Monthly Archives: May 2016

An Important Distinction


images.png    While driving yesterday, I saw a truck on the infamous 405 freeway. The company installs audio and visual components and proudly displayed its name in various places on the truck:


I was in no danger of driving off the freeway since my maximum speed at that point ranged from 5-10 mph. But I did swallow my gum.

Being the crank that I am, I sent the company an e-mail today:

To Simplistic Solutions:

I saw one of your trucks on the 405 yesterday and almost croaked. It appears you do not realize that “simplistic” and “simple” are not synonyms.  You know what “simple” means; “simplistic” means overly simple, too simple—it is most definitely a NEGATIVE.  I am certain that is not the idea you want potential customers to have about your company.

Cheers anyway—

Judi Birnberg


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Three More Japanese Signs

Sadly, this hotel looked neither grand nor fine.IMG_1839.jpg

This was the name of the restaurant in our hotel in Hiroshima. I kept waiting for the plates and bowls to get into formation and march snappily out the door.IMG_2043.jpg

Here was a breakfast choice in Dish Parade. Both objects look very similar, although the one on the right might be the flitter. I think it’s the common Asian mistake of substituting an L sound for an R. But neither looks like any pizza or fritter I’ve ever seen. Not a clue.IMG_2224.jpg

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A Quick Return to Japan

Here are two more Japanese signs I saw that made me ponder:

The only thing that goes through my head when I see this is a song. “Imagine you and me, so happy together….” Do you have any idea what the business might be? A dating site?


This is one of my favorites. When you see this store, you must think ONLY about a suit. NOTHING more. What if I dare to think about a necktie? Or a pair of shoes?


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When to Omit Apostrophes

© Judi Birnberg

I have written previously about the error of putting apostrophes into words that end in S but are not possessive: My cat’s chase each other through the house at high speed’s. Cats and speeds are merely plurals and do not take apostrophes since no ownership is shown.

Here are three other instances when an apostrophe is not needed:

1. When referring to decades: the 1990s
2. When referring to temperatures: highs in the mid-70s
3. When using abbreviations that are plural: 12 CPAs, two BMWs

Every time you want to use an apostrophe, take a good look and see if it really is in a possessive word or in a contraction. If not, delete it.

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Japan Still Calling

These signs and labels still make me giggle. They were all written by well-meaning people trying to master English, a notoriously complicated language. Our spelling alone is enough to make even native-speakers weep. See an earlier post of mine, How to Spell “Fish”

I presume “flit” was meant to be “filet.” As for the sauce, you and I are both guessing.



These quotation marks are to reassure you that someone once said those words. I absolutely believe that, don’t you? The ST is likely missing an initial E. Since 1933, people have been enjoying precious coffee moments. I went to Japan thinking that I would find tea everywhere. It’s available but not obvious; however, coffee shops are ubiquitous.



That serving spoon is to be used to take just one cornflake. But you can go back as many times as you’d like.


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A Few More Signs From Japan

Her Majesty, the reigning chicken, is in Nara, Japan. Notice that all the signs are in English. I am still wondering where the King of Chickens is.



How I loved finding this product. Since it’s a coffee lightener, maybe the advertising company came up with the name by combining cream and powder. Just a guess.


I never tried this offering at a hotel breakfast buffet. But given the wonderful cleanliness of Japan’s cities and towns, of course their sauces would also be tidy.



Filed under All things having to do with the English language

That Mosaic Toilet



I’ve had some email questions about the toilet photo accompanying yesterday’s post. Yes, I made it (well, the mosaic, not the toilet).

I had seen one in the window of a chichi boutique here in Los Angeles. It had a price tag of $6800 and had been sold to a family who was having it shipped to their second home in Hawaii. I thought to myself, “Self, I could make something like that.” “Something” is the operative word here, since I had never done any mosaics before. I asked my husband to buy me a toilet for my birthday—bet you never thought of that as a worthwhile gift—and I started going to thrift stores to buy up all colors and patterns of dishes.

It was a tedious job. I used every excuse I could think of. Since I was working outside, some days were too hot, others too cold, and some too windy. I wanted Goldilocks weather. After about two months, I decided the job was finished, and my sainted husband placed it in our garden, where it remains. No, it is not flushable, merely decorative. although our grandson liked to pretend otherwise.


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