Thursday July 21, 2011
Which half is boiled?
YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED by FADZILAH AMIN
IN his story “Good excuse for indulgence” (Sunday Metro, May 15), Kevin Kam drew our interest to the Kemaman Kopitiam serving a breakfast set “comprising hot crisp toasts slapped liberally with homemade kaya and butter, and half-boiled eggs”.
I have two questions. Were the eggs still whole when served? If so, which half of the eggs were actually boiled? Kemaman Kopitiam must be unique because elsewhere I am served soft, medium or hard-boiled eggs. – EZA
It’s really easy for Malaysians to make the mistake of saying “half-boiled eggs” instead of “soft-boiled eggs”, the phrase that native speakers use. I used to say “half-boiled eggs” for years, having translated the term from the Malay “telur setengah masak”, until a native speaker corrected me.
It’s not an illogical term, since the egg has not been fully cooked, i.e. usually the yolk is soft and the white of the egg, though not still having the consistency of mucus, is still wobbly.
The natives write of meat that is half-done, especially in their recipes, meaning meat that has been half-cooked and is not yet tender. Here are some examples:
Bind the beef tightly, stick into it four cloves, and put it into a sauce-pan with three quarts of water, a quarter of an ounce of black pepper half beaten, some salt, a bunch of sweet herbs, and three anchovies; turn it often, and when half done take it out, pour off the liquor; put in the beef again, with a pint of port wine and half a pint of table-beer made scalding hot, and some of the liquor strained; stew it till tender ...” (From the book The Practice of Cookery by Mrs Dalgairns,1840)
1863–5 J.Thomson Sunday at Hampstead v, The meat half-done, they tore it and devoured. (Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition 1989)
Train or training?
Which question is correct?
1. How many times do you train a week?
2. How many times do you train in a week?
3. How many times do you do your training in a week?
The answer to all three questions is, “Twice a week”. – Azam
Both 2 and 3 are correct. Question 1 can be corrected by changing the order of the phrase to: “How many times a week do you train?”
Despite all the explanations I have read, I can’t find satisfactory guidelines on when to capitalise sun, moon and earth. Please help. – Still Confused
There are no hard and fast rules about when to capitalise the first letters of these words and when not to. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (2004, revised 2009) states “also Earth”, “also Moon” and “also Sun” after the entries for “earth”, “moon” and “sun” respectively, without explaining when we should use the forms with the initial capital letters.
The case of “earth” is probably clearest. In ordinary usage, we normally write “earth” without the capital “e”, as in: “Since our time on earth is limited, let’s make the best use of it.”
However, when we name our planet as one of the planets that go round the sun, we usually use a capital “e”. Perhaps this is because all the other planets have names, and their names are proper nouns (taken from the names of gods and goddesses of Roman mythology), so we make “Earth” a proper noun as well. Thus we have, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, etc.
We also use a capital “e” in terms like “Planet Earth” or “Earth Day”, because Earth is there seen as the planet we live on.
And “Earth” as in the sentence, “The Earth rotates on its own axis” is more often used than “earth” in a discussion of our planet as a planet. Here’s a sentence from a Nasa (US National Aeronautics and Space Administration) website:
“This strategic placement permits constant observation of spacecraft as the Earth rotates on its own axis.”
The case of the moon is different. Earth has only one moon, and in ordinary writing, we call it “the moon”. Poets have personified it and given it the names of the Ancient Greek and Roman goddesses of the moon, like Artemis, Phoebe, Cynthia, Selene, etc, but our moon really has no name in everyday usage.
This is in contrast to moons that go round other planets like Jupiter and Saturn, which have been given names like Europa, Ganymede, Titan, Hyperion, etc.
So it is more common to use “the moon” with a small “m”, and we don’t ever call it “Moon” without “the” before it, as we can call “Earth” without “the”.
There is an interesting article in guardian.co.uk related to this, which you might want to read. It is called “Why doesn’t the earth’s moon have a name?” (www.guardian.co.uk/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-2051,00.html)
Nasa, however, uses initial capitals for all three space objects, i.e. “the Sun”, “the Moon” and “the Earth”, as can be seen in a page of its Mission News: www.guardian.co.uk/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-2051,00.html
As for the sun, in ordinary non-scientific writing, we don’t capitalise the “s” as can be seen in the sentence: “The sun rises from the east and sets in the west.” But in scientific writing, both “sun” and “Sun” are used.
Below are some examples of usage of the three words in Oxford University websites, as well as one from the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh and another from the Natural History Museum in London:
The outer parts of the star are blown away at around 10,000 km/sec, or 20 million mph, in a fireball a billion times brighter than our sun.” (Dr Mark Sullivan)
When we look at the Sun or any other star, we just see light from its surface.” (Dr Stephen Justham)
“You would see an enormous star, a few hundred to a thousand times the size of the sun with a turbulent red surface.”
This includes the core-collapse of massive stars, thermonuclear explosions of objects the size of our moon and extreme accretion onto newly-formed black-holes.
Where early panels focus on our Moon and Sun, just light seconds away, later ones stretch billions of light years back to the birth of the Universe in the Big Bang.
The warm dust is believed to be from recent collisions of rocky bodies at distances from the star comparable to that of the Earth from the Sun. (from the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh)
“If the moon had been created elsewhere and was captured by the Earth’s gravity we would expect its composition to be very different from the Earth’s.” (from the Natural History Museum, London)
‘S’ or no ‘s’
We say “a ten-dollar note” but “an overseas conference”. Why can’t we say “an oversea conference”? – Balan
We can still say “oversea conference” but to quote from the Oxford English Dictionary under the entry “overseas” (as an adjective), “Overseas is now more frequently used than oversea.”
The OED has the word “oversea” in it, and in fact it was the original form of the word as an adjective and adverb, and first recorded in 1509. But what later became a noun (or a quasi-noun as the OED puts it) in 1909 is “overseas”, meaning “foreign parts”, “abroad” or as the Concise Oxford Dictionary (2004, revised 2009) puts it, “foreign countries regarded collectively”.
So we can’t say that “oversea” is the singular form of the noun “overseas”, since “oversea” was never a noun. “Oversea” is just an older form of the adjective and adverb “overseas”.
The case of the ten-dollar note is different. “Dollar” is the singular form of “dollars” and this singular form is used in a noun modifier or part of one.
Here are two fairly recent examples of the use of “oversea” in online British newspapers:
“Questor share tip: RSA Insurance’s oversea push will yield returns” (from telegraph.co.uk, February 2011)
“As Caribbean countries press for limitations on the judiciary power of the Privy Council, we take a look at appeals figures by oversea countries” (from guardian.co.uk, June 13)