etymology, Uncategorized

PPFF #166: names, again

Good morning,

I often hear people complain. Complaining about ‘other people’. And recently I heard someone quite subtly and passive-aggressively grumble about Chinese people and ‘their’ practice of adopting ‘English’ names. They sounded almost offended by what is basically a lazy attempt at ‘cultural assimilation’ through ‘nominal appropriation’ – such that it caught my attention. But it also made me wonder, ‘English names’? What are English names? John? Kimberly? Peter? Kevin? I had to google for hours to no avail; at least as far as the origins of these common ‘English’ names are concerned, I couldn’t find an English name. Not one. It turns out, a lot of the names we give to children in the UK are either Celtic or Hebrew in origin (I don’t know the respective percentage).

Take John for example, a very common English name, but really how English is it, when you consider that it is an anglicised Hebrew name originally transliterated into Greek and then Latin Ioannes, meaning “Yahweh is Gracious”. Peter? Peter It’s from the Greek word ‘petros’ meaning stone/rock, a direct translation of ‘cephas’ or ‘keppa’, an Aramaic word meaning the same. Kevin? That’s just a failed attempt to pronounce and spell a common Irish name ‘Caoimhín’, by the English.

Long story short, if a Jewish singer can change his German name (Zimmerman) to a distinctly Welsh-sounding name (Dylan), and get away with it, I’d say, leave them Chinese people alone.

Have an open-minded Friday.


PPFF #165: implicature

Good morning,

Apologies for missing in action last week. I was away (mentally) for the past couple of weeks. The good news is that little distraction is coming to an end and my attention is back where it should be; here.

There’s a scene in When Harry met Sally (old film – I know) where Harry is trying to introduce Sally to his friend Jess. Here’s how the conversation goes.

Jess: If she’s so great why aren’t you taking her out?

Harry: How many times do I have to tell you, we’re just friends.

Jess: So you’re saying she’s not that attractive.

Harry: No, I told you she is attractive.

Jess: Yeah but you also said she has a good personality.

Harry: She has a good personality.

Jess: When someone’s not that attractive, they’re always described as having a good personality.

Harry: Look, if you had asked me what does she look like and I said, she has a good personality, that means she’s not attractive. But just because I happen to mention that she has a good personality, she could be either. She could be attractive with a good personality, or not attractive with a good personality

In the last part of the conversation, Harry basically explained the concept of ‘implicature’, a term coined by Paul Grice in 1961, to describe uttered words or sentences implying a meaning beyond the literal sense of what is explicitly stated.

Let me explain further.

Anna: Is he attractive?

Brown: He has a good personality.

Basically, Brown would have meant that he is not attractive. But the words in his sentence in themselves don’t mean that he’s not attractive, as Brown did not say that he isn’t attractive. He implied it i.e. Brown implicated that he is not attractive (that he is not attractive was his implicature. Another example below.

Charlie: Did you kill Brown, because he’s not attractive?

Dianna: I found him attractive.

Here Dianna didn’t really answer the question and she is misleading as Dianna is not directly confirming or denying either way. Dianna is uttering those words to lead Charlie to infer that Dianna meant she didn’t kill Brown because she found him attractive as the basis of her killing would have been whether she found him attractive or not. But Charlie’s inference would have to be accompanied with the assumption that Dianna’s reply was indeed in response to Charlie’s question in that particular context. If Charlie did assume and infer the (supposedly) implied, that would leave Dianna room to manoeuvre later, and claim “I’ve never said that”, which technically isn’t untrue. It’s a great skill/trick if you know how to use it, and a huge pain if you’re at the receiving end of it. So, if you have yet to master this art,  save yourselves the trouble of inference, and be direct.

Have a good Friday.

london, Uncategorized

PPFF #163: narrow boat

Good morning,

A: “I’m thinking about buying a live-aboard narrow boat.”

B: “Really? It looks really small and crammed.”

A: “It’s not that small. Probably not much smaller than the average one-bed flat in London.”

B:”No way.”

Recently, I’ve had this conversation with a few of  my mates – most recently, this Wednesday. The recurring incredulity in everyone’s response to my size comparison as a justification for purchase, got to me in the end and I decided to look for some solid numbers to back up my claim – and to be helpful just in case you’re also considering this option as your main home.

According to this article, the size of average one-bedroom flat in typical new build development is 500 sq ft – the article also features a website that sells ‘pocket-sized’ mini-flats whose size averages 400 sq ft (I’m in no way affiliated with this enterprise but they look pretty good. And if they offered money, I would not reject it, just to be clear).

I couldn’t find a similar article for studio flats, but I did some ‘original’ research by browsing through various studio flats’ floor plans on Zoopla, the average of which was circa 300 sq ft.

A decent live-aboard narrow barge would be 60 ft long and 6ft wide, making the average floor area a cool 360 sq ft (or take off 15% for the engine room etc., you still end up with 306 sq ft.).

In conclusion, I was right; in terms of floor area, the following is true:

  • London Studio < Narrow boat < Average UK 1-bed flat


Have a good Friday, preferably on a boat.








london, Uncategorized

PPFF #161: Les Mis

Good morning,

Apologies for skipping last week’s – a little personal affairs hiccup. Speaking of hiccups it looks like London had something pretty major happen to her this week. Condolences to those who unfortunately lost their lives – not that I knew any of them but hey, it could have been any one of us.

Moving on. To distract myself from all this madness, I pulled out from my bookshelf, a copy of Les Miserables (abridged version, obviously – none of us have any time for that verbose gibberish in its entirety despite the book’s epic masterpiece status). When I started reading the editor’s preface to the book, I came across something interesting (so, yes, I naturally stopped pretending that i actually wanted to read the book itself). The editor claimed to have decided to edit and publish that abridged version in order to make accessible what is otherwise an extremely long book with a large amount of unrelated essays which neither advance the plot (or even subplot) nor reveal anything about its characters – he went on further to explain that this was because back in the days writers in Europe (by which he meant mostly England and France), writers got paid per word. So I was naturally sceptical. Paid by the word? Like ‘old clothes sold by weight‘?

So I did my due diligence to substantiate this claim and it turned out while there’s some truth to it, the editor probably wanted to sound deliberately provocative and sensational. Basically, Les Mis was a serial novel published in installments in periodicals – basically a 19th century equivalent of a box-set (think ‘Game of Thrones’ rather than recycled clothes). Just like the series that we see on Netflix today, back in the days writers would keep going only if the story proved to be popular, or if not, the publisher would kill off the story. Just like I might kill off this blog if no one reads it.

Have a good Friday

















PPFF #158: look after No. 1 (or not)

Good morning,

One of the coolest things I’ve come across in the past few years as a layperson, is Game theory, the study of human conflict and cooperation within competitive situations or science of self-interest strategy. Just last night I was reading about one of the topics in Game theory, the ultimatum game.

The rules of ultimatum game are quite simple:

  1. There are two players
  2. Player 1 is given a sum representing something of value, e.g. money.
  3. Player 1 makes a proposal for how to divide the sum with Player 2
  4. Player 2 can either accept or reject the proposal
  5. If Player 2 accepts, the sum gets divided according to the proposal. If Player 2 rejects, both Players 1 & 2 get nothing.
  6.  Game ends with no further play

The results are very fascinating mainly because they reveal nuanced subtleties of self-interest, and to an extent the selfishness axiom of ‘look after number one’ in social interactions is not purely economically driven, can be political and is much more indirect and complicated than originally thought. Let me explain this. An obvious prediction is that Player 1 will act in their self-interest and propose a very imbalanced split, say 90:10. Then Player 2, logically speaking, would have to accept this proposal because they know that they would be better off than 0/0 split if Player 2 rejects the proposal.

However, oftentimes players defy the classic model of self-interest; Player 1 generally makes a ‘fairer’ proposal and Player 2 frequently reject grossly ‘unfair’ proposals even at the risk of receiving nothing at all. Here are some useful facts one can use to one’s advantage in negotiation.

  • 50/50 split is the most common proposal
  • one in five ‘unfair’ low offers are rejected
  • the longer Player 1 takes to make the offer, the higher the chances Player 2 would accept a low offer.

For those of you, who say “But this is a controlled lab experiment, far removed from reality. Where is a real life example of these low-ball offers being rejected?”, well, I have one word for you.


Have a fair Friday.




food for thought, Uncategorized

PPFF #157: Diderot

Good morning,

I came across this article about the history of so-called ‘jaywalking’, an American-invented traffic offence, committed by pedestrians traversing streets outside designated crossing locations (fascinating topic), and as a result I wasted my precious few minutes, before I eventually ended up learning about the ‘Diderot effect’.

I know. It’s very 1990s. It was a thing then apparently, to discuss Diderot effect, which I must have missed. So I’m catching up; the term is named after Denis Diderot, French philosopher, coined by a Canadian author Grant McCracken, who wrote extensively on (over)consumption/consumerism. The story goes; Diderot was poor all his life, but one day he won the lottery (not really but it’s a long story – so, read up in your own time if you want to find out what actually happened), and he now had access to better things. First, he bought a new scarlet robe, which he loved. He loved it so much that he noticed everything else in his possession looked rather shabby in comparison, and he decided that there was ‘no unity’ any more among the things he owned. Just like the rest of us, he didn’t want to downgrade. So off he went ‘in search of material unity’, to replace everything in his abode to match the beauty of the robe. This is the Diderot effect (actually there’s more to the definition than this but I have a day job. So, apologies but read up).

To be honest, if you asked me (no one did), I wouldn’t say we were ever desperate for a pretentious name for this behaviour. It seems quite natural to me that one would prefer materially harmonised/coordinated sets of things (although having names/labels in general is a quick and convenient way to call someone out on something). Before I go, I would add, it doesn’t seem to be confined to material possessions only. I almost feel like we extend this behaviour to circumstances and people too (e.g. you buy a very smart looking suit for your partner. He/she looks ridiculous in it. You get a new partner to go with the suit etc.). Anyhow, think that one over.

Have a good Friday


PPFF #155: cheers!

Good morning,

Perhaps it was the weather outside, falling/fallen leaves or the sheer lack of sunlight I get to see these days being a 9-to-5’er in a large office reminiscent of nuclear bomb-shelters probably built during the cold war era (not factually checked) – or perhaps it’s just another case of seasonal affective disorder. Whatever the reason, it got me thinking about death. Not mine in particular or that of the inconsiderate neighbour in the building who last night decided 11:30pm might be just the right time to vacuum their floor. (Although for a second… no). I mean just the idea of death in general.

Believe or not it was quite a challenge to google my way to any ‘cheerful’ piece of writing about death. I think ‘Feeling suicidal? –‎’ was the first entry that came up when I typed in ‘death’ in google. Or was it suicide? (stay with me – it does get better, though marginally). Then I came across this phrase; ‘memento mori’, meaning, ‘remember you will/must die’. The same phrase is used to describe a genre of paintings popular in the 16th/17th European fine art, whose basic form took a portrait with a skull and other objects symbolising death, fragility and finiteness of fleeting life.

I’d like to put the esoteric fine art genre aside, and go back to the original phrase and its origin, because it makes a pretty fascinating story; apparently in ancient Rome when a victorious general entered Rome in all glory and pomp (probably after yet another military conquest) while being cheered by jubilant crowds, they would arrange a slave or servant to whisper in the general’s ear:

“Respice post te.

Hominem te esse memento.

Memento mori”


“Look past you(r time) .

Remember you are (but) a man.

Remember that you (will/must) die.”

For a second I thought it was a little harsh raining on someone’s victory parade but then maybe they thought some sobering is good for the soul I’d guess. ‘But how is this cheerful?’ you might ask. Well this Roman general thing led me to the popular medieval Persian phrase ‘this too shall pass’. This winter or SAD too shall pass.

Have fun this Friday but memento mori as this too shall pass (come Monday)