A sneaky word

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

snook

as the past tense of 

sneak. 

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?

Advertisement

How many?

I am researching places to go and things to do in South Korea. We’ve booked flights there at the end of Dec and back at the end of Jan. In fact, I ‘ve been researching since before the travel restrictions started. We were just about to book travel to South Korea and Europe. 

The N TERRACE restaurant at N Seoul Tower (Namsan Tower) is 

One of the few most romantic places in Korea!

Unlike one of the only places, which has its defenders but I find meaningless even as I understand what the person is trying to mean, one of the few most romantic places does make sense, mostly. There are romantic places in Korea. This is one of the romantic places in Korea. There are the most romantic places in Korea. This is one of the most romantic places in Korea. There are few most romantic places in Korea. This is one of the few most romantic places in Korea. (Compare One of the few romantic places in Korea!)

It makes sense, but it’s very awkward. We expect the most to be either one or few at most. Having many mosts defeats the purpose of them being most

A Google search shows one of the few most:

stable currencies, important ways, talented and complete musician [sic], natural sites, beautiful Islamic prayer quotes, prestigious museums

In most cases, either few or most would suffice, few if you want to imply a smaller number (one of the few stable currencies) and most if you don’t (one of the most important ways).

One of the few most important musician is plain wrong. Few must be followed by a plural noun. 

crush v surge v stampede

The Sydney Morning Herald is calling the Itaewon disaster a crowd crush, the Korea Herald a crowd surge and the Korea Times a stampede. To me, a stampede involves running and falling, which doesn’t seem to be the case here, a surge involves a group of people actively moving towards an already crowded area, and a crush is everyone moving together. The distinction is probably irrelevant to those who were killed and injury, or their families. Wikpedia’s article calls it a crowd crush, but its main article on the phenomenon is crowd collapses and crushes.

PS the next day. The Sydney Morning Herald is now calling it a stampede and is headlining that one Australian was killed.

We have nothing to be scared of but scare itself

A document said that someone “was scared of people from outside” her immediate family. Unexceptional English, I would have thought, but Microsoft Word’s style checker noted “More concise language would be clearer for your reader” and suggested

feared people

To me, Someone feared people from outside her immediate family isn’t usual, natural English. It’s obviously grammatical and sensical but feared is too formal and strong for this context (unless the someone in question was bordering on phobic. Surprisingly, Google Ngrams shows that feared people is considerably more common than was scared of people and were scared of people combined. I can’t think of any context where feared people would be my usual, natural choice. I don’t have access to any linguistic corpora, so have to rely on a general Google search, which show occasional uses, mostly in the irrelevant forms “the (top/number) most feared people (in some context)”, “this is the moment we’ve feared, people” and “he feared [that] people would laugh at him”. There is one quotation from the Quran (“And you feared people, while Allah has more right that you fear Him”) but that by itself wouldn’t explain the ngrams results, especially because the use of feared people dates back to around 1800. I’m just going to have to admit defeat on this one. My editing job doesn’t involve changing other people’s words anyway, so I didn’t have to decide (and would have rejected the suggestion anyway).

(Comparing feared people and was/were scared of people is complicated by the fact that they are different grammatically. I am also considering feared people as adj + N but that doesn’t get me any further.)

My mind wandered sideways to the words which come after feared and was/were afraid/scared/frightened of. Ngrams’ results for those show, in order:

afraid of anything, afraid of death, afraid of something, feared God, afraid of nothing, scared of anything, scared of something, afraid of everything, afraid of ghosts, scared of heights, afraid of God, feared death, feared something, feared John, feared object, scared of death, feared man, frightened of life, scared of people, frightened of women, frightened of ghosts, frightened of something, frightened of nothing, afraid of work, scared of nothing, scared of everything, scared of snakes, scared of ghosts, frightened of everything, afraid of men, scared of dogs, frightened of change, feared none, frightened of anything, frightened of people, frightened of death, feared Mr, afraid of war, feared anything.

Note that scared of people and frightened of people appear on that list, but feared people doesn’t, calling into question the first search results (and Microsoft’s advice). Obviously, that list would take some analysis to make any sense of. Leaving aside everything, anything, something and nothing, we have death, God, ghosts, heights, John (Mark 6:20 “Herod feared John”), life, women, snakes, men (more people are (or write about being) frightened of women than afraid of men), change, Mr (mostly “feared [that] Mr X would do something”) and war

So, more questions than answers in this post, sorry.

Hip-hop, 1671-style

The word hip-hop dates from at least 1671. Yes, you read that right. 

In 2012 or some time before, I bought David Crystal’s introduction to and anthology of Samuel Johnson’s A dictionary of the English language (1752). I was surprised to find an entry for hip-hop, which Johnson illustrates by a quotation from William Congreve (1670-1729):

Your different tastes divide our poets cares;
One foot the sock, t’other the buskin wears:
Thus while he strives to please, he’s forc’d to do’t,
Like Volscius hip-hop in a single boot.

This began a lot of research at the time and again while drafting this blog post. In 1695, Congreve wrote an “epiloge” to a play by Thomas Southerne (1660-1746) based on the short novel Oronooko (1688) by Aphra Behn (1640-1698). The epilogue, spoken by one of the actresses to the audience, addresses the poet’s task. It starts:

YOU see, we try all Shapes, and Shifts, and Arts,
To tempt your Favours, and regain your Hearts.
We weep, and laugh, joyn mirth and grief together,
Like Rain and Sunshine mixt, in April weather.

then continues with the four lines above. 

Continue reading

¡olé!

I suddenly thought that a good name for a Spanish coffee shop would be Café Olé (or maybe Cafe ¡Olé!). Not surprisingly, other people (Spanish or not) have already thought the same thing (search and you will find). But I wonder how many other instances of café olé on the internet are mistakes for café au lait. The two are pronounced more-or-less identically in English. Spanish  has /leɪ/ but French has /le/, not that many English speakers can correctly pronounce the difference. 

Tourism Korean, part 1

Visitors to Seoul are very likely to encounter at least one of Seodaemun, Namdaemun or Dongdaemun. Even if their tour guide (human, printed or digital) doesn’t tell them, it’s probably possible to figure out that they are the original west great gate, south great gate and east great gate of Seoul. Seo, nam and dong, therefore, are west, south and east. Dae might be great or gate, and mun might be vice versa, but the head of any compound noun is more likely to be in the first or last position, and finding that Gwanghwamun is the main gate of Gyeongbokgung palace firmly points to mun as gate. 

These actually have (or had, in the case of Seodaemun) official names, which are 돈의문 (don-ui-mun), 숭례문 (sung-nye-mun) and 흥인지문 (heung-in-ji-mun) respectively (which are also rendered in hanja (Chinese characters used in Korean), but tourists don’t have to worry about any of that). Seodaemun also refers to a gu (local government area), park and prison, Namdaemun to a market and Dongdaemun to a gu, market, former baseball stadium and design plaza (and I’m sure a lot else each). Bukdaemun (north great gate) (officially 숙정문 (suk-jeong-mun)) exists but is far less known, partly because it is perched in the mountains, a moderate hike from anywhere.

Continue reading

An awful lot of words

(Or a lot of awful words.)

While I was writing a recent post, I started thinking about the following words (and there are more similar):

awe (n) – awe (v) – awesome / awful (adj)
dread – dread (v) – ?dreadsome / dreadful (adj)
fear (n) – fear (v) – fearsome / fearful / afraid (adj)
fright (n) – fright / frighten (v) – ?frightsome / frightful / frightening / frightened (adj)
terror (n) – terrify (v) – terrible / terrifying / terrified / terrific (adj)

The questions which arise are ‘Who does what to whom?’/‘Who feels that way?’ and ‘Is this a good thing or a bad thing?’. Awesome is good, but awful is now almost always bad. Originally, we were full of awe, but there are references to God being awful. The most common uses of awful now are in the noun phrases an awful lot and an awful thing. An awful lot and an awful thing aren’t full of awe, and probably we aren’t, either. 

This is even more so when these words are used as adverbs:

It was awesome/awful of you to do that v It was awesomely/awfully kind of you to do that.
It was dreadful of you to do that v It was dreadfully kind of you to do that. 
It was fearful of you to do that v It was fearfully kind of you to do that. 
It was frightful/frightening of you to do that v It was frightfully/frighteningly kind of you to do that. 
It was terrible/terrifying/terrific of you to do that v It was terribly/terrifyingly/terrifically kind of you to do that. 

This process is called semantic bleaching, or “the reduction of a word’s intensity”, which is really very common, as Merriam-Webster explains.

(By the way, dreadsome and frightsome are in dictionaries, but are obviously very rare. If I was writing a historical fantasy novel, I would have a character nick-named Dreadsome.)

(I seem to remember a cartoon in which a primary school teacher says to a student something like “There are two words I will not tolerate in this classroom. One is cool and the other is groovy.” The student replies “Cool! What are they?” I can’t find that, but there is definitely one of a father saying to two children “There are some words I will not tolerate in this house – and ‘awesome’ is one of them”. There’s nothing wrong with awesome – it’s just overused.) [Edit: it may have been swell and lousy – see the comments below.]

God is terrible

This idea is scattered throughout the bible, if not in exactly that form. I probably knew it first and certainly know it most familiarly through Ralph Vaughan Williams’ anthem on Psalm 47, O clap your hands.

O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.
For the Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.

English has a number of words derived from Latin terror (noun), terrēre, terrificāre (verbs) and terribilis (adjective), including terror, terrorism/t, terrify, terrorise, terrible, terrifying and terrific. Terrific is now positive (though I remember a primary school teacher telling us that it should only be used in contexts of terror), terrifying is negative and terrible sits uncomfortably between the two.

As is usual with biblical words like this, there are many translations. In the 54 English versions on Bible Gateway:

awesome 18 awesome beyond words 1 awesome and deserves our great respect 1
awe-inspiring 3 

to be feared 9 to be feared [and worshiped with awe-inspired reverence and obedience] 1 fearsome 1 fearedful (to be feared/to be revered) 1 fearful 1 

terrible 10 
excites terror, awe, and dread 1

wonderful 3 wonderful [awesome] 1

stunning 1 

We must fear the Lord 1 We must fear Yahweh, Elyon 1

most of which have other problems, especially these days awesome. If “Everything is awesome” then there’s nothing special about God. At least no translations use awful (see this post, towards the end) (or dreadful).

(Another choral setting of the same psalm, by John Rutter, uses to be feared.)

Lying behind all of these is the Hebrew word נוֹרָא (nora, Modern Israeli Hebrew pronunciation noˈʁa). I will let an actual Hebrew speaker pronounce it and explain. So, awesome or awe-inspiring, or terrible or awful, even in Hebrew.

My problem with all of these is that if God is terrible, to be feared or even awesome, then our response will be terror, fear or awe, but will not and cannot possibly be love, and certainly not with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength.

It is noticeable that most of the verses describing God as terrible (in whatever words) are in the Old Testament (the one exception being the Old Testament-focused Hebrews). Elsewhere in the New Testament, we get “God is love” (not “God is loveable”!).

(I possibly have more to say about this, but would be venturing too far into theology for my comfort.)

Duffins, cronuts and olive jars

A trip to a local shopping centre yielded two linguistic snippets. One shop was selling duffins, which it helpfully explained as “not a donut, not a muffin”. Cronuts (doughnuts made from croissant dough) have been a thing for a while now (Wikipedia says 2013). Duffins appear to be new. Wikipedia does not have a page for them and several news stories online from earlier this month talk about the product’s launch, but the company’s own website says that “The duffin is back”. Pages for Mac auto-changes duffin to muffin and red-underlines it when I change it back. 

Hang on, though. If a doughnut made from croissant dough is a cronut, then shouldn’t one made from muffin dough be a muffnut? Maybe not …

(spelling: Google Ngrams shows that doughnut is used more in BrEng, and about equally with donut in AmEng. I don’t often write about them, so I don’t know what my natural usage is. (PS My diary for my first stay in Korea 2006-9 has three instances of donut(s) and none of doughnuts, but that’s hardly convincing.)) 

(pronunciation: I had always pronounced croissant with kw-. Various dictionaries give kr-, krw- and kw-, so there’s obviously no unanimity (Wiktionary gives the most options). The other issue is -ant, which can be -ant, -ont, -ənt or ɒ̃. A lot depends on how French you try to be.)   

My wife bought a jar of olives. Around the top is a message/are messages in four languages. 

CAPSULA DI SICUREZZA / PREMENDO AL CENTRO, L’ASSENZA DI “CLIC CLAC” GARANTSICE L’INTEGRITA DELLA CHIUSRA
CAPSULE DE SECURITE • SE SOULEVE A L’OUVERTURE / LE “CLIC CLAC” A L’OUVERTURE EST VOTRE GARANTIE
SAFETY BUTTON / SAFETY BUTTON POPS WHEN SEAL IS BROKEN
VAKUUM • SICHERHEITSVERSCHLUSS / KNACKT BEIM ERSTEN ÖFFNEN

I won’t discuss these at length, but clearly, different languages say equivalent things in different ways, and use a different number of words to do so.

PS 25 Jul: at a work meeting today my manager digressed and spontaneously mentioned lamingscones (which I have now discovered is styled as Laming-Scones). Non-Australians may need to look up lamingtons and scones.  

PPS 1 Aug: today I watching a Youtube video by someone walking around Seoul. I saw a bakery advertising croiffles. 1 Sep: Another video shows croffles.

PPPS 2Aug: I mentioned this on Facebook and a friend said her local supermarket sells muffnuts.