Saturday, 24 August 2013

gorgeous plates with strange grammar

I recently bought some lovely plates. They are just the right size to serve a salad and their bright decoration makes me feel cheerful. Each one has a message written on it about the uses of olives in cooking.

I wonder if the designer has English as her second language? The messages use language in an off-key way. For instance, here's what it says on the box:

'Olive oil's uses in gastronomy are immense...' 

And one of the plates has this:

'The olives can be green or black and is traditionally served...'

What a pity no one edited the language before the plates were printed. I notice that they were made in China, but they were designed in the USA. Here's the  mark on the reverse of one plate:

I enjoy oddities of language, so I'm expecting to find food served on my lovely new plates has an extra piquancy.

I've found a link to the manufacturer. I think their products are lovely, by the way.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

stationary or stationery?

Here's another store where things are at a standstill. Last time it was the stock that wasn't going places. This time it seems to be a trolley.

What a pity the people who make these signs don't know that stationery relates to writing equipment and stationary means not moving. Maybe they need a mnemonic to help them.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Aboriginal words and Flinders Island

Words are powerful. Yesterday, at The Ian Potter Gallery, I looked at a video artwork by Julie Gough. I was so entranced by the words she used that I stood through two viewings of the seventeen minute presentation
The contrast of the words against the idyllic video clips made a strong impression on the viewer. Here are two sets of photos from the display:
********************************************************************************** Other Aboriginal words featured in the artwork - for instance, the words for flour, tobacco, musket, sheep, blanket. (I've posted on my other blog about the word for 'kangaroo dog'.) However, the ones that made the most vivid impression on me were two concepts that must have been new to the indigenous inhabitants - flagellate and hang by rope. What terrible ideas the Europeans brought with them.
I hope you get a chance to see this artwork. It will make an impression on you.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

plural of the word 'nemesis'

Dark Currents, by Jacqueline Carey, is a great read. The plot is exciting and the heroine gutsy but conflicted. I'm enjoying the light tone of the story.

Jacqueline Carey allows Daisy to use delightfully complex words. Why would a young woman who's a part-time file clerk in a local police station, and grew up in a trailer park, know and use this vocabulary? Because she remembers the lessons taught her by her favorite high school teacher, Mr Leary, in his myth and literature classes. (As a teacher myself, I have to love the thought that we can make a difference!)

Here's an example of the way Carey slides complex vocabulary into the narrative:
"Nothing germane to the case," I said firmly. And yes, I was a bit pleased with myself for remembering the word germane and using it correctly in context. My old teacher Mr. Leary would have been proud.

And here's another part where Daisy visits Mr Leary:
He had a drink in hand, but he was  steady on his feet and he sounded lucid. "How is my favorite little eschatological time bomb?"
For the record, no, I don't know exactly what that means. It happens a lot with Mr. Leary. But I always appreciated the fact that he never, ever talked down to his students. 

Eschatological was a new word to me. At Merriam-Webster, I found it is:

1. a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind;         2. a belief concerning the Second Coming, the resurrection of the dead, or the Last Judgment.

The word that really got our household talking was nemeses.

What a great plural. Here's the context:

...she'd hired her daughter Stacey, who happened to be one of my high school nemeses...

This got us talking about the plural of nouns ending in 'is'. For instance, axis becomes axes; crisis becomes crises; and diagnosis becomes diagnoses. So I suppose nemeses is logical as the plural of nemesis.

On the other hand, one family member argued that Nemesis is a name - of the Greek goddess of retribution - and therefore the plural should be Nemesises as in the plural of Jonases. Hmmm... a look around the internet doesn't support her theory.

And, strangely, there's a bike trail in British columbia called Plural of Nemesis. A quick look at some footage of people riding down it gives a hint about how it was  named.

Friday, 7 June 2013

misspelling of the words stationary and stationery

I've posted previously about how I remember the difference between the words stationery and stationary. My sister does it by thinking of the word car, and the fact that a car moves and is spelled with ar. Something that is stationary doesn't move. Hmm...I sort of see the logic of this one.

My method is to say that in a stationery shop there will be envelopes, and envelope begins with the letter 'e'.

I was in a great little store at Westfield Doncaster today,  called daiso. I love this store, with its huge range of bits and pieces to make life easy. It's a bit like the Tardis, small on the outside but enormous on the inside.

I was with a group of teachers, and needless to say we're nit-pickers when it comes to spelling, so of course I pointed out this sign:

Loved the immediate quip by one of my friends. 'Well, the stock on that  display's not going to move fast.'

Monday, 3 June 2013

Thomas Jefferson said then and not than about his slaves

Recently, when I received a daily bulletin from, I was interested to see that Thomas Jefferson had used the word then where we nowadays would use the word than.

Here's the link to the particular article in the archive:

In a chilling assessment of the economic value of slave ownership, Jefferson said:
A child raised every 2. years is of more profit then the crop of the best laboring man.
I wondered if the word 'then' was a typo, so I looked around the internet and found what I take to be a reliable article, on the Smithsonian website. The article, The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson, was a revelation to me about the disgusting practice of slavery. Whippings; selling of children 'down the river', never to be seen again; hypocrisy; brutal overseers doing the work Jefferson professed to detest - all these were part of a gripping article that I felt compelled to read to the end.

I've posted previously about the mixed history of these two spellings. I still think it's likely that in the future we will spell both words as 'then'.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

in flagrante delicto

I've always wanted to write in flagrante delicto, because it sounds so deliciously bad. And this very day my dog, Penny, gave me the chance to legitimately use the phrase. (She was only eating stinky compost in the garden - not the other activity we think of when we use this phrase.)

It means literally, in Latin, while the crime was blazing, and Merriam Webster gives the first known use as 1772. I wonder what someone did in that year to cause the creation of this great expression. Maybe went around setting haystacks on fire?

The Macquarie defines this meaning as the transgression blazing.

I guess the nearest English expression would be red handed. But I couldn't use that for my dog, so the nearest canine equivalent might be black-mouthed.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

why is this plant called kangaroo apple?

I posted a photo of what I call a kangaroo apple, on my other blog.

Mary added a comment questioning the origin of the name.

Bushranger says the name might be used because the leaves resemble the footprint of a kangaroo. But in my photo the leaves don't look like that.

However, recently I saw a small seedling at Marysville, and the little plantlet did have leaves that look like pawprints.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

concision in fiction

An article on AVClub in January introduced me to a new word - concision. In defence of short story writing as a stand-alone career (asserting the right of authors to not write novels), Kevin McFarland said: 'There is nothing wrong with concision in fiction.'

When I read this word, I knew it meant the writing was concise, but I had thought the noun for this concept was  conciseness

The Australian Macquarie Dictionary defines conciseness as 'the quality of being concise' and concision as  'concise quality; brevity; terseness'. So I guess I can add this new word to my vocabulary as a synonym for the word I already knew. 

WordReference Forums, which appears to be north-American based, has a discussion of these two words, and the consensus seems to be that conciseness is the more usual term, with concision seeming pretentious and somewhat old-fashioned. One interesting comment is that concision implies an action (like words such as decision, incision, division), while conciseness implies a quality.

Monday, 13 May 2013

purchasing single stories online

After I read Mike Carey's wonderful short story, Iphigenia in Aulis, in An Apple for the Creature, I searched around the internet, hoping I could download it as a single story and have it to re-read anytime I liked. But, alas, I wasn't successful in the search. It was one of those stories where you read the last word and sit in a moment of thoughtful silence, before flicking back through the pages to enjoy the highlights once more.

It was in the running for Best Short Story in The Edgars  this year, but didn't win. I will have to search out the winning story, because it must have been something special to beat Carey's tale.

However, I have come across another interesting site, called alfiedog, where you can buy single stories for a few cents. I think this is a site worth revisiting, because I certainly enjoyed the first story I purchased.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

a house full of ungrammatical products

I'm sure we will get good use out of our new flexible silicone draining net...

But it's a fact that my purchase was influenced by the great example of language change on the back.

This new product can join the fascinating 'Frying Dragon' lock that I also couldn't resist buying.

It's hard to read about the drainer with the packet sideways, so here it is the right way up.

Yes, there it is again - 'then' instead of 'than'. 

It's winning!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

then or than

I've just read yet another example of someone writing 'then' instead of 'than'. It's in an article in about a soon-to-be published book of dog photos. The article quotes the photographer, Carli Davidson:
"I shot [photographed] over 100 dogs, but some chose not to shake, so I scheduled a lot more then I needed."
Presumably this was a spoken quote, so whoever wrote it down decided on the spelling. I wonder if Ms Davidson said 'then', or whether she actually said 'than'. 

As I've posted previously, I believe that in the next few years the word 'then' will replace the word 'than' in this context.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Aboriginal Cultural Trail at Melbourne University

Melbourne University has developed a self-guided Aboriginal cultural walk around the campus. It aims 'to remind walkers of the Wurundjeri people's continued traditions and connection to this part of the Melbourne landscape'. Its called Billibellary's Walk.

It sounds great and I'll try to get to the University and take the walk, but I'll wait until the permanent signs are in place.

However, as I read about the new walk in today's edition of The Age newspaper, my eye was caught by this basically unreadable sentence:
According to Shaun Ewen, Deputy Director of the Centre for Health and Society in the Onemda VicHealth Koori Health Unit at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health and Associate Dean (Indigenous Development) for the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, the concept of the walk originates in one of the graduate attributes envisaged for all students across the University - that of being attuned to cultural diversity by valuing different cultures.
Whew! What a mouthful. I applaud the sentiments at the end of the sentence, but it sure took a long time to get to the point.

And later in the article:
For someone like Craig Torrens, a Wehumbul man from the Bundjalung nation north-east of New South Wales, who is with Shawana Andrews a member of the Billibellary's Walk research team and works as a corporate records officer in the University's Secretary's Department, taking the tour is an honour, and has also been an educative experience for him. 
There's an online link to the article here. I wish they had shortened some of the sentences in that article by inserting links.

And more information, including some about Billibellary, here.