A sneaky word

A few months ago I randomly encountered an online article which used


as the past tense of 


A few weeks ago I randomly encountered the same article again. I didn’t save the article and I can’t find it now. It was about some people who “snook into a stadium” or “into a football match”. I asked my Facebook friends, and those who responded said “mistake”, “… unless the author is using similar linguistic devices throughout” (which I don’t remember was the case) “an Americanism, like snuck” (possibly; there was no particular indication that the writer was American) and “mistake”.

Snuck (use it or not (I don’t), like it or not (I don’t)) is here to stay (and is already used more than sneaked in US English, and almost as much in British English). Snook is either a mistake or a very rare alternative. Searching for snook by itself finds mostly irrelevant results for people with that surname, fish or a town in Texas. But then

“No, you got all sneaky and snuck around and snook that vote away from me. And I know this because earlier I sneaked and snooked around and Jammy was supposed to vote for me. The snooker has become the snort.” Leslie Knope to Ron Swanson

I recognise the names as characters from Parks and Recreation (which I have never seen). So writers of tv comedies can use it. (Writers of tv comedies can do a lot of things.) Note snooked. I assume that snooker is pronounced similarly and not like the table-balls-and-cue sport.

Searching for “snook into” found a few uses, for example “someone snook into my [hotel] room” on Tripadviser and “this guy snook into [a sports stadium when it was closed]” on reddit.

Searching for “snook into a stadium” found nothing, but “snook into the stadium” found this tweet:

the streaker at the Granada vs Manchester United game, snook into the stadium at around 7am”, But that is an auto-translation from German: der Flitzer beim Spiel Granada gegen Manchester United gegen 7 Uhr morgens ins Stadion geschlichen ist 

With snuck and sneaked to choose from, I can’t see why any auto-translator would be programmed to use snook

But I still need a genuine use of snook. I don’t know how I found it, but luckily I saved the URL. From the BBC, no less: 

Zoe snook into rehearsals to catch up with Patrick and Anya and Fiona and Anton. 

I assume that the BBC has a style guide and that snook isn’t in it. In fact, I assume that snuck isn’t in it, either. I’ll venture that no style guide so much as mentions snook in this sense, whatever it might say about snuck and sneaked. I’ll get proscriptive and say “Don’t use snook. People will question your intelligence and/or ability in English” (unless you are a writer of a tv comedy). In fact, I’ll say “Don’t use snuck“, but most people will ignore me.

The rise of snuck is relatively recent. Most discussions date it to the late 19th century, but Google Ngrams shows its rise from the late 1990s. Sneaked has risen at the same time, in part because people are using it to compare and contrast with snuck. Have we spent more time sneaking in the last 25 years?


Mount Nam

I have posted twice before (and see also) about whether it is better to say or write, for example, Gyeongbokgung, Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace. We have more choices with mountains because we can put mount(ain) before or after the name: Namsan, Namsan Mountain, Nam Mountain, Mount Namsan. One possibility I didn’t suggest was Mount Nam, because I’d never encountered it, but recently I did, in a blog I can’t name because I’ve forgotten which of several I’ve been browsing recently it was. For some reason, Mount Nam looks and sounds wrong, but Mount Halla and Mount Seorak look and sound reasonable. It might be that Nam is monosyllabic, but nearby where I went to high school was Mount Brown. 

A movie review mentioned a tv series named Jirisan. Wikipedia’s page on the tv series is named Jirisan (TV series) but refers to Mount Jiri throughout, while its page on the mountain is named Jirisan and refers to Jirisan, except for two fleeting references to ‘Mt. Jiri’. But I shouldn’t (indeed can’t) expect consistency from Wikipedia. 

Ultimately, there’s no ideal solution. The simplest is to use Gyeongbokgung and Jirisan, but using Gyeongbokgung Palace and Jirisan Mountain is more helpful. In fact, the most helpful is “Gyeongbokgung, a palace near the centre of Seoul”, and “Jirisan, a mountain in the south of Korea”, but you wouldn’t want to do that every time. A lot depends on your intended listeners/readers.

Loitering and sauntering

Wikipedia’s page on the American writer Dorothy Parker mentions that she was once fined $5 for “loitering and sauntering” while taking part in an activist protest. 

Loitering is a well-enough known offence, but it is hard to see what the offence in sauntering is; indeed it is hard to see what the offence in loitering is. Surely we have all loitered or sauntered, or strolled, wandered, meandered, moseyed … at some time. 

According to dictionary.com loiter is the older word: before 1300–50; Middle English loteren, loytren, perhaps from Middle Dutch loteren “to stagger, totter”; compare Dutch leuteren “to dawdle”. Saunter is: 1660–70; of uncertain origin, though one blogger traverses a number of suggested origins. 

Loitering is still an offence in some jurisdictions, but usually more is needed than just standing around doing nothing, for example the intention to commit some more substantive offence, or failing to move on when directed. Basically it gives the police the power to charge anyone they want to but can’t pin anything else on, often people in easily identifiable groups in society. I can’t find anything about sauntering as an offence, except for one possibly automated website which states:

Saunter and commit crime are semantically related. In some cases you can use “Saunter” instead a verb phrase “Commit crime”.


Not the Nine O’Clock News was a British television sketch comedy show from 1979 to 1982. I don’t remember watching it, but remember a friend playing one sketch on cassette, which I still remember close on 40 years later. A police constable is summoned by a sergeant and reprimanded for “being a little over-zealous” (video, script) (medium potential-for-offence warning). In one month, he has “brought 117 ridiculous, trumped-up and ludicrous charges … against the same man”, who happened to be in of those easily identifiable groups. One of those was “loitering with intent to use a pedestrian crossing”. I’ll leave the rest for you to discover. (Yes, the sergeant is played by Rowan Atkinson.) 

A blog post about a Korean movie with a very long title

I have posted before about the ways in which the titles of Korean movies are rendered in English: either the Korean name is retained (Silmido), or the English title is an exact or approximate translation of the Korean (Parasite), or the English title is more or less completely different (The host), or the Korean title is itself a transliteration of English (Oldboy). 

I recently discovered the website koreanfilm.org, which I first assumed was an official site, but which turned out to be the private site of Darcy Paquet, now best known for his collaboration with director Bong Joon-Ho on the English subtitles for Parasite, assisted by a team of volunteer reviewers. The site gives the title of each movie in Korean and English, but otherwise refers to each by its English title. With some knowledge of Korean, the strategies I listed in the first paragraph can be seen. Sometimes the reviewer discusses the Korean title when it sheds some light on the meaning of the movie. 

The champion in the ‘more different’ category is surely the 2004 movie 어디선가 누군가에 무슨일이 생기면 틀림없이 나타난다 홍반장 (eo-di-seon-ga nu-gun-ga-e mu-seun-il-i saeng-ki-myeon teul-rim-eob-shi na-ta-nan-da hong ban-jang), which is rendered in English as Mr Handy, or Mr Hong, or Mr Handy, Mr Hong, but which translates literally as If something happens to somebody somewhere, he always shows up, Chief Hong. This was the basis for the 2021 tv series Hometown Cha-cha-cha, which I mentioned here (in the PS at the end). ban-jang by itself usually translates as class monitor or class president at a school. Calling him Chief Hong makes it sound like he is the chief of police. Three major translation tools don’t even bother with the last word(s), Google giving If something happens to someone somewhere, it will definitely show up, Bing If something happens to someone anywhere, it will surely appear and Papago If something happens to someone, he will definitely appear


Some years ago (first guess, last century, more likely the 1980s than the 1990s) I heard a song Is ’e an Aussie, is ’e Lizzie? by the duo Mr Flotsam and Mr Jetsam (I seem to remember simply ‘Flotsam and Jetsam’). At the time I didn’t have access to the resources of the internet but I have recently found that they were the English songwriter/pianist/tenor Bentley Collingwood Hilliam and the New Zealand bass Malcolm McEachern. They performed light comic “with mild social commentary” and sentimental songs. (I also accidentally found the thrash metal band Flotsam and Jetsam, who presumably don’t.)

Is ’e an Aussie is apparently typical. (I recently included a link in a comment to a recent post, and my number one commenter of recent times, Batchman, said that it didn’t work in the USA. Try here or here or here, or search for ‘Is ’e an Aussie Flotsam Jetsam’.) It features rapid-fire and witty rhyming, almost all of it to do with Australia. In fact, in the first rhyme, Lizzie tells her girlfriend:

Mary-Anne I’ve met a man who says he’s an Austray-lee-an 

She says that he:

Throws a fond eye, talks of Bondi

But later we learn that:

He, being well-born, lived in Melbourne

Hang on …

Continue reading

“I’d like to argue”

In a comment to a recent post, my number one of recent times commenter Batchman mentioned Monty Python’s Argument Clinic sketch. I used this in class many times to show the inter-relationship between verbs and nouns, in this instance, first, argue and argument, and also between the verb argue and the (I’m not sure what the technical term for this is) have an argument

Many English nouns and verbs relate in one of four ways: either the noun is derived from the verb, the verb is derived from the noun, they are written the same but differ in pronunciation, or they are written and pronounced the same. In the sketch, we have at least one of the following words relating to speaking:

Noun derived from verb
argue > argument
contradict > contradiction
complain > complaint 

Same written form, different pronunciation
abuse /s/ ~ abuse /z/ 

Continue reading

Weather we like it or not

We are having an above averagely wet summer, which is actually preferable to the above averagely hot with extensive bushfires summer we had last year. Today was the first day back at work for some of us. I generally keep an eye on the rain radar website and tell my colleagues what’s likely to happen. (We are currently mostly working at our respective homes, spread across the metropolitan area.) Today was forecast for rain and a possible storm in the afternoon, so I informed my Sydney colleague of this. He thanked me and added “I was wondering weather …”

This reminded me of a little poem one of my grandmothers taught me when I was young:

Whether the weather be cold, or whether the weather be hot,
Whether the weather be fine, or whether the weather be not,
We’ll whether the weather, whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not.

Continue reading


On 29 May 1913, one of the biggest bangs in classical music history took place in the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, being the premiere of The Rite of Spring, a ballet by Igor Stravinsky. A combination of the music, stage design, costumes, story and choreography led to a near-riot (or an actual one, depending on whose account you read. In an interview some time later, Stravinsky referred to Vaslav Nijinsky‘s “knocked-kneed and long-braided Lolitas”. There is very little information about the interview, but it is obviously some time later because 1) it was filmed and is now viewable on Youtube, 2) Stravinsky looks considerably advanced in years and 3) he uses the name Lolita in that way, placing the interview after the publication of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel in 1955 (when Stravinsky was 73). (Indeed, the poster of the video suggests the early 1960s.)

A lolita (more often lower-case, but Pages for Mac just upper-cased it), is now an alluring (at least to a certain kind of man) older girl or young teenager. (Nabokov’s narrator specifies the age range nine to 14; he also calls them demoniac, placing the blame on them rather than himself.) Even though The Rite of Spring is about a pagan fertility ritual, it is questionable as to how alluring the dancers were or are, or were or are meant to be.

But the name Lolita goes back further than Nabokov’s novel. Dolores is a good Spanish name (Maria Dolores, Saint Mary of the Sorrows), which became Lola, which became Lolita. 

Continue reading

English for international communication

After watching many amateur travel videos, mainly of South Korea but some of other countries, I found a series of hiking videos by a South Korean tv station. The difference in production values is immediately apparent: the amateur videos range from almost unwatchable to almost professional, but the professional videos are just in another league.

Most of them are of destinations in South Korea, and all of the talking is in Korean (which I don’t understand enough of). But one is of the Dandenong Ranges near Melbourne. The South Korean tourist/hiker met a local guide and they spoke together in English. And another is of Croatia. Two other South Korean tourists/hikers met a local guide and they spoke together in Croatian.

Um, no. They spoke English. I guess that the number of Koreans who speak Croatian and the number of Croatians who speak Korean is very close to not many.

The seven deadly dwarves

A Facebook friend posted a cartoon by Dan Piraro (for technical reasons I can’t add it here) showing Snow White saying to four dwarves, “Guess what, guys! Your cousins, Angry, Lazy, Greedy, Hungry, Vanity, Envy, & Frisky are coming to visit!”, with the caption Snow White & the Seven Deadly Sins.  

The seven deadly sins are usually listed as pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth. But those don’t make funny dwarves’ names and don’t sound anything like Disney’s dwarves Doc, Happy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Bashful, Grumpy and Dopey. Six of those are adjectives (the exception being Doc) and five of those end with -y (the exception being Bashful). Obviously, -y and -ful are common adjective endings. 

The adjectives directly linked to the sins are proud, greedy, wrathful, envious, lustful, gluttonous and slothful (more -y and -ful, and also -ous) (note that the vowel change behind pride > proud is no longer productive – we can’t make new adjectives that way now). But those don’t make funny dwarves’ names, either, so proud becomes Vanity (a noun, compare vain), wrathful becomes Angry (compare anger), lustful becomes Frisky (compare friskiness) and gluttonous becomes Hungry (compare hunger), while envious becomes Envy (a noun) and greedy remains Greedy.

Continue reading