Another year!

I can't believe we're almost into 2008! This past year started out sort of lame, but ended up great, and I think 2008 will be even better. I'm going to a party, then I have to work throughout the night, but it's the kind of work that is going to be really fun. I never would've thought that I'd be helping out with a radio show on New Year's Eve, especially because most overnight shows in the U.S. are never live, and actually, most radio in the U.S. isn't even produced locally.

One of the first tasks of the new year is to translate a bunch of Japanese, so my new year will still be language-related :D


French break

I just had a very packed week, and I still have translating to do. If I had a bunch of Japanese, I'd be worried about the condition of my brain, but I have some French to do, and even though it's not a cake walk, at least it's not as mind-shattering as Japanese. So I consider it a kind of break before I resume the Japanese translating shortly thereafter.


Time for bed

I've been on the go since 3:30 this morning, and I just got home. I think this is one of the longest, most productive days I've had in a while, possibly ever :D


It's a Wonderful Life online!

This is great news: according to Mad Minerva, one of my favorite movies has been posted online: It's a Wonderful Life. You can watch it for free in its entirety! It even has subtitles, in case English isn't your native language and you want to understand everything.

It's been a "tradition" during the holidays to watch it on television, and I've seen it many times. Now I don't have to wait for it to be broadcast, and there are no commercials.


Happy Hello Kitty Christmas!

The brainy and seemingly high-energy Mad Minerva posted this picture, which is one of many in her Hello Kitty Monstrosity collection (which isn't grouped or categorized, as far as I can tell).


Great site!

Here's a really great website that Language Hat, aka The Great One, mentioned at his blog: Digital Dialects, which has "interactive activities for learning languages and links to study resources" for over 50 languages! You can spend many hours having lots of fun building up your language skills! This is very exciting for language lovers, which is why I'm using exclamation points!



The Chicago Sun-Times is such a cool paper. Actually, their print edition isn't that exciting, but their website is easy to navigate and is informative. They also have some great columnists over there and investigate interesting issues.

A language-oriented project they've been posting this year is the Chicagopedia, which is a list of Chicago-related words.

I should be helping out with that column, at least by answering contributors' emails and helping compile the list. I wish I had some contacts over there, or would get "discovered" since I *am* a Chicago-dwelling language gal :D


Grandma is dead

When I was a teenager, the song Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer became very popular, and I guess it still is. What's weird is that it's become a holiday "classic" and people get all nostalgic and dewy-eyed about it. Other people consider it one of their favorite Christmas songs, but it's a cynical, even dark song. Grandma just doesn't get run over by a reindeer, she gets killed by one.

Here are some clues from the lyrics (the lyrics are in quotes, my comments are in parentheses):

"When they found her Christmas mornin"

(She'd been lying there overnight because she was hit by a reindeer Christmas Eve. Who could survive a cold, snowy, winter night, especially an older person?)

"It's not Christmas without Grandma"

("Without Grandma" means she's not there, ie, she's dead.)

"All the family's dressed in black"

(The family is wearing black because they are in mourning, because she died.)

"And a blue and silver candle
That would just have matched the hair in Grandma's wig"

(Note the tense: "would just have", which means she's not there, because she's dead.)

When the song first came out, we all knew it was twisted and even mocked Christmas. Grandma was *killed* by reindeer! But you wouldn't know that if you watch the cartoon. They've made the song into a heart-warming story about Grandma merely getting knocked down by reindeer.

Sorry, but Grandma died. I wonder if people really know that. A cynical song wrapped up in cheery music.


What translating means

I think people don't know the difference between translating and interpreting. When I tell people I've translated languages that I don't speak well, or barely at all, they become puzzled. "How can you translate something that you don't speak?" They're either asking that because they think I mean "interpreting," or they automatically assume that I can speak various languages. So they'll tell other people that I speak X amount of languages, when I really don't. Honestly!

It's weird, because I never say what I've done to boast, but people will give more value to my language skills so that it forces me to deny such talents. Then it sounds like I'm full of false humility, but I'm not. I really can't speak all those languages! I just love to study and translate them!



What is up with China and the "f" word? Someone sent me this picture with the same Chinese character that was also translated into the "f" word in the swearing menu. At first I thought it was a photoshop job or a joke, but then I looked at the Chinese character in the swearing menu and this photo, and saw that it was the same. Either there are some really dumb people translating that character, or this is a sick joke.


AITPL posted

A while ago, I submitted an essay to Air in the Paragraph Line, and that issue has been posted. So now you can read about a bunch of us whining about work. Mine is about experiencing "the last straw", when I decided to quit pursuing a teaching career. Actually, since I wrote that essay, I found a good teaching situation at a city college with very nice students, a supportive administration, and nice coworkers. So I haven't totally quit teaching as I wanted to some years ago after working for a bunch of liars.


Weird English from Korea

Someone from Korea gave me a Korean snack cake that resembles the kind I tried in Japan. I don't read Korean, so I have no idea what the name is, though it's made by Haitai. Well, Haitai has to get a proofreader, because their English is quite oddly humorous:

Chocolate Coating Cake
You know that sweet things make smile.
We love to see you smile with your people.
So just taste this cake.

Ok, I will!


Sometimes Japanese is relaxing

Japanese is very hard to translate because it requires maximum brain energy to convert such different expressions into natural English, but lately, it's been relaxing. I think it's because I've been spending many hours working and doing intellectual-type of work, and when I translate Japanese, it's a break from all that. It's still intellectual, but it requires different mental efforts. Mental efforts. Now that sounds like Japanese-English (Japlish). Which means I need to take a break from Japanese as well.


the other Toronto

I know there's a Toronto in Canada, but I didn't know there was one in the U.S. It's in Kansas, and it's totally different from the Canadian one: in the year 2000, the population was only 312, and they expected it to go down to 285 by 2006!



I was just watching the British version of "Antiques Roadshow," and one of the appraisers said "jolly". I don't think I've ever heard an American say "jolly" unless they're talking about Santa, and in that case, they're using the word to describe his personality, as in, "Santa is very jolly."

But it seems like the British use "jolly" to mean "very", as in, "jolly good," a phrase that is probably used often over there. It's actually a phrase that non-Brits use to portray Brits, as if it's representative of how they speak.



I checked out inakayabanjin (who rarely posts) and learned about bidun, which comes from "Bidun jinsiya (or bidoon jinsiya)...an Arabic term meaning 'without nationality'."


over-using "the"

There are, of course, languages that don't use the word "the" or any articles, so sometimes I see over-compensation for that lack. For instance, there used to be a sign at a Japanese bookstore that said, "Please don't bring the cart into the store." They misused "the" by putting it in front of "cart," as if the sign is looking at your particular cart and pointing at it, telling you not to bring your specific cart into their store. I was there yesterday and saw that they replaced the sign with something more simple, such as "no carts!" below very flowery, polite Japanese requesting that no honorable carts be allowed inside.

So I guess they're like other folks I've seen, over-using "the" to make up for the lack of articles in their own language, as if they're trying to catch up.



I was on a plane, and after we ate our snacks, one of the flight attendants told us that they were going around to pick up our "traysh." Seriously. It was like she added a "sh" to the word "tray". I'd never heard anyone pronounce "trash" that way before. I even heard someone near me imitate her accent, and I wouldn't be surprised if other people noticed it as well. I wonder if it's common in certain parts of the U.S. (such as the South?) to pronounce "trash" like "traysh."


Often said

Here's a line that I often hear on TV: "Excuse the mess--I wasn't expecting company."

I just saw that on the still-lame Stargate Atlantis. Dr. Beckett went to Dr. Weir's apartment, and when he looked at her coffee table with a few dirty dishes on it, she said, "Excuse the mess--I wasn't expecting company." Which made me think that a lot of stories contain such a line.

How many times have we heard that line in movies and TV? I did a search for that phrase, and didn't find much. That would be a funny project--to see a list of how many, and which, movies and TV shows have included that line. I'm sure eventually some obsessive person will create it.



Okay, the word for the calcium-filled, white liquid that is produced by cows that we, especially in the Midwest, like to drink is "milk." But some people pronouce it "melk."

I don't know why they do that, and even though I've heard it quite often, I'm tempted to say that it's the "wrong" way to pronounce it and it sounds "funny", but enough people say it that way that I really shouldn't say anything about it. Except to just mention that "variation" and let the world know that I say "milk".


The cake picture

There's a picture of a cake going around the Internet with the words "under neat" to represent "underneath." What happened was that a person in Little Rock, Arkansas ordered a cake from Wal-Mart, and he told the Wal-Mart employee to write something "underneath" something else. But the employee misunderstood what he said, and wrote his words not just literally, but spelled incorrectly.

I discovered that the source of the picture and the story is an email that was written to snopes.com (scroll down to see the picture and the email). I can't post anything from there because they have a strict copyright rule (I even asked for permission to reproduce the story but they said no). But I just wanted to clear up any online misunderstandings, because there are a lot of people out there who don't know that the origin of the story is Snopes.


I can't wait until Monday

Monday is going to be the start of something really great: I got an Associate Producer internship with the number one producer of the number one show at the number one station. What more can I say other than I am very happy and cannot wait!


Can't act

Not that this is life-changing or is going to alter world events, but I've been watching the "special" episode of Without a Trace (one of my favorite shows) that also features characters from CSI (I don't know which one--they take place in a few cities), and it seems quite obvious that the CSI folks can't act. Either that, or they've been directed in their show to appear stiff and shallow. I guess that's why I haven't been attracted to CSI--the characters seem fake and posey, and even the lighting is over-dramatic.

I wonder if other people watching the episode agree and see the vast difference between the casts.


good American culture book

A few years ago, I created an American Culture class and used different sources, including the book American Ways, which I've recently started using again to tutor someone. The author has a lot of experience working with non-Americans and writes clearly about different aspects of our behavior and culture. When I first read it, I didn't find myself thinking, "this isn't true" or getting annoyed with his descriptions because he seems to give information that isn't biased. If he does make generalizations, he qualifies what he's saying. Of course, I can see people, such as the whiners who I've met in education, voicing complaints that he doesn't talk about *all* segments of society, but he admits to that. Which is why the book is informative and fair.


Swedish Meguro

Sometimes I have to write Japanese addresses in English, and the prefectures aren't hard to figure out because such lists are everywhere. But the more detailed the addresses get, the more difficult it becomes to get correct readings of the words because the combination of kanji can lead to numerous readings. Even Japanese people don't always know the readings when they hear an address--they spend time on the phone or in conversations explaining which kanji represent which sounds to describe where they live or want to send a package.

So when I had to find out about sections of the Meguro area of Tokyo, I did a search online. Wikipedia does a great job of breaking down the sounds of various districts, so I looked for such an entry in a google search, and interestingly, I came upon the Swedish Wikipedia. It had what I was looking for--a list of areas of Meguro, and the task was made even more enjoyable because it was cool to see Swedish surrounding what I needed in Japanese.


Para para

I was just chatting with an online pal, and he said "para para" when he was giving me some advice about a situation. It is a Hebrew expression, and I got the following definition from an online Hebrew slang guide:

Literal translation: Cow, cow

Meaning: Doing one thing at a time, step by step

Example: "We've got a lot of things to deal with here so let's just work through it para para".

He also said that "para para" comes from a folk tale, but I don't know what it is. Maybe after he finds out from his Israeli friend, I'll do a follow-up post.



Here's a little victory I had today, which may seem insignificant to people who don't have to battle kanji or other difficult Japanese stuff: I was able to find out the meaning of a word by reading it in context--in Japanese. I feel like a grown-up.

In trying to find out the meaning of the word, which didn't exist in my large kanji dictionary, my even larger Japanese-English dictionary, or my beloved Popjisyo, I discovered Goo. It has lots of stuff, including a Japanese (kokugo) dictionary, English-Japanese dictionary, Japanese-English dictionary, and searches in Japanese Wikipedia.

I haven't tested out a lot of words there, but the name is totally cute.


Blurry Bono

Someone just posted a comment on a post I did about seeing Bono more than two years ago, wondering where the pictures are that I said I took. In the original post, I said that I took some really lame pictures because there were a lot of people around me, some of whom where pushing me because I was towards the front of the pack. I was also quite nervous because I'd waited there for a while with a few other folks to see if he'd emerge from his hotel, and he did, and I was using a brand new camera.

So above is another lame picture I took--I call it Blurry Bono because he looks like an Impressionist painting. He was giving an autograph to a super fan in front of me, and lots of people were pushing from behind. So I was all flustered. Sorry to all the fans out there who are going to see this :)


One of the things that's annoying about Japanese

Japanese is enjoyable to study, but there are some things that are annoying about it, especially for a Westerner like me.

If I have a question about French, I can type in the word or phrase that I'm looking for in a Google search, and can come upon online discussions or dictionaries or whatever pretty easily--someone somewhere knows what the words are in English. Or I can read French text that provides context for what I'm looking for.

But with Japanese, it's not very easy to find discussions online or use dictionaries quickly, because if you're reading Japanese on paper, you can't just quickly type in the word or phrase on the computer to do a search. You have to go through a lot of steps to find out what the heck anything means. First you have to change your computer's settings to Japanese, then type in the reading using the English keyboard which then pops up a box with a bunch of kanji in it. Then you have to look through the kanji to choose what you need, then you can paste it in the Google search box or use one of the online text readers such as Popjisyo. And there aren't a lot of Westerners discussing meanings of Japanese online--perhaps they represent a fraction of the number of French-speaking/reading folks.

It obviously takes a while, so it's easier to use a book. Unlike French, which you can research more conveniently online.


Writing contest

There's a writing contest in memory of my Metrofiction pal John Deaver, who passed away last year. Here's some of the info from an article that came out last week:

Since Steel Beam is once again producing "A Christmas Story," the board of directors wishes to honor the memory of John Deaver by creating a writing contest in his name: The John Deaver "A Christmas Story" Short Story/Memoir Contest.

Organizers are looking for your best literary short stories or memoirs about the winter holidays (Christmas, Kwanza, Hannukah, etc.) Winners will receive a cash honorarium, publication in a booklet printed by Steel Beam Theatre, five copies of the booklet, two complimentary tickets to "A Christmas Story" and the chance to read their story during a Steel Beam Theatre performance Nov. 23 to Dec. 23.

All stories should be no longer than the maximum length set forth below, and must be received by Nov. 1. Winners will be notified on or about Nov. 15.

You may submit your manuscript at www.SteelBeamTheatre.com, or a double-spaced, typewritten copy may be sent to Steel Beam Theatre, 111 W. Main Street, St. Charles, IL 60174.

Include the following information in the upper left hand corner: Division, Name, Address, Telephone numbers, e-mail address and word count.

Adults' word limit is 2,500 and the prize would be $100.

High school students' word limit is 2,000 and prize is $100.

Kids in grades 7/8 have a word limit of 500 and prize of $75. Grades 5/6 have a limit of 250 words and prize of $ 50. Grades 3/4 have a word limit of 100 and prize of $25.

All the info is here.

Actually, I did a post here about John's involvement with the Christmas Story a couple of years ago.


Over 90k

Well, it's time to mention some of the guests that have visited this blog. At this point, well over 90,000 unique visitors have come here from every continent on earth, including some islands. There have been over 100 countries represented, including these more "rare" and "interesting" ones:

Antigua and Barbuda
Faroe Islands
New Caledonia
Saint Lucia
Saudi Arabia


Some funny blogs

Here's a blog that was lucky to be chosen by Blogger as a "blog of note," which also deserves it (instead of some others that are pitched by powerful PR agents and movie studios): The "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks. It contains photos of incorrectly used quotation marks on signs. I've seen many of them, and I'm glad there are folks out there who are documenting it all.

Through there I also found some other blogs:

One blog keeps track of Passive Aggressive Notes with "passive-aggressive notes from roommates, neighbors, coworkers and strangers."

Another blog has a tagline that made me totally laugh out loud: lowercase L, which cries, "Ever notice hand-written signs with letters in all-caps, except for the letter L? It looks like an uppercase i ... WHY DO PEOPlE WRITE lIKE THIS?"

It is so funny, I'm laughing again while doing this post!

And then there's a blog that covers something that I've written about before, which is the misuse of the word "literally." Actually, the blog is literally called Literally, "An English language grammar blog tracking abuse of the word 'literally'."

And here's another blog about something I've mentioned before, which many people throughout the English-writing world notice again and again: Apostrophe Abuse.

Have fun reading all those!


Fancy street

California has given their towns and streets some great names, and so far, I like this one the best in San Francisco: Divisidero. It sounds like they're trying to make the idea of "dividing" sound fancy.

It's sort of like their name for the port area: Embarcadero, as if they're trying to dress up the word/concept "harbor". Though I think that the English word "embarking" sounds quite fancy on its own.


Menu mystery partially solved

I showed a Macao-born Cantonese speaker the swearing menu I did a post about recently, and he told me what the Chinese character means that is above the English "f" word: it means "dry."

It's baffling that the person who translated the menu confused "dry" for an English swear word.

Also, the translator had no clue about the context, either: the first item on the menu contains a character that means "river," but the translator didn't know that the character represents an area in Guandong province that produces rice noodles. So people use that character as a kind of shorthand to refer to the noodles even though it means "river."

It's all too obvious that the menu folks have to find someone who knows both languages well.



I'm taking a much-needed vacation in San Francisco, one of my favorite cities. I'm probably going to meet up with Mahndisa, who (or whom--I'm too tired to figure it out) I first met last year when I was there. She's as smart and interesting as her blog--too bad I haven't been able to meet others on my blog list.

So I might be making San Francisco-related posts from there. I don't know. I'm too wiped out from working a crazy schedule to think too far ahead.


Worksheet generator

I came across a worksheet generator that creates sorting and matching worksheets. You can set up two- to four-column exercises or a "spaghetti exercise" where the "students draw lines between matching items." It's a quick way to test people's knowledge of information, vocabulary, verbs, or whatever else would fit within that simple format.


I need to be friends with kanji

To prepare for the translating that I've resumed, I started to brush up on my kanji with some flashcards that I made a while ago. There are many kanji that I've forgotten, which means many headaches are in store for me. But I already feel invigorated, stimulated, and challenged enough to keep my brain fully occupied.

I remember writing "friends" on the front of a kanji notebook that I created a while ago because I figured that was the only way I was going to be able to memorize them--if I considered them my "friends" instead of "foes" that I had to try to stuff in my brain.

If you're wondering why all this Japanese-related whining is occuring, it's because Japanese is hard. But it's worth the pain :D



Tonight I was watching the always-enjoyable Inspector Lynley, and noticed that they said "clark" for the word "clerk".

Actually, I first noticed such "odd" British pronunciation last year, when I saw the episode The Seed of Cunning. I didn't think about it until last week, when that episode was re-broadcast. They kept saying "clark" so often, that I had to look at the plot to make sure that it was indeed the word "clerk."

Why do Brits pronounce a word that has an obvious "e" sound with an "a" sound? It's not "clark", it's "clerk." The spelling obviously demonstrates how it "should" sound.

I'm going to ask my British neighbor to say the word. And if he pronounces it like the folks on Lynley, then I'm going to ask him what is wrong with his English ;)


Resuming Japanese translating

Even though I've been studying Japanese, I haven't translated it in a while. But I'm going to resume translating it, which means my brain is going to hurt because not only is there a ton of kanji and vocabulary that is very different from English, but the thinking is different as well. French is easier to translate because you don't need to understand a very different psychology. But trying to translate the Japanese mindset can be quite challenging. At least I can't be accused of having a mushy mind :D


Swearing menu

Someone sent me this picture of a badly translated Chinese menu. I'm wondering if it's real--the use of the "f" word occurs twice, which is weird. However, it represents the same Chinese character each time, so it could've been truly translated very badly.



Great tagline

I saw a book published by IVP that had a great tagline on the back cover: "Think deep. Live smart."

Quite true.


Geography game

Somebody sent me a link to a very cool geography game that I'm horrible at, though it sounds simple: just drag a bunch of countries onto a world map.

What makes it difficult is that the world map is just a gray blob, so you have to know exactly where each country goes, and all you have to go on is the shape of the country and the "country code top-level domain" (ccTLD).

You can get hints, and if you're wrong (which I usually am), it will show you where the country goes. Needless to say, I needed a lot of help :)

By the way, I had no idea what a ccTLD was, and it sounds quite nerdy and technical, though necessary:

A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is an Internet top-level domain generally used or reserved for a country or a dependent territory.

ccTLD identifiers are two letters long, and all two-letter top-level domains are ccTLDs. Creation and delegation of ccTLDs is performed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), and with certain exceptions noted below corresponds to the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country codes maintained by the ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency.


Before Baldwin died

This is weird: I was looking for biographical information about James Baldwin, and found a short one that was written before he died. He died in 1987, but the website folks haven't put anything in past tense.

First of all, the title just says "James Baldwin 1924 – ". Note that there is no end date; there is nothing after the dash.

And in the last paragraph, it's the present perfect tense that implies he's still alive (was still alive) when it was written:

Since his return to the United States Baldwin has accepted this role with some reluctance, stating that he can speak only for himself. Yet he has participated in two published conversations loosely conducted about the topic of race...


Multilingual teen

Ok, I'm very impressed. Tonight I met a friend's brother who is only 18, but speaks German, English, French, Dutch, and Hebrew totally fluently, and is currently studying Italian on his own. That's in addition to other stuff he does, including going to high school.

What is the word for someone who is fluent in five languages (and probably six, since I'm sure he'll ace Italian in no time)? If two languages is bilingual and three languages is trilingual, then is multilingual the only word for someone who's fluent in so many languages?

Bottom line: he's a lucky guy!


Period piece

I often hear the phrase "period piece" on home designing shows. When we hear it, we assume fancy-looking 19th century furniture, but really, what does it mean? I looked it up, and it's described as "A piece of furniture, etc dating from, and in the distinctive style of, a certain historical period."

Isn't *every* part of history a "certain" historical period? Right now we're in the 21st century, so couldn't a 20th century piece be considered "period"? Or even a piece of furniture created yesterday?

I'm may be persnickety about it, but if you really think about it, it's an undefined phrase that has emerged with certain assumptions.


Great advice

I told someone that sometimes we have to endure bad situations to keep our foot in the door, and they told me this:

A foot in a snake pit is a foot nowhere.

That's great advice, and an excellent quote.


Today is under construction

Somebody sent me this picture of a Japanese sign--it's an odd translation that actually has a philosophical message. So maybe the translator is an aspiring poet :)


Understood chav

I was watching tonight's Inspector Lynley episode, and heard one of the characters talk about "chavs". Sometimes I don't understand the slang they use, but I understood what a chav was because I found out about it a while ago. So I guess my language "research" helps in understanding TV programs. Which is important for Entertainment Enjoyment.

But there is some sad news: I didn't know that Series 6 started last week, so I missed the first episode, and have to make due with the remaining few episodes of the series. Which means that I have to somehow find a way to move on in life with an incomplete appreciation of Inspector Lynley's greatness. But I'll get over such a tragedy :)


Monk mistake

I used to like Monk, but I think it's quite lame now, so I occasionally watch it, and if I miss an episode, I don't care. I happened to see it tonight and it wasn't much better than it's been. They've made that show quite annoying, focusing more on Monk's mental problems than actual mysteries. The problem is the departure of his original assistant, even though she was difficult. There are other causes too, I'm sure, but since I don't work in L.A., I have no insider info :) But one thing is quite clear: they're certainly doing a lot of marketing and gimmicks to make up for what the show lacks.

Anyway, I noticed a mistake they made that had to do with English grammar, and something that Monk would've caught. But the show's writers and whoever else looks out for inconsistencies didn't bother to make sure that his character acted accordingly. Monk was in a bar, wasting time as usual, and he met a con man. Here's an approximation of the conversation he had with the con man:

Con Man: I'll bet that I can tell you where you got your shoes.
Monk: Ok.
Con Man: On your feet.
[Monk hands over the money because he lost the bet.]

Okay, if the writers had been paying attention, they'd realize that Monk would've pointed out the grammatical mistake that the con man made. He said "got your shoes." That implies where Monk "acquired" them. If the guy chose to be grammatically correct in order to make the scam work, he wouldn't have used "got" because Monk's feet didn't acquire or give them to Monk. The feet are simply wearing the shoes. So maybe the con man should've said "have."

I'm not enough of an obsessive nerd to write the show, but maybe there's a Monk fan out there who's going to point it out. I'm just a Grammar Watcher :)


Scary stuff

Someone sent me a link to a blog that discussed some very nerdy endeavors, including a search engine that can "take advantage of the structure and nuances of natural language."

But I found something seemingly nerdier when I followed a link to a Parallel Grammar Project:

The Lexical Functional Grammar (LFG) ParGram project is a collaborative effort involving researchers in industrial and academic institutions around the world. The aim of the project is to produce wide coverage grammars for a wide variety of languages (see participating sites below). These are written collaboratively within the linguistic framework of LFG and with a commonly-agreed-upon set of grammatical features.

Ok, if anyone thinks I'm a linguist, then the fact that I don't know what those people are talking about should prove that I'm just a simple-minded language lover. Even the diagram is baffling, and even sort of scary.

But this might be scarier:

In case you're wondering, here's an explanation:

XLE consists of cutting-edge algorithms for parsing and generating Lexical Functional Grammars (LFGs) along with a rich graphical user interface for writing and debugging such grammars...One of the main goals of the XLE is to parse and generate with LFGs efficiently. This is difficult because the LFG formalism, like most unification-based grammar formalisms, is NP complete. This means that in the worst case the time that it takes to parse or generate with an LFG can be exponential in the length of the input. However, natural languages are mostly context-free equivalent, and one should be able to parse them in mostly cubic time. XLE is designed to automatically take advantage of context-freeness in the grammar of a natural language so that it typically parses in cubic time and generates in linear time. This lets grammar writers write grammars in an expressive formalism without necessarily sacrificing performance.

Ok, I don't know what they're talking about. Which means that the folks who've developed that technology are very smart. And scary.


Great show

I saw Rush last night in Chicago, and it was an excellent show. I got a perfect view from the lawn, which I highly recommend. But the seats I got for the Depeche Mode show I went to a couple of years ago were even better. Also, the crowd at the Rush show was full of many American guys, and the Depeche Mode show was full of many Eastern Europeans.

I guess the best seating situation I ever got was at a U2 show--I was literally up front, so close to the band I could see everything they were doing, facial expressions, etc. Actually, there were no seats in that front section--I was with a relatively small group of people who were standing in that front section, surrounded by a stage that wrapped around us, where Bono walked out and sang to the thousands of other people in that stadium.


Suburban blues

I'm going to see my favorite band Rush tomorrow, so I'm posting the lyrics from their song Subdivisions, which is about life in the suburbs. I like to listen to it when I'm driving through the outlying areas of Chicagoland, far away from the city. The lyrics speak for themselves, no need to analyze or explain them.

Sprawling on the fringes of the city
In geometric order
An insulated border
In between the bright lights
And the far unlit unknown

Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided
In the mass production zone
Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone

In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out
In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out
Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth

Drawn like moths we drift into the city
The timeless old attraction
Cruising for the action
Lit up like a firefly
Just to feel the living night

Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight
Somewhere out of a memory of lighted streets on quiet nights...


When you don't notice

Sometimes languages blend and I don't even notice. We'd been speaking Japanese in class, and afterwards, I spoke to someone in English about a story we'd read. Then someone else started speaking Japanese with the teacher about a trip they'd taken, and I was asking them questions about it. Then I realized that I hadn't noticed that we were moving between languages. That's when you know you're not delineating languages or words, just going for the meaning instead.

I've had it happen when I've translated as well. I've seen different languages on something, and I'm supposed to translate one language, but since I sometimes understand another language that's printed nearby, I start reading that one instead of the one I'm supposed to translate. Like today: I was reading a warning in Portuguese and was proceeding to translate it, when I realized I was supposed to translate the French. All I know is that I understand the meaning, and that's what matters.


Steamed crap

Once again, there's some weird English in China. I saw a piece in the Sun-Times (which is really an AP story that's appeared throughout the country) about some badly translated menu items:

Trying to make Chinese cuisine and beverages sound more appealing, the Beijing Tourism Bureau has released a list with 2,753 proposed names to replace some menu entries, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Cited are ''virgin chicken'' (a young chicken dish) or ''burnt lion's head'' (Chinese-style pork meatballs). Also lost in translation: ''steamed crap'' (steamed carp).

What's odd and seemingly arrogant is that the government news outfit said, "These translations either scare or embarrass foreign customers and may cause misunderstanding.'' I don't think foreigners would be embarrassed by what they read--it's the people who wrote those translations who should be embarrassed--they didn't even bother to check their terms with a dictionary or anyone who's knowledgeable in English.


Quiz creation

A while ago, I created an American culture quiz based on questions that non-Americans asked me. Today I showed a non-American the quiz, and they suggested I create another one, or add questions to the current one. So if you have any questions you'd like answered, please let me know here, or you can also email me (the contact info is in my profile).


I seen

I was just in a store and heard a woman tell someone, "I seen him do that." It's like she's getting seemingly complex grammar partially right: she means to say "I've seen him do that." But if she wants to be grammatically correct without creating such a long sentence (though correct grammar is probably not a concern of hers), then she can also say, "I saw him do that." I don't know why she'd want to say, "I seen him do that" when she could use the same amount of words to say it correctly. It's odd, but common. The woman was happily oblivious about her lack of understanding--she was walking along, talking about some guy she "seen" do something. Oh well.


Times blog

Mary Beard, who has a blog at the Times Online contacted moi to let me know about her interesting posts over there. She's a Times editor and professor at Cambridge University, so I'm quite "honoured" (note British spelling) that she's come across my humble blog. Actually, if I knew she was going to stop by, I would've categorized more of my posts, which I still haven't done. It's hard to be motivated to do that when I have lots of French to translate.


Diana interview transcript

Soon it will be the 10th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana (or Diana, Princess of Wales). I remember watching the wedding on TV--I thought she was entering into a fairy tale, but it was far from the truth. After she got married, I didn't actively seek out any information about her, including reading magazine/newspaper articles about her or watching her on TV. She was just there, and I assumed she'd be around for years to come.

When she did a revealing interview with a British journalist in 1995, I didn't watch it because I still didn't care about her. Then she died in 1997, and I was so shocked that I read and sought out everything I could about her in various media outlets.

Today they broadcast that 1995 interview, but I wasn't home to watch it. Luckily, I found a transcript, which I just read. I can't believe she suffered so much--her life was so sad. And her death was tragic as well. Among the honesty she shares is this statement: "during the years you see yourself as a good product that sits on a shelf and sells well, and people make a lot of money out of you."

Yes, she was an adult, but she was still a victim. She got married young and had so much pressure put on her, from the monarchy, the public, and the media, and Charles was envious of her and had an affair, and no one seemed to want to help her with her problems. I don't know how many people would be able to deal with all the stuff she had to deal with. It was as if she was living in a fish bowl or echo chamber: everything she did was scrutinized inside and outside the media. And one person who she totally trusted betrayed her by selling their story for a book. And then she was killed because the media was chasing after her.

What a pitiful situation. I wonder how history will preserve her life.



Someone sent me a very good column in Newsweek about cliches. You'd think the author is an English professor, but he's a bioethics professor, which means he has a big brain--he's been able to ace science *and* language/writing. I usually meet people who are more literature-oriented or science/tech-oriented, but there don't tend to be a lot of people who are good at both.

One thing the prof complains about is a "common mistake" that his students make that "involves 'literally.' I often hear people on election night say, 'He literally won by a landslide.' If so, should geologists help us understand how?"

I agree! "Literally" means that something is quite exactly like something else. I should write down all the times I've heard people say "literally" when they actually were speaking metaphorically. I remember seeing a comedy sketch on Mad TV where a woman overused the word "literally". It was funny, but it certainly hasn't decreased people's use of that word in daily speech as well as in the media.


Hotel ESL books

I'm looking for some good books for teaching English in hotels, and came upon these. I have no idea if they're good, but it seems like the company that produces them is quite successful, so they're probably decent.

If anyone out there knows of any good workplace ESL books, let me know.


For honorific guests

Someone sent me this funny translation. There's not much to say--it speaks for itself. Well, it doesn't make sense, so it really *doesn't* speak for itself, but the humor of it does. People can be such cheapskates--they should've hired a native English speaker to fix it. (source)


Three years

It's this blog's three year anniversary. I started it because I love language, and I'm pretty pleased that I've kept it going for that long, even though it hasn't gotten any "press" or other exposure, and it hasn't directly led to anything "concrete" in terms of work. But it's been enjoyable, and I hope to keep it going for a while.

To everyone who's visited: thank you!



Sometimes when I'm watching a home design show, I hear them use the word hutch to describe a cabinet-type piece of furniture that goes in a kitchen or living room. I think it's a decorative, storage-type thing.

Well, whatever it is, I don't like the word. It sounds ugly and clunky, and I'm surprised that interior designers want to say it. There's nothing about it that's sophisticated or stylish. It implies something crude. I'm sure one day they'll realize that, and they'll come up with a fancier word for that piece of furniture.


Trying to sound fancy

I was at the Art Institute, listening to someone talk about Leon Battista Alberti. He was Italian, so his last name should be pronounced "Albertee". It's quite straightforward.

But the person lecturing, who I've heard speak before, is the type who wants to appear "sophisticated", almost to the point of being sort of snobby and pretentious. So I shouldn't have been surprised when she went from pronouncing Alberti's name the right way, "Albertee" to the wrong way, "Albertay," but I was. After all, she knows a lot about art and culture, and it's very hard to get such a job at the Art Institute--it requires lots of knowledge and education. I don't know why she changed the pronunciation of his name, but it sounded ludicrous, and obviously incorrect. I think she was trying to sound fancy, but she ended up sounding wrong. She was trying to puff herself up while letting people know that she was important, but it made her look silly.

I don't know if other people recognized the mistake, but I did, and I'm not impressed.


Brain overload

I just did a lot of translating of French, and it really challenged my brain. I don't know how people can do such work every day, all day--it's hard to sit in front of the computer staring at text for more than a few hours, yet there are people who are able to translate full time. At one point, I developed a headache from so much analytical thinking, and I felt like my mind was functioning at full capacity, with no room to think about anything else. I'm going to resume translating later this week, and my mind will be happy to have a few days' break.


Extremely sad movie

Wow, I highly recommend La Vie en Rose. It's a French film about Edith Piaf. It was so extremely sad, from the first moment to the last. I literally could've cried my eyes out the entire time, but I managed not to. Her life was absolutely tragic. I would be very surprised if that film and/or actress did not win an Academy Award. I would love to know how French people reacted to that movie. I'm sure it was very popular over there. But here in Chicago, on a Friday night, there were like 15 people in the theater. I hope Americans go to see it, but it's also ironic, because when Piaf first came to the U.S. to perform, audiences didn't like her, though critics did. So I guess she has a similar fate as a movie subject.

Amazing, sad, tragic, film. And life.


Online dictionary and thesaurus

Someone from LookWAYup sent me a link to their free English online dictionary and thesaurus. They also have European language dictionaries (for translating words), but you can only look up 10 to 20 words a day because you have to purchase the product to get all the features. You can also get other features for the dictionary including "concordance, phonetic information, extended usage information, and customization" if you purchase it.

I'm not a fan of the site's design, which isn't as straightforward as Word Reference (which is all free), and the text seems to be quite small. But a nifty feature is their "word of the second" (instead of the typical "word of the day").


Abbreviation list

I'll probably post more sources of abbreviations, but I found this one when I was looking for the meaning of a French abbreviation: a list that seems to be intended for Britannica, but is helpful even if you're not using their sources or books.


Always the wraith

I might say more about Stargate Atlantis sometime, but for now, I just want to say how simple the plots seem to be. I'm surprised the show has been running for a while because sci-fi audiences tend to be more critical. I'm not into sci-fi enough to go to message boards and websites to see what fans are saying, so maybe I'm not the only one who sees it, but it seems like Atlantis plots are always about the Wraith attacking Atlantis and other planets in that sector.

Plus, there doesn't seem to be much mythology or back-story to the show, so there's not much depth. There are some shows that have described certain cultures in that part of the galaxy, but not enough. It's often, "Oh no, the Wraith are coming," or "Look at this--the Wraith were here," or "We're trying to avoid and/or defeat the Wraith."

Basically, I don't go out of my way to watch the show, and if it's on, I often eventually do other stuff and keep it on in the background because their plots aren't very complex or gripping enough.


Sad story

I just finished reading So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star, and I highly recommend it if you want a good inside view of the music biz. But it was sort of sad because of all the stuff the musicians have to put up with, and I got the impression that the author, Jacob Slichter, who was the drummer for Semisonic, was sort of on his own--he seemed to be sort of isolated.

I was surprised when in the acknowledgements section, he said, "If I have written it well, readers of this book will know that I owe Dan and John a lifetime of thanks, for the only thing more fun than rocking on the drums and traveling the world is doing it with such wonderful friends."

I seriously did not get the impression that he was good friends with his bandmates. Towards the beginning, it seemed as if they were friends because that's how they formed their band, but when he went on to describe his life on the road, recording albums, doing interviews, etc., it seemed as if they hardly talked or even spent much time hanging out. He hardly said anything about them and didn't really mention any conversations they had either. So I'm wondering if he was pretty much alone, if not physically then mentally.

The book was for sure well-written, but it didn't have the kind of self-depracating tone or mixture of seriousness and levity that Toby Young's books have. I'm just comparing the two because Young wrote about his insider's view of (and failure in) the publishing and celebrity scene in New York and LA, and it's not hard to identify with him as he struggles to make something of himself. But I didn't identify with Slichter at all, just appreciated reading about his experiences.

One funny and telling detail Slichter gives us is of Cher:

Her facial-expression control unit was switched to the "off" position. Don't even think of saying hello to Cher when her face is turned off...We sat down, careful not to block Cher's view of the screen. I peeked to see if she had switched her face on. No, not until Drew Barrymore rushed in and gave her a big hug.

What does Cher's face turned off look like? That would be an interesting picture.



I was reading a bio of Gordon Brown and saw that he lived in a manse when he was growing up.

Of course, since I'm not a Brit nor fully knowledgeable of every word in the English language, I had to look that word up, which is "from the late 15th century" and comes from the "medieval Latin mansus 'unit of land'. A manse is "a house provided for a church minister" or "a large, stately house." Since Brown's dad was a minister, then the first definition refers to his "manse."

Anyway, it's a new word I learned, one which I'll probably never use.



Someone gave me a box of chocolate covered raisins, and I couldn't believe there was a typo on them: instead of having the word "raisins" on the box, it said "raisin's". Attention world: plural words are not formed with apostrophe s; you just have to add the "s"--that is all. Why do so many people nowadays make such a mistake? I can understand if people who are spelling-challenged add an apostrophe out of ignorance, but a company? Don't they have proofreaders?

The company that created the chocolate covered raisins is World's Finest, which creates various products for fund raising. It says on the box, "fund raising since 1949." So in all those years, they never learned that the plural form of "raisin" is "raisins" and not "raisin's"?

If you ever see these things, check it out: they're called "Fund Raisin's". As in "the Fund Raisin's proofreader was absent when this candy was packaged."

Unless they're making a play on words. Like they're saying that they're "fund raising" and wanted to be cute by deleting the "g".


Oklahoma info

A long-time Metrolingua reader and online pal has set up a site with a lot of info about Oklahoma: you can get tourism information and Oklahoma links.

He's also going to set up a Japanese-English bilingual blog, which is quite an ambitious project--right now it's still under construction, so when it kicks off (like in the fall), I'll mention it again.


Funny Indian video

This is an obvious rip-off of Michael Jackson's Thriller. But at least the folks in this video can dance.


Too many characters

I've been watching Miss Marple on PBS, and it's hard to follow what's going on because there are too many characters. At the beginning of each show, they seem to introduce us to a group of like 8 to 12 people who are gathering at a house or party or trip, and I think that's too many. So by the end, when Miss Marple solves the murders, I'm sort of worn out from following all those characters and how their lives are involved with the deceased.

Even when I watched the older Miss Marple series (which was from the 1980's and 90's), I still thought there were too many characters. Plus, that Miss Marple (played by Joan Hickson) would be out of it most of the episode, and then at the end, she'd perk up and solve the murders, giving lots of details that were hardly revealed throughout the show about characters we hardly knew.

Well, Agatha Christie was obviously very successful despite the numerous characters, so whatever she did worked. It's just hard to follow on TV--I've never read her books, actually.


80k plus

Ok, I have to say this for the record: over 80,000 unique visitors have come here from over 100 countries. That's not bad, especially because I've done no promotion and hardly anyone mentions this blog. But it's true what I read when I first started: build it and they will come.

Now all I need is some type of media coverage to really put it over the top ;)



When komfo commented on a previous post, I looked at his blog, which is in English and Lojban. I'd never heard of Lojban before, and other people probably haven't either, so here are some features:

culturally neutral
grammar based on the principles of logic
unambiguous grammar
phonetic spelling
the root words can be easily combined to form new words
regular, no exceptions

Sounds like an ambitious project. And the fact that komfo writes a blog in both languages means that he probably emits a lot of brain energy. Which I don't have. I have enough trouble with Japanese kanji as it is.


Awful English

Someone sent me these awful instructions, and you don't have to think too hard to understand why this is a horrible translation. Even the title doesn't make sense: "The hard dish installs the manual." And none of the instructions make sense either, such as: "Single press down the left slippery must use dint in handle in a hand to drag along outside, then square take out the hard dish then."


Either the translation was unbelievably horrible, or they had no idea whatsoever how to write correct English.


Why I'm crazy

While I was stuck in traffic today, it hit me: my mind has been collapsing upon itself because I have not used it to tackle any fiction. I haven't written fiction in more than a few months because I finished a novel and then had to write a good query letter, and kept thinking that once I finished the query, I'd send it off and then start a new novel. But I was stuck on trying to write a good query letter, and since I wasn't getting anywhere, I put it aside to do other stuff.

Usually, even if I have difficult stuff going on, fiction writing has made me feel great and has even made me feel overwhelmingly peaceful. And if I have seemingly unsolvable problems, at least I can use my problem-solving skills to create a story. When I first tried to write a novel, I was often stressed out and worried. But I got so used to writing so consistently, I started to enjoy the process. And now I feel like I'm crazy because months have passed and I haven't written anything. So even if I don't manage to write a decent query letter, I should write another novel.

I've heard of published authors talking about how great writing makes them feel, and if they have to do the non-writing stuff that's related to their profession, they get all frustrated because they're not writing. But they have that added incentive of editors and readers waiting for their work. But we unpublished folks just have to be rewarded by the feeling we get from writing. And I've really neglected it, so I feel awful. All the other stuff I've been worried about would've been greatly eased if only I'd taken the time during these past months to write fiction. And I would've had at least a first draft done!


Are Japanese snacks scary?

I'm planning to have people over for Japanese snacks and drinks, and I think some people are sort of scared about it. Why, I don't know, because Japanese snacks don't bite. I've noticed varying reactions, from "cool!" to "oh...why?" to "yeah, I'm uh busy." Living abroad made me see things differently, to the point of changing my definitions of what "normal" and "odd" are. But I think some people aren't as, well, adventurous. Maybe it's weird and possibly nerdy to have a Japanese snack party, but life is bland enough to necessitate weirdly harmless things.


Erroneous characters

Somebody sent me a link to an article that's no longer new news, but some people may not know about it: the wrong Japanese on the Wikipedia logo. What's funny is that it's written in katakana, which is a script that even people who can't read Japanese well usually learn quite decently because it is usually used for foreign (non-Japanese) words, and people learn at least how to write their names with it.

I can't believe with all the people who use and write Wikipedia, they couldn't get such a simple thing right. As the image says, the correct characters spell "wi" but the ones that Wikipedia originally used spell "kwi". And that's something else I'm wondering about: why didn't the New York Times, which published the story and the image, say what Wikipedia used? All they said is that it "contains two erroneous characters."


It contains ONE erroneous character because "wi" and "kwi" use the SAME second character イ which is "i".

Update: komfo pointed out that the second erroneous character is the Devanagari one--I was just focusing on the Japanese ones.


It's for real

I was flipping through the channels and came upon a Rock Paper Scissors competition and wondered if it was a spoof, or if it was true. It was.

The winner got $50,000. That's not a bad way to earn a bunch of moolah. I can't believe that not only were people competing, but lots of people were in the audience.

The USA Rock Paper Scissors League has a site that looks legit too.

Very interesting...and seemingly silly.


Online word and text translators

I was doing a search for a French word, and came upon a bunch of online dictionaries that translate words from or into French, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, and Portuguese. They also have an English Dictionary & Thesaurus.

You can enter a word to be translated, or you can go to each language to look up a word. I don't know how extensive the dictionaries are because they're trying to sell translation software and other language products, but still, it's better than nothing. Plus, it's hard to find a decent Portuguese dictionary online, so theirs should be helpful.

What's quite cool is that they also have a text translator that translates short passages from or into French, Spanish, German, and Italian.


Happy Independence Day!

July 4 is a celebration of the Declaration of Independence, which was signed in 1776. A lot of hot dogs and hamburgers are going to be consumed throughout the U.S., I'm sure.


Happy Canada Day!

To the Metrolingua visitors from Up North: Happy [belated] Canada Day!

Here's some info:

It celebrates the creation of the Dominion of Canada through the British North America Act 1867, which came into effect on July 1, 1867, uniting three British territories — the Province of Canada (southern Ontario and southern Quebec), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick — into a federation.

The holiday itself was formally established in 1879 and was originally called Dominion Day, making reference to the Canadian-originated term 'dominion' to describe the political union, at a time when the Fathers of Confederation were hesitant to use a name such as the Kingdom of Canada. The name was changed to Canada Day on October 27, 1982.


I like language work...

...but sometimes I get so sick of working at home. Or even if I'm working elsewhere and everything requires working in silence at a computer in a cubicle, it can also make me batty or stir-crazy. But I also don't like work that requires constant human interaction. I'm not totally extroverted, but I'm not totally introverted either. So I don't know what to do.

Yes, this is more of a personal post, but hey, I have to do some language-related venting at times :)


Italian art blog

I came upon an art blog by Alessandro Andreuccetti, who's from Italy. The only problem is that even though I studied Italian a while ago, and even translated a bit of it, my Italian is quite lame now. So I can't understand the text that goes with his great sketches.


Lighting matters

This is an obvious observation, but when I watched The Star Trek Voyager episodes of Future's End, I noticed how important lighting is in movies and TV.

For instance, Captain Braxton looks quite different in Part One when he first is trying to destroy Voyager (see pic below).

But then in Part Two, he looks totally different because events in time changed, which made the future change, which made Captain Braxton change as well (see pic below).

It's all from the lighting--it's very effective. So since I saw those episodes a while ago, I often see how lighting is used in stuff I watch. It's interesting how it sets the mood in addition to aesthetics.



I went to someone's place in a very upscale part of the city, where one of the pillows had the word "bling." Then I heard a suburbanite use that word, which made me wonder where it came from.

It's from a trashy hip hop song from the late 90's. The song is so disgusting that I don't want to post it here, so I'll just link to the lyrics.

What's weird is that a lot of milktoast people are using it, who live far away from the dysfunctional ghetto culture that is glorified musically (and visually) in our country and throughout the world. Which makes me glad that I haven't used that word yet--it's derivative of nothing I respect.


Midwest Japan site

A guy in my Japanese class who works at the Japanese Consulate created the Japan Media Midwest blog.

JMM covers traditional and modern Japan-related events, fine arts, film, dining, and music in a ten-state area. States include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.

If you live or work in those states and have anything to announce, you can contact them at japanmediamidwest at gmail. Or you can just read it to find out what's going on :)



I had no idea that the word "company" comes from the Latin "cum panis," which means "with bread."

I found a very interesting resource online that mentions "cum panis": a book from 1872 called An English grammar and reading book for lower forms in classical schools. It lists two words in its glossary that come from "cum panis":

companion: a sharer of food, a comrade, fellow-traveller, partner

company: association, a number of partners

Now I'm thinking of looking more into Google books because you can download that one and others for free. Very cool.


Excellent Orwell site

Even though I read a meaty Orwell biography, I wanted to know more about him, especially his son, and came upon an excellent Orwell site. There's a lot I can pull out of there including articles, books, commentaries, links, and lots of other stuff that I doubt I'll get through in this lifetime. But check it out--it's worth a bookmark, for sure.


Finally done!

I have been reading Inside George Orwell for at least a few months, and I have FINALLY finished it! It was quite long and complex, as I've said before, and it really took me through a lot. Basically, he was very productive and lived a short life--he died in his 40's. What a tragedy. He was a complex, intelligent, talented man, who was unfortunately a womanizer--actually, he had an unhealthy view of women. His first wife, who also died in her 40's, had to endure his affairs, egotism, etc.--a marriage I would never want to have.

But Orwell was definitely an impressive person, and he died too young. I wonder what he would've thought of the Iron Curtain and other societal nightmares--people who lived in such oppressive regimes said that it seemed as if he'd lived there too.


Westernized bows

I lived in Japan for a few years, and learned some bowing rules, including the fact that you are NOT supposed to make eye contact when you bow.

But if you look at some commercials in the U.S. (and probably Canada too and other parts of the Western world), the Japanese people do not bow that way. They maintain eye contact with the people they're bowing to. The latest example is in the Wii commercials. The Japanese guys who go to people's houses, telling them they'd "like to play", are maintaining eye contact while they're bowing towards the homeowners, which would be considered quite inappropriate in Japan. But obviously, they're doing it for non-Japanese people, and it's quite dramatic, so it works for us.

Those commercials are great, by the way, and include some awesome shamisen playing by the Yoshida Brothers.

Way to go, Japan.

Update: some Japanophiles were telling me that in the martial arts, you HAVE to look at your opponent when you bow. So they suggested that the Japanese guys in the Wii commercials are acting as if they're bowing towards their opponent in martial arts. That makes sense.


Medieval help

This is hilarious! I thought it was Danish, but it's from Norwegian television. I guess Norwegian and Danish are very similar.

I also recommend watching the video of a Norwegian newscast that includes an interview with the writer who created this sketch.



I learned a new word today, which Americans never use: chuffed, which means "very pleased." It's a British word, of course.


Popjisyo to the rescue!

A long time ago (it seems) I mentioned Popjisyo, which is an excellent resource for reading Japanese (and Korean and Chinese, but I don't know them). Today I had to read an article for class, and didn't want to sit down with a dictionary, so decided to "cheat" by using Popjisyo. It made my reading enjoyable, and I was able to understand the article quite easily and quickly! It is just the best!

So if you have any online Japanese (or a few other) texts that you need to read, I highly recommend it!

(And you can tell I'm quite serious about my enthusiasm because I've used a lot of exclamation points in this post.)


Something to think about

I am *still* reading Inside George Orwell, which I started a while ago, possibly a few months ago. During that time, I read other books and lots of meaty stuff online, and I should have finished this book, but it is not an easy read, partly because they reference historical events, people, and literary figures that I don't have background knowledge on. Plus, one sentence can have several heavy-duty ideas within it. Basically, the older he got, he became extremely intellectual and analytical, and he was friends with other brainy people, so the biography becomes more complex and his life progresses.

There are many amazing statements in this book, and if I were more organized, I would've marked them. But here's one that I just came across:

A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial: that is, when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud. Such a society, no matter how long it persists, can never afford to become either tolerant or intellectually stable. It can never permit either the truthful recording of facts, or the emotional sincerity, that literary creation demands.

He also predicted the Cold War. Incredibly smart guy.


Acronym Finder

I found out about a nifty application at Linguistics & Languages: an Acronym Finder:

...the world's largest and most comprehensive dictionary of acronyms, abbreviations, and initialisms...contains more than 4 million acronyms and abbreviations...

It covers several categories including Information Technology, Military & Government, Business & Finance, Science & Medicine, Organizations & Schools, and even Slang & Pop Culture. This is definitely worth a bookmark.

But that's not all! "You can also search for more than 850,000 US and Canadian postal codes."

They have so much there, I'm wondering if they're able to squeeze in anything else there.


China from the sky

Someone sent me several very pretty pictures of rural China. If I were to post them all, it would make the post too long. So here are a few. When I was there, I saw terraced farms, though they weren't as beautiful as these pictures. I can tell these photos have been touched up (via Photoshop?).


Teaching and translating

Sometimes my teaching and translating work intersect. There have been times when I have translated Japanese, then taught a Japanese person (or group) English. I haven't had that experience with French, which I've been translating most frequently--I've never taught French people English, and actually, I haven't even been to France. But I have been teaching Spanish speakers since the beginning of this year, and lately I've been translating Spanish. So it's sort of cool: I get to read conversational Spanish, and then I can go to the school and hear the students speak it. So the two gigs can reinforce each other.

Note: when I say "translate" I mean the written word, not interpreting, which is for the spoken word. Sometimes people use the word "translate" when they mean "interpret."



Okay, this is what I was talking about in my previous post: Metrotalk, which is my online radio "show". I put it in quotes because it's not a daily show, but it is broadcast live, then archived as an audio file that is very easy to access.

I created Metrotalk to interview interesting people from Chicago and beyond. I love talking to interesting people--seriously. It's my hobby. So this is a good way to do what I love and share it with the world.

My first guest was Jim Moran, who's a radio pro here in Chicago. We talked about the radio biz and are going to continue the interview next week when we talk about a history book he wrote about a town near Chicago.

I have some other interesting guests lined up, so I'll keep people posted.


Coming soon

I'm working on something that I think is quite cool and exciting, and when it's finalized, I'll post more information about it here. But I just want to let folks know that there's more coming from Metrolingua that everyone will be able to enjoy (I hope).

Also, I really need to go into my archives and categorize my posts, because I think there are some good reads that people don't know about because they're not labeled. So if someone clicks on a label, they might not see many posts (or any) that can go along with it because there are too many posts to deal with--hundreds, actually. I just have to avoid laziness and spend the free time I have on such nerdy pursuits as categorizing blog posts. Exciting :)


Cute words

Here are some cute words that I see around Chicago: "polskie filmy." I think the meaning is evident: Polish films. I see those words on signs at video stores in Polish neighborhoods. Actually, the Polish community is so large in Chicago, people say it's the largest population outside of Krakow. I think what makes those words so cute is the "ie" at the end of "polskie" and the "y" at the end of "film". They look diminutive. In English, the word "film" sounds so serious compared to "filmy." It's just so cute, like, "Oh, look at that little filmy--so cute. That little polskie filmy." And then you just want to pinch its cheek.


Serbian email

I know someone in Serbia, and discovered that I got on their Serbian email list because I got an email with this in the subject line: "Ovo je zakon! Napravi forward, mo3da ne1to svi zajedno zaradimo! A ako ne bar znamo da smo poku1"

What does that mean? I opened it up and saw that it had been forwarded many times to a bunch of Serbian-looking names (and maybe Croatians too, since their languages are similar). The original email, which is very long, started with "Da vidimo kdo bo èastil, haha." So I guess it's a joke. And we're supposed to forward it because that's the only English word in the email I received.

It's sort of cool to get an email in a language I totally don't understand--I'm probably the only non-Serb/Croatian on the list. I hope. But it's too bad I can't laugh with them.


Curiosity hasn't killed that cat

Recently, Studs Terkel celebrated his 95th birthday, and he said, "Curiosity did not kill this cat" which is a great modification of the idiom (proverb) curiosity killed the cat. It basically means that you have to be careful about being too curious, or you will get in trouble or be harmed. So Terkel is saying that his curiosity did not kill him--he actually made a successful career out of it. Lucky guy.

But why does that phrase involve a cat? The earliest reference is from a 16th century British play, but it involved the concept of "worry". Shakespeare used it that way too. But

The earliest known printed reference to the actual phrase occurred in The Washington Post on 4 March 1916 (page 6): CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT

because the curiosity of a cat literally killed it when it went somewhere it shouldn't have gone, was trapped, and died.

What I don't get is that people think the proverb means that people shouldn't ask too many personal questions. Sure, that's probably a part of the meaning, but it doesn't encompass its entirety.


To the point

I was reading about Edna St Vincent Millay, who had a crazy life. Even the way she died was odd: she "was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in her house...having broken her neck in a fall."

Among her interesting writing is a quote that's to the point:

Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.



Well, I've surpassed 70,000 unique visitors here, from over 100 countries. It's quite amazing because there are only a handful of people who've listed my blog, and I've done no "marketing" or any kind of online promotion. I appreciate all the visitors, and hope to be posting stuff that even more people will want to see :)


It's over!

I had a feeling and didn't do a search online because I didn't want to know (face reality), but Gilmore Girls, a show that I've been watching consistently from the beginning, is now over!

They say that the show started in 2000, but I thought it started in the 90's, because I was working at a youth hostel when I first saw it. It was the second or third episode, and I was flipping through the channels when I came upon the show. I thought the mother was ditsy and didn't understand what was appealing about watching her not acting her age. But I kept watching because I kept working those nights (it was originally on Thursdays), and got hooked.

This is basically why: it allowed me to escape. I mean, isn't that what entertainment is for? I thought it unbelievable, thus worthy of escapism, that a small town would include so many interesting, quirky people. Usually there is intolerance towards "difference" or odd behavior, but the townspeople seemed to appreciate such qualities. Also, the townspeople got along with each other and they were a true community. Plus, the Gilmore family were rich blue bloods. That's not common, so it was enjoyable to see their fancy parties, exclusive clubs, and tasteful consumerism. Problems were solved, everything was cute, and relationships were interesting.

Of course, there was a point when I thought it jumped the shark, so I didn't watch it for a bit, but I returned because I wanted to keep following the characters. I didn't have the same kind of interest and "love" for it as I originally had, but I still had to know what was going to happen.

And now it's over. My Tuesday nights are going to be lacking, and I won't see any more developments in that make-believe world of wealth, intelligence, and eccentricity. I can't believe it, but I have to accept it.



Someone assumed that since I am a "linguist", I'd know the meaning of "vestal"--they wanted to know why they're called "vestal virgins."

Well I didn't know the meaning of vestal, so I looked it up:

a virgin consecrated to the Roman goddess Vesta and to the service of watching the sacred fire perpetually kept burning on her altar

So now you know. Now you can impress your friends with obscure language knowledge :)

(And for the record, I'm not a linguist--I'm just into languages. For some reason, people think I'm a linguist. I don't know why. Maybe it's because there aren't a lot of non-linguist language lovers out there.)


The way of sushi

Mad Minerva (a very smart chick) sent me the link to this video. It's quite thorough--maybe too much. But if you wanted to know almost everything about sushi eating and etiquette, then this is for you.


Writing to cope

Yesterday I was working on a short fiction piece that is probably one of the weirdest things I've written (though it may not be weird enough), and I walked away from the computer very happy. Which means that I have to keep writing because when other stuff doesn't fall into place in life, writing sure does. Or at least the way I feel about it does.

I think my mistake has been to put all my eggs in one basket: whether it's a job or people or whatever. For some reason, I sometimes assume that things in the non-fiction world (ie, reality) will be enough, but then when I hit walls, instead of focusing on the obstacles, all I've got to do is write, and it's a nice option to real-life disappointments.

So the lesson I've learned is to keep pursuing creative projects because it makes life a lot more tolerable. Sort of like a backup plan: if there's no real-life adventure, then writing (or photos) can provide it.


Going to TO

As I said yesterday, I'm going to Toronto for the weekend, so I'll most likely not post anything for a few days.


Hating Toronto

I didn't know so many people in Canada hated Toronto. I like it, which is why I'm going there this weekend for a short vacation. Too bad I can't see this documentary there. That would be cool. But it was only shown for a couple of days (last weekend), and it sold out fast.

According to an interview with the filmmakers, if people don't hate it, they mock it. That's odd, but I guess they don't have much else to do up there ;)


Italian George?

I came across an Italian proverb:

Meglio sola che male accompagnata.

Better to be alone than in bad company.

But then I found a similar quote from George Washington:

Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.

So which came first: the Washington quote or the Italian one? Or did they create those independently? Or maybe George Washington was Italian ;) Either way, it's good advice.