23 June, 2009

From my correspondent's correspondent

You all remember Mirj, right? She's brought us marvelous signs from all over, as seen here, here and here. Well, it turns out that her friend Aviva was leading a Canadian University Fellowship trip to Israel not long ago, and came across this whopper (sorry - I couldn't help it) while touring near the Dead Sea:

I think that thanking us for our understanding may be premature. Thanks, Aviva and Mirj - this is a work of art!

17 June, 2009

No, it doesn't really say that...

I can't begin to tell you how many times I come to work in the morning, and within half an hour am approached by someone relatively important with an English grammar question. I am by no means an English grammar expert, but fortunately, these are not generally very difficult questions. In the beginning I felt important: "wow, good thing I came in today, or he never wou
ld have known that designed and designated aren't the same word." Then I started to take the kindly, motherly approach: "no, I can see how you might have thought so, but type is not actually an abbreviation for typical."

But time went on, and as I've continued trying to explain the rules, I've truly been getting more and more fed up with the English language. There are just too many nuances, too many obstacles. How can anyone who isn't a native speaker really be expected to understand why sometimes you might say "in accordance with" and sometimes "according to" but that any other combinatio
n, such as "in according with " will make you sound like an absolute idiot? Sure, I know when it's correct - whenever it sounds right - but that's hardly helpful advice to anyone else. Here and there I try to fix small things, in the hope that I'm making the world a better place. It's scrap, not scrop. You're trying to say powered, not energized - we're not in a Star Trek movie. That LED is blinking, not winking. And on and on.

But the fact is, when my well-meaning friends at work write a
ny documentation, it's generally destined to be filed away somewhere, unread. And if it is read, it's likely to be read by another non-native English speaker who won't even notice the grammar blunders. So why do I even care? Why does it even matter?

This is a long introduction, I know. I was shopping this evening when I came across this:

These guys clearly do not have the same excuse that I can grant my colleagues - this is on the shelf in a major supermarket, not filed away in a drawer somewhere. But this is exactly the kind of thing they would have asked me...

11 June, 2009

48% puppy-dogs' tails

So there I was at the pharmacy a few days ago, when this came tumbling out of my wallet. I know I'm not one of those big-time bloggers who has thousands of fans all over the globe on watch for information, but I am very blessed with a few good friends who immediately think of me upon encountering the abs
urd. I think that that's a compliment... Anyway, this one was given to me by our good friend Ricky when we visited him months ago, and is simply so small that I forgot all about it. He found it in his Kosher meal on an airplane, and thoughtfully saved it for me:

So not to kvetch, but I don't like how the potassium and the sorbate don't line up - it gives me a small headache. I'm also not a great fan of the ingredients casually becoming comments: "colored with beta carotene" does not, in my mind, belong in the same list as "soybean oil." But those are small potatoes compared to the whopper in the middle, right?

I mean, I vaguely recall some law from way back when that if an ingredient comprised less than 2% of a product, it didn't need to be listed. That may or may not still be true. But 48%? This isn't claiming 52% fat free, or 52% natural, or 52% butter, or whatever. This is claiming 52% spread - ostensibly the end product! What the heck else is in there?

Oh, unless maybe the other 48% is unwhipped? I think we may just have to call up the folks at Mehadrin and find out...

04 June, 2009

Anyone need a steticist?

Here's a quickie - forwarded to me from the "Efrat Chat" email list:

Wow. There's plenty to comment on here (and feel free to do so) but what made me laugh the most is that the price for waxing is per leg. Come on, is there a very serious market for doing only one?

As for "steticist," I wasn't sure what that was. I googled it, and discovered that although it doesn't seem to be a word in English, about 195 non-native English speakers seem to think it is. I then put my advanced Googler on the job, and the verdict is: maybe they're trying to say

Have a great weekend, everybody!

01 June, 2009

Hey Toby - we can't read Hebrew. What are those funky signs at the top of your blog?

Oh, funny you should ask!

Last year I was at Shavua HaSefer, Israel's yearly Book Week. During Shavua HaSefer, books are on sale all over the country, and at a few choice locations, entire book fairs featuring Israeli publishers are set up. We of course found ourselves walking around the fair in Jerusalem, going from stand to stand. The names of the publishers were clearly marked on signs above the stands, but come on, who really cares about the publisher? We mostly just kept our eyes on the books on the tables.

After a while, I got to a table at the far end of the fair. After looking at a few books, I realized that at this table, the name of the publisher actually was an interesting point, and so I looked up. "Oh!" I exclaimed after seeing the sign, and I began to explain my intrigue to the woman "manning" the stand.

It's pretty silly, really. The publisher was "Toby Press." I had heard that it existed, but never actually come across their books. I know, what's the big deal for it to be named Toby, but for someone named Toby, just trust me that it's
a big deal. Toby is an awfully uncommon name - I grew up always being the one who couldn't find her name on any of those keychain racks, and rational or not, I get a kick out of seeing evidence that I'm not the only Toby on the planet.

So it was fun to see the books; the woman and I shared a good chuckle, and I didn't buy anything. I slid over to the next stand, looked for a second and a half, and audibly said, "No way!" But yes - I looked up at that sign, and it was true. I had reached the well-known Koren publishing house's stand. "So what?" I hear you cry. Well, the name Curwin didn't work out too well in Hebrew, being as Hebrew doesn't have the letter w. So a couple of weeks after we moved
here, we "Hebraized" our name - we took out the w, and were left with Koren, which is an actual (and lovely) name in Hebrew.

Anyway, get it? The signs, put together, had my full name: Toby Koren! It was so silly, and of course Dave made me take a picture:

It's not a terribly flattering picture, so I've always been hesitant to post it here. But I realized that just the top part (without me) really couldn't be a better header for someone named Toby Koren who blogs about signs... so I put it up. Better late than never!

As a short postscript: check out this post by Maya, the writer of a great blog that I recently found. Really funny stuff, and totally true!