Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Jobsworths, etc.

I'm not really the type to find individual words all that interesting - etymologies and such are fun to look at from time to time but they're not something I'd devote a whole lot of time to. As you might guess, I'm pretty lazy about checking dictionaries (especially English ones - I'm more diligent with foreign languages). But when I come across a word that I've never heard before twice (maybe even thrice) in one day, I take notice. The word in question is jobsworth, and it's not in dictionary.com. I typed in "what is a jobsworth" into Google and got this answer: "someone who is getting paid to do a job that might be unpopular with some people". Alternative answer: "somebody who sticks to the work rules very rigidly". Going by the first 20 or so sites for 'jobsworth' on Google, it's a very British word. Well, you learn something new everyday.

Speaking of 'everyday', I saw a sign yesterday that stopped me in my tracks, for a Japanese restaurant here in Singapore: 'Open all day. 11 am - 10 pm.' Hmm, somebody has their quantifiers in a twist - or perhaps omitted an 's', though it wouldn't be very elegant to put it back in anyway.

Then there was this other signboard in Queenstown today: 'No. 1 Coffeeshop 268', which induced momentary confusion. How could something that's number one also be number 268? Upon further reflection, 268 was probably the number of the coffeeshop on the road, but hey, it's a genuine parsing ambiguity.

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