Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Collective Names (and NOT Collectivism)

Last week I read Bill Bryson's very funny book Down Under (called In a Sunburned Country in the US). It embarassed me what this man knows about Australia that I don't. Nullabor is not an aboriginal word, for instance.

One thing that has stuck with me is that he points out that people who live in Sydney are called Sydneysiders, and that this is somewhat unique. Is it that unique? Surely there is another city that calls it inhabitants "-siders"?

Why am I called a Sydneysider? How did this happen? Did some editor of the Sydney Morning Herald wake up one morning after a particularly troubled nights sleep, make his way into work, and send off a memo to all staff? - "...henceforth, this publication will refer to the population of Sydney as Sydneysiders..."

Was it a disparaging term used by Melburnians (or Melbournians - I believe there is some debate)? - "...come on children, stop that. You're behaving like a bunch of Sydneysiders." Or possibly it was used by people from the North Shore of Sydney, referring to the poor people on the south side of the harbour.

For that matter, where does any city inhabitant name come from. Other cities don't seem to follow any pattern: Melburnian, Brisbanite, Canberran, Berliner, Londoner, Parisian, New Yorker, Mancunian, Glaswegian. Where on earth does all this come from? Who invented these?

Personally, I don't even know the terminology for this type of word - a word that refers to the inhabitant of a city. Dweller-nom maybe?

The mystery deepens further when you consider collective names of animals, for which numerous, conflicting lists appear on the internet (though personally I'll stick with wikipedia): a herd of cows, a murder of crows, a flange of babboons, etc.

Someone needs to be held responsible for this mess.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Elevator Observations

I have a number of theories about people travelling in elevators. Perhaps observations is a better word than theories? See for yourself.

1. When people all exit an elevator, say when it has descended to the ground floor, they generally (but not always!) exit in the reverse order to when they got on. That is, the bloke from Level 2 gets off first, then the bloke from Level 4, then me from Level 8, and then the fellah from Level 11. This is particularly applicable when everyone is male, but less so when there is a mixture of males and females, as there is a tendency to allow females to exit first. Being male, I haven't observed the phenomenom when the elevator is completely female.

Common sense would indicate that of course this is the case, since the person who got on at Level 2 is blocking the exit of people from higher levels. However, I've observed this even when there are very few people on the elevator, say three or four. Even when the last person to get on has moved to the rear wall of the car, they are likely to be the first to leave when the door opens on ground floor.

2. Whether through a basic distrust of the means of transport or otherwise, people tend to balance out when there is a change in the number of people inside, with a slight bias towards the rear of the car. This applies whether the cahnge is people entering, or people exiting the car. With two people in the car, they tend to occupy the rear corners, three people move to the centre of the three non-door walls, four in the four corners, five would add one in the centre, with six there would be two in the centre, evenly spaced about the centre point. Und so weieter. When a new person gets on, or someone gets off, everyone tends to shuffle into their respective "natural" positions.

3. People who face the wrong way, ie, toward the rear of the car, make everyone else in the car feel slightly uncomfortable.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Wiggles

I saw the Wiggles this morning. Even Dorothy the Dinosaur was there. Murray's guitar is nice and shiny.

Walking to work through Martin Place, I passed the Channel 7 Sunshine Studios, which is glass-encased so people in the street can look in and see the show being filmed. There was a LARGE crowd of people, many with small children. The thing which drew me over was all the red balloons and the man with the Sydney Swans beanie. I thought the Swans must be in the studio and wandered over to watch. I'm a big fan you know.

But no, it was the Wiggles, the red balloons were for some other cause, the man in the Swans beanie was just keeping warm, and there was no football players anywhere in sight.

The thing which struck me was the size of the crowd, the number of people with small children, at that time of the morning, in that cold, windy, drizzling weather. Obviously people had known that the Wiggles were going to be on the telly, and made their way to the studio. Wow, they must be dedicated fans - it is just incomprehensible.

Mind you, if it had have been the Swans, I'd have been there.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My Daughter's Father's Day Poem

It was Father's Day in Australia last Sunday (3-Sep-2006) and my children were over my place. Josephine my youngest made a card for me at school, and composed her own poem for it. She's eight years old.

Really, it's hard enough being a weekend Dad and only seeing your children every so often without reading a beautiful poem like this:

You are [a] person who is loving and kind
You are always on my mind
You help me whenever I feel down
And you take me to the fun playground
You are one of my very best friends
With you I can have a life that never ends
I am ever so glad
To have the world's best Dad

Beautiful beyond words.