Cutleries

I took this (lousy) photo of a sign that says “Cutleries Station” at Soup Spoon in Novena.

In modern standard British and American English, “cutleries” is not a word. (Neither is “equipments”.)

What makes this example interesting is that it raises another issue: whether we use singular or plural nouns as “noun adjuncts” or “attributive nouns”.

In other words, which is correct?

Drinks Machine
Drink Machine

Obviously, the machine would contain more than one drink, so using the plural is more “logical”, but it sounds horrible to me. Wikipedia says that the singular (or the possessive) is traditional in most cases, but that plurals are gaining ground.

I’ve seen several (many?) signs in Singapore that say “Children Playground” rather than “Children’s Playground”, which is doubly silly since those signs should probably just say “Playground” anyway.

(This one is in the complex where I live. At least “Residents’ Lounge” is correct.)

If you think “Children Playground” sounds awful, don’t laugh too hard. Whoever named the 2002 romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice neglected to include an apostrophe after “weeks”, unleashing a wave of scornful critique from movie-going fussbudgets. Apparently, educated native speakers working in the media and entertainment industries, even if they don’t misuse singulars and plurals, still struggle to distinguish plurals from possessives when modifying nouns with other nouns.

English is not easy!

Further Reading

Herbie Goes Bananas (1980)

Herbie befriends a thieving street urchin in Mexico and gets his new owners in trouble when he smuggles the boy aboard a cruise ship and breaks loose in the cargo hold. Some treasure hunters searching for hidden Inca gold must recover stolen film that the boy accidentally transferred from one stolen wallet to another.

I like the car’s tricks, and his friendship with the orphan is suitably heartwarming, but the other characters and plot are nothing special. Moreover, poor Herbie keeps getting more and more decrepit-looking throughout the movie. They patch him up at the end, but we never get to see him race!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/herbie-goes-bananas/id363434777

Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977)

Nearly ruining his driver’s chance to qualify for the Trans-France Race, Herbie falls in love with another race car in Paris, one driven by a woman who resents discrimination against female racers. Meanwhile, Herbie is being chased by two bumbling diamond thieves, who have hidden a fist-sized gem in Herbie’s gas tank.

There’s a fight scene in the Alps that reminds me of the one in Speed Racer, though this one involves fewer people than that one; the diamond thieves have brought a helicopter to intercept Herbie and they hold the driver and his mechanic at gunpoint to try to get the diamond back. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking…

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/herbie-goes-to-monte-carlo/id354105566

Herbie Rides Again (1974)

In this sequel to The Love Bug, the characters are totally different, except the car himself. The settings overlap, though: Herbie’s owner, a delightful little old lady played by Helen Hays (who I recognize from the Disney movie Candleshoe), still lives in the same house in San Francisco.

The plot revolves around whether the house (what the Chinese call a “nail house”) will be torn down so that an insensitive rich guy named Mr. Hawk can build a huge, H-shaped skyscraper on the site. Everything nearby has already been demolished. In Hollywood, the underdog wins and the wealthy antagonist loses; private property rights are upheld. (In China, sadly, that’s not always how the story goes, though supposedly things are improving.)

In part because the connection to racing is lost, in part because the real-estate developer is so explicitly Machiavellian, and in part because the lead male is pretty dopey, I liked this movie less than the original. That’s normal for sequels, though, and it was still cute.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/herbie-rides-again/id354107745

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

The best part of Dead Men Tell No Tales was the hilarious dry-land bank robbery scene. The runner-up was the failed-execution scene, which was also, notably, a scene on dry land. The CGI was impressive and all, but the ocean consists of entirely too much water, albeit fake water, if you ask me.

This is a tough movie to summarize in that there are five main characters, all with their own goals and conflicts. It’s an easy movie to summarize in that the whole plot is basically just “get control of the magic stick”. (It’s best not to think too hard about how the magic stuff works.)

Keep reading for a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

I’ll Tell You Mine by Pip Harry

Clearly I need to read more Australian books. The vocabulary in I’ll Tell You Mine felt quite alien. I’d say everything (apart from “daggy”) is pretty clear from context, or from conversations I’ve had with Australians and New Zealanders I’ve met in Singapore.

Still, I had no idea until I looked it up why a truck would be called a “ute”. (It’s a strange word, one that would sound like Vinny in My Cousin Vinny saying “youth”.) The first time I saw “ute” on the page, it looked like a typo that was meant to be a longer word, or an acronym that was meant to be put in all caps, or at least a brand name that was meant to start with a capital letter. But no, “ute” is a word that’s short for “utility”. Apparently it refers to something that might be a pick-up truck or something like a cross between a normal car and a pick-up truck. Such vehicles are said to have “trays”. Learn something new every day.

Other stuff that sounds weird to an American, even one with expat friends:

  • chemist (pharmacy)
  • lollies (any sweets or candies)
  • bogged (rather than “bogged down”)
  • pies (for savory meat pastries)
  • jumper (sweater)
  • to dob (to snitch or tell on someone)
  • schmick (new/stylish)
  • tatty (opposite of schmick)
  • living out of home (living away from home)
  • holidays (vacations)
  • cuppa (cup of presumably tea)
  • a chinwag (a chat)
  • a barbie (a barbecue grill, or the event)
  • brekkie (breakfast)
  • bikkie (biscuit, which might or might not be a cookie)
  • loos (bathrooms/restrooms)
  • mates (friends)
  • plaits (braids)
  • dodgy (sketchy)
  • pinboard (bulletin board, cork board)
  • tuckshop (snack bar/convenience store)
  • texta (permanent marker, like a Sharpie but not)
  • turps (turpentine, for cleaning off Sharpie writing)
  • shops (stores)
  • bathers, swimmers (bathing suit, swimsuit)
  • daggy (okay, I can’t really explain this one; ask Wikipedia)

I love the word “dodgy”, but I dislike all the Ozzie diminutives. I’ve pretty much stopped saying “vacations” since no one around me says it, and as I’ve mentioned, it’s getting harder for me to call a place where you buy something a “store”.

I’ve left out (or “missed out”) words relating to school stuff (Year Elevens), place names (Wagga Wagga), and sports (netball).

These days I don’t even notice most British spellings (organisation, centimetre, flavour), though “gaol” is still pretty strange.

I wish I’d kept a list of interesting words and expressions as I was reading the book. The list would be twice as long!

When and Why I Read I’ll Tell You Mine

This Australian author is in my YA writing group.

Genre: fiction (Young Adult)
Date started / date finished:  28-May-17 to 29-May-17
Length: 254 pages
ISBN: 9780702239380
Originally published in: 2012
Amazon link: I’ll Tell You Mine

Why does a hamburger symbolize food?

I don’t know what the English text of this blurry “no food or drink” sign says, but I don’t care; I’ve covered the text aspect of these signs already. I took the photo because I wanted to talk about the food and drink symbols.

The bigger sign features a double burger; usually the burgers on these signs only have one layer between two buns.

The smaller sign features a stemmed glass with a bent straw, suggesting an alcoholic cocktail; usually the drinks on these signs are trapezoids with straight straws that suggest sugary, carbonated soft drinks.

Both of the stickers, thus, differ in interesting ways from the canonical or prototypical “no food or drink” sign.

Still, I wonder how the prototypical “no food or drink” sign came about! I’ve seen similar signs all over the world, in places where a hamburger (or for that matter, the fast food restaurant in general) is presumably not a domestic cultural touchstone, but a relatively recent foreign import.

These stickers are not what you think of when someone says “globalization”, are they? Yet their spread must be attributable to the increase in international trade and communication in the decades since the hamburger was invented.

When and how (and where) was the hamburger invented? I don’t know. Wikipedia has some guesses. If you’re really curious, I hereby inform you that are at least two entire books on the subject (neither of which, in all likelihood, I will ever read):

I’d say the second one is more likely to explain why, all over the world, those black/red/white signs depict “food” as a hamburger.

The Love Bug (1968)

When I was little, I loved movies where stuff moved by itself. I loved animate inanimate objects like Herbie the VW Beetle, talking animals like the cat in The Cat from Outer Space, and people who could do telekinesis, like the siblings in Escape to Witch Mountain. These days I enjoy racing car movies, like the Fast and Furious series, Speed Racer, and even Death Race, despite how bloody it is. The Love Bug is a family comedy that features a racing car that moves by itself. What’s not to love?

I watched it with the audio commentary on this time, so rather than hearing the film’s dialog, I was hearing comments from the three main actors years after the filming.

One thing the commentators pointed out was the matte backgrounds. I tend to think of fake sets as being CGI and very artificial, but movies have been artificial a lot longer than computers have been around. The methods we use to trick the eyes have changed, but the effect is the same. A backdrop created with pixels isn’t necessarily more beautiful or realistic than a backdrop created with paint. The actor who was describing scenes set in foggy San Francisco couldn’t remember, and couldn’t reliably discern, which scenes were filmed on location and which locations had been painted in.

The movie is more impressive if you think about how many of the simple-looking special effects had to be done in real life with physical tools and props, such as the scene on the DVD cover where the car is bouncing across the surface of a pond. They had a plastic car on wires attached to poles on either side of the pond, and they bounced the car on the water. It’s much simpler, and much more complicated, than it looks!

Memorable moments in the movie: Herbie getting drunk on Irish coffee with whipped cream, which I don’t think I understood very well when I was a kid; a phone in a car, which must have been devilishly expensive at the time; diverted race cars zooming through a  mine, and then Herbie getting in an elevator sideways to exit the mine at the top of a hill.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-love-bug/id281495547

Mao’s Last Dancer (2009)

Trying to write down what I think about Mao’s Last Dancer is like unpacking a Russian doll. There are stories within stories within stories.

The reviews tell a story about the film’s reception. Critics were harsher than I expected, oddly saying both that the movie was bland and that it was melodramatic.

Included on the disc is the filmmaker’s story of how the movie was made, which made the whole thing sound like a minor miracle. The casting was challenging because in addition to a fantastic Chinese-speaking ballet dancer who could play Li, they needed a whole set of kids to play Li and his ballet classmates at age 11, and a whole set of teenagers to play Li and his ballet classmates at age 15. They also had to choreograph and stage a bunch of different ballet performances in different styles: a Chinese imitation of a Western ballet, a Chinese revolutionary ballet, Don Quixote, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (familiar to me as the cartoon evolution of life on Earth in Disney’s Fantasia).

In 2003 Penguin published Mao’s Last Dancer, the autobiography of Li Cunxin, who is still alive and was consulted during filming. It must be strange to see your life made into a movie. I don’t think I’d like it.

Two cultures clash: Mao’s communist ideals and the American dream. Unsurprisingly, the movie teaches that it is better to live rich and free in the West than poor and oppressed by Party members who do not tolerate ideas that conflict with their doctrines.

And there is the plot of the movie itself (see below).

You see what I mean about the recursive nature of the story? There’s the story of the reception of this particular biopic; the story of the making of the film; the story in the film itself; the story in the autobiography the film was based on; the memories that the autobiography was based on; and the real-world cultural backdrop of the dancer’s life.

I’m still not clear on the title. The name “Mao” conjures up the Chairman, but Li was chosen by representatives of Madame Mao, not Chairman Mao, to learn ballet at the Beijing Dance Academy. I’m not sure why he was called the “last”, unless perhaps he was the last child selected during tryouts.

This movie, like Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Kings of Pastry, was a gift from my in-laws.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/maos-last-dancer/id424153088

Keep reading for a plot summary with SPOILERS in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Mao’s Last Dancer (2009)

Everyday vs. every day

My husband and I sometimes eat at Wild Honey. On our last visit, I was struck by this error on their new menu:

OPEN EVERYDAY FROM 9AM

It should say:

OPEN EVERY DAY FROM 9AM

The space between “every” and “day” is missing.

Now, you may be thinking, “Hang on, ‘everyday’ is a perfectly good word!”

Yes. Yes, it is, but it’s an adjective, and what’s needed in this and similar contexts is the two-word adverb phrase.

Here’s an example showing how to use the one-word adjective in front of a noun and the two-word adverb at the end of a sentence to modify the verb:

These are my everyday shoes. I wear them every day.

Now, can anyone tell me why there’s no such word as “everywhen”? We have “everywhere”, and “everything”, not to mention those vaguely plural singular words “everyone” and “everybody”.