

Never said before

A sentence never said or written in the history of English. The husband of a former colleague posted on Facebook rhapsodically describing their young daughter. He concludes:

Her laugh is constant and sounds like a million angels tinkling in a pond of liquid happiness.

“SCHOOL RUINED MY UFE”

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)

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the sewer of Armageddon

My fear of heights began when I climbed down the sewer of Armageddon during a thunderstorm.

Every language user has the ability to create sentences which have never before been spoken or written in that language, and every other user of that language has the ability to understand them (assuming linguistic competence, performance and cooperation by all).

Yesterday, one of my nieces, who is studying linguistics, wrote the sentence above as part of a Facebook post about the pipe organ she’s practicing on. Yes, she really did visit Israel, yes, she really did visit Tel Megiddo, yes, she really did climb down the former sewer/emergency escape route / current alternative route (with metal steps) for tourists, yes, there really was a thunderstorm at the time.

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‘Food is more useful than pencils’

A few days before Christmas 2006, I was discussing ‘holidays’ with one of my classes in Daejeon, South Korea, starting with Christmas, continuing with New Year(s) (international/solar and traditional/lunar) and so on through the year. People also mentioned national observances which are not public holidays (like Teachers Day) and social observances (like Valentines Day and White Day). Toward the end of the lesson, a student mentioned Pepero Day. 빼빼로 (transliterated in many different ways) is a cookie stick, dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with crushed nuts, manufactured by Lotte Confectionery. As a marketing exercise, Lotte plugs 11 November (11/11) as ‘Pepero Day’; people buy the product and give it to their significant others. The student explained “11/11 looks like sticks, and so does pepero”. I asked ‘What about giving pencils? They look like sticks.” The student replied “Food is more useful than pencils”.

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