Dr Smith of Incorrections College

Having registered a few companies in my time (don’t ask), I’ve learned that certain words and phrases are out of bounds when it comes to selling yourself in Australia. Offensive words are out (though, this being Australia, we set the bar pretty low), you can’t make it look like you’re from the government, and you can’t call yourself a university. Makes sense really. However, more notably still, you can perfectly legally set up your own ‘College of Advanced Education’, without anyone batting an eyelid.

Moreso, as you may have noticed if you’ve ever been required to fill out an Australian tax return, there are literally hundreds of titles that you can stick before your name without any legal impediment (except of course the small matter of fraud), such as ‘Father’, ‘Agent’ or my personal favorite ‘Powder Monkey‘. Most notably on that list, is the title of ‘Dr.’ which, it may surprise you to learn, is a courtesy title, like Mr, Mrs or Ms, not an honorific like Sir.

You’d probably be even more surprised to learn that in Australia and many other countries, doctors aren’t actually doctors, at least in the degree holding sense. Generally a GP will hold a MBBS, we just keep calling them doctors and they just keep letting us.

So let it be known that from this day forth, I shall be known as Dr Smith of the College of Incorrections! Actually, that does have a nice ring to it… but I’ll probably just stick with Powder Monkey for now.

 

P.S. Dr Cam prescribes that this article be taken with a grain of salt. He may be a fake Doctor, but he’s certainly not a fake lawer… nor a real one for that matter.

The Patron Saint of Patronising

I’ve been having a horrible time of late trying to fix my pronunciation after a friend pointed out I was saying the word patronising the wrong way. Try as I might I couldn’t help but keep saying pate-ronising, which I would duly beat myself up for as a result. That is until I looked it up.

Turns out both are just tomato-tomato’s of the same word, both pronunciations coming from the Latin ‘pater’ meaning father, (and for you Harry Potheads out there, the later word ‘patronus’, meaning defender). I guess this makes the word ‘patroness’ a lot more interesting all of a sudden.

I must say I find it odd though, my friend really did have a justifiable point. For some reason Pat-ronising sounds more like looking down on someone than Pate-ronising, which sounds like you’re lovingly fathering over something. I think I’m going to keep using that distinction now too, I do rather like it.

It would seem I’ve just been effectively incorrected!

Willst Thou Unite With Me Civilly?

I had the unfortunate experience of finding myself in the middle of a marriage feud the other day. Perhaps not the kind you were thinking of however, this was an argument over the use of the word “marriage”. In effect one party was very upset at the notion of couples of the same gender being able to enter into a “marriage”, while the other party failed to see the harm. “It’s a biblical term, that’s been unchanged for thousands of years!” was the gist of it.

Now, politics aside, this was the breaking point for me. I’ll happily tolerate a difference of political opinion, and you are always entitled to express the issue that your religion disavows the marriage of people of the same gender (in which case it would of course be well within your rights to not marry someone of the same gender) but when it comes to willful stupidity about language, that’s when you’ve crossed me, and as such I decided to wade into the debate.

I can’t for the life of me work out how a grown woman could ever have not considered that the Christian Bible has, in fact, been translated into English, but there she was getting emotional about a word that has “remained unchanged for over 2000 years”. Of course at this point I felt it necessary to point out that the biblical word for marriage was not “marriage”, it was a bunch of different Greek and Hebrew terms across various different manuscripts and revelations, “kiddushin” and “laqah” being examples1. Secondly up, our term “marriage” comes from the Latin “maritare”. It means “to provide with a husband or wife”, as the term had to allow for bequeathment and polygamy, and as such the definition in the strictly traditional sense would be remaining completely unchanged.

I also asked her what she considered the most notable thing to happen during the reign of King Henry VIII. Unsurprisingly it was when he ousted the Catholic Church in order to change the definition of marriage.

I asked her if she would object to me marrying some jam and butter on a piece of toast.

She informed me that I was missing the point.

I informed her that she’s missing one too many brain cells.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the language of love. Feel free to comment and discuss!

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1 To quote from the book ‘An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible’: “Biblical Hebrew lacks a term equivalent to the English word ‘marriage’.” The reason we today use the term “marriage” to describe various biblical ideas and terms, such as laqah, gameo, mnesteuo, koinonia, kiddushin, hatuna, nisu’in etc. etc. etc. is because, surprise surprise the meaning of marriage has changed over time to accommodate all these terms. Go figure.

The Universal Language

A Netherlandian friend kindly informed me the other day that all is not lost if I should ever find myself overseas without a phrasebook. “Do not worry my friend,” he assured me “for the phrase ‘vaginal infection‘ is the same in almost every language.”

Putting the question of how he even discovered this aside for one moment, I put on my investigators cap and quickly discovered to my amazement that this is absolutely completely true!

For those interested here’s a list of languages in which the phrase ‘vaginal infection’ would more or less be recognized: Afrikaans, Albanian, Azerbaijani, Basque, Belorussian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, English, Estonian, Filipino, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Haitian Creole, Indonesian, Italian, Latin, Latvian, Macedonian, Maltese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian; and then on top of this there are eleven more languages that employ at least one of the two words in that phrase: Bengali, Armenian, Finnish, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Irish, Malay, Persian, Slovenian, Welsh and Hebrew.

My goodness, the world is a strange and amazing place sometimes. Who would have thought that in a world polarized by so many differences, it would be thrush that ultimately unites us!

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go and find myself some new friends.