Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Cultural vagaries

Cultural vagaries.

This evening, Whisky was having a canine Mexican stand-off with another small dog.
'How big this dog?' asked its owner. I looked at him. My immediate thought was to point at Whisky and say,
'This big,' but on second thoughts, I told him Whisky's weight. The other dog, a Dachshund, appeared to be wearing a pair of pants around its front legs and breast, to protect it from chaffing from the harness I imagine.
Nonetheless, odd.

A little further on I saw a woman wearing the most hideous hijab I'd ever seen. Usually, they look quite elegant, but this one looked like an oversized yellow duster. Then I realised it was an oversized duster, held on by a baseball cap, and the woman was most likely not of the hijab wearing persuasion.
The Chinese people here, especially the women, often go to great lengths to avoid exposure to the sun. Some wear full-face visors that look comical, others walk beneath brollies held up as parasols, they look serene.

It is blueberry season. However, the local blueberry growers by and large are not native speakers of English, so everywhere there are signs that say,
'Fresh picked blueberries.'
No, this really won't do, because it is quite simply meaningless. Two adjectives in apposition must be able to both qualify the noun, thus, 'fresh, British Columbian blueberries' makes sense because the blueberries are fresh and from BC. So, I'm willing to accept that the blueberries are both fresh and have been picked, but then, you don't need to say that. If they were fresh and un-picked, then the fresh would be superfluous because whilst they're on the bush, they are of course fresh.
Probably they mean 'freshly picked'. People, you need an adverb to qualify an adjective, everyone knows that.
Perhaps it's a characteristic of some other language.

This happens.
For example, some eastern European languages like Russian, which I personally have no knowledge of, clearly has a problem with articles. This leads to such gems as the one that appeared in our daily on-board bulletin, 'Say it with the Flowers'.

Along similar lines, I imagine that the Chinese languages have a different take on tenses from English.
'Whisky make poo?' doesn't in fact mean 'has Whisky been to the toilet?' but rather a question about his viability as a living thing. First biology lesson at secondary school, characteristics of living things, 'excretion'.

When Dawn and I arrived at Fairbanks, (where this dead polar bear picture was taken), we were given a diary to write in. On the inside cover, (journalling for dummies or some such) were some apparently common mistakes. Most of them were of the 'duh' variety. But one was crashingly, glaringly, incorrect.
'Always 'toward' it said, never 'towards'.' Wrong! However, in spite of a lifetime of reading some of the world's greatest literature, I checked with the OED before commenting on the error.

" Towards : preposition
1 in the direction of:they drove towards the German frontier
getting closer to achieving (a goal):moves towards EU political and monetary union
close or closer to (a particular time):towards the end of April
2 expressing the relation between behaviour or an attitude and the person or thing at which it is directed or with which it is concerned:he was warm and tender towards her our attitude towards death
3 contributing to the cost of:the council provided a grant towards the cost of new buses


Old English tōweardes (see to, -ward)"

Obsessive? Ya think? Sure, but it's my obsession and I'm comforted by it :))

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