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.