Friday, October 31, 2008

Another one

...this time perhaps even stranger:

The Welsh in the above sign does not, in fact, say "Cyclists Dismount." What it does say is "Bladder Inflammation Tip Over."

Lest you think this is too ridiculous to even be possible, one theory has it that "cyclists" was mispelled and changed by an automatic spell checker to "cystitis" before being sent over to the guy in the office with a Welsh dictionary.

Anyway, wow. And I thought Wells Fargo was bad with their big fancy sign saying "Comerciales Atención" for "Business Services." Incidentally, here's a BBC article about the heavy goods vehicles sign.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Welsh is even weirder than we thought

Behold a typical bilingual sign in Wales:

So apparently the English in the above sign translates into Welsh literally as "I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any translation work." No wonder I'm having trouble building up my fluency when these are the kinds of idioms I have to come to grips with.

P.S. I think it's absolutely hilarious that Amelia's reaction to my Welsh journal entry was that it was some kind of weird code. Welsh definitely wins my contest for the strangest Latin-based orthography.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Not the shoes!

On a whim, I put on a random selection of Carter Family songs as I was opening this morning at work. One that I hadn't heard before is called "Cannonball Blues," and has the following wonderful line in it:

My baby's left me, she even took my shoes.

I love this because it packs such a huge amount of meaning into those nine words, even though (or maybe because) that meaning isn't overtly stated. If I rephrase this to be less subtle, it loses all its power: My baby's left me, she took everything I own, I have nothing left, or whatever. I doubt I would ever have noticed my revised line, but as it was, it really hit me -- wow! His shoes, even! Ouch! Somehow this way the sense of his having lost absolutely everything really comes across.

So what's the deal with shoes, anyway? I guess they're such a basic utilitarian thing everyone needs just to spend a day in civilization that to be deprived of them seems like the final decimation. I'm curious what other words, if any, we could put in that slot to elicit a similar emotional reaction.

My baby's left me, she even took my mattress.
My baby's left me, she even took my stove.
My baby's left me, she even took my guitar.
My baby's left me, she even took my guitar picks.
My baby's left me, she even took my alarm clock.
My baby's left me, she even took my extension cord.
My baby's left me, she even took my asthma inhaler.
My baby's left me, she even took my glasses.

I dunno, some of these seem to pack no punch at all (stove), while others just seem too mean and not disinterested enough (asthma inhaler). My favorites in the bunch are alarm clock and glasses, but I'm still not impressed. Apparently shoes have some special psychological value I had never realized. I give thanks to the Carter Family for my continuing education.

Addendum: Amelia's recommendation is pants -- My baby's left me, she even took my pants. I feel like this is getting pretty close, but here's the thing I'm realizing about shoes that make them so special: unlike most of these other options, they don't have a lot of emotional baggage attached to them. If she takes his asthma inhaler or glasses, for example, the act seems cruel and petty, and she appears genuinely to wish him injury. Taking his pants likewise seems cruelly embarrassing, as our hapless protagonist will likely have to appear in public unclothed unless a phone somehow got left behind in the rubble.

But shoes don't seem particularly cruel, nasty, injurious, embarrassing, etc., at least to me -- sort of emotionless, in fact. She dispassionately, coolly, calmly took every last thing with her when she went; she exists less as a person, and more as a symbol of the now emptiness of his life and total bewilderment as to what to do next.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


In another valiant and heretofore unsung effort to free itself from the shackles of whose, English has produced one more revolutionary in the person of Ben Wenet, who on August 22nd, 2008, was observed to state:

"I have a friend that's mom lives there too, so..."

This is largely the same strategy we saw with Micole Arny, except that she chose what's as the relative pronoun instead of that's. The thing that I find particularly remarkable about this, though, is that the possessor in this clause is animate -- I would have expected a whose to slip out much more easily in this type of situation than when the possessor is inanimate as in Micole's example.

I have a theory: it could be bunnies. OR, perhaps less controversially, that whose is being increasingly considered to have been pushed into a register where it feels inappropriately formal outside of a literary context. It seems obvious to me that users of English are desperately searching for something to replace it with, and trying all kinds of different options (all of which are perfectly reasonable from a cross-linguistic perspective, it might be worthwhile to note). Two other strategies that I haven't commented on yet throw away the relative pronoun (and gap) entirely: my mother's, e.g...

"...houses that their insulation isn't thick enough..."

And, embarrassing though it is to have to admit him to the vanguard of linguistic change, John McCain's, at least on September 26th, 2008:

"We have a defense system that the costs are completely out of control."

I don't know that we have enough data to start making conclusions yet, but this much is clear to me: something is on the move here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Meddyliau o'n caban wrth y môr

(Nod: heb eiriadur!)

Neithiwr gofynnes i Amelia os ydy hi am fod yn briod da fi, a ddwedodd hi "ydw," wrth gwrs. Doedd hi ddim y dydd o'n i'n planu i'w ofyn, ond oedd y lleuad yn olau iawn pam oedden ni'n cerdded yn ôl o'r lle ble oedden ni'n eistedd yn y dŵr ac doedd dim gen i ddewis. Dw i'n gobeithio oedd hi'n hoffi'r ffordd wnes i hi -- dw i'n moyn gofyn, ond mae ofn arna i. :)

Ac mae hi'n hoffi'r ring yn lawer, mwy na i mi allu gobeithio -- mae hi'n dweud "e'n berffaith!" Ac mae'n ymddangos byddan ni'n briod rywbryd -- fi ac Amelia, pwy basai wedi ei chredu flwyddyn yn ôl? Dw i'n meddwl tai'r dewis da oedd e -- does dim cwestiwn mod i'n ei charu hi, ac ydyn ni'n dda iawn together -- dan ni i gyd yn hapus iawn, ac mae'n trafferthion ni'n anymddangos fis ar ôl mis. Dw i'n credu tai'r byw dw i wedi eisiau trwy fy nyddiau i gyd ydy hwn. Dw i'n hapus.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Y cofnod dyddiadur cyntaf yn Gymraeg

Dw i'n eistedd ar y trên ac yn meddwl. Dw i'n teimlo'n drist, ac wn i mo'r rheswm. Mae'n wir bod Amelia wedi bod yn absennol yn ystod yr wythnos gorffennol, ac mae hwnna'n anodd i mi; ac mae gen i blanau mawr (ti'n gwybod beth ydw i'n eisiau dweud) i'r penwythnos nesaf, ac mae'n siwr fod hwnna'n mwyhad fy ing i. Dw i'n moyn i bopeth fod yn berffaith...

Nac ydw, dydy hwnna ddim yn wir. Dim perffaith, dw i mond eisiau iddi deimlo'n hapus i fod gen i -- dw i am foyn teimlo bod hi yna gen i, dim yn teithio mewn lle arall. Ac mae ofn arna i bydd hi'n aros i mi ddweud y geiriau mawr, ac yn ofydus amdani, ac fydd hi ddim yn gallu cael blas ar yr amser.

Ond beth dw i'n gallu gwneud? Mond aros, bod yn ei charu hi, ymlacio -- bydd hi'n fwy hawdd iddi hi ymlacio hefyd.