Saturday, November 22, 2008

Word Salad

Observe, if you will, a recent conversation between me and my flatmate -- a Spaniard with (almost) natively fluent English.

Me: "Did you buy a new frying pan today?"

Enrique: "No, not yet. I'll probably do it tomorrow."

Me: "Never mind, I'll just make do with the ones we have."

Enrique: [thinking for a moment] ". . . What's do? Is that some kind of New Zealand dish?"

Man, English is weird. But, living the Anglo-linguistic bubble of naïveté that is New Zealand for twenty-three years didn’t afford me the opportunity to realise it. Only now that I'm interacting with people whose native language is not English do I realise the true nature of the language. A bit of a surprise, really.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Snow Day

It snowed last night!

No doubt the novelty will wear off well before mid-April.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How to say "my" in Russian

When I first started to learn Russian, I was intrigued by the fact that there is more that one form of the word "my". At the time, I like the idea of a possessive determiner overtly agreeing with its nominal complement with respect to all phi-features (number, gender and case) captured my interest. It's an interesting linguistic phenomenon.

My opinion changed slightly when I realised that I have to learn all the different forms of "my". If you multiply out all of the different combinations of phi-features, one has twenty-four forms.


Allow me to illustrate the source of my frustration:

мой моё моя мои
моего моё мою моих
моего моуго моей моих
моём моём моей моих
моему моему моей моим
моим моим моей моими

My more astute readers may notice that many of the above forms are identical. Granted. However, even when accounting for this fact, there are still thirteen distinct forms of the first person possessive determiner. Plus, I still have to be able to discern which forms are the same. Plus, there's some issue with animate accusative taking on the same form as the genitive case, whereas the inanimate accusative appears the same as the nominative. I believe. Honestly, I'm a bit hazy on the whole thing, and basically just say "мой" every time, regardless. After all, it really seems a drop in the bucket, since my Russian vocabulary is still limited to basic greetings, pointing and smiling, anyway.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Request

I'm a little curious as to just how widely read this blog is. Therefore, I ask those of you who read my sporadic updates to post a comment to this post. Essentially, my enthusiasm for posting positively correlates with how popular I believe my writing is, so the more people who comment, the more likely I am to keep updating.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bed Time

9pm: type gerund into Wikipedia.

3am: Firefox causes my computer to crash.

Wikipedia is the solution to its own problem.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


In the supermarket yesterday, I found myself with a rapid-onset desire for mayonnaise. I would have bought some too, had I know what the Russian word for mayonnaise was. So, instead of satisfying my craving, I went home to look up the word in my Russian-English dictionary, and eat some more baked beans. This process is a variation on what we in the language-education industry call "Task Based Learning".

Imagine my ambivalence when I learned what the translation is. One the one hand, it's one word fewer for me to learn. On the other hand, I counldn't help feeling that I might have guessed for myself.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Freezer Peek-a-boo

Along with cleaning out my flat (see Autumn Cleaning) I also took to defrosting my freezer. This was motivated less by a slight encrazement as it was by the fact that I wanted to open my freezer. As far as inventions go, freezing was almost as important to the bachelour as canning was.

I left the fridge-freezer open and off for the better part of a day. I put pots and trays in the fridge to catch the dripping water, and ate all of my perishables. After a few hours of melting, the amount of ice in the fridge had reduced to the point where I could open the door a few centermetres, and peer inside.

Imagine my delight when I caught sight, burried under a full ten centremetres of ice, the edge of a white plastic container on the lefthand side of the freezer, and the corner of some sort of of bag, trapped under the ice on the right.

I can't imagine why people don't play Freezer Peek-a-boo more often. Perhaps it's because a single round takes upwards of three months to play.