From Jon Winokur’s book, The Portable Curmudgeon.
The chief objection to playing wind instruments is that it prolongs the life of the player.
— George Bernard Shaw
(I can’t find who said the following, but I concur: The reason bagpipe players walk while they play is to get away from the music.)
Of all noises, I think music is the least disagreeable.
— Samuel Johnson
— Arturo Toscanini to his orchestra
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.
Except when you reign over the heist of a feisty neighbor’s weird, beige, foreign sleigh. Or when that neighbor’s eight heirs forfeit their heifers and seize freight.
I am amazed that we are even minimally proficient at English spelling, much less those of us who are not native English speakers. Many years ago, George Bernard Shaw, appalled by ridiculous spelling conventions, proposed that each letter have only one sound (such as in Spanish). Given the way English is spelled, he wrote that FISH should be spelled as GHOTI:
1. Take the GH sound in ENOUGH.
2. Then use the O sound in WOMEN.
3. Finally, take the TI sound in NATION.
And you have just made FISH.
“England and America are two countries that are divided by a common language.”
This astute observation has been attributed to Oscar Wilde and Winston Churchill, but the consensus credits the Irish writer George Bernard Shaw. Is it still as true today as it was when Shaw made the observation? The March 2015 Atlantic ran an article, “Mind the Gap,” in which British and American linguistic differences were explored.
Here are a few; I’ll list the American words and phrases first, then the British.
Trunk (of a vehicle)/Boot
Shag (Southern dance, haircut, type of carpet)/Sexual intercourse
Knock up (make pregnant)/Knock up (call you or knock on your door)
Make a mess of things/Cock up
Baby’s pacifier/Comforter or dummy
Period (punctuation)/Full stop
Thousands more undoubtedly exist, but you get the idea. In addition we have the spelling variances, the most common being the difference between, for instance, center and centre and authorize and authorise, not to mention labor and labour. It’s a wonder we understand each other at all.
By the way, in the same issue of The Atlantic is a wonderful article comparing the British and American versions of “House of Cards,” both available on Netflix. The author and I are in complete agreement about the superiority of the British version (with the brilliantly evil, canny, sly Ian Richardson playing Francis Urquhart (F.U., just as in the American version)), the man who does what he must to become prime minister. I think Kevin Spacey is an excellent actor, but in the two versions of “House of Cards” it’s no contest.
George Bernard Shaw was so frustrated by the vagaries of English spelling that he tried, unsuccessfully, to revise standard orthography: each letter should have only one sound.
The way he saw it, using English spelling to write “fish” could easily be GHOTI: