27 November 2015

Ivory Tower

It is interesting when a calque form one language into another involves a shift in meaning. In English ivory tower always has a negative connotation, suggesting a university that is cut off from reality. But look at this paragraph from page 1 of the Media Permata of 28 November:

Dua adik-beradik menarik nafas lega apabila cita-cita mereka untuk melanjutkan pelajaran ke menara gading di Malaysia tercapai dengan adanya bantuan biasiswa penuh daripada sebuah syarikat tempatan hari ini.

which might be translated as:

Two sisters breathed a sigh of relief today when their ambition to continue their studies at an ivory tower in Malaysia succeeded with the help of a full scholarship offered by a local company.

Note that menara gading ('ivory tower') does not suggest anything negative in this context. Indeed, my dictionary gives the meaning of menara gading as 'institution of higher learning'.

15 November 2015


This photo, of an Australian coffee shop in London, was sent to me by Benjamin Tucker:

The use of an -ie (or -y) suffix is well-known in Australia: so you have:

  • barbie (barbeque)
  • mozzie (mosquito)
  • u-ie (u-turn)
  • eskie (ice box for keeping beer cold)

So, the purpose behind the name Beanie seems to be show it is a coffee shop from Australia. Quite imaginative, really.

05 November 2015

TPP Countries

In a report by the BBC on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) (see here), near the top there is a link to a video which starts by showing the flags of the 12 nations that are involved:

Then, near the end of the article, it is stated that:

The member countries of the TPP account for some 40% of the global economy and include Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Given that eleven countries are listed, why not the twelfth country, Brunei Darussalam?

I know that Brunei is small, but it still seems bizarre to omit it when all the other participant countries are listed.

02 November 2015

Car Booth Sale

Here is an extract from an article on page 2 of Media Permata of 2 November 2015, about activities to be held in Tutong District:

Manakala pada 6 hingga 8 November pula akan diadakan Car Booth Sale bertempat di Taman Rekreasi Sungai Basong. [italics in the original]
which might be translated as:
Meanwhile from 6 till 8 November a Car Boot Sale will be held at Sungai Bason Recreational Park.

'Car Booth Sale'? This reflect two aspects of pronunciation: in Brunei English, there is often no distinction between /θ/ and /t/, so speakers are uncertain about the sound at the end of 'boot' and 'booth'; and voiceless TH at the end of a word is pronounced as [t] rather than the [f] that would be expected in Singapore, which reflects the fact that Brunei English is distinct from other varieties of English in the region.

One might also note that this is a kind of folk etymology, where language users re-interpret words to make more sense to them. Bruneians don't use 'boot' for the back of a car, and Brunei Malay uses the word bonet. (I have no idea why people got the wrong end of the car for this term.) Given that 'car boot sale' doesn't make much sense to people who do not use the word 'boot' for the back of a car (the 'trunk' for Americans), 'booth' seems logical to refer to a small stall to sell second-hand goods.

This reinterpretation of a word is also termed an 'eggcorn', after someone who mistakenly used the word 'eggcorn' in place of 'acorn'. (See Wikipedia article.) Some other eggcorns in English are:

  • 'wet the appetite' instead of 'whet the appetite'
  • 'ex-patriot' instead of 'expatriate'
  • 'mating name' instead of 'maiden name'