Fancy French Phrases Insult My Intelligence

Because I’m bilingual and have a Ph.D., I usually don’t like to criticize people who use “fancy schmancy” vocabulary; after all, I happen to be one of those people.

Nevertheless, one can misuse sophisticated vocabulary and use (or mandate the use of) intelligent-sounding foreign terms when no need exists for it.

That said, I’d like to introduce you to the cooking term “mise en place.”  In English, this translates loosely as “gather all your shit before you start.”  Something so simple and helpful and obvious shouldn’t sound so daunting.

Obvious means obvious.  If you’re making tacos for your family, this means getting all of your ingredients in one place before you cook.   It also means frying the meat and grating the cheese (etc.) before you begin constructing the tacos.

On the other hand, I suppose you could grab your taco shell, then pull your meat from the refrigerator, then cook the meat, then put the meat in the taco shell, then locate and grate your cheese, then realize you forgot lettuce at the grocery store, then chop lettuce when you return from your emergency shopping trip, then find your sour cream, then smell your sour cream to make sure it isn’t expired, then realize that it is expired, then feed it to your cat, then eat the soggy lukewarm taco that has been waiting for you all this time.

"Gathering all your shit before you start" is also useful if you're hosting a party and plan to play bartender.  (Photo credit: Tannaz)

“Gathering all your shit before you start” is also useful if you’re hosting a party and plan to play bartender. (Photo credit: Tannaz)

 

Forgetting the Little Guy Insults My Intelligence

I’ve grown weary of watching all the big, “interesting” words hog the spotlight. After all, those rock stars are worthless without their sidekicks. Today, I’d like to focus some attention on the most resplendent of those “lesser” linguistic warriors:

The king (a.k.a. King The) has arrived.

The king (a.k.a. King The) has arrived.

King The can dazzle readers with his versatility. Although he maintains a single definition, he can be pronounced two ways to maintain auditory fluidity at all times. He also fills in gaps when things would otherwise sound clumsy or stilted. He even gives eyes a much needed respite between the more acknowledged behemoths of meaning.

Don’t take this as an article of faith. This article is the genuine article.

All hail The!

Excessive Punishments Insult My Intelligence

Whenever I visit international markets, I make it a point to not laugh at any sort of unfortunate English errors I see.  Usually.  And so I chose not to photograph what I’m telling you about today.  You’ll just have to trust me.

Anyway…

I went over to the meat section and discovered a most shocking product being sold: grounded turkeys.

The market was apparently offering troublesome teenagers for human consumption.  I’m not sure if the packages contained thighs, breasts, legs, or other body parts.

 

The store must have thought he'd be yummy to more people than just the girls.  (Photo credit: Daniel Foster)

The market must have thought he’d be yummy to more people than just the Bieber fans. (Photo credit: Daniel Foster)

 

(Before you get all angry and stuff, my high school chemistry teacher lovingly referred to us students as turkeys.)

Stressful Vacations Insult My Intelligence

Polski: Przykład nieporadności stylu urzędnicz...

If this sign were telling you that trespassers would be arrested, would you enjoy your week in prison?  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you visit this blog regularly, you know that I like to travel.  So far, I’ve never been outside of North America and Europe and I hope to expand my horizons (once I find a job and can afford it.)

I’ve found something to love in every country I’ve visited but there’s one detail that always makes travel a million times more enjoyable: knowing the local language.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be the same old tired rant about how native English speakers need to learn more languages.  (I also don’t believe that foreign countries need to have all their signs, menus, etc. translated into English.)  I’m more interested in why a vacation is more fun when you know the language.  A few thoughts:

1- Stress-free use of public transportation.  Western Europe may be pretty easy but Cyrillic-based writing systems are something else.    And Polish is pretty awful too when you’re trying to recognize the name of the station you’re supposed to exit the bus at.  In comparison, even Czech can seem simple to deal with.

Malotranská

Quick… you have 45 seconds before the subway door closes to figure out if this is the right subway stop and make it out the door.  (Photo credit: Guttorm Flatabø)

Subway in Prague

Okay, this starts with an S unlike the other one but it’s hard to keep track of all those accent marks.  Why are all these words so long?  I hope this is right…  (Photo credit: Across the Globe)

2- Non-touristy restaurants and grocery stores, etc.  When a restaurant is located in a tourist area, that restaurant wants its food to taste good to foreigners.  When a restaurant is located in a neighborhood setting, the food will taste good to locals.  Those two aren’t often the same thing; if you want something authentic, you often need to leave the beaten path.  That’s also why you’ll find different Chinese food in the US, China, and other countries.  (If you don’t like vegetables, try Chinese food in Germany.  It’s an experience.)

3- Ability to communicate with people at the hotel/hostel.  With the exception of France and the U.S., most countries encourage tourists who try to speak the local language, even at the most basic and error-prone level.  And they treat you more kindly than they do the people who start up with English and nothing else.  So you get better service.  (I also appreciate the irony that Americans who use “French” as a pejorative are also more likely to treat non-native speakers like the French do.)

4- Ability to understand a menu.  When you can look at a menu in English and in the original language, you realize how bad so many translations are.   If you want to know for sure what you’re eating, know the language.  Euphemisms (among other things) happen in translated menus.

I can understand how the bamboo chicken feels.

I wonder what the food really is…(Photo credit: Wm Jas)

5- Ability to communicate with the police, medical staff, or others in case of emergency.  Or if you get lost…

So get lost!

country name Mongolia in Cyrillic script *scre...

Where am I and why didn’t I get off the train earlier? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dictionaries Insult My Intelligence

Patty, the Boobs

This person might be a boob. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was originally going to write a post about stupid people called “Boobs Insult My Intelligence.” However, a funny thing happened on my way to the publish button.

I went to dictionary.com to make sure I was using the word “boob” correctly; I rarely, if ever, hear the word used with its “stupid person” definition.  It turns out that my usage was correct but I discovered that dictionaries have apparently gone through some inappropriate sensitivity training.

According to every dictionary on that website, the reference to female anatomy is listed as the second definition or lower.  (Reminder: the first definition a dictionary lists is supposed to be the word’s most typical usage.)  The first definition for “boob” is always something to the effect of “a stupid person.”

That can’t be right.  If you ask 100 people to define  “boob,” “stupid person” will not enter their minds immediately.

But there’s more!

Etymologically, “boob” originates from “booby.”  Once again, the first definition given for booby is “stupid person.”  In the dictionary based on the 2013 Random House, this other meaning also appears in the first entry for “booby” (and the anatomical slang doesn’t appear until the second entry):

a gannet of the genus Sula,  having a bright bill, bright feet, or both: some are endangered.

The Collins English Dictionary tells us that “booby” can refer to a stupid person, but here are the other two definitions:

2- ( Brit ) the losing player in a game

3- Compare gannet any of several tropical marine birds of the genus Sula : family Sulidae, order Pelecaniformes  (pelicans, cormorants, etc). They have a straight stout bill and the plumage is white with darker markings

English: Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) on the G...

Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) on the Galapagos Islands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Collins does not mention anatomy at all.

I realize that “boob” and “booby” are not appropriate terms to use in everyday conversation when referencing a woman’s body… and rightly so.  Still, I find it odd that the most commonly used definition of these words is buried under much less prevalent meanings.  And that’s when the anatomical reference didn’t completely disappear from the dictionary’s listings.

It’s now time for the moral of the story.   Actually, I have three of them for you:

1- You can’t remove an offensive word from the language by removing it from the dictionary.  The word becomes conspicuous through its absence and people will talk about it when they normally wouldn’t.  For example: me, right now.

2- You can’t remove an offensive word from people’s minds by prohibiting its use in polite conversation.  Although I’m writing this post as a serious observation about dictionaries, I’m sure my constant use of the word “boob” will attract substantial snickering… as will the first picture in this post.

3- Dictionaries can be fascinating even when they insult your intelligence… unless you’re a boob.

HR Incompetence Insults My Intelligence

25Aug09 ~ Grammar Assignment

(Photo credit: grace_kat)

I’ve been seeking employment for a long time and I’ve grown weary of HR departments.  Job applicants are supposed to submit an impeccably proofread cover letter and resume whenever we apply for jobs.  This is reasonable.  However, I regularly see job advertisements that list “mastery of spelling and grammer” [sic] as a qualification requirement.

Take a moment to let the irony sink in.

Take a second moment to pray it’s not your kid’s school that’s hiring people like this.  Or your employer, for that matter.  Remember, HR still handles many critical details for you and their incompetence can be even more challenging for current employees.

I especially love job ads for teachers that mandate a “mastery of spelling and grammer” right after extolling the school’s high academic standards.  Something’s high at those schools and it isn’t the standards.

So, if the folks in HR get things wrong, how are they supposed to know which applicants are getting things right?  Are applicants supposed to predict what mistakes HR will think are correct and replicate them?

Stupidity pays dividends if you’re stupid in the right way.