Stackable jewelry box with lots of great feathers

If you thought AutoCorrect only affected text messages, think again.

Whoever was responsible for inputting the marketing text that describes the features of this stackable jewelry box got as far as “feat—” and then took the first word that was suggested.

I mean, clearly this is not the result of a manual typo or a translation error. Some kind of auto-complete software seems to be a plausible explanation in part because this product is made in China, and as I understand it the way you type Chinese is:

  • you type the transliterated (Pinyin) spelling of the syllable you want, using the Roman alphabet and possibly a number for the tone
  • some predictive software shows you a list of characters that match the sound and possibly also the sentence context
  • you select the character from the list

I can imagine similar predictive writing software being used for English text if the writer isn’t typing on a phone but also isn’t a native speaker.

Crave vs. crave for

It used to be normal to say “[someone] craved for [something]” instead of “[someone] craved [something]”. The former sounds like a mistake to me, as if the speaker meant to say “[someone] had a craving for [something]”.

I’m not the only one with this intuition.

The difference is whether the verb “crave” is considered transitive, thus requires a direct object to follow immediately, or is considered intransitive, in which case a prepositional phrase beginning with “for” is needed.

Modern dictionaries list only the transitive version (as above), or they list the transitive version first, followed by the less common intransitive version.

The “wrong” (historically more popular, intransitive) version appears in the 1911 novel Peter and Wendy, aka Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie, a respected work of literature in English:

It was all owing to his too affectionate nature, which craved for admiration.

The text refers to Mr. Darling, father of Wendy, John, and Michael.

Sakura Cuisine’s Saliva Chicken

I posted a photo of this restaurant before because the name seemingly advertised so many kinds of food. They’ve simplified the name—presumably not because they saw my blog post, but who knows?

Now they are promoting a dish they call “Saliva Chicken”.

The Chinese name of the dish is three characters (that’s the traditional one for chicken, not the simplified one):

口水雞
mouth water chicken

Note that there is no sure-fire way to determine how many characters in Chinese correspond to a “word” in English. If you take the first two characters together, they mean “saliva”, because that’s what “mouth water” is.

口水
saliva

The restaurant seems to be offering a chicken dish cooked with saliva (?!), but actually it just wants you to order the chicken dish that makes you salivate. If they’d named it “mouth-watering chicken” in English, the name would have been perfectly unobjectionable.

In my opinion, the problem is not that the Chinese language is hard, or that English is hard, just that translation is hard. All languages assign meanings in arbitrary ways. Why, after all, should we English speakers think that “saliva chicken” sounds gross, but “mouth-watering chicken” sounds delicious? This distinction is not meaningful in Chinese, any more than the distinction between “cow meat” (eew) and “beef” (yum).

Shang Antique: Established Since 1984

Although Shang Antique only moved into this unit at the front of Tanglin Shopping Centre sometime within the last year or so, I am willing to believe that the business has existed from 1984 until now. However, they should use “Established” or “Since” and not both!

More below on why the sign is wrong.

Continue reading Shang Antique: Established Since 1984

Opaque

Once upon a time, I knew that ‘opaque’ had something to do with whether you can see through something, but I thought it was a synonym of ‘transparent’, not an antonym.

Since most things are not transparent, we don’t use ‘opaque’ nearly as much as ‘transparent’ to describe things; the opaqueness of material objects is assumed by default.

However, ‘opaque’ beautifully describes ideas that are somehow inscrutable—inaccessible because perfectly obstructed by some stark, looming, indifferent, featureless impediment.

If transparency is commonplace and opaqueness is abstract, translucence, the middle child, is enigmatic, shimmering and mystical. It evokes iridescent dragonfly wings and Tiffany windows.

Painstakingly

For the longest time, I understood how to use the word ‘painstakingly’ but I thought that the action embedded in the adverb was ‘staking one’s pain’ on something, which perhaps I thought meant something like ‘betting one’s life’ on something.

Why did I think that? Phonology interfering with morphology.

Once the two words ‘pains’ and ‘taking’ lost the hyphen between them, there was a tendency for the second syllable to absorb the consonant at the end of the first, according to the phonological principle that we automatically maximize syllable onsets. That is, if it’s possible to lump a group of consonants together, we do it at the beginnings of syllables, not at the ends.

In short, because English allows the consonant cluster ‘st’, the morpheme ‘stake’ naturally obtrudes and creates confusion as to the word’s actual underlying components.

Here’s an explanation and another example involving ‘st’.

In truth, the ‘s’ is ambisyllabic—has the quality of ambisyllabicity. It belongs to two syllables at once, even though it started out belonging to a single morpheme.

What You Need to Know about British and American English by George Davidson

I’ve come a long way since the days when I consistently spelled the word ‘British’ with two t’s, which is phonetically intuitive but correct nowhere on the planet. Nevertheless, there were still some new factoids in What You Need to Know about British and American English.

When and Why I Read It

I write English lessons for students in Singapore; it’s important to know the British English standard here.

Genre: nonfiction (language / English)
Date started / date finished:  07-Nov-16 to XX-Nov-16
Length: 216 pages
ISBN: 9814107832 (paperback)
Originally published in: ????
Amazon link: ???

The book was published by some Singapore company called Learners Publishing, which was apparently acquired by Scholastic.

Two More Little Princes

While I returned from Vietnam to Singapore, my husband went on to Bangkok. After seeing how pleased I was to find The Little Prince in Vietnamese, he wanted to surprise me by bringing back The Little Prince in Thai. I spoiled his plan by asking him to look for it when I checked in with him online during his stay. Then he felt it was incumbent upon him to come up with an even surprisier surprise.

The result: The Little Prince deluxe pop-up book! Since I had The Little Prince in English and six other languages (not counting Thai), clearly I needed to have the book in 3D.

It’s pretty spectacular! I was indeed surprised.

tlp-title

tlp-interior

After a bit of Googling, I realized: nine versions is just a drop in the bucket. There are more than 250!

For comparison, the sensationally successful Harry Potter books are “only” available in about 70 different languages (someone’s got them all); I have copies in about 30 of them.

What about the The Bible? It’s available in over a thousand languages.

Still, The Little Prince is one of the most translated works ever. It’s up there with Pinocchio, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and stories by Andersen.

Given how many versions of The Little Prince there are, owning just one version for English (well, two, counting the pop-up) is paltry. I should figure out which English translation I have, because apparently there are several, and some are more well-regarded than others—or perhaps it would be fairer to say the different versions well-regarded for different reasons.

More on the subtleties and pitfalls of translation and publication across language barriers, with specific reference to The Little Prince, at the link below.

On Translation and The Little Prince

Small little bowl from Vietnam

This bowl came from a shop called Maroon (156 Hang Bong St).
The price was VND 88,000 (about S$5.50).

They had a lot of other pieces with a similar glaze.

vietnam-ceramics

It’s impressive that the shop has custom-printed shopping bags.
On the other hand, nobody really proofread them…

maroon-front
Maroon
interior design – glhtware – homeware
maroon-back
Dnterior desining and prodncing:
– Wooden furnitures, sofa, curtains
– Giftware, homeware, ceramics, silk,
Lacquers