Archive for the 'linguistics' Category

you learn something new every day

The earthy scent of rain is known as petrichor.

muddy waters

Have been reading about the US investment research firm Muddy Waters in the news lately (like here), and kept wondering why anyone would ever give their company such a name. ‘Muddy Waters’ 给人一种水摸鱼、同流合污的感觉! (Translation: ‘Muddy Waters’ gives one the feeling of hun shui mo yu [fishing in troubled, or muddied, waters] and tong liu he wu [evil flowing with evil]!)

So I went to check out its website, and realized with the greatest amusement, that it was indeed named after the Chinese idiom 水摸鱼 (hun shui mo yu). To quote:

The Chinese have an old proverb, “浑水摸鱼” (muddy waters make it easy to catch fish). In other words, opacity creates opportunities to make money. This way of thinking has unfortunately become endemic in global capital markets.

you learn something new every day

I was reading this New York Times article when I came across the word weltanschauung, which as it turns out, has a whole school of thought behind it!

you learn something new every day

While editing an article at work today, I was searching Thesaurus.com for a synonym for experience, and somehow bumped into apologue – which I had never seen before. Alas, it was not the right word I had been seeking!

jack and jill

On 29 January, my friend K wrote this on his Facebook wall:

Nangka is jackfruit.
Chempedak is _________ ?

Naturally, I replied, ‘jillfruit!!! :P’

you learn something new every day

I came across the unfamiliar term amphora in a comment on a friend’s Facebook wall, and naturally googled. The word usually means ‘a type of ceramic vase with two handles‘, but has a whole host of other meanings as well!

aloha anaphora

One of my friends, B, who teaches at a top secondary school, posted this on Facebook on 6 January:

exasperatedly, I asked my class how come they’ve forgotten so many of the rhetorical devices we’ve taught them almost every year for three years now:

“Remember metaphors? Anaphora?”

Boy: “Huh? I only know Sephora.”

(Incidentally, while I did learn about metaphors in secondary school, I only learnt about anaphora in university……!)

Continue reading ‘aloha anaphora’

you learn something new every day

A lagniappe is ‘something given as a bonus or gratuity’. When I first saw this word, I thought it looked kinda Frenchy, and I was quite right! Check out its interesting etymology here!

you learn something new every day

McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets come in four shapes: the ball, the bone, the bell, and the boot! I had always thought that the nuggets’ shapes were completely random!

you learn something new every day

Junkanoo is a street parade with music, dance and costumes held chiefly in the Bahamas on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. (And Lonely Planet calls it ‘more funk than junk’!)

biscuit versus cookie

Once upon a time, I was tucking into fried chicken at Popeyes, when I heard a teenaged boy at a neighbouring table proclaim, to his friend, something to the effect of, ‘So dumb for them to call these biscuits!’ He was, of course, referring to those light fluffy things that Popeyes serves with their meals (which we Singaporeans would probably call scones).

On hearing that, I could not help but marvel at his ignorance. Did he not know different things could share the same name in different places? Or that the same thing could have different names in different places?

Much later, I came across this interesting article which discusses the meanings of biscuit and cookie in British English and American English respectively.

In my book, a biscuit is thinner and crisper, and often served unadorned, whereas a cookie is chunkier and chewier, and often contains something extra (like chocolate chips). In that respect, my definitions are closer to the British English ones!

the more things change

The more things change, the more they stay the same…… this Brewster Rockit: Space Guy! (14 December 2014) comic strip says it all……

br 141214

from here

瓜瓜瓜瓜

为什么只有南瓜和西瓜,却没有东瓜和北瓜?

rhetorical reasons that slogans stick

Slogan is an ancient Gaelic word. It means, or at least it meant, battle cry.

When medieval Scotsmen were charging their enemies in remote and warlike glens, they would shout the name of their clan or their chieftain again and again and again. “Campbell! Campbell! Campbell!” or “McDonald! McDonald! McDonald!”

These days, in the battles of global corporations, there’s slightly less killing, and certainly fewer kilts. But otherwise it’s pretty much the same clamoring to be heard above the competitive fray.

Imagine an army of Apple employees, brandishing iPhone 6s and bellowing “Bigger than bigger!” as they storm a counterattacking legion of Samsung smartphone reps wielding Galaxy S5s and urging one another onward with “The next big thing is here!”

A slogan, a good one at least, is at the heart of a company. It doesn’t just face outward to the consumer, but inward to the employees. One sentence becomes the company identity, the corporate motto and the battle cry. So it had better be a cracking good sentence.

Click here for ‘Rhetorical Reasons That Slogans Stick’ by Mark Forsyth, which I found a very entertaining read!

you learn something new every day

Armscye is another name for armhole, or the fabric edge to which the sleeve is sewn. Apparently, the word itself has a pretty interesting etymology too!


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