Category Archives: Copywriter

F*** mi!

A friend who’s visiting Vietnam has been making commendable efforts to learn enough of the language to get by – and display respect rather than overbearing Western arrogance. But he’s run into some slight problems. For just a flavour…

“Vietnamese personal names are usually three syllables long, but may also be two or four syllables. The first syllable is the family name or surname. Because certain family names, notably Nguyen, are extremely common, they cannot be used to distinguish among individuals in the manner customary in English. Do not shorten two-syllable names, i.e. Lê Duẩn is always Lê Duẩn. For three-syllable names, use the final syllable as a short form to refer to the subject after the first reference. Thus Ngô Bảo Châu is shortened to “Châu”. For four-syllable names, use the last two syllables as the short form. Thus Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai is “Minh Khai”. It should be noted that “Hồ Chí Minh” is exception to these rules since this is a pseudonym with a strongly literal meaning. Chí Minh means “he who enlightens,” so these two syllables are not divided. An explanatory header, {{Vietnamese name}}, may be used if clarification is considered necessary.”

In short, as he grumbles, ‘the only Vietnamese name anyone knows doesn’t follow any of the utterly impenetrable rules’.

I tel him he should have gone to Thailand like everyone else.

Checkout the red big car

Chatting with friends recently about our internalised register of the correct order of adjectives – ie:

1. Opinion
2. Measurements
3. Shape
4. Condition
5. Age
6. Color
7. Pattern
8. Origin
9. Material
10. Purpose

…which is why we talk about ‘the big red car’, not the red big car. Following up later online, and musing over what felt like an analogous issue we’d previously discussed – whether there’s something inherently melancholy about music played in minor chords, or whether that’s a learned association, and I came across a fascinating blog covering that and related issues. For example:

Speaking of key, some people think that songs in a minor key sound sadder than those in a major key. Is that something that infants notice?

We know that infants can discriminate major from minor chords, but we don’t know exactly when they begin to associate major keys with happy, and minor keys with sad.

Also, that association depends on what you’re used to. Musical systems differ, just as languages differ, and the structure of scales, keys, and harmony in your native musical system is largely learned through passive exposure, like language. Music in major keys is much more common in Western tonality, and music in minor keys does tend to sound more sad to Western listeners. However, in some musical systems, the minor scale is the most common, and can sound happy to listeners who are accustomed to it.”

Also:

“Speaking of cultural differences, when do these develop? Are Western babies born preferring Western music?

No, young infants are sensitive to a diversity of music. A process of “perceptual narrowing” appears to take place during the infant’s first year. Western music tends to use very simple meters, such as in a march, in which every second beat is accented. However, many cultures use more complex meters, for example, accenting every fifth or every 7th note. Young Western infants are able to detect changes in both simple and complex meters. But by 12 months, Western infants are only able to do so for the simple meters found in Western music.”

Fascinating stuff!

Contexts may settle

Looking online recently for a definition of the word ‘akin’, I came across

Pretty fair definition, I thought. But when I scrolled down, I came to

What a great way to define words! By providing an array of contexts in which they’re used. As you read them, one after another, you get an ever-closer feel for how the word works – what it does – which is (thanks Wittgenstein) what the word actually means.

Give me strength…

The things people do to the language…

Businesses’ appropriation of the word ‘passion’ has been one of the more egregious assaults of recent years. I see utilities vehicles prowling the streets with ‘We have a passion for water’ emblazoned on the side. Really? A passion? For water? Have you seen a doctor?

*sigh*