Monday, February 28, 2011

On YouTube, a Gaddafi spoof (Zenga, Zenga) and in China, theatre of the absurd

This spoof YouTube video (above) making fun of a recent Gaddafi speech in which he threatened to kill fellow Libyans who had risen up in rebellion is hilarious, albeit in the context of a grim situation in the country. I hope the tipping point in the crisis comes soon -- with the dictator's ouster.

Meanwhile, the Chinese communist "mandarins" are nervous about their Mandate from Heaven. The Straits Times man in Beijing captures the theatre of the absurd in the Chinese capital (and Shanghai) as security people -- including those dressed as road sweepers and cleaners -- lock down certain areas ("China blocks protests, Wen pledges change", 28 Feb, pages A1 and A6):

"The Chinese government staged a massive show of force yesterday [Sunday Feb 27] to deter pro-democracy gatherings across the country...

Large numbers of police officers, in uniform and plain clothes, overwhelmed downtown Beijing and Shanghai, ensuring that Middle East-style protests called by anonymous organisers online fell flat for the second Sunday in a row...

The authorities made sure there was no chance of an organised rally.

In Beijing's Wangfujing  shopping street, for example, attack dogs were on standby, traffic was blocked, and people were hurried along by the police, who outnumbered shoppers (emphasis mine). It was impossible to distinguish regular weekend visitors from those there for the 'strolling protests'.

Creative, albeit slightly comical, measures to prevent public gatherings were used.

Outside the McDonald's restaurant in Wangfujing, the designated protest venue, a construction site had sprung up. Drilling work started after 2pm -- when protests were supposed to start.

At about the same time, more than a dozen road sweepers -- all of them well-built men wearing luminous orange jackets -- surrounded the fast food restaurant and started to clean the area.

They were joined by road-cleaning trucks, which drove up the busy street repeatedly (emphasis mine) spraying soapy water and keeping shoppers away.

The McDonald's, which was doing brisk business up till then, had to close its doors and turn away customers."

[Hmmm... this is more than a theatre of the absurd; it's also a soap opera cum Beijing-style wayang!]

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Do boorish parents beget boorish kids? Kiasu parents beget kiasu kids, etc, etc?

In my posting two days ago, I said I noticed it was the young men who were more likely to not give up their seats to the elderly and the disabled on the trains.

Then this letter, by a Ms Queenie Campbell, appeared in The Sunday Times (27 Feb):

"I have lived overseas for several years, and recently returned to Singapore for a visit. During my four-week stay here, I noticed how unchivalrous some Singaporean men were.

One incident was especially upsetting: I was with my older sister at an information counter in Sim Lim Square to pick up some street maps and a free copy of mypaper. Just as I was about to pick up a copy of the paper, a smartly dressed man came from behind and snatched it.

I was shocked that someone would do that. I calmly told him that I was about to take that copy. He answered rudely: “I thought you didn’t want it.” Yet when I said I wanted it, he flatly refused to hand it to me.

A man from behind the counter eventually handed me another copy.

Now, I am beginning to understand why some Singaporean women are happier to remain single. Where is the chivalry?"

Again, this person, like me, risks overgeneralising in our comments. There are rude people and there are nice people. There is a Hokkien expression "Bo kar si" which blames bad manners on one's parents. I'll leave it at that.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Catch up on what our SAF guys are doing in Afghanistan

Paul Gilfeather of Today (26-27 Feb, page 2) in his article "The SAF's Afghan diaries" writes about MINDEF's six-part video series on the Singapore troops serving in Afghanistan. As a box for the story says, "Over the past 10 years, the Singapore Armed Forces has sent around 2,300 troops around the world on international peace-keeping duties and security operations. Out of that number, hundreds -- the exact figure is classified -- have been posted to battle-ravaged Afghanistan."

The article is compelling reading, and sheds light on the exemplar work of the SAF teams there. See also the six-part video series posted on MINDEF's cyberpioneerTV.

The links to the Today article and to the videos are at the top of this posting. Enjoy!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Are there 2 kinds of people: those who say there are 2 kinds, & those who don't?

Here is a frank and honest quote, from Lynn, a 22-year-old private school student (as reported in ST, 24 Feb, "Students find call of gadgets irresistible", page A6):

"A few years ago, I was at an interview for a part-time job, and there was an alert on my [cell]phone. I took it out, checked the message and replied because that is what I always do. When I looked up, the look on the interviewer's face was priceless... No, I didn't get the job."

And here is a frank and honest observation made by Kevin, an elderly tourist who wrote to the Forum page in the same day's ST (24 Feb, page A31):

 "I am an elderly visitor to Singapore and have been using the MRT to get around. I am from Australia and we are not renowned for our manners or politeness, but at train stations, we do wait for alighting passengers to exit the train before barging in and the reserved seats are mostly left for the elderly and disabled. Not in Singapore, where teenage girls slip in as the train doors open and head straight for the 'reserved seats' and then promptly close their eyes as if asleep. It is sad to see young people growing up with such disregard for the elderly and disabled. Never have I seen anyone give up a seat to an old person here, even the 'reserved seats'. The SMRT should take stronger measures to educate the public better as the few signs in the trains are clearly not working."

So, are these honest remarks representative of today's youth?

No. For every one of the youngsters who turn up for a job interview with such a sloppy attitude, there is surely another who is hungry for a job.

And I do see young people in the trains giving up their seats for the elderly and the disabled. But it is mostly the women or girls who do it! The young men are the most "expert" at pretending to be asleep.

Last point: I see many older folk -- I mean here only those who are still fit or can move unaided -- not setting a good example: they don't queue at bus stops, and they cross busy roads looking the other way.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Name-calling, from Aberdonian to Zhuhainese

If you are an Anglophile, try the quiz above. You'll find out that a person from Liverpool will not take kindly to your calling him a Liverpoolian. And that a Salopian is not an amphibian that had got itself into a fight in a saloon brawl. The quiz is quite fun, actually.

Trawling the Internet, I found that many other Netizens were as curious as I was about how to call people who are residents of, say, cities and other places.

I knew long ago that the denizens of Sydney are Sydneysiders and those from Glasgow are Glaswegians. I recently found out that someone from Cairo is a Cairene. Cairenes were very much in the news recently, with many brave folks taking to the streets in a so-called "Jasmine revolution" to topple the Mubarak regime.

But some places are not so easy to pin a demonym on its residents. What do you call the people of Christchurch, that unfortunate city in New Zealand's South Island ravaged by a terrible earthquake?

Some demonyms can be funny. Take the English town of Folkingham. It seems the correct pronunciation is similar to Buckingham but with an "F" sound. Its townsfolk are Folkers.

The A-Z list below is selective, and I have left out American (as in USA) demonyms for a separate posting:

Aberdeen (Scotland's third most populous city) -- Aberdonian
Alexandria (Egypt) -- Alexandrine
Birmingham (the one in England, not USA) -- no, not Birminghamster! Brummie.
Blackpool -- no again, people there don't call themselves Blackpudlians (if puzzled, see the quiz). But someone mentioned Sandgrown 'Un. Hmm?
Budapest -- I don't know this one. Budapester?
Buckinghamshire -- Bucksian
Cambridge (England) -- Cantabrigian (it seems that its olde name was "Cantebridge")
Chechnya -- Chechen
Cork -- Corkonian
El Salvador -- Salvadoran (but people from Salvador in Brazil call themselves Soteropolitanos)
Edinburgh -- Edinburger
Frankfurt -- Frankfurter?
Hamburg -- Hamburger?
Johannesburg -- Jo'burger
Kuala Lumpur -- KLite?
Lima (capital of Peru) -- Limerio
Macau -- Macanese
Manchester -- Mancunian
Melbourne -- Melburnian
Mumbai -- Mumbaikars (but when it was Bombay, were the people there "Bombayers"?)
Munich -- Munchner
Naples (Italy) -- Neapolitan
Newcastle -- Novocastrian
Oxford -- Oxonian
Perth -- Perthlite (some, it seems, call themselves Perthlings or Sandgropers)
Quebec -- Quebecker/Quebecer/Quebecois
Rio de Janeiro -- Carioca
Slough (England) -- Sluff
Sunderland (England) -- Mackem
Tasmania -- most folks here call themselves Tasmanians (not Tasmaniacs or Tasmanian Devils) but I've heard of some calling themselves Taswegians
Warsaw (Poland) -- Varsovian
Winnipeg -- Winnipegger
Wolverhampton -- Wulfrunian
Xalapa (Mexico) -- Xalaperio
Zhuhai (China) -- Zhuhainese

Singapore postscript: Now that the electoral boundaries are out, what if people from the various wards start giving themselves demonyms? Hougangers (or Hougangsters)? Whapiangs (for Whampoa residents)? Yuhua-lians and Yuhua-bengs? Ang Mo Kio Kia? (shortened to Ang Mo Kia?).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Headlines that are hard to stomach

I had wanted to continue with a follow-up to what I wrote yesterday on demonyms. But I will postpone that and, instead, put the spotlight on two terrible headlines that were spotted:

1) "By age three, they can tell if you'll be a criminal" (Today, 23 Feb, page 31).

The intro of this story says, "The seeds of criminal and anti-social behaviour can be found in children as young as three, scientists have claimed". But since the story refers to three-year-old children, the modifier in the headline ("By age three"), in linking to "they", is referring to the children, not the scientists. So, it now means "Children by age three can tell if you'll be a criminal!"

The headline could have been written as, "By age three, that child may well have a criminal mind".

2) "Meat lovers may find it hard to stomach" (Straits Times, 21 Feb, page A19).

This story's intro says: "Eat less red meat and processed meat to reduce the risk of bowel cancer. That is the advice of British scientific experts, in a report due this week."

The headline writer here tries to be clever, playing on the likelihood that people who die, die, must have their daily fix of red meat and processed meat are not going to be happy with the report even if they run the risk of getting a cancer that is associated with the digestive system, and hence the stomach. But the headline here uses "stomach" as a transitive verb, which must take an object. But where is the object? So, the headline is incomplete... there is no object!

The headline could have been recast thus, with the said verb now made intransitive: "Meat lovers may find report hard to stomach".

Okay, more on demonyms tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What do you call people who hail from the Virgin Islands?

In an earlier posting, I wondered -- since the people of Poland are called Poles -- what do we call the people of Holland?

And I suggested in yet another posting that, luckily, this guy called Sang Nila Utama was short-sighted and mistook the animal (or visage?) he spotted for a lion. Hence, as legend has it, Singapura was so named and today we proudly call ourselves Singaporeans.

Fate might well have led us to be called Harimauporeans, Hantuporeans or even Babiporeans. I wonder why we never became Temasickies?

More recently, a Sunday Times article (20 Feb) featured foreigners here who make the effort to play ambassadors and tell Singaporeans more about their countries. That's when I learnt that the people of Madagascar are known as Malagasys (singular: Malagasy). So, don't call them Madagascaras, hor.

There is a term -- demonym -- that has nothing to do with demons but refers to the names given to people from regions, countries, states and provinces, cities, etc. The list below is selective.

Virgin Islands. Back in 1987, Singapore for the first time hosted the Miss Universe competition. I was asked to write a humour piece for the supplement The Straits Times ran to mark the occasion. So, I wondered if the nubile contestant from the Virgin Islands was a Virgin.

I think there was another contestant, from the British Virgin Islands. Good golly, a British Virgin.

The reality is less exciting: Virgin Islander and British Virgin Islander respectively.

Staying with the exotic Pacific islands, the people of Kiribati are I-Kiribati and those from Vanuatu are Ni-Vanuatu. And if you think you can be a towering Gullivers in the land known as the Federated States of Micronesia -- whose people are called Micronesians -- think again. The guys there at least are quite hunky, really.

Moving to Africa, the people of Botswana are Motswana (singular) and Batswana (plural). Likewise, Lesotho: Mosotho (singular) and Basotho (plural).

Mozambique: Hey, it's Mozambicans, not Mozambiqueers!

Burkina Faso: Burkinans or Burkinabes.

We should be familiar with how we refer to our fellow Asians. For the record, its Filipinos/Filipinas, Macans (for people of Macau) and Maldivans (not Maldivers!).

The people of Holland are of course Dutch (or Hollanders). The people of Greece are Greeks, not Grecians, as George W. Bush once called them. But we do say antique Grecian vase, for example. And do not call the people of Turkey "Turkeys" if you don't want to be made into shiskebab. Turks, if you please.

It gets a bit tricky for those countries with "tan" at the end. Pakistanis? Easy peasy. Ditto with Afghanis. You can choose either Uzbeks or Uzbekistanis. But it's strictly Turkmen (both men and women) in the case of Turkmenistan. Kurdistan? Kurds (no funny jokes about whether there's a Turdistan, please).

Tomorrow, I'll delve into the demonyms for some world cities. For sure, the people of Cairo -- a place very much in the news recently -- are not Cairoeans!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Humour that is, um, anally retentive

I recently found this on the Net:

If you have an "I Hate My Job" day, try this.

On your way home from work, stop at your pharmacy and go to the thermometer section and purchase a rectal thermometer made by Johnson & Johnson. Be very sure you get this brand.

When you get home, lock your doors, draw the curtains and disconnect the phone so you will not be disturbed. Change into very comfortable clothing and sit in your favourite chair. Open the package and remove the thermometer.

Now, carefully place it on a table or a surface so that it will not become chipped or broken. Now the fun part begins.

Take out the literature and read it carefully. You will notice that in small print there is a statement, "Every Rectal Thermometer made by Johnson & Johnson is personally tested."

Now, close your eyes and repeat out loud five times, "I am so glad I do not work in the thermometer quality control section at Johnson & Johnson."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Humour that's of "biblical" proportions

Today being Sunday, here are some "biblical" jokes:

A new pastor was visiting the homes of his parishioners. At one house
it seemed obvious that someone was at home, but no answer came to his
repeated knocks at the door.

He then took out a card and wrote "Revelation 3:20" on the back of
it and stuck it in the door. When the offering was processed the following
Sunday, he found that his card had been returned. Added to it was this
cryptic message, "Genesis 3:10."

Reaching for his Bible to check out the cited verse, he broke up in laughter.

Revelation 3:20 begins "Behold, I stand at the door and knock."
Genesis 3:10 reads, "I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid for
I was naked."

Here's some others, even if some are a little less classy:

Q. What kind of man was Boaz before he married Ruth?
A. Ruthless.

Q. What do they call pastors in Germany?
A. German Shepherds.

Q. Who was the greatest financier in the Bible?
A. Noah. He was floating his stock while everyone else was in liquidation.

Q. Who was the greatest female financier in the Bible?
A. Pharaoh's daughter. She went down to the bank of the Nile and drew out a little prophet.

Q. What kind of motor vehicles are mentioned in the Bible?
A. Abba Yahweh drove Adam and Eve out of the garden in a Fury.
[the Plymouth Fury was an iconic American car in the 1960s.]

David's Triumph was heard throughout the land.
[Triumph was once a famous British brand.]

There was also a Honda car, since it was said that "the Apostles were all in one Accord".

Q. Who was the greatest comedian in the Bible?
A. Samson. He brought the house down.

Q. What excuse did Adam give to his children as to why he no longer lived in Eden?
A. Your mother ate us out of house and home.

Q. Which servant of The Most High was the most flagrant lawbreaker in the Bible?
A. Moses. He broke all 10 commandments at once.

Q. Which area of Palestine was especially wealthy?
A. The area around Jordan. The banks were always overflowing.

 Q. Who is the greatest babysitter mentioned in the Bible?
A. David. He rocked Goliath to a very deep sleep.

Q. Which Bible character had no parents?
 A. Joshua, son of Nun.

Q. Why didn't they play cards on the ark?
A. Because Noah was standing on the deck.

Q. Why it is it wrong for a woman to make coffee?
A. It's in the Bible; it says " He – brews ".

Q. Why was tennis popular in Egypt in 10AD?
A. Moses played in the court of the Pharoahs. (Okay, it could have been squash or badminton.)

Q. How do we know Moses was the first person to have a headache?
A. God gave him two tablets and said "Call me in the morning".

Saturday, February 19, 2011

10 points to ponder (it's been a long day at work)

1. If you choose to pay for that little bottle of Evian water, think about what spelling "Evian" backwards makes you.

2. Isn't making a smoking section in a restaurant like making a peeing
 section in a swimming pool?

3. If 4 out of 5 people "suffer" from diarrhoea...does that mean that one
 enjoys it?

4. If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?

5. Why is a person who plays the piano called a pianist but a person who
 drives a race car not called a racist?

6. If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn't it follow that
 electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models
 deposed, tree surgeons debarked, and dry cleaners depressed?

7. If Fed Ex and UPS were to merge, would they call it Fed UP?

8. Do Lipton Tea employees take coffee breaks?

9. I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot
 more as they get older; then it dawned on me . . .....they're cramming for
 their final exam.

10. Ever wonder what the speed of lightning would be if it didn't zigzag?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Name games from school days (those were the days)

Yesterday, I mentioned a teacher in my secondary school years was nicknamed "Molecule Shaker". He taught chemistry and had the habit of grabbing and shaking the poor seated sod who could not answer a question when he quizzed us verbally on some infernal chemical formula or the properties of some ghastly element.

Many, many years later, when a small group of us met, we managed to contact him and we invited him to our gathering. He was now an old man but still spry (definitely not chemically inert), and we found him a very nice gentleman actually. Pity no one was drinking martini; otherwise that would have been the only thing shaken that convivial evening.

Then there was "Jap Commander". He was our Chinese language teacher and barked orders like... a Jap Commander! One April Fool's Day, some students (our school was located in a gangster area) removed all four tyres of his car and even propped the bare wheels up on bricks.

Actually, when one thinks about that name, we were being cruel. He must have been a youth when Japanese troops invaded Singapore. There was the infamous "Sook Ching" -- when young Chinese males were rounded up by the Kempetai and many of them were massacred (yes, young people today, wartime Singapore had its mini Nanjing Massacre).

So, our dear teacher might well have become one such victim. Apologies, dear sir (although I never took your class. A small group of us opted to not take Chinese but signed up for National Language instead. We sat at the back during Chinese lessons, half amused by all that barking sound).

I decided to ask around for teacher nicknames in other schools.

If I mention this former principal's name, many people will recognize it. They called him "Bulldog".

One office colleague recalled that her school's discipline master was a Mr Muthu. He was very fierce and bestrode the classroom corridors like a titan. Then he went home, after school hours, on his tiny motorcycle. They called it the "Muthucycle" (okay, this one is not strictly a teacher's nickname).

Science and Maths teachers seemed to elicit nicknames. A biology teacher was "Bio-hazard Wong" while a maths teacher was "Palelelloglam" because she could not quite inflect the "r". When I asked if she was at least glam, I was told she was not. Okay, she had all her squares in the right places, I guess.

Last one: A Chinese teacher was "Alpha and Omega" -- because she was invariably the first subject teacher each day and had an Omega-shaped hairstyle.

Postscript: My daughter Liane asked me this: What do you call the billions that Mubarak allegedly looted and stashed away? Answer: A pyramid scheme. When I said that was a good one, she said I could have replied "Tut, Tut". She's good.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Not the teacher's pet but the teacher's pet peeve

When I was an educator, I had my share of students who came to me to ask for referral letters for further studies or job interviews.

It was usually a pleasure to write glowing reports about the students who did well. Luckily for me, I never had to either fake it, or be brutally honest and write a poor assessment (after all, the reports are sealed and the students won't get to see them).

But a Straits Times report today (17 Feb) had a story "Teacher suspended for 'lazy whiners' blog", about an American high school teacher in Philadelphia who was suspended from her job for her profanity-laced blog which has since been taken down.

What got the 30-year-old English literature teacher into trouble? She was being brutally honest in her opinion of some of her students. To be fair to her, she never named any student and claimed that her blog was never meant to be widely read and she had only nine followers.

But she was "outed", fingered by students and word got to the school administrators.

Here's some samples of her "publish and be damned" comments:

Her students "curse, discuss drugs, talk back, argue for grades, complain about everything, fancy themselves entitled to whatever they desire and are just generally annoying".

Some students were "out of control" and were "rude, disengaged, lazy whiners" and/or were "just generally annoying" and "disobedient, disrespectful oafs". She wished she could call students "frightfully dim" or "dunderheads" on their report cards. She felt constrained by the "canned" responses available when writing her comments on the report cards.

[Hmm. One day I shall dig out my school report cards to have a relook. For sure, there were many red marks, and appropriate comments about them. One science teacher -- "Mr Molecule Shaker" -- was one red-marker. But the English teachers -- in my case -- always had nice things to say about me.]

Back to the ST story... the US teacher wished she could use phrases like "dresses like a streetwalker" or "shy isn't cute in 11th grade; it's annoying". She then lets rip:

"A complete and utter j**k... Although academically ok, your child has no other redeeming qualities".


"Lazy a**hole".

Wah. Maybe she should take a job as an instructor with the US Marines.

And if I were to write a bad report, I would be a bit more classy, like:

"He will forge a career that rests on the shoulders of others" (he cheats; passes off others' works as his own).

"Give Carl a break and he'll run with the opportunity" (break as in "prison break").

"Johnny has an amazing photographic memory" (yeah, it's a blank negative each time).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wife 1, tiger 0

Tuesday's Straits Times (15 Feb) carried this amazing story of how an aboriginal man, hunting for squirrels deep in the jungle in Perak, Malaysia, himself became hunted -- by a tiger. He tried to climb up a tree, but was dragged down by the beast and faced certain death.

But his wife, who was cooking a meal in their jungle settlement home, heard a tiger's roar and a man's cries, and she sensed that her husband was in danger. Without hesitation, she rushed out to his aid, ladle still in her hand.

Somehow, when I read the story, I thought of William Blake's awesome poem, The Tiger (Tiger, tiger, burning bright). With profuse apologies to the great poet, I penned the following lines:

Tiger, tiger, turned in fright
Whacked by ladle in the night
Stalked, trapped, man thought he'd die
In jungle dense, nowhere to flee

But cries heard, wife did fly
Faced the beast, eye to eye
Ladle struck! Beast lost its fire

Love quelled fear, again she struck!
Beast met its match, from one brave heart
It backed, turned tail, knew it was beat
Saved, man got back on his feet

Tiger, tiger, turned in fright
Whacked by ladle in the night
A mortal hand quenched its ire
Dared tame its fearful symmetry

To see the actual poem, here's one link:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On revolutions (part 2)

I'm still musing about the dynamics of how revolutions occur.

Yesterday, I suggested that a revolution occurs when the standoff between the irresistable social force (which can comprise more than one interest group) and the (typically) tyrannical immovable object (which might be a singular strongman or a group or a cabal) no longer holds. It takes a spark to light the fire, so to speak.

But why do some revolutions seem to erupt suddenly (like the recent ones in Tunisia and Egypt) and others (like the American revolution) seem to gather momentum first before the spark is ignited?

Perhaps another imagery is that of volcanic activity. The hot lava has to be there in the first place. Its intensity is then a factor. The nature of the physical surface and sub-surface landscape is the other factor. But our understanding of dormant and active volcanoes is still rudimentary; hence surprises can often still occur. The precise timing of many eruptions may only be explained after the fact.

A New York Times article carried in today's Straits Times (15 Feb) attempts to trace the buildup to the Egyptian revolution and the spark that ignited it. The article "Facebook generation the new Arab leading force" (page A8) is a compelling read. It fleshes out a pan-Arab social media-savvy youth movement, which is why the governments in Yemen and Bahrain (and even Saudi Arabia and other Arab regimes), as well as non-Arab Iran, are worried.

The genie is now out of the bottle, so the argument goes.

"if a small group of people in every Arab country went out and persevered as we did, then that would be the end of all the regimes," one flush-with-victory Egyptian youth leader said, adding that the next Arab summit might be "a coming-out party" for all the ascendant youth leaders.

That remains to be seen. Not all the regimes may tumble yet, and the verdict is still out on the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.

I quoted Barbara Tuchman yesterday, on how today's revolutionary idealists might well become tomorrow's tyrants. Other sobering reflections, by past leaders (and one present opposition leader), are cited below.

John Adams, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson: What do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected ... before a drop of blood was shed.

Vladimir Lenin:  It is impossible to predict the time and progress of revolution. It is governed by its own more or less mysterious laws. 
Mao Zedong:  A revolution is not a dinner party, not an essay, nor a painting, nor a piece of embroidery. It cannot be advanced softly, gradually, carefully, considerately, respectfully, politely, plainly and modestly. 
John F. Kennedy:  Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
Aung San Suu Kyi: The quintessential revolution is that of the spirit, born of an intellectual conviction of the need for change in those mental attitudes and values which shape the course of a nation's development. A revolution which aims merely at changing official policies and institutions with a view to an improvement in material conditions has little chance of genuine success. Without a revolution in spirit, the forces which had produced inequities of the old order would continue to be operative, posing a constant threat to the process of reform and regeneration. It is not enough merely to call for freedom, democracy and human rights. There has to be a united determination to persevere in the struggle, to make sacrifices in the name of enduring truths, to resist the corrupting influences of desire, ill will, ignorance, and fear.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The irresistible force and the immovable object

At the risk of being oversimplistic, a politically-driven event like the "people's power" Egyptian revolution can be depicted as an irresistible force meeting an unmovable object (Mubarak, who eventually did relinquish power). But uncertainty persists about what will happen next.

No two revolutions are exactly alike; many had  failed while stillborn (the "force" had fizzled out or the "object" had been still too powerful?) and many "successful" revolutions -- of all stripes -- have been invariably subsequently romanticised or glorified.

Take the French revolution (1789-99). It was long-drawn and messy and although later glorified in the French motto -- Liberty, Equality, Fraternity -- there was a reign of terror by the revolutionaries. And for what? For Napolean Bonaparte to stage a coup in 1799 and declare himself emperor!

The American historian Barbara Tuchman was so despairing of the track record of revolutions that she declared: "Every successful revolution puts on in time the robes of the tyrant it has deposed."

She did not assess the American revolution (1775-83) itself, but the initial euphoria there -- following Patrick Henry's rousing "Give me liberty or give me death" speech -- did not last and the new country plunged into a civil war (1861-65).

Still, no one can deny that both the French and American revolutions had thrown off a repressive "immovable" yoke (the ancien regime and the British colonial power respectively) and are today stable Western democracies (with warts and all, of course).

We still don't know how the Egyptian revolution will pan out. The military has asserted itself, albeit declaring it is a caretaker. Will it take the route of the Philippine people power revolution (1986) and hand over executive power to a civilian government or will it become the creature Tuchman worried about?  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How to raise tax revenue during hard times

There is a buzz here in Singapore ahead of Budget Day on Friday. A robust economic recovery but with concerns too about inflation and the cost of living... all this in a likely election year must mean goodies will be dished out on Friday, so the talk goes. No one expects taxes to go up.

But, three years ago, one wag in Australia, looking at how Canberra might want to urgently raise more revenue for the public coffers, made this tongue in cheek suggestion:

The only thing that the Goverment has not taxed yet is the penis.

It is about time we do this, due to the fact that 69% of the time it is hanging around
unemployed, 10% of the time it is hard up, 20% of the time it is
pissed off. It is only really useful 1% of the time.

Also, it has two dependents and they are both nuts!

However, effective July 1st, 2008, the penis will now be taxed
according to size:

The brackets are as follows:
10 - 12" Luxury Tax $300.00
8 - 10" Pole Tax $250.00
5 - 8" Privilege Tax $150.00
3 - 5" Nuisance Tax $30.00

Males exceeding 12" must file for capital gains. On the other hand, anyone under 4" is eligible for a tax refund.


Saturday, February 12, 2011


No, a palindrome is not a place where controversial American politician Sarah Palin parks her private jet in her home state Alaska.

A palindrome is something -- usually a word, letter or number -- that can be read the same way in either direction (punctuations, capitalisations and spacings are allowed). Some common palindromic words are: civic, radar, level, racecar and redder.

But, from my own recollection, the two most famous palindromes are:
A man, a plan, a canal, Panama!
Able was I ere I saw Elba [apparently spoken by Napoleon, following his defeat in battle, when he saw the island the British had exiled him to].

Other clever palindromes include:
Madam, I'm Adam.
Was it a rat I saw?
Step on no pets.
Dammit, I'm mad!

You can cage a swallow, can't you, but you can't swallow a cage, can you? [this one is a special form, where the whole word is reversed, not the letters.]

If your name is "Mike Kim", it's palindromic. Among the ethnic Indian community here are people from Malayalam. That's a palindrome.

There are palindromic numbers too. One this year is 11/02/2011.

And if, by now, you have developed a fear of palindromes, there's a palindromic term for it: Aibohphobia!

Postscript: To round off my two earlier postings, there is something called the "pangram". This is a sentence using every letter of the alphabet (English in my examples) at least once. The best known is "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." There is at least another: "How quickly daft jumping zebras vex!"

Friday, February 11, 2011

On anagrams (part 2), antigrams, ambigrams and blanagrams

Quote of the day:
"If you torture words enough, they'll confess anything" -- wordsmith Anu Garg.

The device that is used to rearrange words and phrases into new words and phrases is of course the anagram, examples of which were posted yesterday. Anagrams can be simple, as in rearranging "orchestra" into "carthorse" or they can be sophisticated, as in the examples below, all taken from Wikipedia.

Madonna Louise Ciccone = Occasionally nude income or One cool dance musician
William Shakespeare = I am a weakish speller
Tom Marvolo Riddle = I am Lord Voldemort
(author JK Rowling has admitted that she had an anagram in mind when she created the character above.)

There are also antigrams. The rearranged words or phrases in this case have an opposite meaning, as in:
Adultery = True lady
A saint = I, Satan
Forty five = Over fifty
Funeral = Real fun
Inferno = Non fire
Restful = Fluster
Violence = Nice love
Within earshot = I won't hear this

There are also "ambigrams" and "blanagrams". Check them out in Wikipedia.

Finally, if you have not have enough of anagrams, check this out!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Playful words

Rearranging the letters of words can be fun. What's below is just a small collection from the Net, a tip of the iceberg, really.

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

When you rearrange the letters:

My own name?
I could only come up with nonsensical ones, such as:

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

20 ways to beef up your brain?

I thought of my earlier posting (in jest) about brains cells coming and brain cells going, when I came across a list of 20 tips on fighting off dementia (below), sent by a university classmate.

"More and more research is suggesting that lifestyle is very important to
 your brain's health," says Dr. Paul Nussbaum, a neuropsychologist and an
 adjunct associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh, School of
 Medicine. "If you want to live a long, healthy life, then many of us need
 to start as early as we can," he added.

So what can you do to beef up your brain, and possibly ward off dementia?
Dr Nussbaum offers these 20 tips:

1. Join clubs or organizations that need volunteers. If you start
 volunteering now, you won't feel lost and unneeded after you retire.

2. Develop a hobby or two. Hobbies help you develop a robust brain because
 you're trying something new and complex.

3. Practice writing with your non-dominant hand several minutes every day.
 This will exercise the opposite side of your brain and fire up those neurons.

4. Take dance lessons. In a study of nearly 500 people, dancing was the
 only regular physical activity associated with a significant decrease in
 the incidence of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. The people who
 danced three or four times a week showed 76 percent less incidence of
 dementia than those who danced only once a week or not at all.

5. Need a hobby? Start gardening. Researchers in New Zealand found that,
 of 1,000 people, those who gardened regularly were less likely to suffer
 from dementia. Not only does gardening reduce stress, but gardeners use
 their brains to plan gardens; they use visual and spatial reasoning to lay
 out a garden.

6. Buy a pedometer and walk 10,000 steps a day. Walking daily can reduce
 the risk of dementia because cardiovascular health is important to
 maintain blood flow to the brain.

7. Read and write daily. Reading stimulates a wide variety of brain areas
 that process and store information. Likewise, writing (not copying)
 stimulates many areas of the brain as well.

8. Start knitting. Using both hands works both sides of your brain. And
 it's a stress reducer.

9. Learn a new language. Whether it's a foreign language or sign language,
 you are working your brain by making it go back and forth between one
 language and the other. A researcher in England found that being bilingual
 seemed to delay symptoms of Alzheimer's disease for four years. (And some
 research suggests that the earlier a child learns sign language, the
 higher his IQ - and people with high IQs are less likely to have dementia.
 So start them early.)

10. Play board games such as Scrabble and Monopoly. Not only are you
 taxing your brain, you're socializing too. (Playing solo games, such as
 solitaire or online computer brain games can be helpful, but Nussbaum
 prefers games that encourage you to socialize too.)

11. Take classes throughout your lifetime. Learning produces structural
 and chemical changes in the brain, and education appears to help people
 live longer. Brain researchers have found that people with advanced
 degrees live longer - and if they do have Alzheimer's, it often becomes
 apparent only in the very later stages of the disease.

12. Listen to classical music. A growing volume of research suggests that
 music may hard wire the brain, building links between the two hemispheres.
 Any kind of music may work, but there's some research that shows positive
 effects for classical music, though researchers don't understand why.

13. Learn a musical instrument. It may be harder than it was when you were
 a kid, but you'll be developing a dormant part of your brain.

14. Travel. When you travel (whether it's to a distant vacation spot or on
 a different route across town), you're forcing your brain to navigate a
 new and complex environment. A study of London taxi drivers found
 experienced drivers had larger brains because they have to store lots of
 information about locations and how to navigate there.

15. Pray. Daily prayer appears to help your immune system. And people who
 attend a formal worship service regularly live longer and report happier,
 healthier lives.

16. Learn to meditate. It's important for your brain that you learn to
 shut out the stresses of everyday life.

17. Get enough sleep. Studies have shown a link between interrupted sleep
 and dementia.

18. Eat more foods containing omega-3 fatty acids: Salmon, sardines, tuna,
 ocean trout, mackerel or herring, plus walnuts (which are higher in omega
 3s than salmon) and flaxseed. Flaxseed oil, cod liver oil and walnut oil
 are good sources too.

19. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables
 mop up some of the damage caused by free radicals, one of the leading
 killers of brain cells.

20. Eat at least one meal a day with family and friends. You'll slow down,
 socialize, and research shows you'll eat healthier food than if you ate
 alone or on the go.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stick to sticky rice, or stick with sticky rice?

I'm still on language usage issues today.

A headline in today's Straits Times (8 Feb) said: "Few existing maids have asked for pay rise". The story is about Indonesian maids who are already working here, many for a long time. To try and resolve the recent problem of a reduced supply of new Indonesian maids coming here, 17 maid agencies plan to raise the new maids' starting pay from $380 to $450 a month.

But many of the maids already here earn less than $450. One -- who has been here 10 years -- even said she still earns $380 a month. The headline writer then decided to refer to such maids as "existing" maids.

You can have existing laws or rules, because when such laws or rules are, say, repealed or abolished, they no longer exist. In other words, in ordinary usage, existing used as an adjective should modify an inanimate (non-living) noun or pronoun. You can even have an existing building, because such a building can be torn down and it no longer exists.

How can -- again, I must stress in ordinary usage -- existing modify people/a person? If the maid (in the sense of her occupation) no longer works as one, she is still a living, breathing person.

Of course, existing can modify people/a person but in the narrow sense here: The Neanderthals no longer exist. Mr Smith no longer exists, although such usage is weird. It should be: Mr Smith is dead!

Likewise, dinosaurs no longer exist, etc, etc.

Headline writers perforce have to look for short words but not when this one, existing, is used in this manner. If I have to work on the available headline space, I would write "Few serving maids have asked for pay rise".

So, the opposite of existence is non-existence. This example is a clear-cut one. But there are other examples which I must admit are my personal preference.

Take "average", when this term is applied to people. The meaning here is "ordinary" or "typical". Most people would not do a double take if they see this sentence or headline: "The average lawyer earns $10,000 a month". But I would prefer to retain average for its statistical meaning and use "The typical lawyer earns $10,000 a month". I am of course okay with "The average remuneration of lawyers is $10,000". I will not insist on my preference if someone uses "average lawyer". But in my mind that person is no wordsmith.

Finally, what about the choice between "stick to" and "stick with"? They are arguably interchangeable but I would be careful about any literal unintended meaning when using "stick to". I would not say "Stick to honey, it's better than sugar, healthwise" but I would say "Stick with honey, it's better than sugar, healthwise".

For people, the meaning should be figurative, perhaps for dramatic effect. Hence, "Stick to John (like a leech?); he knows the woods well". And idioms like "stick to your guns" should be kept as such and not changed to "stick with your guns".

So, stick with good English usage. And if you like to eat sticky rice, stick with it. Or you'd rather stick to sticky rice?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Daft definitions

Yesterday, I pointed out some easily noticed (and hence unforgiveable) grammatical errors in the xinmsn website. To recap, "stuffs" was used instead of "stuff" and "lost" was used instead of "loss". And February surely cannot be the gadget of the month!

I cited these examples because they were on a "prime-spot" web page -- the first one you see when you go to

The Straits Times today (7 Feb) also had a blooper on its page one highlights of inside stories. The summary headlined "Home office units get hot" said: "More people are keen on buying residential units that can double up as home offices."

The correct expression should be "double", that is, "More people are keen on buying residential units that can double as home offices."

This is a common error among Singaporeans and, I suspect, people in many other places too. You "double up" in pain or mirth, as when, for example, you have a mother of all stomach aches, were kicked in your most vulnerable area (if you are a man) or couldn't stop laughing after reading the daft definitions below.

Two other common errors are "It's late, I have to put my child to sleep" instead of, say, "It's late, I have to get my child to go to bed" and "Mary loved to walk the streets in each new city she arrived at" instead of "Mary loved to walk along the streets in each new city she arrived at".

In an earlier posting, I had also pointed out some other common errors such as "off day" for "day off". I may compile a refreshed list in a future posting. For now, here's some "stuff" to, hopefully, induce doubling up:

The difference between the Pope and your boss: The Pope only
 expects you to kiss his ring.

My mind works like lightning. One brilliant flash and it's gone.

The only time the world beats a path to your door is if you're
 in the bathroom.

A husband is someone who, after taking out the trash, gives the
 impression that he just cleaned the whole house.

I'm so depressed. My doctor refused to write me a prescription
 for Viagra. He said it would be like putting a new flagpole on a
 condemned building.

My neighbour was bitten by a stray rabid dog. I went to see how
 he was and found him writing frantically on a piece of paper. I   told him
rabies can be cured and he didn't have to worry about a will. He said,
"Will? What will? I'm making a list of the people I want to bite!"

Definition of a teenager? God's punishment for enjoying sex.

As we slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never
 point the wrong way.

I signed up for an exercise class and was told to wear
loose-fitting clothing. If I HAD any loose-fitting clothing, I
wouldn't have signed up in the first place!

The early bird still has to eat worms.

Don't argue with an idiot; people watching may not be able to
 tell the difference.

My wife says I never listen to her. At least I think that's
what she said.

Just remember, if the world didn't suck, we'd all fall off.

If raising children was going to be easy, it never would have
 started with something called labour.

Postscript: This is my 100th posting! Yeah!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Short takes

Just a few random items here today.

First, a follow-up on yesterday. A word used was "oenophile". I checked it up, and it means someone who appreciates wine. The origin is Greek: oinos (wine) and philia (love).

An alternative (American) spelling is enophile. Unfortunately. the Yanks do not seem to be aware that the Anglos have a legendary product, Eno, also widely used in Singapore. This is an antacid, a bicarbonate powder that when added to water gives a fizzy liquid to ease a bloated stomach (from overeating), as is possible during this lunar new year's festive bingeing. So, is an enophile a wine lover or someone who just can't stop drinking Eno? The idea of the latter gives one (notice the spelling inversion vis-a-vis Eno?) the yucks!

Apparently, there are also related word formations, such as oenophobia, oenomania, oenologist and oenomancy. Check them out, as well as Wikipedia's take on the year (1977) the word "oenophilia" came into popular usage in the US.        

My next set of random musings is my "random" look at the xinmsn website. Here's a sampling from today's highlights page:

10 ways to spend your hongbao money -- Our pick of the best stuffs to spend your money on.
Manchester United suffer first lost to bottom-dwelling Wolves.
Gadgets of the month -- February.

My last random thought is my Quote of the Day:
Brain cells come, and brain cells go, but fat cells live forever.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Grape expectations

I'm glad the Today newspaper now includes in its weekend edition a pullout section with some of the week's New York Times articles.

One such article, by Nicholas Wade, this week (5 Feb) especially caught my eye, from the catchy headline to the tantalising intro and on to the rest of the story.

"Headline: For sex-starved grapes, an incestuous family tree
Intro: For the last 8,000 years, the wine grape has had very little sex. This unnatural abstinence threatens to sap the grape's genetic health and the future pleasure of millions of oenophiles."


The article goes on to to say that Dr Sean Myles, a geneticist at Cornell
University in Ithaca, New York, had developed a gene chip that tests for the genetic variation
commonly found in wine grapes. He then found that 75 per cent of the varieties he scanned were as
closely related as parent and child or brother and sister.

 “Thus merlot is intimately related to cabernet franc, which is a parent
of cabernet sauvignon, whose other parent is sauvignon blanc, the
daughter of traminer, which is also a progenitor of pinot noir, a parent of
chardonnay," the NYT article said.

Wine grape, then, had undergone very little breeding outside a tight-knit circle since it
was first domesticated.

In-breeding in grapes has the same result as that for humans -- the lack of diversity can have negative effects, such as a weakened resistance to disease.

So, for people like me who enjoy wine, the implied advice seems to be: don't be monogamous and stick with my favourite pinot noir. Go for the other varietals as well, and indulge in wines from the Old World, the New World, from anywhere -- even North Korea, if it produces drinkable, non-nuclear-enriched wine! This will encourage wine growers everywhere to experiment and thus try and stop the in-breeding among grapes.

I'll drink to that (in moderation, of course)!

Friday, February 4, 2011

A 'Nigerian scam' letter

Going through my email, I found I actually received a "Nigerian scam" letter (an email address was attached):

From: Mrs Mariam A***** [last name deleted, just in case there is such a name!]
Gidado Road,

I am Mrs. Mariam A*****, the widow of
the late Gen. Sani A*****, former military
Head of State who died mysteriously as a result of cardiac
arrest. Since my husband's death, my family has been under
restriction of movement and that notwithstanding, we are being
molested and constantly under watch by the seemingly agent, above
all, our banks account here and abroad have been frozen by the
Nigerian civilian government. Furthermore, my eldest son is in
detention by the Nigerian Government for more interrogation about
my husband's asset and some vital documents.

Following the recent discovery of my husband's bank account by
the Nigerian government with my son's bank in which a huge sum of
US$700 million and 450 million Dutch Mark was lodged and 6
billion dollars belonging to my late husband was seized by the
government of Nigeria.

I therefore wish to personally appeal to
you seriously for your urgent assistance to
transfer the sum of $25.5 million United States Dollars into your
account in your country which has already been lodged in a Global
crossing Diplomatic security in abroad by my Late Husband and I
have a prove of the Certificate of Deposit with the telephone and fax
number of the security company in abroad, the name of the head of
operation including the telephone and fax number of the agency
whom help in packaging the consignment. since we can not leave
the country due to the restriction of movement imposed on the
members of my family by the Nigerian Government and my
International pass port impounded at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport,
Lagos in August and presently the consignment is incurring
more demurrage and if the government discovered they might seize
the fund (consignment) that was the reason I was advise by our
Family lawyer for the safety of the fund, to look for an honest
and reliable foreigner who is willing to be of assistant to
enable the fund to be transfer to his account while you are
entitled to 25% of the fund while 5% is for any expenses which
might include your phone calls , stationary which must be
deducted before sharing.

Also, if you accept this proposal, I shall give you the telephone
and fax number of the security company in abroad (Holland) which
also has a branch in Dubai. This is where the consignment is
lodge including agency for verification and you shall as well
forward your data including your telephone and fax number to our
Family Lawyer who shall help in the legal documentation to make
you the legal owner of the fund by a prove of an affidavit from
the Federal High Court for a change of fund ownership by me which
my lawyer shall forward with an application to the Court to
enable the court to issue an legal clearance certificate as a
prove that the fund is no longer belong to A***** family but you
as the new beneficiary which will now empowered the Security
company to release the consignment (fund) to you.

Please I will appreciate your quick response weather you accept
this proposal or not to enable me to know the next step of action
and please you can as well use your name or your company name as
the beneficiary of the fund (consignment).

Yours Sincerely

Mrs Mariam A*****

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Here's the answer...

The answer to yesterday's "fun with words" quiz is below. But I'm inserting some trivia "buffer" first so the quiz answers are not immediately at the top of this posting. You can still try to work out the quiz before looking for the answers.

I recently went on a cruise and on the journey's last night, during the showtime finale, the cruise director claimed a number of passengers had asked him the questions below. A quick check on the Internet showed that such lists (with variations) were a typical routine on many cruises. So here they are:
1) Does our ship's crew sleep on board?
2) Is the resort island we've just arrived at completely surrounded by water?
3) How does the captain know where to go?
4) When the captain is sleeping, who is steering the ship?
5) Does the ship generate its own electricity?
6) What time is the midnight buffet?
7) What do they do with the ice sculptures after it melts?
8) How many fjords to the dollar?
9) What time is the two o'clock tour?
10) How do we know which of the displayed photographs (taken by the ship's photographers) are ours?
11) I am married, but can I still come to the singles party?
12) Do I put my luggage out before or after I go to sleep?
13) Is an outside cabin outside of the ship?
14) Does the ship have cable TV?

Okay, go ahead, groan. Now for the answers to the quiz:

1. Stop, look, and listen
2. Win, place, and show
3. First, second, and third
4. Beg, borrow, and steal
5. Tall, dark, and handsome
6. Small, medium, and large
7. Snap, crackle, and pop
8. Blood, sweat, and tears
9. Shake, rattle, and roll
10. Knife, fork, and spoon
11. Ear, nose, and throat
12. Wine, women, and song
13. Game, set, and match
14. Red, white, and blue
15. Chap Gor Mei

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fun with words

Here's a "fun with words" quiz which I think came from Reader's Digest. The answers are actually familiar (mostly) terms such as "hook, line and sinker" in the example below. Answers tomorrow!

sample: took, sign, and blinker
answer: hook, line, and sinker

1. flop, crook, and glisten
2. pin, brace, and though
3. versed, beckoned, and heard
4. leg, sorrow, and wheel
5. bawl, park, and ransom
6. sprawl, tedium, and barge
7. trap, shackle, and top
8. mud, fret, and beers
9. break, cattle, and foal
10. wife, pork, and croon
11. sheer, rose, and float
12. fine, swimmin', and wrong
13. lame, debt, and scratch
14. head, fright, and chew
15. rub, raw, ray (hint for this one: I threw this in as my contribution to the list... it is in Hokkien, and has to do with the Chinese NewYear festive season, which starts tomorrow).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A tribute to Ogden Nash

My sense of humour has likely been partly shaped by the wacky nonsense verses and aphorisms of the American humorist and poet Ogden Nash (1902-1971). My two girls (one turned 33 today, the other will be 30 in May) have not been spared, for better or for verse.

One early "indoctrination", when the girls were little, was this Nashian creation:

The one-l lama is a priest
The two-ll llama is a beast
I bet you a silk pyjama
There isn't any three-l lllama.

Here are another two examples, but I don't think I had told my children about them:

I think I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall
I'll never see a tree at all!

is dandy
But liquor
is quicker

If you are intrigued by what other clever stuff Nash dreamt up, just Google his name. You might as well check out Edward Lear too. He's famous for "The Owl and the Pussycat" and other nonsense poems and stories.

Back to Nash. Here are some of his well-known aphorisms:

A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of.
Middle age is when you've met so many people that every new person you meet reminds you of someone else.
People who work sitting down get paid more than people who work standing up.
Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long.

I have also taken liberties with some favouirite children's stories, for example:

Ali Baba and the four tea thieves
Jack and the beans talk

Finally, this family has mangled songs. Given that I am also guilty of teaching my kids the meaning of the word "scatology" when they were young, the "decomposition" of the chorus of an old song below (their grandma actually helped on this one) is self-explanatory if you know the Malay words inserted.
By the light, of the silvery moon,
Kenching, kentut, berak, chaybok
I want to spoon,
To my honey I'll croon love's tune.
Kenching, kentut, berak, chaybok
Honey moon, keep a-shinin' in June.
Kenching, kentut, berak, chaybok
Your silv'ry beams will bring love's dreams,
We'll be cuddlin' soon,
Kenching, kentut, berak, chaybok
By the silvery moon.
Postscript: Thanks Nick, for your anecdote about Truman and MacArthur, referring to yesterday's posting.