You never know what you’re gonna get

The free sample today was a product of mini jelly beans in 10 colours and 20 flavours, each colour being either a delicious one or an utterly disgusting one. There’s no way of telling which is which. Before Forrest Gump’s mother’s box of chocolates, Excalibur’s  Merlin said “Looking at the cake is like looking at the future, until you’ve tasted it what do you really know? And then, of course, it’s too late.“

The pairs are:
Caramel Corn and Mouldy Cheese
Strawberry Banana Smoothie and Dead Fish
Ba-na-na and Pencil Shavings
Juicy Pear and Booger
Buttered Popcorn and Rotten Eggs
Chocolate Pudding and Canned Dog Food
Futti-Frutti and Stinky Socks
Coconut and Baby Wipes
Green Apple and Minion Fart
Peach and Barf

(You decide which are meant to be the delicious ones and which ones the utterly disgusting.) Continue reading


“I taste self but at”

Some linguistic explorations get more puzzling the further I pursue them.  Today’s lesson was about the pattern NP look(s)/sound(s)/smell(s)/taste(s)/feel(s) ADJ and related patterns. The lesson started with look, with photos of actors in emoting in character. Sound was provided on the textbook’s CD, and I explained smell and taste with examples of food (both) and perfume (smell). I mentioned that we might say You smell beautiful to a loved one, but are unlikely to say You taste beautiful even then.

Except some people do. Google Ngrams shows You taste good/wonderful/salty/sweet/delicious/better, all of which emerged in the 1960s and 70s. You taste better, not surprisingly, leads to You taste better than, but Ngrams gives no result for You taste better than *. I am trying to think how I could end a sentence with those words: maybe Here is a list of things you taste better than. Continue reading

wish … quit … directed

I love a good digression, and I certainly got one last night. The main grammar point was ‘I wish I was/had/could …’, ‘I wish you/[people/things] were/had/would …’ and ‘I wish [a person/thing] was/had/would …’. While the students were completing a grammar worksheet, I typed ‘I wish I’ into a Major Search Engine to see how it would complete that. One of the suggestions was ‘I wish I knew how to quit you’, which seemed a random idea. Further investigation showed that it is a line from Brokeback Mountain, which I have never seen, but which I know the basic story of. I showed them the video of that character saying that. Most of the students knew about the movie. A Taiwanese student said ‘That was directed by Ang Lee’, then ‘I’m confused about that word directed. Is that the same as direct flight?’. My gut feeling was that it is, but I had to check. Yes, those words, and others, are derived from Latin dērēctus, the past participle of dērigere to align, straighten, guide. reports that there are 25 words beginning with direct:
noun: director, directors, directrix, directrixes, directrice, directrices, directress; direction, directions; directory, directories; directive, directives; directness; directorate; directivity
verb: direct, directs, directing, directed
adjective: direct, directer, directest; directorial; directional
adverb: directly

Continue reading

love, like, don’t like, hate

In some ways, the quartet of words love, like, don’t like and hate runs in parallel to the quartet of hot, warm, cool and cold. Love, like and hate have been part of English for over a thousand years, and have recognisable cognates in the other West Germanic languages. Hot, warm, cool and cold can be modified by very, so and too; love, like and hate can be modified by really, so much and too much to describe a continuum of human emotions.

Continue reading

‘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”.

Continue reading