This typo shouldn't be in an English ad

I don't get it. This company spent a lot of money to put a full page ad in a magazine, and they don't have much copy, but they managed to have a typo. Didn't anyone proofread this? The typo, in case you didn't notice, is the use of "there" instead of the contraction "they're". And why did they capitalize "back"? They also should've used a professional designer who knows type.

I often see typos in stuff from China and other countries that are too cheap to hire a good translator or proofreader, but these are native English speakers. They should know better, or at least find people who do.


Radio version of It's a Wonderful Life

I never get tired of the movie It's a Wonderful Life. I've seen it numerous times since I was a kid, because they've played it all over TV when no one has owned the copyright.

Well if you want to hear the complete audio version of the movie that was broadcast on radio back in the 1940's (when radio mattered much more than now), just listen right here.


You don't need to know Japanese to see that this robot is a direct copy

Here's a report about how a Chinese company totally copied the Japanese robot Gandamu (ガンダム). They say that the color is different, but the details are the same, and compare the real Japanese robot to this knock-off. They even interview the creator of the original one. I will translate what he said later, since right now I have to finish some work. But basically, you don't need to understand Japanese to see how this robot is a direct copy. They even show other Japanese products that have been copied by Chinese companies. Way to go, losers.

Update: I was going to attempt to translate part of this video, but it has been removed, ironically due to copyright violations. So I've decreased the size of the embedded video here in order to not have a large black space.


Wuthering Heights: great story

Wow, I just watched the 2009 version of Wuthering Heights, and I had never seen or read it before, so I was really impressed. What a crazy, entertaining story, and that TV version is incredible. It was so intense and emotional, and the way they filmed it really captured its rawness. I highly recommend it: you can start watching the whole thing online here (it's in 14 parts).

You can also read it online for free here.


Weird Japanese toilet

Well, just watch the video. I don't have to say anything, other than I got it from the Chongqing-born Chinese teen who was also the funny Chinese clown.


I was going to post something, but I'm trying to figure out if I should use Twitter

The past couple of days, I've been looking at my Twitter account, wondering if I should use it and make it public, so I wasn't focused on posting here.

I remember when Twitter was starting out. Some bloggers adopted it early, and eventually posted more there than at their own blogs. But I didn't join until a couple of years ago, and at first it seemed okay, but then I started getting spammers following me. I tried to block them, but they didn't disappear, and I would send messages to Twitter, with no response or action.

So I assumed that Twitter was lame and not to be trusted. I thought it was becoming crappy like MySpace, which I left way before other people did (and now hardly anyone is there). I made my account private, so people could only follow me if I approved them.

Then I stopped using Twitter. It wasn't like I posted there much anyway, but I just really didn't like that site, and joined Tumblr instead. I like Tumblr a lot better: the interface is nice, it's multi-media, and there aren't as many creeps there. The only problem is that I hardly have any exposure there, but I guess that's okay. It's good to start small.

So now I'm still wondering if I should resume posting at Twitter, make my profile public, and link it to here, or if I should just use Tumblr. I have a smartphone now, which makes Twitter easier to use, but I don't feel too great about it.

At least I've linked my Tumblr to Twitter: that's a start.


great Next Generation episode with a great ending

I've seen the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode Ship in a Bottle more than a few times, and it's definitely one of my favorites. It was just on again tonight, and I never get tired of the ending. It's almost philosophical.
"As far as Moriarty and the Countess know, they're halfway to Meles II by now. This enhancement module contains enough active memory to provide them with experiences for a lifetime."

"They will live their lives and never know any difference."

"In a sense, you did give Moriarty what he wanted."

"In a sense, who knows? Our reality may be very much like theirs. All this might just be an elaborate simulation running inside a little device sitting on someone's table."

(all but Barclay leave)

"Computer, end program."

(nothing happens)


Israeli slang

I studied Hebrew growing up, and when I went to Israel when I was a teen, I was surprised to discover that I could actually speak it. Even though it was quite obvious that I had a knack for language since I was able to have conversations in Hebrew, I didn't really pursue or care about languages until I went to Japan after college. Now my Hebrew is non-existent, and I'd rather go to France than go to Israel again, but I still am interested in learning new things about the language.

So when someone sent me links to some brief articles in The Forward about Israeli slang, I had to check them out. There are several interesting ones, so I'll list them here. They don't take long to read, actually, since they're quite short.

haval al hazman: a waste of time

Ha matzav: the situation

Sa l'shalom: you can go

Tihiyeh large: to be large not physically, but in character

The insult of freier: sucker

How the state is ha medina

hazui: hallucinated in a surreal way


Tasteful video

I don't usually describe music videos as "tasteful", but this one has a kind of refined simplicity about it. I like the muted colors, which seem to have been de-saturated. It seems like a painting or photograph--each shot seems thoughtful.


Update is failed

A really nice guy who I met at an awful place said he "chuckled a bit when I was updating my Blu Ray player and when it was done, it would say 'Update is Failed'.....ahh God bless LG products lol..."

So we have yet another badly translated product from abroad. Please, hire good translators or at least editors who will correct such odd English.

By the way, it's supposed to be "Update has failed".


Answer the question

I don't understand how a publication can interview someone, then publish a question that hasn't been answered.

I was perusing Aspen Peak Magazine and came upon an interview with an interior designer. The first question they asked him wasn't answered:
You primarily design vacation homes for your clientele. How did you get your start?

Answer: I like to create fantasies and take risks when designing a home for a client, and I found that my clients are more creative and willing to experiment with a vacation home as opposed to a primary residence.
How does that answer the question? He promotes himself, but he does not explain how he got his start. If he, or the magazine, thinks the question was answered, then they are expecting the reader to infer it by assigning almost symbolic meaning to those words, rather than read a direct, real answer to the question.

If I was editing that article, I would either delete that question, or not publish it unless he really answered it.


A word nerd with a cool day job

Brian Cleary told me about his language-related books for kids (he calls himself a "Word Nerd"), but what really caught my attention was his day job. According to his Facebook page, "For his day job, he serves as a Senior Editor in the Humor Department at American Greetings."

Can you imagine having that as your day job? Someone would ask him, "American Greetings? What department?" And he would reply, "I work in the Humor Department."

A lot of people have to do some bland work to pay the bills, and do the creative stuff on the side, but his life is full of creative pursuits. Plus, his books sell well, so he's experiencing success professionally and through his passion.

He's obviously a smart, creative guy who's getting a lot out of life.


French Thanksgiving words

I know, it's weird to mention French when they don't celebrate Thanksgiving, but I find it amusing that someone has compiled list of French vocabulary related to the holiday. And it's a good way to practice your French :D You can also test it via the Thanksgiving quiz.



I was talking to someone who is bilingual in Spanish and English, and he said that when he was dealing with some people in Texas for work, they would use a different kind of Spanglish by attaching Spanish grammar to English words, and vice-versa.

For instance, he was talking to a guy who said a windshield was "crackiado" instead of "rajado". I think that's really cool, though a purist would think that's just so wrong. But there's so much language mixture in the US, I'm not surprised they ended up with "crackiado". I wonder if there's a list of such words out there.


Interview with powerful mass media guy who's not snobby

As you know, this blog isn't part of the mass media, and blogs had been derided by various people in the media, until a bunch grudgingly jumped on board. But before they did, we (the micro-media) were reading and writing all over the Internet, and the mass media didn't really care. Even now I'll meet some folks who think they're "too good" for such online participation, and I've heard negative comments about "those bloggers" as well.

But I talked to Lee Abrams, who's been one of the most influential and successful consultants in the mass media: he changed music radio forever, has worked with and knows a lot of popular bands, was at the beginning of satellite radio, consulted MTV, and has done a lot more. He has always worked in, and greatly profited from, mass media and mainstream culture, and unbelievably, he let me interview him!

Just the fact that he had no problem talking to me (I only had to ask him once, and he said yes right away) shows that for a successful mass media guy, he's very open-minded and not arrogant or snobby at all. A lot of people in the mass media don't think we micro-media folks are worthy of interaction. But he's different--in fact, I've met people who don't even have a fraction of the success he has, and they either don't respond or just refuse to do an interview.

Anyway, feel free to listen to it at this link (mp3 file).


I finished the manga!

Last summer, I started reading 島耕作 (Shima Kosaku) and didn't realize what slow progress I was making until my progress report earlier this month.

Well, today I finished it! 230 pages! It was great from beginning to end, and I'm going to get another one the next time I go to the Japanese store. I just hope that the next one I read will seem easier and not take as long. But now I'm really motivated, so maybe it will take a fraction of the time :D



I always wonder why Brits say "leftenant" for "lieutenant", and found some information that explains why:
In the time of Chaucer (1340?-1400), the distinction between the letters u and v did not yet exist in writing. Once they separated, people remained uncertain as to which sound each of these letters represented. Another theory focuses on auditory rather than visual confusion.
Read the rest of the explanation to find out a lot more.


Japanese 3D hologram concert

This is really weird but cool: a dancing hologram performing in Japan. The crowd looks fake too, especially with the way they use the glow sticks, but I guess the people are real. (found via Alan Cox's blog)


Fair Use

I just spent a lot of time (more than a few hours today and some yesterday) putting a podcast episode together with snippets of commercial music because I interviewed some on-air talent from a music station who were talking about various groups, and I thought it would be interesting to include musical examples of what they were talking about. Then, after all that work, I decided to make sure that what I was doing was legal, and I realized that it probably isn't.

There are a lot of discussions online about Fair Use of music, and the US Copyright Office is the place to go. They have a PDF of the complete U.S. Copyright Law and a list of sections so you can find what you need. But basically, this is what I learned from looking at the PDF:
"the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright."
So if you're going to use music as a way to make the podcast more interesting, even if it relates to the discussion, then it's not fair use. But if you're going to play a piece of music to critique it, then that's okay. Basically, when in doubt, get a license or permission, even if it's just for a few seconds. I got permission from a band to use their music in my podcast's intros and outros, but I guess I'm going to have to scrap the style of the latest podcast I did because I'm pretty sure it doesn't fall under Fair Use.

So now I'm wondering if all that work was a "waste" of time, but I guess it wasn't, because I was able to do this post. Plus, it was just an enjoyable thing I did, and maybe down the road my production skills will be put to use based on the practice I just had :D


Book Drum

Someone from Bookdrum noticed that I listed The Great Gatsby as one of my favorite books in my profile (read the entire book online here), and they suggested that I look at its multimedia profile over there. It seems like a very interesting site that makes books multi-dimensional, so if you're into books and want to express your love for them in various ways, feel free to join, or just check out what's already there.


Manga progress report

Ugh, now that I saw my post about my manga reading, I realize it's been a few months since I started reading it, and I'm still not done. I'm sure if I read it full time, I'd be done sooner, but I don't always have the time or energy to figure out what every word means, though I get the gist of the story.

Well I see the end in sight. I was quite busy last week with work and other things, but this week is slower, so I will have more time to devote to it. And when I finally finish it, I will definitely celebrate that here!


Good interview with Russell Peters

A Canadian sent me a link to the Canadian show George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, which seems like a quality show. But check out the interview with Russell Peters (my favorite comedian). In under 15 minutes, it seems to cover a lot and is entertaining, and George is a good interviewer.

Unfortunately, the video can't be embedded here, so you have to go to the site.


Good business video by a guy I know

I just got this video from Bill Moller, who I met in radio, and who worked in TV news for years.

I'm posting this video here because it's very well done and to let people know that he's really this enthusiastic and friendly. Even though he's had a lot of experience and is successful, he's sincere and treats me well. I've met some people who are snotty because I'm not on their level, or who don't "get me," so they're not too friendly. Or they're just into themselves too much to care about others. And I've encountered such folks inside and outside the media. But Bill is different, for sure.


The hotel I stayed in Detroit is now closed!

This is so weird: the hotel that I stayed at in Detroit a couple of months ago when I was on my way to Toronto is now closed!

The hotel was quite expensive, so I was expecting a nice place. But some of the staff didn't do their jobs as you'd see at comparable hotels elsewhere in large US cities. The hotel seemed sort of dingy and I heard other guests complain about various things that really should be basic at a nice hotel. The restaurant was very good, but in general, there was a deadness about the place and area--right next to the river. And the people in general seemed tough and even hardened, probably because there's so much hopelessness there.

Unfortunately, GM went bankrupt, which affected the hotel. What an awful, sad situation the auto industry has become, especially Detroit.

Check out the TV news report--it's just a minute long. Poor Detroit--I saw how dismal that city is. It's on the decline for sure. It had so much promise before, now there's so much sadness :(


The Most Interesting Man on Trapper John

Last year, I did a post about the language-oriented Most Interesting Man commercial, and today I did a search of the actor's earlier work. Before he did those commercials, he was on a lot of TV shows. Look at the video below, around 7 minutes in. This one is from the mid-80's, like 25 years ago.


Cool site for learning manga and anime expressions

Wow, I didn't know how cool an Anime-Manga site was because it took a while to load, which made me wonder if the site was valid, but it's definitely worth the wait!

I'm so excited about this site, but let me calm down enough to explain: you can learn what phrases mean that are often found in anime and manga. And it teaches you the meanings in dynamic ways: several categories broken down into types of situations, and they give you the option of kanji, kana, or romaji to show the Japanese sentences, and provide the English translation below.

You can choose from several manga scenes, and the meanings and readings pop up. They also have games and quizzes. You can also learn character expressions, which includes audio. Actually, there's audio throughout the site. So it's really a dynamic place to learn Japanese: drawings, audio, games, variety...just a really great site if you're an anime and manga fan who wants to improve your Japanese. Have fun with it!


Didn't know this was about Pompeii

The song "Cities in Dust" came out when I was a teenager, and I still like it. But it wasn't until recently that I found out that it's based on the destruction of Pompeii.


What fushigi is in Japanese

A lot of people have been getting and talking about the Fushigi ball, so I want to explain what the Japanese word is.

First of all, the kanji looks like this: 不思議 (不 = fu, 思 = shi, 議 = gi), and it usually means "mystery", though some sources add "miracle", "strange", and "curiosity".

When I tell Fushigi ball fans that it's actually a Japanese word, they're surprised because they think it's some random word for that product. I've seen the ball, but I haven't tried it out, and don't really intend to. But apparently it makes some people happy.


Plagiarism: Led Zeppelin became rich by stealing music and lyrics from other bands and claimed it as their own

Even though Led Zeppelin is no longer together, it's still a very popular band that still gets a lot of airplay. I'm sure Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are still making a lot of money from the music they've created. But they didn't really create all that music; they stole it, and didn't give any credit to the musicians and bands that wrote it. This is blatant plagiarism, and not enough people know about it, because the videos below with proof of the theft still don't have enough views or exposure.

So I'm posting them here, and feel free to tell as many people as possible. If a band is going to get so much exposure, respect, and wealth, they should have integrity as well. Too bad Led Zeppelin, especially Page and Plant, could care less about ethics and resorted to stealing from other people to reap all those rewards from others' hard work.


I can't believe the French would screw up this translation

Arrogant Polyglot said that the English translation of the French label on his duvet is "The White Goose Below", which is certainly a weird translation for "white goose down".

I am surprised the French couldn't translate that one, unless it was manufactured in China or some other country where they don't bother to hire translators for their products.


The usual unnecessary and wrong use of apostrophes

Gosh, some people either use too many apostrophes or not enough. This sign is an obvious case of wrong usage.


Good trailer for interesting book

Someone sent me info about an interesting book: The Last Speakers, which is about "K. David Harrison's expeditions around the world to meet with last speakers of vanishing languages."

The trailer for it is very well done, which is not surprising since it's created by National Geographic.


I guess this is a real last name

Brent Payne (a very interesting guy I interviewed for my podcast) saw this name: it must be real because I think this is a workspace.


It's already September and I realized I've been here 6 years

Wow, time flies. I started this blog in August, 2004 and now it's September, 2010. Six years. That's a long time for a blog that does not have super exposure and doesn't make me money or bring me fame :D Not that I'm looking for it. But I've had thousands of visitors from well over 100 countries, and I'm glad people have found it online and have told others about it. I still love language and will continue to study and translate it. So much has happened since I started this blog--when I started it, I was working a lot at home and felt the need to express myself and my love for language. Since then I've worked in so many situations and have experienced so much, most recently good. Thanks for reading and feel free to tell your friends :D


Good clean podcast

A lot of podcasts that are considered entertaining tend to have lots of swearing, vulgarities, and other things that aren't allowed on broadcast radio since there are no FCC rules for podcasts. But here's a good one that is entertaining and clean: Snyde Remarks Radio.

I met one of the hosts (they're married) Wendy Snyder at a Chicago radio station, and she is very cool. I also interviewed her for my podcast because she's been on the air for several years and is quite well-known locally. Her husband hosts a popular Star Wars podcast and has been working in radio for years, so they're both professional broadcasters, which means their podcast doesn't sound amateur like some others I've heard.

If you're learning English, it's also a good way to practice your listening skills for natural speech.


Land of the Lonely

I read a good article that expressed what I've been thinking for a while: we live in an isolating society where people have lots of "friends" but they're not really deep: "in restricting ourselves to the thin gruel of modern friendships, we miss out on the more nourishing fare that deeper ones have to offer." True, but not a lot of people realize that, and I don't think they ever will.

Whenever I see people's large list of friends on Facebook or wherever, I wonder how many of those people they really connect with. Sometimes I want to point out the charade and tell everyone they're playing a game, but then I wonder if there's something "wrong" with me because I don't want to play the same game. Sure, I know a lot of people, but I want to connect in a real way with them as well. However, they would think that is weird, so I just stay within the definitions we've all set, and it actually bothers me that some folks are so superficial and want to keep everyone in a box.

Especially in the US, there are so many people traveling on their own path and they don't like to cross with others unless it suits them in some way. The article says that
Developing meaningful friendships—having the kind of people in your life who were once known as "intimates"—takes time, but too many of us are locked in what social critic Barbara Ehrenreich has called "the cult of conspicuous busyness," from which we seem to derive status and a certain perverse comfort even as it alienates us from one another.
People seemed pleased with themselves when they tell me "I am so busy", and I've said the same thing and even caught myself feeling proud of my packed schedule, but realize I'm just getting caught up in such a status symbol. I like being busy but not to the point that I don't have time for people. But when I do have time for them, it's like watching people go by on one of those people movers that you see in some airports or in The Jetsons. They want to communicate, but only within strict limits, within defined times.

I think that interesting people are rare, so when I meet them, I really want to get to know them better. Maybe they're baffled by the pursuit of "friendship" but act like the non-interesting masses to fit in, but I can't easily find out what they're thinking because they're not willing to let their guards down to discuss this modern trend.

I don't know if it's just an American thing, but it's something I've noticed ever since I moved back here years ago. I hear from non-American residents that Americans seem fake because they smile and seem friendly, but they don't want to go deeper. However, with people's reliance on technology to connect with other humans, the trend can become worldwide.

I just don't want to be accused of being insincere, but I also don't want to be going against the grain. I'm just glad I know at least a few real people I can talk with who know what true communication is.


Spanish laugh

A lot of people use "lol" or "ha ha" online (and Thais use "555" because 5 is "ha" in Thai), but I learned recently from one of my ESL students that the Spanish online laugh is "ja ja ja" because "j" is pronounced as "h" in Spanish.

So if you're ever chatting with someone or see a post online from a Spanish speaker and they use "ja ja ja" to show laughter, now you know why :D


Good ad

I don't want to promote ads since I don't get any money or products from those businesses for writing this blog, but this commercial is so good. I like the style of it and the pace, and there's something about it that seems real. How many times have you seen something and imagined you with it? We all imagine "What if" and this captures that. It's simple but effective. I really like the woman's look and voice too.

Unfortunately, this is the only video I could find, and it's not as good quality as it should be, but at least you can get the idea of what the ad is like.


Still a great song

For some reason, when I was doing all that Japanese translating, I kept listening to this song. It's so good, even more than 20 years later.



I was going to do a post today, but I'm in the middle of a massive Japanese translation project, and I will hopefully still be alive tomorrow--the kanjis are overwhelming me :D


Good country song title

Here's a good title and concept for a country song that I made up: "My Heart is Leaking Without You". So if you end up hearing that anywhere, remember it was me ("I" to be grammatically correct) who created it :D


Well-written Facebook comment

Sometimes the comments on Facebook are a good read, such as the one below, posted by Chris Duffy (who's been on my podcast). This is his response to an article that featured the ugliest cities in the US:
Total BS, and more predictable crap from some full-of-herself priss sitting in either NY or LA, capering merrily she's not from one of these cities, and clueless to the fact that their inhabitants share that joy as well.

Ironically, topping the 'Best Looking' cities? Miami. Which is a total tropical sh**hole that makes you reach for the brochure ... See Moreon Tijuana time-shares.. Miami is endless cheap strip malls, graffitti, expressways designed by cracked-out Italians and sprawl....with maybe 1 to 3 miles tops of modestly attractive neighborhoods. And for every sun bunny, there's 30 decrepit losers that the city collects from all over the world. The joke there? Someone tilted the United States on its' side. Whatever wasn't bolted down rolled into South Florida.

Besides, one word; Lebron. Rich. Famous. And the last person on Earth you want to see trotting around in a banana hammock. All glam, but when the Speedos are off? Eeeew. Welcome to Miami. Sing it Will.

Once a year, some useless soul puts together what amounts to a a 'Detroit/Cleveland/Pittsburgh' bashing list, whether its' looks or traffic or life span or health....always making fun, guffawing at some fault or another of that cromagnon wasteland they call 'flyover country'. Fact is, those cities you chuckle at are the reason you don't speak Nazi, lady. They built the machinery that turned the good ol' US of A from a one horse episode of the Waltons to the savior of the freedom loving PLANET. Now, as you drop what for them is 6 house payments on one spa treatment, they don't ask for much. Maybe a compliment on their delightful rap music. And unique mustards. Perhaps a second glance at the cars they build. (...yknow, the ones that DONT accelerate on their own and kill your whole family) Those.

By the way Madonna and Taylor Lautner are both from Michigan. And even Queen Bitch himself, Elton John, thinks Eminem is hot. (Or was, anyway, pre-Slim and more Shady). So stuff your list where the botox don't tighten, totalbeauty.com. There's no palm trees and the sushi sucks. But I'll take ten minutes of steeltowns over a lifetime of plastic anyday.
I like good writing, wherever it is.


the Japanese Language Proficiency Test has changed!

I can't believe it--for so long, the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (aka Nihongo Noryoku Shiken) had a similar format and just four levels, but now the content has changed and they added a level!

I'm one of those people who passed level 3 several years ago but had a hard time with level 2 more recently because it was way harder. Even back then, level 2 was difficult, but I think in recent years they made it even harder because I think too many people were taking it, including Chinese people who could easily ace the kanji.

Anyway, I might try to take the new level 4, though it's been so long since I took the test, I'm wondering if I should start with level 3. I need to decide by late September.


Funny [Chinese] clown

This is such a funny picture, I just had to post it here. This guy is one of the most interesting people I've met, and he's only a teenager. He's really smart and can talk to different kinds of people, and has no problem being friendly with adults. He also has a more international/unique perspective because he came from China, and speaks English and Mandarin fluently, in addition to a dialect that he says doesn't have tones (though I wonder if it does, based on the description of his hometown Chongqing).

Update: after reading this post, he read about his dialect and realized that it *does* have tones. Which makes me wonder why he thought that. I guess that's part of being a fluent native speaker of a language: you just speak it and don't analyze it, especially if you're just a teen :D



My ESL students introduced me to a great Mexican spice that has been around for a while, which I thought was unnecessary. But it's really good: Tajin. It's a combination of lime, salt, and a hot spice. You're supposed to put it on fruit, even watermelon (which I thought was unnecessary because it's so sweet), and it sounds weird to do that, but it's actually very tasty. I also put it on cucumbers and other vegetables.

I served some watermelon to some people who were born in the USA and had never tried such a spice, and at first they thought it was odd, but they thought it tasted okay.

But I think it's more than okay, and I plan on using the spice often.

And btw--the pronunciation is "Ta-Hin" (not Ta-Jin).


Going to TO again

If you've been reading this blog for a while, then you probably know that I've been to Toronto a few times. I went when this blog was in its infancy, then a few years ago, and am going again. So if I don't post much here, that's why. I'm hoping to get near a computer to post impressions of the place, including how many Chinatowns they have, and how huge they are. Maybe I'll try to take some pictures and post them here.

And I'm so into reading the Japanese manga and book I started, I'm bringing them with me, along with my dictionaries.


Another article that I got paid for

One of the reasons why I haven't really posted much here recently was because I was working on an interview that I got paid for through a grant that helps promote under-represented areas of Chicago (the areas that the media doesn't really care about unless there's some weird murder or whatever).

The neighborhood is called Back of the Yards, and I wrote about a woman who is trying to make things better for the community there.

My previous article that I got paid for through the same grant was about a recording artist from a rough neighborhood on the West Side.


Last week of teaching and other stuff

I know a number of people subscribe to this blog, and others just pop in, and you're probably wondering why I haven't been posting much lately, but it's a combo of teaching a lot of ESL this summer, in addition to other work and projects. But the teaching is ending this week, which means more writing time for me :D

Also, things have been developing with my podcast. I've been interviewing various people for the podcast, and was even mentioned in the Chicago Sun-Times, analyzed in Robert Feder's column, and even broadcast on Howard Stern's show because I interviewed his former program director who's become infamous.

Anyway, it's my last week of teaching, which means I will post more here and at Gapersblock more often. I'm sure they're not too happy about my infrequent posting there either.

The best part though is that I've still maintained my consistent Japanese reading, so I'm very happy about that. I don't know what the fall is going to bring for me though :/


They speak Portuguese in Portugal

I had to reread this sentence in an article about singer Nelly Furtado in a magazine that prides itself on representing an "exclusive" area: "Although she was raised in Canada, Nelly’s parents were from Portugal, and she’s spoken Spanish since she was 14..."

Then the article continues to talk about her new Spanish songs. So obviously, in a typical PR move, they put two facts together, Portuguese parents and Spanish, to justify her Spanish attempts.

What about Portuguese? If the magazine is as sophisticated as it claims, they wouldn't dupe the reader into thinking that Portugal and Spanish are in the same place.

But unfortunately, they watered down the information to perhaps appease the famous singer's publicists because it would be too complicated and perhaps confusing to reveal the fact that she's really Portuguese, not Latin American, and came from the Portugese language instead of the more profitable Spanish. It would obfuscate the marketing message.

I wish they would show some more intelligence and not make simple connections to promote a superficial idea to gain more album sales.


Good web design info

Here is a great site with very helpful articles on web design: Scratchmedia. They are a business, but they also offer a ton of great information. I also agree with their philosophy that simple is better when designing websites, though a lot of people want bells and whistles, even though such sites can take a long time to load and can feel cluttered.


"Boy" Bruce Lee

Here is a great quote from Bruce Lee: some producers called him "boy" and ordered him to get "his car" to pick up a celebrity, even though he was a star in The Green Hornet. When someone asked him how he dealt with such racism, he said, "Does it bother me? If I let it bother me, I wouldn't be Bruce Lee." Way to go! The video of this recollection is below. It's less than 30 seconds in.


Funny Engrish

There are various Engrish (odd English) sites out there, and feel free to share your discoveries, but here's one that someone sent to me that is really funny. I don't know why so much odd English comes from Asia, but maybe that's because the languages of East and West are so different, and probably because they don't want to hire anyone to check/fix their signs and packages. Or they don't have access to decent English speakers/writers.

Check out Engrish Funny if you want a laugh.


Talking Canadian

The Cantonese-comprehending Canadian told me about a documentary called Talking Canadian from the CBC. It's all about why Canadians use certain words and talk funny. Just kidding. But they sound American, even though there are differences, of course. Their language exists between American English and British English. I love seeing the comparisons/contrasts between us and them and witnessing their confusion. Just joking. But seriously, it's worth a watch for sure.


You don't need to know Japanese to find this funny

A Polish guy I work with showed me this video, even though he doesn't know Japanese and has never been there. Which is the point: it's totally visual.


I'm a fan!

Sorry I haven't been posting here as frequently, but I *have* been reading Japanese frequently, as a part of my ongoing New Year's Resolution, and what I'm now reading is really great.

I asked my Japanese teacher about a manga that's based on reality (not fantasy like crazy fighting or fairies or whatever), and she recommended 島耕作 (Shima Kosaku). I love it! I'm reading 課長島耕作14 (Kacho Shima Kosaku) which is from the early 90's, and since then, the series became a TV show, and now, Shima Kosaku has been promoted to 社長島耕作 (Shacho Shima Kosaku). Which means that he was previously a Section Chief (課長/kacho) and is now the Company President (社長/shacho).

The manga is now in its 25th year, and I can see why! It's a great way to learn Japanese while being entertained at the same time. Even though it's taking me a lot longer to read it than a Japanese person, of course :D


Good local group: Wolfgang Jay

I saw Wolfgang Jay at an after-hours event at the Chicago Recording Company, and they were really good.

They performed Walker, Memories Of, and Now and Then.


The real Indian caste system

I know a Singaporean who comes from an Indian background, who shared some info from a Singapore newspaper about what India's caste system really is supposed to be:
Originally known as the varnashrama system, it comprises four broad scientific occupational divisions in society - the educator class, the administrator class, the entrepreneur class and the worker class - where everyone has the opportunity to take up an occupation befitting his or her natural tendencies and qualifications. This is based on the psychological propensity and character of the individual, and not on birth.
The writer also said that the classes worked together, which really should happen in any society. I'm just glad the US doesn't have caste system. That would make life quite rigid and seem more unfair than it sometimes is.


Happy Bastille Day/La Fête Nationale!

Well, it's no longer Bastille Day in France, but it's still July 14th in the USA. So Happy Bastille Day/La Fête Nationale! Even though I've translated a lot of French into English, I've never been there and would love to go!


Not surprised by these findings

A Canadian (who also knows some Cantonese) gave me a link to an article citing research that has discovered "that a significant proportion of native English speakers are unable to understand some basic sentences."

I'm not surprised by this, and actually think that because the researchers assumed "that all speakers have a core ability to use grammatical cues", they were inevitably going to run into results that would contradict that assumption.

Specifically, they discovered that "A high proportion of those who had left school at 16 began to make mistakes" and "a proportion of people with low educational attainment make errors with understanding the passive, and it appears that this and other important areas of core grammar may not be fully mastered by some speakers, even by adulthood."

I think it's quite obvious that more education or more exposure to complex reading and writing will lead to an understanding of more complex grammar. One thing that bothered me when I was studying education and language acquisition in school was that everyone would gather around a theory, and if I would suggest anecdotal or observational evidence that would contradict what they were saying, they would dismiss it because the research didn't show that. But my experience did, so why diss it? Sometimes I think that academia doesn't tolerate exceptions because it messes up their tidy little package that they want to present to their peers.


Russell Peters on accents

I've been watching a lot of Russell Peters videos, and amazingly, there are more out there.

There's a really good interview with him where he talks about culture and international themes, including accents. It's a few minutes into the video below, but the whole thing is worth watching. You can watch part 1 here. Every time I see such good interviews, I want to do more myself (which I already do at my podcast, but on a much smaller scale). Maybe I should try to do an interview with him next time I'm in LA :D


She scored

Sue from Naperville Now recommended the book Girl in Translation, which is about an immigrant child from Hong Kong. I haven't read it, but it seems to be based on what the author and her mother experienced as well. Not the plot, but the difficulties of being an immigrant.

I'm sure it will become a movie, or will at least be optioned, because it's a bestseller and has gotten a lot of press, though the author keeps mentioning the same details (or the publisher does, and interviewers don't go beyond the basics). For instance, in various interviews and even a video, she says her family was "fairly well-off in Hong Kong" but had to start over in New York. But she doesn't say how they became poor when they came to the US. How can someone go from the good life to poverty in just one move? Why does she use the same general information without further elaborating?

Another thing I'm wondering about is why her mother never learned English even though she lived in New York for so many years. I know that it's hard to learn a new language, especially if someone is so busy, but eventually I'm sure her mother had the time to learn. I just think it's odd that people, especially who are educated, would choose to live in their own language for so long.

Anyway, the author had a hard life and overcame a lot to go to the Ivy Leagues and publishing world, so she's really scored.


Happy 4th! Independence Day!

Now that the Canadians had their Canada Day, it's time for our day: Independence Day! It's not when the US became a nation, but when the colonies declared independence from England through the Declaration of Independence. From there, there was a war that the colonies eventually won, of course. Otherwise, I'd be using British words and British spelling, and wouldn't be fascinated by the differences of our English :D

You can read it online. I actually made it a part of this week's test in my ESL class, though I think they were baffled by the 18th century English.


Happy Canada Day

A Canadian sent me a link to a site that celebrates Canada Day. It claims to offer a list of "unique summer activities" that actually seem very ordinary, so don't expect to get any specific ideas there. I can do a lot of those activities any day in the USA.

But at least they give some historical information: "Formerly known as 'Dominion Day,' Canada Day marks the anniversary of the Constitution Act of 1867, joining Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canada province (now Ontario and Quebec) into a single country."

But you can get more, and better, information about Canada Day at Wikipedia. And if you want to find some activities, go to the government's site in Ottawa, the City of Toronto's site, or About.com. And there are all those Canadian newspapers, depending where you are.

However you celebrate it, Happy Canada Day!


I got a French spam email

Sometimes I get requests to mention someone's article or site, which usually end up being sales pitches or full of copied content from elsewhere. Or if I ask the sender a question, they don't respond, which tells me they're like robots.

Well today I got some spam in French. It looked like a real letter and was addressed to me, and it mentioned my site, but it was from someone with a seemingly shady site. I couldn't tell what the site was about because there was not much focus, just a bunch of worthless links, including gambling. Plus, the person's name was questionably phony.

But at least it wasn't in English, and I got a chance to enjoy another language naturally (instead of through textbooks or whatever).


My student is an influential

A while ago, I read the book The Influentials, which described people who are hubs in our society through which information and recommendations flow, thus helping to accelerate word of mouth which leads to increased sales. It's a marketing book, but I also saw it as an interesting study of societal patterns.

Well the other day I was talking to a student in my ESL class, and realized that she's an Influential: she's active in her community, knows a lot of people, volunteers through her church, owns a business which is next door to her husband's business, and is high energy, so she does lots of activities. And she wants to go into politics. I really believe that one day I will see that happen.

If you want to find out about the latest trends in marketing, I highly recommend this book. After reading it, I realized I'm not an Influential, but I don't aspire to be one anyway.


Turkish Star Wars with English subtitles!

This video is really trippy: it's a Turkish space adventure called "Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam" which includes scenes from "Star Wars" and soundtracks from various American movies (the explanation is at the video link). Feel free to watch it because the entire thing has been translated--thanks to the translator and the person who posted it!


Eccentric isn't negative

I thought that the Summit ESL book was great, until I saw that they define the word "eccentric" as a negative personality trait. They had a list of traits to demonstrate different kinds of adjectives, and they separated them into two lists. Eccentric went into the negative category. That is absurd. According to the dictionary, it means deviating from a norm, convention, pattern. So I guess we can conclude that the writers of that book are bland conformists. Or people who are unable to distinguish between disturbing difference and noticeable individuality.


For book lovers

If you are really into books, then you'll probably like Once Again to Zelda, which explains "the stories behind literature's most intriguing dedications." It hits several major books and gives sufficient explanations of the various backstories. It's also well written. It's clear that the writer loves books and knows that her audience does too.


An incredibly popular Japanese writer

We've been reading Banana Yoshimoto in Japanese class (her real name is Mahoko Yoshimoto, and I found out that she is insanely popular in Japan. Some of her work has been translated into several languages. She's living the dream, that's for sure.

What I like about her work is that it's very simple, but it has layers of meaning. So she's been able to attract a huge audience while also satisfying the more literary types who want to look at the symbolism, messages, themes, etc.

She's really been able to bring together commercial success and artistic integrity. It's great to create, but it's even better to be able to make a sweet living from it. Or any decent living at all, actually.


The Multilingual Teen is living his dream!

A few years ago, I met the Multilingual Teen, and now he's no longer a teen, but he's still multilingual. When I met him, he said that he really wanted to be an air traffic controller, and that is what he is now doing. Here's his latest news:
I'm done with the academy and passed all exams, so now I'm working in Hannover Tower! And besides that I'm writing poems because I love languages just as you do and I think that poems are the highest level of linguistic usage. Most poems are in German of course, but meanwhile I also dare to write in English^^ Though I'm never really sure whether my grammar is 100% correct.
I'm sure his grammar his great, because he is, after all, the Multilingual [former] Teen (I wonder if he should have a new name, even though I *did* meet him as a teen). He invited me to visit him in Germany, but my German is so bad at this point. Before he sent me an update in English, he sent out a group email in German, and I'm still deciphering it. I swear, there was a time when my German reading and speaking were pretty good.


My resolution is withering!

For the first time this year since I made a New Year's resolution to read/study Japanese daily, I have neglected to do it consistently! I've been teaching ESL a lot this summer, and I'm completely wiped out. Today I got home at a decent time, so I should've at least read a page of the Japanese book I'm reading, but I couldn't even read any English. And apparently, I've been so drained I forgot to post something here and haven't posted much elsewhere either.

So I'm saying this here because it's public, and because I love language, that I *must* resume regularly reading Japanese and doing the other writing I've been neglecting. How many people have made public promises like that? But seriously--I'm not happy about my lack of Japanese and Writing Perseverance, so that is going to change.


This seems like an interesting book

Tonight I heard a very interesting interview on the excellent show Sound Opinions with the author of a seemingly interesting book about the vocoder called How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop, The Machine Speaks.

I'm interested in the vocoder not just because it's been used in a lot of music, but I also like the band Kraftwerk, which started using it several years ago. By the way, towards the beginning of the existence of this blog, I mentioned that I transcribed an interview they did, and I even translated a history that someone wrote in Portuguese, which I also mentioned here. Unfortunately, even though I spent a lot of time translating it (it was around 6000 words), they edited and altered it to the point that it barely resembled the original text. And they removed the Portuguese version from the site, too.

Anyway, they're going to post the audio interview on Monday, but meanwhile, there are a lot of interviews online (he obviously has good pr support), including this one.


I can't believe this is a real movie

Right now, a very odd, campy movie is on TV: Night of the Comet.

"A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls to fight the evil types who survive."

It sounds like a fake movie, but it's true! How did they get funding for such a movie? Why did they make it? Seriously, it's very puzzling.

You can watch it in parts online. Below is the trailer. I doubt a lot of people saw it when it came out in the 80's. I certainly didn't, and never heard of it either.



I was talking to a radio engineer, telling him that when I used to work early mornings for a show, I'd discover a lot of distant radio stations on my radio from hundreds of miles away as I drove to work. It was because I was searching for stations in the middle of the night, usually before dawn, though before that, when I worked late at night, I'd discover distant radio stations on my way home as well.

Well the engineer said that I was DXing, which I'd never heard of before: "D" is said to mean distance and "X" refers to the unknown.

I was just dialing around on my car radio, but apparently there are a lot of nerdy types out there who have complex systems that pick up stations from all over the world. I'm not so nerdy to do that, but I think it's a very cool hobby.

There's an excellent DXing site that also has audio samples from all over the world, so check it out and the other info and interviews, too.


Rip off

I hope people weren't duped into believing that paying Lulu $400 (literally $399, but it's only a dollar difference) to get their books displayed at Book Expo America would actually make a difference. What a rip off.

People were asked to send in two books to be placed on a pile or table or whatever for hundreds of dollars. And that's just *sending* the books, with no human presence required. So why would people think that randomly displaying a couple of books in a place filled with thousands of books would generate sales or publicity? Other publishers' and authors' booths would be manned, already giving them an advantage. And who knows how they would even handle the books? For all we know, they could've just removed them from the shipping box and plopped them down somewhere.

Please, I hope no one fell for this. It's pitiful when people profit from pipe dreams.


I'm still here

Sorry--I usually post every other day but last week I started teaching ESL every day for a level I've never taught before, and I also had some radio work too, which meant I didn't have much time or energy left to attempt posting. I have managed to read bits of Japanese, but that was also put on hold when I went out of town, where I got a chance to meet superstar language blogger Languagehat, who's an incredibly smart and nice guy. So now that I'm back in town and have a lighter schedule, I will resume more frequent posting.



I was interviewed for Outside the Loop Radio, which is a weekly radio show and podcast about Chicago. If you go to the site, you'll be able to hear other interviews about interesting people around town. I think it's a great show, and I'm surprised it hasn't been picked up by public radio or another media outlet.


The anime convention descended upon the Japanese store

I was at Mitsuwa, which is a Japanese supermarket that I usually go to, and there were a lot more people there than usual. Sprinkled among all those people were folks with costumes on who looked like anime characters. So I asked one of the costumed girls if she was part of a group, and she told me that they just came from an Anime convention. Then all the clothing and enthusiasm made sense, and it was obvious that the place was packed because they wanted to take in as much Japanese culture (and food) as possible.

Check out the convention photos at their Facebook group. I think it's really cool that all those people went and, according to some people I talked with, had an incredible time. One guy said it was a non-stop party, including a huge rave on Saturday night.


BBC language nerd angers Russell Crowe!

I've been noticing accents for a while, and amazingly, someone from the BBC noticed one as well, except that he dared to question Russell Crowe's accent, which made Crowe walk out of the interview. Crowe was promoting his latest film about Robin Hood, whom the BBC interviewer said was from Yorkshire. What made Crowe mad was that the BBC guy said he was using an Irish accent, not a northern British one. Thanks, BBC, for pointing out accent irregularities :D


Still a good TV show intro

I used to watch The Six Million Dollar Man and hadn't seen the intro of that show for years. Even though it's from the 70's, it still seems good, and now that we've been exposed to quality TV production, it seems technologically advanced for its time.


Tales of the Bogeyman and Spanish Bacon

Words for items associated with warmer climates are full of interesting etymologies. Words describing palm trees, coconuts, and cantaloupes are just a few of the linguistic curiosities that abound in tropical and subtropical regions.

The naming of "palm trees" and the "palm of the hand" is no coincidence. They both share the same Latin root: "palma." It is thought that the tree was named for the palm of the hand because the shape of the leaf formation was considered to resemble the fingers of a hand. So in Latin, the name for the part of the hand came first, followed by the tree. Interestingly, the reverse occurred in English as the two meanings of "palm" entered the language in very distinct ways and at different times:
The Latin word was borrowed into the Germanic dialects in prehistoric times in the tree sense, and now is wide spread (German palme and Dutch and Swedish palm as well as English palm). English acquired it in the 'hand' sense via Old French paume, with subsequent reversion to the Latin spelling.
Coconuts and coconut milk may be beloved for their taste, but the origin of the name could be the fodder for a creature feature film. The term "coco" is derived from the 16th-century word "coco" in Spanish and Portuguese, which meant "grin," "grimace" and even "scarecrow" or "bogeyman" (which it still means in some dialects of Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician). The word "coco," in turn, comes from a Latin expression for "skull." Supposedly the Portuguese explorers who encountered the fruit in India felt that the three-holed base of the shell resembled a human face, or rather that of the bogeyman.

The cantaloupe, a type of muskmelon is called a "spanspek" in South Africa by speakers of English and Afrikaans. "Spanspek" comes from the Afrikaans "spaanse spek," which means "Spanish bacon." The term goes back to the 19th century, when Sir Harry Smith served as Governor and High Commissioner of the Cape Colony in southern Africa. His Spanish-born wife, Juana Maria de los Dolores de Léon Smith, accompanied him. In the mornings, while Sir Harry savored bacon for breakfast, his wife would eat cantaloupe. The Afrikaans-speaking chefs started referring to cantaloupe as "Spanish bacon," and the name stuck, at least in South Africa.

Incidentally, the English word "cantaloupe" comes Cantalupo, a former papal summer estate in Italy, where the fruit was grown, although it had initially been brought to the Old World from the Americas by Christopher Columbus.

As this will be my last post on Metrolingua, I would like to thank everyone for your time and attention. I've enjoyed sharing my enthusiasm for language with you!

(Posted by language fan and friend Silas McCracken.)


Bureau of Internal Revenue

While I was watching The Honeymooners (a great show that doesn't seem dated), I noticed that Ralph was talking about the "Bureau of Internal Revenue." I'd never heard that name: we say "IRS" which stands for "Internal Revenue Service."

But apparently, they changed their name in the 1950's (the same decade that "The Honeymooners" was on the air). According to the IRS site: "In the 50s, the agency was reorganized to replace a patronage system with career, professional employees. The Bureau of Internal Revenue name was changed to the Internal Revenue Service."

Yikes--what kind of patronage system did they have? Sounds like how Chicago's been run.


The "Your Japanese Name" Facebook app is wrong

If you're going to create an application for Facebook, then do it right, especially when it comes to other languages. I know someone who was proud of finding out that their Japanese name was ミケ and posted it largely for everyone to see. But their name is Mike, which is マイク in Japanese. Even if you don't know how to read katakana, you can tell that the two Japanese transliterations look different.

Bottom line: the app Your Japanese Name isn't worth it.


I OD'd on Real Housewives of NYC

I'm going to admit this in public: yesterday I spent *way* too much time watching several episodes of The Real Housewives of New York City to the point of OD'ing on it. I stupidly watched all those episodes because there were a bunch that I missed from previous seasons, and they were being rerun on Bravo yesterday, so I figured since I had the time, I'd "take care" of them so I could move on. Sounds obsessive, but I wanted to put the missing story pieces together. Dumb and desperate :D

And I was back last night when I watched the newest episode, followed by a live segment. Yes, my brain was fried, and I heard shrill arguing and complaining in my head when I went to bed, constant NYC housewife chatter. They edit that show so that every conflict is caught, and what remains seems to be hyper babbling. It took me a while to get it all out of my head today as well.

And yes, I know the show is dumb, but it's probably one of the few cheesy shows I watch (though I despise The Real Housewives of New Jersey--way too sleazy and disturbing). But I definitely watched too much yesterday and I don't feel too good about it. I didn't watch any such TV today, so at least I redeemed myself.


Translate the Chinese bios

Sometimes I watch Taiwan Outlook, which is in English. I've never been to Taiwan, and unfortunately didn't take advantage of its close proximity to Japan when I was there. But I want to go sometime for sure.

The show is hosted by a guy who asks interesting, insightful questions, and his English is really good. But if the show is in English, and he can speak English well, why is his bio page in Chinese? We non-Chinese speakers can't read it, though I can see that he's studied law and got a PhD because those words are in English, along with a few other words.

I just can't believe that in that entire country/province (depending on how you define it), they can't find anyone who can translate his bio (or the other guy's bio--they have a "Host" link but it's meant to be plural even though the English is singular). I guess it's a good way to study Chinese, though you can also watch a live stream of that TV channel, so you can practice listening to and reading Chinese at the same time. It's just too bad this isn't all in Japanese, then it wouldn't annoy me so much :D


Resuming fiction

Since the beginning of this blog, I've been talking about writing, including fiction writing, because I've written a couple of novels (which aren't published, of course) while also writing on this blog. I eventually gave up a few years ago because I thought, "What's the point?! I'm never going to get published. It's a pipe dream!" Then I started writing for other people and pursuing radio stuff that was so consuming, I didn't have the brain power or room to try to write fiction.

Then recently, since the radio world isn't yielding much fruit, I started thinking about a story. And I started writing--by hand, on my computer, even on my cell phone (while I was waiting for a friend to show up for dinner--half an hour late, which gave me plenty of time to write).

The past couple of days I've been feeling drained and disappointed in my quest to attain dwindling radio opportunities, and today, after lying around to overcome a slight illness, I decided that I'm going to take that radio energy and put it into finishing yet another novel. It will be my third (or fourth--I've lost count over the years), and if nothing else, it will at least be a creative outlet and a way to use my mind productively.

I know that I'll be tempted to think, "Why am I wasting my time?!" or "This will never amount to anything!" But I'll take that chance--yet again. And maybe it will help me if not directly, then indirectly in another segment of life.

And I'm now using both Blogger and Facebook in Japanese :D


You can show off your jogging at the bowling if it's on your planning, but never play baby-foot in the pipi-room

French is beautiful, rich, and highly influential and has a reputation as one of the world's most romantic languages. However, there's one feature of French that never fails to irritate me: its ability to borrow English words and twist their meaning in a way to make them easily misunderstood by English speakers. It's the linguistic equivalent of borrowing a friend's car and turning it into a flowerbed.

This phenomenon is not limited to French and probably occurs in most languages that have borrowed from other sources. English is certainly also guilty of it. In the 1980s, if you asked for 'skor' (a Swedish word) in a Swedish shop, you would be handed a pair of shoes. If you asked for 'skor' in an American shop, you'd get a chocolate bar with toffee. Similarly, if you ask for a praline (or, more correctly, a "praliné") in France, you may get a sweet paste used to fill chocolates or even a small chocolate itself. If you ask for a praline in the United States, especially Louisiana, you'll get a chocolate-free treat consisting of pecans and caramelized sugar. It should be noted, though, that even in English, the definition of "praline" changes in different dialects, with British English retaining a meaning closer to the French source term.

In French, however, the contortion and distortion of English words (known as "faux anglicismes" or "false anglicisms") seem particularly widespread. And, to be fair, usually there is some logical connection somewhere between the English word in French and the English word in English, even if the connection isn't readily apparent, especially without context. A French-language inventories that lists "20 pulls" might befuddle an English speaker who does not speak French. A "pull" is a pullover or a sweater. Similarly, a reference to "20 smokings" might be equally confusing. It does not mean 20 cigarettes, cigars, or even smokers. It means 20 dinner jackets or 20 tuxedos, with the link being a contortion of the somewhat archaic English term "smoking jacket."

If a French article refers to "les people," it is not talking about the general public or about humanity, but specifically about celebrities (VIPs or very important people). If someone says he or she will send you a 'mail', don't wait for the letter carrier. A 'mail' in French is specifically an e-mail'. However, "mailing" refers to mass-mailings (which could involve the post) of materials to recipients. French speaker announces that he or she is going off in search of a "self," the individual is not embarking on a deep, existential journey. He or she is simply going to the nearest self-service restaurant. If a colleague tells you that you'll be picked up in a "car," it's not what you might think. A "car" in French is a bus or van.

A number of these "faux anglicismes" are formed using English gerunds, as exemplified by "smoking" above. Along those lines, if someone asks you for a "planning," the speaker is requesting a timetable or schedule. If someone is on the way to a "pressing," the person is headed to the drycleaner's. If a French couch potato talks about his or her "training" or "jogging," it probably isn't a lie. They both refer exclusively to an article of clothing known in English as a jogging suit or a tracksuit. "Bowling" doesn't refer to the sport of bowling, but rather to a bowling alley. By the same token, a "dancing" doesn't mean the act of dancing, but to a dance hall. "Shampooing" doesn't indicate the act of washing your hair but specifically "shampoo" (the product you use to wash your hair). And if a French person mentions "footing," he or she is talking about a hiking expedition.

Less frustrating are anglicisms that have been adopted in French and slightly altered, yet still understood, or may have retained the original English meaning but have become old-fashioned or outmoded in English. An example of the latter is "WC," which comes from the English expression "water closet" for a toilet. The word is alive and well in French, although in English it has largely fallen into disuse and often appears quaint or retro if used in English. The former may be illustrated by the French terms "shake-hand" and "talkie-walkie," which, respectively, mean "handshake" and "walkie-talkie" in English.

A list of these false cognates appears at Les faux anglicismes (website in French). It should be noted that in French-speaking Canada and other French-speaking countries outside France, these terms may not be used. The list also gives the date when each word entered the French language. Interestingly, yet not surprisingly, many of these terms entered French during the 20th century, a period marked by a dramatic increase in international travel and globalization.

(Posted by language fan and friend Silas McCracken.)


A successful, interesting nerd

I met a very cool, interesting, passionate guy who's definitely made the most out of his nerdiness to the point where he has an incredible career, makes good money, and speaks all around the world. And he's not a snob or arrogant at all. He didn't even get annoyed when I stopped by his office at Tribune Interactive to say "hello" and check out those fancy digs where other nerdy people make the most out of their brains :D

I interviewed him for my podcast, and he was so interesting and well-spoken, I ended up talking to him for quite a while, and posted all of it. I think we're going to see him a lot more in the media because he knows how to talk.

btw--His name is Brent Payne, aka the Bald SEO. Apparently, a ton of people know him in the SEO/computer/nerd world. Listen to the interview at this link (mp3 file).


Slag off

I found a really good relationship advice site that is obviously written by a Brit, because there are various phrases that I never hear in the US.

I was reading an interesting blog post over there, and came upon the phrase "slag off", which I've never used. According to Using English (a good resource for ESL teachers and learners), it means "criticize heavily", as in "I slagged her brochure off because the design was awful."

Maybe I should start using that phrase to see people's perplexed reactions :D


Good music to chill out to

When I want to unwind, like I do now, I listen to Groovera.com. There are three channels:

Jet City Lounge, "A fine mix of chilled instrumental future lounge, nu-jazz, groove jazz, downtempo, soft techno, brokenbeat, electro-bossa, deep house, and ambient house, with intermittent vocals."

Audio Popsicle, "An aficionado's mix of chilled adult alternative pop, future lounge, vocal downtempo, nu-jazz, ambient pop, trip-hop, neo-soul, synth pop, deep house, and a few surprise classics.

And the channel that I usually listen to, Low Mercury, "A deeply-chilled mix of instrumental downtempo, soft techno, chill-out, IDM, psybient, illbient, ambient dub, ambient techno, ambient house, nu-jazz, and an occasional vocal track."

I really appreciate the fact that they consistently offer good music.


My condolences to Poland today

I would like to offer my condolences to the people of Poland for the unbelievable tragedy that happened today: the tragic plane crash that killed their top leaders, who were on their way to Russia, where they were going to commemorate the Katyn Massacre. What a very sad irony.

I have some Polish students in my ESL class, and one of them bombed their test today. Maybe this is why. A lot of people are understandably upset.


Read some issues of Penny Magazine online

This is really cool: you can read some issues of Britain's Penny Magazine online! The first edition was published in 1832, where they said, "What the stage-coach has become to the middle classes, we hope our Penny Magazine will be to all classes — a universal convenience and enjoyment."

And here's what they said about the United States in 1835:
The possible destiny of the United States of America--as a nation of 100,000,000 freemen--stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, living under the laws of Alfred, and speaking the language of Shakespeare and Milton, is an august conception. Whey should we not wish to see it realized? America would then be England, viewed through a solar microscope--Great Britain in a state of glorious magnificence! How deeply to be lamented is the spirit of hostility and sneering which some of the popular books of travels have shown in treating of the Americans! They hate us no doubt, just as brothers hate, but they respect the opinion of an Englishman concerning themselves ten times as much as that of a native of any other country on earth. A very little humouring of meanour on the part of Englishmen, would work wonders, even as it is, with the public mind of the Americans.