Posts Tagged ‘Language’

Monster cup-cake

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Rack & Soul is a very good place to get yourself some pretty authentic southern cooking here in New York City. I’ve reviewed it on Yelp.

But there’s something on the menu that I’ve never dared try…

Let’s assume that they’re referring to a human child here instead of a goat. Let’s grant them that.

So if a “kid” is a person from about 3 or 4 years of age on up to just about any age, then the minimum size of a “Kid-Sized Cupcake” is about 28 pounds! I mean JEEEEZE!!! That is a HUGE cupcake. Forget the cup! At that point it’s a huge CAKE! For only 3 bucks…

And this is “FOR KIDS?”


…stay tuned!

Laminated street poetry, or weird political statement?

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

There is a lot of scaffolding in New York City. Its everywhere. For bike riders, like me, scaffolding is often a very convenient form of bike-rack. So you often see bikes chained to scaffolding. And you also see signs telling you not to chain your bike to scaffolding.

But what’s up with this one?

One presumes that this is telling you not to chain your bike to this scaffold. But there’s a reason for the existence of punctuation. Although this sign is, I must admit, relatively clear, line breaks are not really punctuation (Or are they? Argument anyone?), so technically: “DO NOT CHAIN BIKES TO SCAFFOLD WILL BE REMOVED AT OWNERS EXPENSE” is like the title to an art installation or some kind of neo-haiku.

I choose to interpret the intention of this message as a mash-up between two ideas:

1. There is something wrong with chaining bikes in general. It is an anti-bike chaining statement.

2. The owner of this scaffolding is going to remove this scaffolding at their own expense.

Thanks buddy! I’m going to continue chaining my bike until you can explain why this is wrong. And although I never really thought very much about who pays for scaffold removal, I’m not sure why I should think about it either…


…stay tuned!

Idiom idiocy

Monday, December 21st, 2009

When you work in the performing arts, you end up changing your cloths a lot. I guess its the same for people in sports but most sports facilities have clearly defined dressing rooms etc. In theatre and dance a lot of times you find yourself (and others) changing in hallways and bathrooms and lobbies of studios etc. Its just not a big deal, and although there is reasonable measure of modesty, there is a certain looseness about this which is, I think, pretty darn healthy.

So I was very very surprised to see this sign in a bathroom at the Playwrights Horizon’s Theatre School.

Now I’m going to stay away from commenting on this jaunty, whimsical character who in other signs is seen admonishing us to “Do the ‘quiet in the hall’ thing!”. Let’s just say that I’m not a fan.

My problem with this sign is two-fold. First off, I think it’s actually a bit unreasonable to ask people to use stalls to change. My history teacher in high school, Paul Scott, taught me that you can tell what was going on in a society by looking at what laws they had. So I have to assume that there was enough changing going on in these bathrooms to make this policy necessary. However, forcing people into stalls seems unseemly on a number of levels.

And this leads to the bigger problem I have with it. The idiom “Caught with your pants down” means being caught doing something worthy of guilt. Obviously the origin of this is adultery. I know there are a range of attitudes about this kind of thing, but changing one’s cloths is not a bad thing. I mean modesty is modesty, but this IS a theatre school. And to even imply that there is something shameful about changing cloths is a “thing that makes me go hmmmm.”
And I know the point here is to “Do the ‘clever with words on signs’ thing” but, again, this is a theatre school. I would think that textual analysis would have a role here.

So what is being said here is that changing your cloths is a dirty, stinky activity that you should feel guilty about. Another victory for the forces that seek to denigrate the body. And at a theatre school… nice!

And yes, I’m making a mountain out of a mole-hill here, but I am fascinated by idioms and am amazed at how easily mangled they become. For example: “The proof is in the pudding.” This makes no sense. The proof is NOT in the pudding. The correct idiom is “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” which actually makes sense.


…stay tuned!

Shooting fish in a barrel

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Finding mangled English in Japan is WAY too easy… But it’s still fun so here we go:



…stay tuned!

New category.

Monday, November 30th, 2009

I’ve always been fascinated by the way language in general and English in particular gets bent out of shape in the, so called, public forum. And now that I’m always carrying a camera with me on my iPhone, I’ve decided to start documenting some examples of this and posting them here.

To this end, I’ve created a new category on the blog called “Mangled English”. Enjoy!

I’m not exactly above reproach when it comes to my own use of English, so I accept the inherent hypocrisy in this endeavor. I mean no ill-will towards the people who are behind these various oddities. It’s just funny/interesting…

Ok. Here’s the first one:


This is from the restroom of a domestic American Airliner. There are two rather odd implications in this sign.

The first is that is that there is such a thing as reusable toilet tissue.
The second is that toilet tissue, is inherently, foreign.


…stay tuned!

Dog silencer

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Had a pretty decent bowl of Gumbo Ya Ya at “The Gumbo Pot” in the Farmer’s market by “The Grove” here in L.A. today. Also had an order of Hush Puppies.

For those of you who don’t know, a “Hush Puppy” is a smallish morsel of corn bread, fried in some kind of fat. The name comes from the story that cooks would make these to throw to the dogs to shut them up when they were barking. Don’t know if it’s true but it’s as good a story as any.

I was thinking about the fact that I, like a lot of Northerners, first heard the words “Hush” and “Puppy” put together as the brand name of a loafer. It turns out that the name of the shoe comes from a sales manager for a shoe company on a trip to the southeast, hearing the story about the origins of the corn bread nuggets and naming the shoes after them. At the time (late 50’s) it was common to call tired feet “Barking dogs.” so a shoe that would sooth them was a…

This morning I was reading an article about how words like “Kamikaze” and “Hara-Kiri” are actually not Japanese words at all. Rather they are misreadings of the kanji for “Shimpu” and “Seppuku.” These words were essentially invented by anglophone translators (in some cases Nissei) during WWII, who simply didn’t know the pronunciation of the original Japanese words (this is a very understandable error if you know how the Japanese language works). Nevertheless, Kamikaze and Hara-kiri are now part of the Japanese lexicon through adoption.

So, while I ate my gumbo and corn bread, I was imagining an irresponsible etymologist coming to the conclusion that their shoe brand was suggesting that they should quiet a noisy dog by kicking it.

Ah, life.