Friday, September 30, 2005

St Joseph in the Forest

While surfing for some pancake recipes, I stumbled upon this fairy tale by the Grimm brothers. It has a good moral, so tell it to the kids.

THERE WAS once on a time a mother who had three daughters, the eldest of whom was rude and wicked, the second much better, although
she had her faults, but the youngest was a pious, good child. The mother was, however, so strange, that it was just the eldest daughter whom she most loved, and she could not bear the youngest.
On this account, she often sent the poor girl out into the great
forest in order to get rid of her, for she thought she would lose
herself and never come back again. But the guardian-angel which
every good child has, did not forsake her, but always brought her into the right path again.

Once, however, the guardian-angel behaved as if he were not there,
and the child could not find her way out of the forest again. She
walked on constantly until evening came, and then she saw a tiny light burning in the distance, ran up to it at once, and came to a little hut. She knocked, the door opened, and she came to a second door, where she knocked again. An old man, who had a snow-white beard and looked venerable, opened it for her; and he was no other than St. Joseph. He said quite kindly, "Come, dear child, seat thyself on my little chair by the fire, and warm thyself; I will fetch thee clear water if thou art thirsty; but here in the forest, I have nothing for thee to eat but a couple of little roots, which thou must first scrape and boil."

St. Joseph gave her the roots. The girl scraped them clean, then she brought a piece of pancake and the bread that her mother had given her to take with her; mixed all together in a pan, and cooked herself a thick soup. When it was ready, St. Joseph said, "I am so hungry; give me some of thy food." The child was quite willing, and gave him more than she kept for herself, but God's blessing was with her, so that she was satisfied. When they had eaten, St. Joseph said, "Now we will go to bed; I have, however, only one bed, lay thyself in it. I will lie on the ground on the straw." "No," answered she, "stay in thy own bed, the straw is soft enough for me." St. Joseph, however, took the child in his arms and carried her into the little bed, and there she said her prayers, and fell asleep.

Next morning when she awoke, she wanted to say good morning to St.
Joseph, but she did not see him. Then she got up and looked for him,
but could not find him anywhere; at last she perceived, behind the
door, a bag with money so heavy that she could just carry it, and on
it was written that it was for the child who had slept there that
night. On this she took the bag, bounded away with it, and got
safely to her mother, and as she gave her mother all the money, she
could not help being satisfied with her.

The next day, the second child also took a fancy to go into the
forest. Her mother gave her a much larger piece of pancake and
bread. It happened with her just as with the first child. In the
evening, she came to St. Joseph's little hut, who gave her roots for a thick soup. When it was ready, he likewise said to her, "I am so
hungry, give me some of thy food." Then the child said, "Thou mayest
have thy share." Afterwards, when St. Joseph offered her his bed and
wanted to lie on the straw, she replied, "No, lie down in the bed,
there is plenty of room for both of us." St. Joseph took her in his
arms and put her in the bed, and laid himself on the straw.

In the morning when the child awoke and looked for St. Joseph, he
had vanished, but behind the door she found a little sack of money
that was about as long as a hand, and on it was written that it was
for the child who had slept there last night. So she took the little
bag and ran home with it, and took it to her mother, but she
secretly kept two pieces for herself.

The eldest daughter had by this time grown curious, and the next
morning also insisted on going out into the forest. Her mother gave
her pancakes with her- as many as she wanted, and bread and cheese
as well. In the evening she found St. Joseph in his little hut, just
as the two others had found him. When the soup was ready and St.
Joseph said, "I am so hungry, give me some of the food," the girl
answered, "Wait until I am satisfied; then if there is anything left
thou shalt have it." She ate, however, nearly the whole of it, and St. Joseph had to scrape the dish. Afterwards, the good old man offered her his bed, and wanted to lie on the straw. She took it without making any opposition, laid herself down in the little bed, and left the hard straw to the white-haired man.

Next morning when she awoke, St. Joseph was not to be found, but she did not trouble herself about that. She looked behind the door for a money-bag. She fancied something was lying on the ground, but as she could not very well distinguish what it was, she stooped down and examined it closely, but it remained hanging to her nose, and when she got up again, she saw, to her horror, that it was a second nose, which was hanging fast to her own. Then she began to scream and howl, but that did no good; she was forced to see it always on her nose, for it stretched out so far. Then she ran out and screamed without stopping till she met St. Joseph, at whose feet she fell and begged until, out of pity, he took the nose off her again, and even gave her two pennies.

When she got home, her mother was standing before the door, and
asked, "What hast thou had given to thee?" Then she lied and said,
"A great bag of money, but I have lost it on the way." "Lost it!"
cried the mother, "oh, but we will soon find it again," and took her
by the hand, and wanted to seek it with her. At first she began to
cry, and did not wish to go, but at last she went. On the way,
however, so many lizards and snakes broke loose on both of them,
that they did not know how to save themselves. At last they stung
the wicked child to death, and they stung the mother in the foot,
because she had not brought her up better.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

New Look

When it comes to gadgets, most of us just use the bare minimum functions. We may have an entire gizmo of A to Z functions at our disposal but we're usually content with using the ABCs only.

So it is with the Nedstat statistics counter. Usually I just zero in on the page views. This morning, I saw the pull-down menus on top which somehow have escaped my notice. There was a "With What" function and when I clicked on it, I saw that more than 80% of visitors used the Internet Explorer. Yikes.

In my earlier template, the one with the orange header, there was some html kinks which I couldn't figure out. This resulted in the sidebar fonts appearing unusually big when the blog was opened with the Internet Explorer. Surprisingly, if it was viewed with Mozilla Firebox and Netscape, the fonts were okay.

If Red Riding Hood were here, she'd say, "Lydia, what big fonts your blog has." I don't want to tell her, "All the better for you to read with, my dear," because that'll be a lie. So the best thing to do is to change my blog template. I like the new look because it's more streamlined and neater. And the kink is gone!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

This is Aidyl Het

Who's that? That's me. Go read today's Star In-tech Startbox column. Confessions of a Blog Addict isn't online or I would have linked it.

If anyone came here after reading the article, allow me to say, "Well done, Sherlock Holmes." (Neither the url nor the blog title was published.)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Guess the sound

We were having dinner when a strange, unfamiliar sound filled the room.


I thought someone didn't put the cordless phone in its socket properly and it was tooting in protest.

I : Go put down the phone.

No. 1 : It's not the phone.

We all listened intently.

I : Is it a car horn?

No. 1 : No. It's the water pipe vibrating.

Hubby : No, it's the train whistle.

Suddenly I made the connection. It was the new whistling kettle I had just bought that afternoon. Our old kettle gives out a Pheee.... so the Phooo.... was quite unfamiliar.

Phooo or Pheee, it doesn't matter as long as it tells us it's time to switch off the gas.

Tip for young people setting up house :

Don't use an electric kettle. It guzzles electricity. If you don't believe me, go check the electric meter when the kettle is on. You'll see the dial spinning round and round like it's gone berserk. Oh, and make it a whistling kettle, please. Without the Pheee or the Phooo, there's a real danger of burning the house down if you forget to switch off the gas before leaving for work.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Malaysian Idol 2

When Jien announced, "Your Malaysian Idol is... Daniel!" I screamed and screamed while no. 1 and 2 sat stunned on the couch. We were rooting for Nita whom we believe had more oomph and talent. But Daniel Lee had 1.2 million voters, most of them teeny-boppers presumably. He had 68% of the total votes. Looks like the online poll on the Malaysian Idol website was quite accurate : 66% had casted their votes for Daniel.

This year's result wasn't as clear cut as last year's. In MI 1, when Jien asked "who's the Malaysian Idol?" before the result was announced, the audience was unanimous in shouting out "Jac!" This year, we couldn't make out the name.

But all is not lost for Nita. In an Idol competition, second-best doesn't mean obscurity. (In the first place, this isn't about talent per se, not when you reach final 11. When the sms voting kicks in, it becomes a popularity contest. That's why LaToya London went out so early in American Idol 3. She should have been in the final two with Fantasia Barrino.) Look at Clay Aiken. He was the runner-up of American Idol 2 but he's more popular than Ruben Studdard. Ruben who? Have you ever heard his song on our radio? Nope. In fact if you go to the Reality TV World for AI 2, you'll find Clay dominating the news.

But the reality of this type of program is that it hinges on popularity. That's how Mawi of Akademi Fantasia won. I didn't watch the show but that's the general sentiment portrayed in the media.

Now I like Daniel too. He has some things going for him : a soothing voice, cute puppy-dog looks and a pleasant personality. His singing ability, showmanship and confidence had improved tremendously since the workshop stage. But would he be able to hold a candle to singers like Fantasia and Jac in World Idol? The answer is pretty obvious, isn't it?

Daniel should just take MI as a stepping stone to launch his Chinese-singing career. His voice is made for Chinese ballads. For a small town boy who's had no professional training in singing, Daniel has done well for himself. He owes it all to his fans. But how successful will he be? As Roslan said, "let's see if the 1.2 million votes translates into sales."

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Friday, September 23, 2005

More Mummy's bloopers

No. 3 likes the radio ad that goes something like this.

A : Hey, have you sold your house?
B : Yes!
A : Your car? Tv? Radio? Fridge? Computer?
B : All sold!
A : Errr... your mother-in-law?
B : Boo-hoo, not yet!

No. 3 : (Giggling) How can sell mother-in-law? Mummy, what's mother-in-law?
I : (Busy negotiating heavy traffic) Husband's wife or wife's wife.
No. 2 : No, it's not!
I : Oops! Husband's mother or wife's mother.

BTW, I can't remember what the radio ad was selling. The "means" has overshadowed the "end".

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A mother's wet afternoon

No. 1, no. 2 and I were drenched in the rain today, no thanks to some council workers pruning some tree branches.

We were already nearing no. 3's school when we got caught in a long queue at the traffic lights. The lights must have zonked out or maybe a car had stalled, I thought. It was neither. At the road shoulder, municipal workers were cutting down some tree branches which had got tangled up in the electric cables.

I don't understand though how the jam had come about. They had placed some traffic cones at the side of the road but they didn't obstruct the road. The felled tree branches weren't in the way either. Ggrrr...

As a result, no. 3 was five minutes late for school. Then on the way to no. 2's school, the heavens suddenly opened up and torrents of rain gushed down like a waterfall. I decided to stop a little distance away from the school so as not to get caught in the traffic jam. With each holding an umbrella, we should get across without getting too wet. Or so I thought.

Two-inch deep rain water ran down the road. No. 2's shoes were soaked. By the time we got to the school, our clothes were drenched. She gave me her umbrella and it was only then that I noticed that half the umbrella had folded up, and so had mine.

I went back to the car to wait for for no. 1 to dismiss from the same school. It was still raining but it was no point bringing the umbrella over to him. He called me from his friend's cellphone. I asked him to dash out when the rain subsided a little. Still, he got wet.

I drove to my mum's house nearby. (To drive home to get the dry uniforms would take me another half hour.) My aunt had given her some old school uniforms that her daughters had outgrown. They looked a tad too big for no. 2 but beggars can't be choosers. I bagged a pair.

First I had to send no. 4 (who was still dithering over yesterday's leftover spaghetti) to kindergarten, a stone's throw away. I dropped her off, then headed back to no. 2's school. Her slippers were still in the car. I bundled them into the plastic bag and asked no. 1 to go to his sister's class to pass the dry stuff to her. I wasn't about to parade my sorry-looking self in front of hundreds of students. Clad in my wet and shabby t-shirt and shorts, I looked like something the cat had dragged in from the drain. No. 1 was wet too but at least he didn't look scruffy.

I hope no. 2 will be smart enough to give an explanation to her teacher if he asks, "Why are you wearing a uniform with a different school badge on it?"

But then for all our trouble, she may just decide to sit around in her wet clothes rather than look uncool in a pair of baggy uniform. I hope she will at least strip off her wet shoes and wear her slippers.

All in a day's work for a mum-of-4-schoolgoing-kids.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Yeh! My book's on Amazon UK!

Finally Life's Like That - Scenes from Malaysian Life is up for sale on

Please click here to go there. If any of you have read my book and like it, could you please do me a favour? Go to and write a nice little review for the book. I know you're going to ask for commission. Unless the book sell by the thousands, I can assure you it's not that lucrative. But if I see you, I'll buy you coffee but please don't ask for Starbucks. Local kopi, okay?

To see the contents page, just click on the Table of Contents and for more details on the book including the author's comment, click on See All Reviews. Ignore the weird little symbols which are actually quote marks and apostrophes.

BTW if you don't like the book, tell me why but don't go and post it on Amazon, please. Oh dear, I hope I haven't given you any ideas.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Hem & Haw Writers' Club

Note :

I've moved this entry into a separate category in the sidebar in case "members" want to continue their hemming & hawing or share their triumph of getting into the writing groove. At a later time, when response is no longer forthcoming, I shall just let it languish under the Reading & 'Riting category.


Following the earlier posting on This is it, membership is now open for The Hem & Haw Writers' Club.

Mission : To encourage writers not to hem and haw (I know it's a paradox but it's a good paradox.)

Who is qualified to join : Anyone who has ever hemmed and hawed in their writing.

Definition of hem and haw : Be hesitant and indecisive; avoid committing oneself ( If you've made ten trips to the kitchen to make twenty cups of coffee, straightened your desk for the eleventh time and googled your name for the thirteen time in the last two hours before you finally type your first paragraph, you are a hemmer and hawer.

What is it all about - Members will post their various H&H techniques so that they know they're all afflicted with the same malady. More importantly, they will also update their writing progress so that other H&Hers will get so jealous they will also be motivated to JUST DO IT.

How to do - Via blog with various moderators?

Is this a silly idea or what?

This is it

Okay. I've decided to stick with Blogger. Thanks to everyone who has given me their comments. Wordpress seems to be a very powerful blogging tool, so full of oomph that I'm afraid it'll take me too much time to fiddle around with. This isn't good for me as I'm already spending too much time blogging when I should be BIC (butt-in-chair) spinning that yarn which I've started last year and still mucking around with, not sure where I'm headed.

I can be so fickle, sigh. Wordpress or Blogger. This slant or that angle. I need a huge dose of inspiration. I'd been moaning to a couple of you bloggers about this yarn and I'm sure you're fed up of it already, so I'll just whine to the world at large. I woke up this morning thinking that I need to rework the story, yet again. So I fished out The Weekend Novelist to have a look at that story arc again. Back to the drawing board again. I've gone back so many times but maybe it's because I didn't go all the way that I'm stuck.

Hats off to those writers who don't hem and haw. They just do it. Should take a leaf from their books.

JUST DO IT and quit whining!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Stomp : The good, the bad and the ugly

I drove to Istana Budaya to see Stomp last night. It was the first time I was driving to that part of KL. Nightfall didn't help either. I ended up making a few wrong turns but eventually arrived safe and sound.

Hubby didn't want to come along for the show. "What for?" he asked. So no. 3 accompanied me. He had been looking forward to it since the day I won the tickets from Mixfm.

The good

Plastic bags. Match boxes. Gas lighters. Hubcabs. Oil drums. Kitchen sinks. Boxes. Poles. Brooms. Garbage bins. Bare hands. I never knew these stuff can actually make music. Percussion music to be exact. The rhythm that they churned out with these everyday paraphernalia is amazing. I closed my eyes and thought I was listening to some nifty drummer instead.

No. 3 loved the slapstick humour in the first half of the show. He particularly liked the antics of the red-haired dork who was the oddball of the group. When Red-hair came on stage with a mop the size of a car tyre, no. 3 laughed and clapped enthusiastically. I was more tickled by his enjoyment than Red-hair's shenanigan with the gigantic mop.

My favourite scene was the kitchen-sink performance. Four muscular Stompers with kitchen sinks hanging from their neck made music by hitting their rubber-gloved hands on the sink and tapping utensils such as cups and containers which they fished out from the sink. Then they unplugged the sinks and flushed out the water into strategically placed buckets, making it look as if they were taking a leak. To complete the toilet humour, one of them even did the "shake", you know, to get rid of drippings.

The main Stomper, a fair complexioned handsome young man, had great rapport with the audience. He got us clapping along with him. He would clap in a certain way, say long-long-short-short-long and we would try to mimic him.

The bad

The show kicked off with the broom performance, followed by the matchbox ditty, then the hand-clapping, the poles-clacking etc. I started to wonder when they were going to hit those big garbage bins. That must be reserved for the finale, I thought.

I was right. And when it came, it came with a bang. I didn't like it. It was too loud and in your face. The din made by the garbage bins, oil drums and bin covers clanged together like cymbals was too much for both me and no. 3. He covered his ears with his hands. By then he was a bit bored because there was no more funny antics from Red-hair. He tried to snuggle down on my lap but the armrest of the chair prevented him from getting comfortable. In the end he sat up and pulled his sweater over his head.

Have you seen those Transformer Robots with big feet? Well, we saw them at Stomp. No, actually they looked more like stilt-walkers, but instead of stilts they were walking on huge metal drums which had boots molded onto the top. It was quite a sight, seeing these giants traipsing on stage.

The ugly

All right, they weren't really ugly. I mean the Stompers' clothes. They looked like something the janitors or workmen would wear to work : dungarees, paint-stained pants, baggy bermuda shorts and the likes. I know it's in keeping with the theme but couldn't they have come up with something more colourful instead of drab brown, grey and black?

At the end of the day

My tickets cost RM250 a piece. I definitely won't pay this much to see Stomp. For a mere fraction of it, just maybe, I might, to see what the hype was all about.

Having said that, I must say I was impressed by the harmony of the Stompers' performance. There wasn't a click or a clack which was out of rhythm. They must have put in countless hours of practice to achieve this concord.

I remember reading in the papers that there was a standing ovation at the end. In this performance, it was the main Stomper who beckoned us to stand. The audience clapped and cheered enthusiastically. I didn't mind that this was a "forced" standing ovation for suddenly the coast became clear for us to make a quick get-away. We were among the first to hit the carpark.

But the finale was way too much for my ears. My head became mush, I got lost and went round and round in circles around Jalan Tun Razak and Kampung Pandan. After stopping at three petrol stations and asking six people for directions, it took me two hours to get home from KL to Klang when it could've taken me just an hour.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

To switch or not to switch,

that is the question.

While blog-surfing, I came across some nifty blogs hosted by Wordpress/Blogsome. They're also free. The coolest feature I like about Wordpress is that they can organize entries according to categories.

Blogger can't do that. To get around the problem, I have to create the categories using a New Post entry. Each time I make a posting, I must go back to the relevant category and insert a link to the latest posting. In Wordpress, all you have to do is to create the categories and when posting, you just have to tick the relevant box. So easy. But that's about the only thing that is simple about Wordpress.

I give the thumbs-up to Blogger for its user-friendliness. Its Help function is easy to use. Posting entries and loading images can be done quickly and easily. With Wordpress, it seems to take a longer time. Maybe it just needs some getting used to.

I've created a test site here. Still hesitating whether to make the switch. Thanks to Lydia Teh from Singapore who helped me get this started. She's all for Wordpress. I'm still trying to figure out how things work.

Anyone has any suggestions or comments on this?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Little Gems #3 : Grass Rice

No. 3 : Mummy, what is chao fan?
I : What is fan?
No. 3 : Rice.
I : What is chao?
No. 3 : Grass.
I : Grass rice? No! It's fried!
No. 3 : Oh, fried rice.

The hanyu pinyin for fried and grass is almost the same. Fried is chao, grass is cao. But both sound the same.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Cranberry Cheese etc etc

One could be forgiven for thinking that Cranberry Cheese is a cheesecake.

Well, it isn't. It's a mooncake. So are these unusual and exotic flavours : Southern French Apple & Chestnut, Szechuan Seaspice, Malay Sunshine, Caramel Coconut and Green Tea Red Bean Milk.

These six mooncakes which came in individual tins were given by a Taiwanese business associate to my husband. He gave away four to his colleagues, so we only got to taste the Cranberry Cheese which tasted nothing like a mooncake and Southern French Apple & Chestnut. Both have a soft and crumbly texture. The former tasted like a cheesecake and the latter like pastry.

Locally made mooncakes are not lacking in unusual flavours either. Chocolate, mixed nuts, durian, mocha, green tea and of course pandan, have been around for some time.

After tasting a couple of innovative varieties, No. 1 said, "I want original mooncakes."

Lotus paste and red bean. Have we forgotten the old with the advent of the new? New experiences can be exciting but after a while the taste buds can get numbed by them and one starts to long for the good old, same old.

Old is vintage. Old is gold. Mooncakes, antiques, people, values, etc etc.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Eh Poh Nim Goes Colloquial

I've created a character called Eh Poh Nim, a talkative young woman who's something of an English expert. Appearing in The Star's Mind Our English page today is the third article on Eh Poh Nim. The link to the article, Eh Poh Nim goes colloquial is here but after one month Star will remove it from the online archives.

Note : I've decided to paste the entire article here.


Eh Poh Nim wakes up late this morning, so she rushes to work without breakfast. At ten-thirty, her stomach starts to growl. She decides to pop over to the bakery downstairs to grab something to eat.

“Good morning. May I help you?” the salesgirl in the bakery greets her cheerfully.

“Yes, please. May I have a baker’s dozen of those doughnuts?” Eh Poh Nim points to the small sugary doughnuts piled up on a tray.

The girl counts 12 pieces and puts them into a plastic bag.

“Excuse me, you’ve only given me 12. Thirteen please.”

“You want thirteen, is it? You should have said so.”

“I did. A baker’s dozen is thirteen, not twelve.”

The girl rolls her eyes as she hands the bag to Eh Poh Nim. Just then, the bell chimes as another customer walks into the bakery. He stops in his tracks and exclaims, “Eh Poh Nim, is that you?”

Eh Poh Nim squeals in delight. “John Toh? I haven’t seen you since Form Five! What have you been doing?”

“Went to USA to study architecture. Just came back a year ago.”

“It’s great to see you again. Are you married?”

“No, I don’t have a ball and chain attached to me.”

“Ball and chain? That’s not very nice, John. A wife is a good thing, not a hindrance as implied in this expression.”

“Heehee, I see your linguistic skill is still intact. How about you? Are you married?”

“Still single. Why don’t we have a drink and catch up?”

They settle themselves at a table in a corner of the bakery and order their drinks. Eh Poh Nim offers the doughnuts to John.

“Your breakfast?” he asks.

“Yeah, I woke up late this morning and had to skip breakfast. I forgot to set my alarm and my roommate didn’t wake me up either. She was all schnozzled up and overslept.”

“That’s an interesting choice of words. All schnozzled up. That’s American slang for alcohol intoxicated. But then you’ve always been a smart one with words. I remember you were always the top scorer in English.”

Eh Poh Nim blushes. “I remember you as a ball of fire. You were so energetic and ambitious. So, how’s it been since you returned? What do you do?”

John tells her where he works. “I’m giving myself another year to get a promotion.”

“So fast?”

“You’ve said it, Eh Poh Nim, I’m a fireball. They took two of us in as architects but I can easily beat the other guy to the promotion. He’s a cream puff. “

“Cream puff?”

“Hey, I thought you were a hot shot with words? A cream puff is a wimp,” John says with a wink.

“If he’s the wimp, you’re the crackerjack then.”

“Touche, my dear. Yup, I’m the excellent, industrious one. He’s also a clay pigeon.”

“A gullible guy, huh? Why did the company take him on then?”

“He’s a nephew of one of the partners. What about you, Eh Poh Nim? What do you do?”

“I’m a marketing exec with a pharmaceutical company. My office is upstairs.”

“Do you sell that little pill that guarantees big results? Maybe I can get some from you at a discount, eh?” John says with a wink.

She bristles visibly. “There’s been too much ballyhoo about that one. There are other products that can do just as well a job. In fact, our R&D department is working on a product that can top it. When it’s ready to be marketed, we won’t create sensational publicity for it, we’ll just let the product speak for itself.”


“I can’t say more, it’s still confidential.”

“That’s all right, Eh Poh Nim. Excuse me, I have to go check out the plumbing.” John gets up to go to the bathroom.

When he returns in a short while, he pulls a face at Eh Poh Nim. “Some people don’t have the decency to flush. The toilet was floating with caca. Eeww.”

“Must you say it, John?” Eh Poh Nim pushes her iced lemon tea away.

“Sorry. Are you feeling green around the gills?”

“It’s okay. I’m not nauseated. Just lost my appetite, that’s all.”

“Sorry for being such a beetle brain.”

“You’re not a stupid person. Just don’t bring out that subject during a meal. Let’s go. I’ve got to get back to work before my boss misses me.”

“Eh Poh Nim, before you go, may I ask you something?”


“Do you know any A.C.-D.C. guys?”

Eh Poh Nim’s jaw drops.

“Close your mouth, girl. A mozzie is gonna fly in. You know what A.C.-D.C. is, don’t you?”

She nods. “Bisexual. Are you one?”

“Ssshhh...Not so loud. Give me a call if you do,” he says as he hands her his calling card.

Eh Poh Nim walks off in a daze as she tries to digest this piece of news. For all her forward loquaciousness, she’s an old-fashioned girl at heart.

Ref: NTC’s Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions by Richard Spears

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Passionate about the traffic police

I must love my husband a lot. That's why I do his dirty work for him : take care of his laundry, file in his tax returns and pay his traffic summon. This latest errand here had me falling in love with our traffic police, so much so that my heart is racing be-de-gup-be-de-gup because of the passion they've inspired in me.

See, our venerable traffic police has offered a 50% discount for offenders to settle their summons. And hubby suddenly remembered that the traffic summon he picked up while vrooming to send a sick boy to the clinic, was still unpaid. Of course the errand fell on me.

So today after picking up no. 1 from school, I went to the police station. There was a long queue, about two dozen people ahead of me. Never mind, I have a book to kill time with. As soon as the counters open in ten minutes' time, the queue will get moving. Fat hopes.

The first few people breezed through the counter (only one was open though there were two). Suddenly the queue stopped moving for about 15 minutes. I wondered what happened as my view was obstructed by the people in front.

"Is anyone manning the counter?" I asked the big Indian man standing behind me. Large beads of sweat covered his face and his shirt was drenched. It was a small non-airconditioned room we were waiting in. The only ventilation came through the open door. The window was closed. Though a ceiling fan was on at full speed, when you have twenty over people crammed into a tiny room on a hot afternoon, temperature soared and so did my impatience.

"Why so slow?" I asked aloud as I fanned myself with the cover of my book.

Five minutes later I got the answer to my question. The guy who had just left the counter clutched a stack of inch-high receipts. It had taken this man twenty minutes to get his mountain of summons paid. Either he has a lot of friends in the fast lane or he was an office boy doing his colleagues a favour.

By then I was fuming. Long queues can be tolerated if they move, the operative word here being MOVE. The next two blokes in line made the queue stagnant again for another twenty minutes.

I'm puzzled. See, on the notice boards were two notices admonishing the public not to pay their summons through "ulat-ulat dan orang tengah." That's Malay for worms and middle-man. The only worms I know are of the insect variety, not the human species, so this word is quite baffling. But middle-man, I know one when I see one. I've just seen three of them hold up the line for forty minutes.

Fortunately after those three, the queue moved pretty quickly. When it was my turn, I asked the policeman, "Why don't you limit the number of bills per person? Like Tenaga, they limit five bills to a person."

He mumbled something from the comfort of his air-conditioned office. Then he gave me back my change together with the receipt. Two of the notes fluttered down from the counter to his desk and I couldn't reach them and I asked him nicely if he could hand them back to me.

He glared at me and said, "That's whylah. Why you're angry at me? Huh, now your notes dropped down."

I thought for a moment that he wasn't going to pick up the notes for me. It was as if he was saying, "Because you're angry at me, I'm not going to help you retrieve the money. Serves you right."

"It's not my fault, you know. Why you ask stupid question?" he said as he handed the money to me.

Can you see why I'm so passionate over our traffic police? Of course, I had to retort, "It's not a stupid question, it's a valid question."

And as I walked out the door, I couldn't resist using that word on him too. I know, I know, I'm a bad example to my kid but I simply CANNOT TAHAN already.

I must tell hubby to please, please obey traffic rules. I don't want to have to fall in love with our traffic police all over again. This type of passionate experience, I can only take once in a lifetime.

Otaku, Geek, Dork, Ah Beng

Are you a geek? In Japan, if you profess to be a geek, it can help you save some money. Read the article here. All you have say is, "I'm an Otaku" when you go to a movie theatre south of Tokyo and they'll give you a discount off the tickets. According to the theatre, 70% of movie-goers made this claim. Since when has being an otaku or geek or dork been so cool, eh?

In Malaysia, there aren't any otakus, only Ah Bengs.

I can just imagine GSC or TGV pulling off a stunt like this.

"Say you're an Ah Beng and we'll give you a 50% discount!!" screams the promo poster at the cinema.

At the ticketing counter :

Scenario 1

A man wearing thick horn-rimmed glasses, a rainbow coloured t-shirt and baggy shorts with natural air-conditioning.

Ah Beng : "One teeket please. I'm Ah Beng."


Scenario 2

A young man clad in jeans and a leather jacket accompanied by a girl in a baby-tee and capri pants.

Young man : Two tickets, please. We're Ah Bengs.

Cashier : She also Ah Beng ah? Hello, girl Ah Beng is called Ah Lian. Anyway, you two look so hip, how can you be Ah Beng and Ah Lian?

Young man : Look, man. Your poster here says, 'Say you're Ah Beng and you get 50% discount.' I've said 'I'm Ah Beng.' Which part of that sentence don't you understand? Just gimme my 50% discount and we'll quit being Ah Bengs. Okay, brudder?

That'll be the biggest gathering ever of Ah Bengs in one place. Perhaps the Malaysia Book of Records will organise an Ah Beng Fest?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Saturday conundrum

The Education ministry has put parents in a conundrum. It has given the option to schools to close early for the year-end holidays so that students need not go back to school for one week after the Deepavali/Hari Raya break (31 October to 6 November). In order to make up for the early closure, the five days of 7-11 November have to be replaced by Saturday classes. Since the September Saturdays have already been booked to replace the Haze emergency holidays and extra festival holidays (one day for Deepavali to replace 31 Oct and one day for Hari Raya to replace 2 Nov), it looks like all the October Saturdays may end up as school days.

If you don't have school-going children, I don't expect you to understand this complicated class-replacement affair. For those of us who do, it's already a headache and it's causing a huge mess up in our time-table.

1. Students who have tuition or extra-curricular classes such as music, taekwando, swimming on Saturdays have to reschedule.

2. Parents who have children in more than one school have to juggle the kids' different schedules if one school decides to close early on 28 October (before the one week festival break and one week early closure) and the other decides to go with the original date of 12 November.

3. As it is the 7-week year-end holidays is already way too long. If the schools close early, that'll make it a 9-week break if we count the one-week festival break. What are we going to to with the children for NINE long weeks? I'll be glad to invite an Education Ministry officer to stay in my home so that he'd get a taste of four kids running around the house, alternating between endless computer games, tv, internet surfing, getting into each other's hair and groaning, "it's sooooo booorrrring...."

Here comes the crunch. After all the hassle the schools go through to arrange Saturday classes, attendance is poor. Many students play truant, especially those studying in Kebangsaan schools. "After all, the teachers don't teach what," they say. "Why go and waste time there?"

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Spoiler ahead

The family was standing at the porch, waiting for me to unlock the front door so everyone could go in.

No. 3 : So-and-so* died, you know.

No. 1 : Aaaaahhh....

I : Why you tell?

No. 3 : Don't worry. He -- -- --*.

No. 1 : AAAAHHHHH..... (smacked his brother on the shoulder.)

No. 3 cried. He'd just heard from his friend about this character's demise in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The word 'Spoiler' is not in his vocabulary.

*We haven't bought the book yet and in case you haven't read it either, I've left out the crucial details.

Lyric hunting

Young people these days are so lucky. They want song lyrics, all they have to do is to log on the Internet and search. A few keystrokes later, they've got the lyrics on the screen. What's left to be done is to copy, paste and print and they can sing their hearts out.

In my time, we had to listen and scribble. A lyric-hunting session would go like this.

1. Play cassette tape.
2. Sribble furiously.
3. Press pause when the pen can't catch up with the words.
4. Wait, didn't get the last few words of the second line.
5. Rewind.
6. Play.
7. Scribble furiously.
8. Repeat steps 3 to 7 till the end of the song.

Repeat these procedures for the next few songs on the tape and by the end of the lyric-scribbling, the tape would go into a slow-mo guttural mode which meant only one thing : you've played it to death.

Three cheers for the Internet. Hip hip hurrah!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Sweet potatoes galore

A friend gave us a bag of sweet potatoes from his family farm.

"So much!" I said. "Must give some away."

"No. Just cook them in different ways," hubby said.

Yeah right. Steam, boil, roast, fried, I'll let you guys eat sweet potatoes until they come out of your ears and nose. Let's see now, sweet potato porridge for dinner, sweet potato soup for supper, roast potato for breakfast, fried potato for tea, sweet potato kuih for dessert...

By the time he's had it twice in a night, I think he's beginning to have second thoughts.

"Do we still have a lot left?" he asked.

The kids were relieved that I've given some to my mum.

"Give some to Ah Ma, too" No. 2 suggested, referring to hubby's mum.

I think I'll cook sweet potato porridge again. It's easy. Just dump in the peeled and cut pieces with the rice and let boil till soft. No. 3 hates it. And that's good. It'll prevent him from eating too much so he could lose that "four months pregnant" tummy.

All I have to do is to open up a can of pickled lettuce, boil some salted eggs, fry up a vegetable and voila! Dinner's served.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Mummy's bloopers

No. 4 was eating and talking at the same time, as usual. I scolded her.

Don't talk with your mouth open!

(Wait a sec, that's not right.)

Don't talk with your mouth closed!

(Not right either. Let's try again.)

Don't eat with your mouth open!

(No! That's not what I want to say!)

Don't talk with your mouth full!

(Finally! Must send the brain for a check-up.)

Addendum to meme : Olympic & ILM

Aisay, I forgot to include in the meme two important milestones that happened in 2004 and 2005. I'm adding them here.


I was an Olympic torch-runner, yaba-yaba-doo! Samsung sponsored five of us Famemas members to the beautiful island of Crete to carry the Olympic torch. We won the trip in a contest. Accompanying us on the trip were five sports luminaries who had been chosen via public votes : Datuk Dr. M. Jegathesan, Datuk Soh Chin Aun, Nicol David, Wong Choon Hann and Nurul Huda Abdullah as well as a group of Samsung dealers/distributors who had won the trip as an incentive.

That was a once-in-a-lifetime event. I remember that sunny day in July, up on the winding mountain road, the cliff on one side, the sea on the other and this ordinary Malaysian with no sporting experience whatsoever was actually running with the Olympic torch. I floated like a helium balloon during that 120-metre run. Sigh.


This January I started a weekly column in our church bulletin. I write short articles on Christian living for the column called In Light Manner. If you're checking out our website, don't be startled when a song floated out of nowhere. Our webmaster has uploaded a hymn which automatically plays when the site is accessed. It's a beautiful hymn.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Memed, Madam!

I surfed to Kak Teh's blog and found an entry titled, "I've been memed!"

Memed? What does this word mean? I honestly don't know. A quick check on the online dictionary gave the definition as : a cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one generation to another by nongenetic means (as by imitation).

Then Jane Sunshine explained, "Lydia, meme's are those things that go around with a list of q's on various blogs. Same q's different answers. Always fun."

Oh I see. I googled the word and found some other memes with questions such as :

(1) the number of books I bought (2) the last book I read etc etc
(1) total volume of music files on my computer (2) the last CD I bought etc
(1) have you bought a dvd of a tv series, and if so what? (2) what five shows wouldn't you miss etc

yadda yadda yadda.

But this meme that I've been served with has lots of personal questions. It wants to know what I've been up to in the last twenty years. Whoever started it must be either a Kay Poh Chee (busybody) or a biography compiler.

So here goes. Warning : Please get tissue ready to wipe off tears of boredom.

Twenty years ago (1985)

Just started what would be my longest job as a secretary in a manufacturing company. First day of work. Boss just buzzed and I was still sorting out my desk. Grabbed a pencil and the only notebook available which was pocket-size and dashed into boss's office. He looked contemptuously at the notebook and asked, "Don't you have anything bigger?"

Ten years ago (1995)

Home-making with two kids under five.

Five years ago (2000)

Home-making with three kids under ten.

Three years ago (2002)

Home-making with four kids under 12 and a non-human baby : my first book, "Congratulations! You have won! A guidebook on how to maximize your chances of winning competitions" born in 2001.

A year ago (2004)

Second book, "Life's Like That - Scenes from Malaysian Life" was born.

This year (2005)

This blog was born in August. So now I have 4 children and 2+1 "babies."

Now I have to meme other people. Over to you Sharon and Maya Kirana.

P/S : Is your tissue wet?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Little Gems #2 : A Little = 1%

I've always thought that riches was relative and today no. 3 just confirmed it. No. 4 was showing me a page from Ikea's latest catalogue which had a double decker bed priced at RM695.

No. 4 : Mummy, buy this for me.
No. 3 : We got no money. We're 99% poor and 1% rich.
I : Who told you that?
No. 3 : I asked daddy if we're rich. He said a little.
I : So a little is 1% is it?
No. 3 : Yeah-lah (his tone implied Duh?)

Monday, September 05, 2005

Little Gems #1 : No Thanks

Children say the funniest and weirdest things. If I don't record them down, I will forget these little gems that spice up my day.

I was sending A, an 8-year old friend home. Four year old no. 4 was in the car too.

A : Aunty, thank you for all the things you've given me.
I : You're welcome.
No. 4 : What about me?
A : You're not an adult.
No. 4 : I thought I let you play with my piano?

Story of the Moon Lady

Mooncake festival falls on 18 September. A reader, Grace, asked me for a story for her four-year old niece. I found this delightful children's story on the Internet. I'm reproducing it here in case change the url later.

A Story of the Moon Lady
By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

A long, long time ago, there was a beautiful lady named Chang Er who was married to the heavenly archer Hou Yi.

They did a lot of very brave and kind things together to help the people on earth, the most famous being saving the earth from the ten suns that scorched the earth. One time, after they built a big new jade palace for the Queen Mother of the West (XiWangMu), the Queen Mother of the West rewarded them by giving them a special magic Pill of Immortality, saying, "If you eat this magic pill, you will live forever. But you can’t eat it right away. It has very strong magic, so you have to wait one year and eat special foods and sit quietly (fast and meditate) to get your body ready for the magic."

Hou Yi took the pill home and told Chang Er about it. Then he put it in a secret hiding place until they were ready to eat it. But after three or four days, Chang Er wanted to take a closer look at the magic pill. So she took the box out from its hiding place and opened it up and took out the pill. It was so beautiful. It was like a pearl, glowing white from the inside with a rainbow of color shimmering just under the surface, and it smelled like peaches.

Just then Hou Yi came in and found her holding the pill. He said, "What are you doing?"

She hid the pill behind her back and said, "Nothing."

He said, "Are you eating the Pill of Immortality? We’re not supposed to eat it until after one year. It’s too strong."

She said, "No. I’m not eating it."

He said, "Let me see your hands." She took one hand out from behind her back. He said, "Let me see your other hand." She switched the pill and showed him the other hand. He said, "Let me see both hands."

She didn’t know where else to hide the pill, so she hid it in her mouth and showed him both hands and mumbled, "See, nothing." She was so afraid of getting in trouble that she began to run away from him. He chased her around the room—on top of the tables and under the chairs and around and around—until, "gulp," she accidentally swallowed the magic pill.

Her body suddenly felt weightless, and it began to glow with a bright light and she started to rise up into the air.

He said, "Where are you going? Come back down!"

She said, "I’m sorry, it was an accident! I didn’t mean to swallow it. I was just looking at it!"

The window was open and she floated out the window. He couldn’t reach her, but he saw her pet, Jade Rabbit, sitting on the porch looking up at her, and he tossed the rabbit up to her so that she wouldn’t be all alone wherever she was going. She caught Jade Rabbit in her arms and shouted, "Bye bye!" And she floated up up up to the moon, where she lives until this day in the Cold Palace of the Moon.

People say that when the moon is full, you can see them there. The Jade Rabbit is busy pounding a new elixir of immortality. And on the night of the Moon Festival, you can look up at her on the moon and ask Chang Er for a secret wish…

Sunday, September 04, 2005

How to write articles?

During my book-signing event for Life's Like That at MPH Mid Valley Megamall last year, I gave a talk on this topic. I'm reproducing it here for the benefit of beginners who are interested in writing articles.

How long does it take you to read a feature article in the newspapers or magazine? Five minutes? Ten minutes? To make that article readable in five minutes, the writer would have spent hours on crafting the article.

Every article in my book took me a minimum of three to four hours, some five to six hours to complete. Don’t believe what you see in the movies. In pre-computer times, you see the writer inserting a piece of paper into the typewriter and he starts hammering out this beautiful prose. Today, the writer is depicted at the computer typing perfect prose, with the words flowing out easily like water from the tap. This is not true. In real life there are lots of mistakes made, plenty of backspacing, editing and rewriting before the piece is fit to be read.

This is my modus operandi.

1. Research

If it’s a personal experience piece, there’s minimal research to be done. For example when I wrote an article about cooking frog porridge, the only research I had to do was to call up my uncle to ask, “What did you use to catch the frogs?” With the availability of the Internet, research can be easily carried out without stepping out of the house. Need some facts and figures? Surf the Internet. Need to conduct interviews? Email the interviewees.

2. Draft

First I write down a few salient points. I may do this on paper or type them out straightaway. Then I flesh out the article. This first draft is not fit to be seen by other eyes. The English is bad, the points jump all over the place, it’s just a hodge-podge of words. Whatever comes to mind, I put it down, without any regard to sentence structure, grammar, vocabulary etc.

3. Rewrite

This is the difficult part for me. Going through the article, reorganizing ideas and paragraphs, tying the pieces together, linking paragraphs into a smooth flow, pruning sentences and getting rid of excess baggage is a challenge. I find it easier to do this on paper rather than on the screen. After I’m done with the rewrite, my draft looks like a hurricane has swept through it, with arrows and words filled in this corner and that, asterisks and hashes and numbered points criss-crossing all over the place.

4. Edit

It’s back to the computer to tidy up the article. Then I go through it again to make it more readable, check the tenses, make sure the right word is used and tighten the piece some more by taking out anything superfluous or adding more information where it’s needed.

5. Edit again

I print out the edited piece and go through another round of editing. Sometimes at this stage, I get the Eureka moments when I suddenly think of a better way to express an idea or a better word to use.

6. Read it out loud

Reading it out loud helps especially when I’m not sure if a sentence sounds right. I may discover awkward sentences which looked okay on paper but when read out loud, they sound clumsy.

7. Put it aside

I put away the article for a while. It could be for a couple of hours or overnight. When I come back to the piece later, I’d read it with fresh eyes and see mistakes which just pop out of the page.

Does it seem like writing is a lot of work? Who says writing is a piece of cake anyway? Though some have a natural flair for writing, most of us have to hone our craft diligently. As they say, practice makes perfect. For writers, it’s a case of “Writing makes perfect.”

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The woo-hoo did it

What have a Tupperware and a bunch of keys got to do with the West End musical Stomp? They won me two tickets to the show, yipee!

I'd just gotten into the car after running a quick errand to the bank when the cue to call for the radio contest came on. Throughout the week we'd been having a good laugh at callers who had to imitate a short snippet of stomp music. Some of them did a pretty good imitation using bare hands, bottles, chopsticks, car dashboard and whatever they had on hand but some were waaaayyy out. Hence you've got shake-shake-shake-ting-ting-ting-chug-a-gug-gug sounding like choo-choo-choo-gug-gug-derk-derk-pschh or something like that.

The snippet that was just aired was quite short and simple, so I decided to give it a try. I dialled Mix FM and while waiting for the DJ to pick up the call, I looked around my car for something to produce the shake-shake-shake-shake-shake-woo-hoo-zhe-zhe sound.

"Pass me the tupperware!" I told no. 1 at the back seat. No. 4 had taken her lunch in the car earlier and the lunch box was still lying around.

I dropped my house keys into the tupperware and voila, my musical instrument was ready. The DJ, Ika, picked up my call and when she gave me to cue to start, I tossed my handphone to no. 3 to hold. I shook the tupperware a few times and shouted Woo-hoo!

Ika laughed. "I thought you dropped your handphone!" she said. "Good luck." She would call me if I was the winner.

So we waited and waited and waited. Two songs were played but still no call.

"You didn't winlah. She never call also. And there's no woo-hoo, okay," no. 1 said.

After the third song ended, Ika aired the three calls. We had a good laugh at all the funny impersonations. We thought maybe the first caller had won because it was quite close to the original snippet. But it sounded like he used his mouth to imitate, no instruments. How can? The whole concept behind Stomp was the bins, brooms and poles used to create the rhythm. Where got gadget?

We waited with bated breath for Ika to announce the winner. Finally she said, "Thank you for humouring me this Friday afternoon.... I got to give it to Lydia!"

The kids and I looked at each other and whooped with delight.

Woo-hoo! I won! It's the woo-hoo that did it, I'm sure of that. And of course the tupperware and the bunch of keys too.

Stomp, here we come!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Singing and Enunciation

On Malaysian Idol, we've seen Faizul, Daniel and Ejay being berated for their mumbo-jumbo English. But they aren't the only ones with bad English.

In the Korean soap now airing over 8tv, Love Story in Harvard, one of the lead actors, Kim Rae Won, speaks such unintelligible English that it sounds like gibberish. It doesn't even sound like Korean with its mish-mesh of god-sama-retan-kas. At least Ejay's English sounded like Chinese (Guest judge Nora had commented, "Dia nyanyi lagu Cina ke" when Ejay belted out Mariah Carey's We Belong Together.) FYI, that gibberish was Good Samaritan case sub-titled as kes St. Marrie by the tv translators. (If you'd like to know what the Good Samaritan Statute is all about, click here. Hehe, even tv soaps can be educational.)

Back to Malaysian Idols. Is pronounciation such an important part of singing? I mean there are lots of singers out there who sound like they're eating while singing. You can't make out the words unless it's something so inane like "Who let the dogs out?"

Ideally singers should be able to enunciate their words properly so that listeners can enjoy the song without having to guess if the lyrics were English or Chinese or Tamil or Arabic. But so what if we can't figure out that wen your or on my main, bor bee wor mak on tha ladio is actually when you're all on my mind, Bobby Womack's on the radio. At least you could make out Come back baby please, We belong together. After all, it's not an elocution contest.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Malaysian greeting

The Thais have the wai. The Japanese and Koreans, the bow. The Malays, the salam. The Indians, the namaste. The Chinese, the nod.

What then is a Malaysian greeting? Our tourism practitioners have their own style. A hand placed diagonally across the chest, with palms pointing towards the right (or is it the left) shoulder. But they're the only ones doing it. Nobody outside the hospitality industry practises it.

Is there any way we can amalgamate all three gestures; the salam, namaste and nod into a graceful and meaningful one? Maybe if Tourism Malaysia comes up with a contest offering a national car as top prize, some pretty good ideas may come up.

Here's a short piece on greetings around the world.

Bedtime Story : Superbaddie & Superhero

This is a bedtime story I made up for no. 3 and 4 with a little input from them.

Once there was a Superbaddie who could make the lights go on and off with just a snap of his fingers. So he went round to all the houses and flicked their lights on and off, on and off. The people were so unhappy because they wanted to sleep and they couldn't.

There was this boy called Pupu who knew the telephone number of Superhero. So Pupu called Superhero at no. 1234567910.

Pupu told Superhero about Superbaddie. Immediately Superhero flew to Pupu's house. There he found Superbaddie snapping his fingers happily and the lights went on and off, on and off like a Christmas tree.

When Superbaddie saw Superhero, he flew away. Superhero chased after him and after a while, he caught up with him. Superhero took out his Pocket PC and pressed a button. A net shot out from the Pocket PC and caught Superbaddie. Superhero pressed another button and the net flew back into the Pocket PC. Superbaddie was trapped in the screen. He struggled in the net and shouted "Help! Let me out!" but no one could save him. He was locked up for good.


Eh Poh Nim Meets Big Willie

The Star, 4 August 2005

Continuing the story on Ms Eh Poh Nim, the talkative young woman with a cache of eponyms tucked up her sleeves.

Today Eh Poh Nim hits the gym dressed in a bright pink leotard. After a round of warm-up exercises, she starts slowly on the treadmill. Soon a big man parks himself on the bicycle next to her.

“Hello,” she says. “Haven’t seen you around here before.”

“Hi. I’m new here. This gym is so cold. It must be below 20 degrees Celsius,” he remarks.

“Cold is good, so we don’t get all hot and sweaty. Speaking of Celsius, do you know that Anders Celsius, a Swedish university professor, invented the Celsius thermometer? Naturally, the thermometer was named after him.”

“Really?” the man says politely. He starts to pedal and casts an appreciative glance at Eh Poh Nim’s trim figure. “You look nice in that pink leotard.”

“I’d thank Jules Leotard if he were still alive,” she says.

“Let me guess. He’s the inventor of the leotard?”

“Right! Jules was a French trapeze artist who wore this type of skin-tight garment during his act. He was very successful at the trapeze but unfortunately he didn’t live long to enjoy the fruits of his labour. He died at 28 of smallpox.”

Suddenly, she sniffs the air in an exaggerated manner and looks around for the source of the smoke. A man is puffing away in the middle of the gym.

“Excuse me, this is a non-smoking area. Would you mind putting out the cigarette, please?” she says.

“Sorry. I was just finishing it,” the smoker replies.

Eh Poh Nim rolls her eyes upwards. She asks her neighbour, “Do you smoke?”
“I used to but I quit two years ago.”

“Good on you. I really don’t like Jean Nicot. He introduced the tobacco plant into France and the plant was named after him as Nicotiana. Nicotine is derived from the word but I think it should be renamed Insidious Killer, what with lung cancer and all.”

“By the way, what’s your name? I’m Willie.”

“Eh Poh Nim. Is your name spelt W-I-L-L-I-E?”


“Your name is part of an eponym, you know? Big Willie. It was the name of the first tank used in action in 1916, invented by Sir William Tritton and Major Wilson. The tank was named after Sir William.”

Willie roars with laughter. Eh Poh Nim stares at him, then she too starts to laugh.

“Big Willie’s a tank? That’s a hoot. Here am I, Willie, big as a tank and Big Willie happens to be a tank. That’s funny. Oh my, I can’t stop laughing.”

“You’ve got a sense of humour,” Eh Poh Nim says, still grinning. “Here’s a story that’ll wipe off the smile. Have you heard of the phrase Sweet Fanny Adams? No? Well, Fanny Adams was the name of an eight-year old girl who lived in Hampshire. In 1867, she was murdered and her body was chopped up into small pieces.”

“That’s terrible. You mean psychos were already killing little girls and cutting them up way back in the 19th century? I thought this sort of crime was a modern sickness.”

“Aha. Sometime after the murder, tinned mutton was issued to the Royal Navy. A sailor found a button in one such tin and jokingly said it could be Fanny’s. From then on, tinned mutton was referred to as Fanny Adams which later gave rise to the expression Sweet Fanny Adams, meaning anything of little substance or nothing at all. It’s sometimes abbreviated as Sweet FA. Can you guess what the F stands for? It’s a four-letter word. The A stands for All. So sad isn’t it, the way Fanny Adams’s name has sunk to ignominy?”


“Ignominy. Disgrace. Humiliation.”

“Your English is very good. Are you an English teacher?”

Eh Poh Nim chuckles. “No. I like to read. I’m particularly fascinated by eponyms – words derived from the names of people. Did you notice that my name sounds like eponym?”

Willie’s face lights up with realisation. “I seeee ... Tell me more. Your stories sure beat the monotony of crunching on this bike.”

“Here’s another sad tale. Do you know what a Catherine wheel is?”

“It’s a rotating firework, right?”

“Yes. The Catherine wheel also refers to a sideways somersault. It was named after St Catherine of Alexandria who was executed for her Christian beliefs. She was martyred on a fiendish machine with spiked wheels. And the catherine-wheel window, a round window with radial divisions, is named after her too.”

“Poor woman. At least she’s immortalised in the dictionary.”

“Yep. That’s it, I’m done here. I’m going to do the weights now,” Eh Poh Nim says as she steps off the treadmill. “If we bump into each other later, I’ll regale you with more stories. That’s a promise.”

(Reference: A Dictionary of Eponyms by Cyril Leslie Beeching.)