You’re late for work!

Those of you who are old enough will probably remember a time before Google, when there was a plethora of competing search engines such as Yahoo, AltaVista, Infoseek, Netscape search etc. One of those search engines was called “Ask Jeeves”. It was the first time I came across the name of Jeeves, and I thought it was a really stupid name for a search engine. It was many years later that I stumbled across the writings of P.G. Wodehouse and his stories about Bernie Wooster and his butler Jeeves, and I enjoyed them so much, that I think I read about every Wodehouse book multiple times. Next to Terry Pratchett, he’s my favorite humorous author!

The only drawback for a non-native speaker is that I tend to unconsciously incorporate the language that I consume into my personal repertoire. When you use a phrase an early-20th century butler would use in normal conversation, it does not always help the conversation.

By the way! I hope nobody will take offense in the word “poppycock”. It is a perfectly acceptable English word, which (according to Merriam-Webster) apparently derived from the Dutch dialect word “pappekak”, which means “soft dung”. So it’s rather close to the American “BS”. I only mention this, because one of our (probably former) readers once got upset with us for using the word “dumbass” and accused us of using foul language. Even though the word refers to the donkey, not the body part, and is probably acceptable in children books and movies.

That’s a whole new tangent I could go off on. You wouldn’t believe some of the critical feedback we (fortunately only) occasionally get. One day we’ll compile a list and make an extra page about it, we promise!

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11 comments on “You’re late for work!
  1. Neil says:

    Few wee tiny corrections. However, before getting started, may I first say I find your command of English exemplary, as humour is perhaps the hardest taskmaster.

    Bertram Wilberforce Wooster……aka “Bertie” not Bernie.
    a fine character, and if you enjoyed the books you will revel in his dramatisation as depicted by Hugh Laurie (Dr. House) in the UK ITV series ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ with sidekick Steven Fry as Jeeves.

    English is a a highly adaptable language..and whereas a few years ago dumbass may well have derived from a silly donkey, the word and…(here’s the critical and often least understood part of the language)….the common usage nowadays is indeed pejorative and borderline ‘foul’. Context matters in such evaluations obviously.

    The point made is that English evolves. There is no definitive ‘right’, only what is currently accepted. This is the same with the grammar of the language which typically evolves much slower than the vocabulary.

    This explains it well, with some good examples.

  2. Lloyd Massey says:

    Unrelated to this strip; you mentioned you are flying the Skycrane in Greece for the summer. With all the fir fighting going in the US and you live ( I think) in LAS….Why not fly here? Better pay? Family and friends?

  3. Pete Cook says:

    Another problem with English is that there are those countries that speak a “British” English and there is the United States that speaks a slightly different English. There are some words in US English that are not used in polite company elsewhere. Also happens in other languages. Some words used in South American Spanish cause problems in Mexico, and vice-versa…

  4. Magnoire says:

    I had an online friend take offense when I mentioned buying a “bedside potty” for my Mama. She thought I was being very infantile and should call it a “commode” or “toilet”.
    Um, hon, this is the Deep South. We infantize everything. Didn’t my (and my big brothers) calling our mother “Mama” all our lives not tip you off to this?
    Got to love colloquialisms!

  5. Merijn @ home says:

    In Dutch we have no word like pappekak.
    We do have the word sproeipoep (“spray shit”, diarhea)
    We have the word labbekak but that is something else.
    However the South African Boers is derived from Dutch and they indeed seem to have the word Pappekak.

  6. jan olieslagers says:

    English is indeed a non-normalised language, unlike French, so that there is no definitive authority to state what words or phrases are right or wrong. I much regret that so many native speakers, in the UK and in the USA, are so careless about (at least) wording and writing their message carefully.

    My mother used to read Wodehouse’s delightful fancies in translation, and I could never see what there was to like about them – until I read one in English! What a delightful mastery of the old language! In the same way I enjoy JRRT’s writings – his books were on my night table long before “The Lord of the Rings” was made into movies.

    And “poppycock” is a new addition to my English vocabulary – I had never seen or heard the word before. Perhaps it is mainly used in the USA and less, or even, not at all, in Europe?

  7. JPKalishek says:

    Poppycock is also a candied corn and nuts snack food here, now a part of the Orville Reddenbacher .

    Neil- “English is a a highly adaptable language..”
    Jan- “English is indeed a non-normalised language,”

    “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”
    –James D. Nicoll

  8. Captain Dunsel says:

    I was born and raised in New Jersey (most of my youth was spent within 30 miles of New York City). Then I enlisted in the US Air Force and spent the next 20 years living around the US and in Germany. For someone brought up that close to “the City”, it was a surprising education how many different dialects there were, just in my own country. Happily, I also learned that a smile and asking politely helps smooth over many a misunderstanding (Especially in Europe, where my mediocre High School French and German caused many a startled look).

    Now, to make matters more confusing, I write articles for a British model airplane magazine (RC Model World). I try hard to keep my articles interesting, whilst at the same time inoffensive. Sometimes, what the editors have done with my articles is interesting!


    p.s. Your command of English is excellent — far better than I often heard from fellow teachers!

  9. mike says:

    Addressing the unrelated post from Lloyd here. (love the James D. Nicoll quote btw, JPKalishek!!)

    @Lloyd: I get that question asked a lot every time I’m not flying in the States. That is not how contract firefighting works. We go where the contracts are and this year, for numerous reasons too elaborate to discuss in a blog, the company found themselves with less machines working for the USFS. But they have had contracts in Greece for many years. It keeps changing. Before there were contracts in Italy, Malta, Southern France, now it’s Greece and Turkey.
    We currently have one machine on contract with LA City, one with LA County, one on CWN with the USFS, one in San Diego. I take Greece over those any day!
    Pay is the same, but it gets me within 2 hour flight time of my brother and my family in Austria which is where I went on my days off in July. The hotels are way better, the food is better, and the people are friendly. The small town Americans in Utah, Idaho, Washington, and so forth roll up the sidewalk at 8pm yet we fight fire until 9pm. Which means gas station food and shitty hotels. If you ever get the chance to stay near Vernal, UT or Happy Camp, CA . . . pass on that. The Greeks don’t start dinner until 9pm the earliest so we always get fed. There is always beer and never bed bugs.
    The mission in Greece is better. They use the Skycrane the way it was intended, as a fast and efficient initial attack tool that can deploy fast and in most cases put the fire out in one day. Versus the USFS where they seem to wait until the fire gets way to big to do anything about it before they launch the big iron.
    Need I go on?
    In general us, the pilot pool, have very little to say where the company sends us and they need to spread the wealth around switching people between contracts that fly more vs contracts that fly less so everybody gets enough flight time throughout the year. But if given the choice, I’m going to Greece!
    Now if there was a job with another company that pays more and only flies in the States. I might have to reconsider….

  10. Joshua says:

    My dad and I read P.G. Wodehouse books all the time. He has all of his books.

  11. stef says:

    Thanks for all the comments, everybody! I always really enjoy reading them, and I apologize for not often commenting myself. It’s funny that sometimes the strips you don’t expect much reaction from spark the most comments and vice versa. Anyway, it’s great to see so many P.G. Wodehouse fans out there!

    @ Neil: You’re absolutely right! It’s Bertie! I apologize, but I will leave my typo up there so your comment won’t look stupid, haha. I wasn’t aware that dumbass is already considered borderline foul, so maybe that reader had a point! However, we think we’re already civil and politically correct enough in our language, so we’ll probably keep using it. It’s not really a comic for kids anyways.

    @ Merijn: Yes, it specifically said „Dutch slang“, and it was probably a few centuries back.

    @ Jan: It is beautiful language, isn’t it? And I don’t think „poppycock“ is US English, it’s probably old British English. Maybe some of our American readers can comment on this? I sometimes confuse my brother with words I use in drafts, because I probably got them from some old British English book.

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