Monthly Archives: October 2008

What’s the story behind the word…..?

We are all too familiar with the story behind the expression ‘Achilles Heel’.

To refresh your minds, according to Greek mythology, Achilles’ mother held him by the heels to dip him into the River Styx when he was an infant to make him invincible …. The water washed all over his body, all but his heels where his mother held him, thus making the area vulnerable. That was a big ‘boo boo’ alright. He was supposedly killed by a poisoned arrow shot into his heel by Paris. 

Today the expression Achilles’ Heel” refers to someone’s singular weakness that could bring about his downfall.

More interesting stories below….

Blind Justice meaning : .impartiality…… i.e. ‘justice is blind..’

– NO, it is not to denote that justice is so blind that it convicts the innocent. But, Justice, in Greek status, is personified as a female and she is blindfolded so that she cannot see the bribes that are being offered to her. Make no mistake, she is blind but not deaf, o.k? If not she would not be able to hear the cases presented to her……

Kick the bucket meaning – die

There are many theories to this expression but the most popular one alludes to the act of committing suicide by hanging. You see, in order to hang oneself, you need to tie a rope to a beam or an overhead post which is placed high up. To reach it, you have to stand on a bucket or something. After the rope has been put in place, the victim then has to kick the bucket for the suicide to happen….

Love meaning – zero in the scoring system for tennis

How on earth did this word which is universally known as an affection come to mean ‘zero’ in tennis? Well, the term comes from the french word ‘l’oeuf’, meaning ‘egg’. The French use it to designate ‘no score’ or ‘zero’ because an egg looks like a zero.

Moron derogatory word, slang – meaning – someone who is not so intelligent ….

The term is derived from the Greek word ‘moros’ which means dull. This word was arbitratily given to adults with the mental ages of eight to twelve year olds by Dr. Henry H. Goddard (see pic). He decided to split these individuals into 3 IQ levels ‘s and he was looking for a word to describe the highest group …. and he chose ‘moron’ …..

  • Moron : an IQ of 51-70, being superior in one degree to
  • “imbecile” (IQ of 26-50) and superior in two degrees to
  • “idiot” (IQ of 0-25). 

Take note however it was only  a valid descriptor in the psychological community in the early 1900’s. They are not longer applied as Goddard recanted his earlier theory starting from the 1920’s. However, these words have all now passed into common slang use only.

Quarantine – meaning – put into isolation to prevent spread of disease 

This word comes from the Italian word quaranta, meaning ‘forty’. In early days, a ship suspected of being infected with some contagious disease was kept outside of port for forty days hence the birth of the word “quarantine”.

Raining cats & dogs – meaning – heavy rain storm

This expression comes from Norse mythology – in which the cat symbolizes heavy rain, while the dog, an attendant of Odin, the storm god, represents great blasts of wind. It is befitting to use the cat and dog to symbolise the conflicting elements in a storm given the proverbial enmity of cats and dogs.

Red Tape – meaning – Govt delay

This expression comes literally with the use of ‘red tape’ in tying up official papers in Engliand. For centuries, British Government  officials would follow the time consuming custom of tying and untying red tape which bound the dispatch and document cases which inevitably results in unnecessary delay. Apparently, the practice continues, but the tape is now pink. Oh, cut the red tape will you, ..or should I say ‘pink’ tape?

Sabotage – meaning – a deliberate act to destroy or to hinder something

Believe it or not it comes the French word ‘sabot’ for wooden shoe. There are several theories to explain how the the word came to be. One being, during the railway strike of 1910, when workers destroyed the wooden shoes, or sabots, that held rails in place, thus impeding the morning commute.  An alternate definition, if true, would make the origin of the word older by almost a century, i.e. the times of the Industrial Revolution. It is said that powered looms i.e. weaving machines were damaged by angry or disgruntled workers throwing their wooden shoes into the machinery to clog it. This etymology however, is highly suspect and no wooden shoe sabotage is known to have been reported at the time of origin for the word ……………. Whatever it is, a shoe played the lead role all the way for this word, a wooden one at that!!!

Sack i.e.  ‘get the sack’, meaning – terminated from work 

In the olden days, most tradespeople like artisans and mechanics lived on the job. They brought their own tools to work with them in a ‘sack’.  So when the employer wants them discharged, he would probably give him the sack, a broad hint for the workman to pack up his tools and leave. 

TIP meaning – a little something i.e. money, given as a token of appreciation to people working in the service industry.

This is a good one….. Years ago in English inns and taverns, it was customary for the patrons to drop a coin for the benefit of the waiters into a box placed on the wall. On the box was a little sign which said: To Insure Promptness hence the birth of the word tip!

Well, so many more words, so many stories of origin….. some historical, some borrowed from other languages like Latin, Greek, French……some funny. 

Who said learning English wasn’t fun, eh?


Rural living ….. an acquired taste indeed!

I am being bombarded  by a cacophony of construction noises.

There is the sound of  hammering, knocking and drilling  coming from the back of the house as workers rush to build ‘zero lot’ homes in the empty land behind (don’t even ASK what a zero lot home is – beats me) ……….. There is also the sound of a bulldozer digging the road to repair a burst pipe coming from the front of the house.  Aaarrrggghhh! When will it ever stop!

Care to guess where I’m writing from?  Yup, you’ve got it right. KL.  Oh how I long for the peace and quiet of Mentakab right now.

Then it got me thinking…. how really does rural living fare against urban living, based on our personal experience? For those who are not familiar with us… we have 2 home bases… (a company home in the East and our own home in the West).

We spend a lot of time in Mentakab – a sleepy hollow of a town in Pahang, an eastern state in Peninsular Malaysia…. a direct contrast to metropolitan Kuala Lumpur located in the West of Peninsular Malaysia. You can reach it in just 1 1/2 hours from the Gombak toll, following the East Coast highway. 

The main hub of activity centres around 4 or 5 main streets. The heart of it belonging to a 1/2 km stretch along the Mok Hee Kiang road. The road plays host to the daily pasar malam (night market). ‘The Store’, which has the honour of being the largest departmental store in town, is located at the end of this road.

The height of activity is between 7pm to 9pm. You can see people dressed in jeans, shorts, T-shirts, slippers, milling about casually. Dress yourself up in anything more & you might stick out like a sore thumb. So, be warned. Things slow down after 9:30pm and the streets are quiet by 11pm at night. And NO, there is no movie cinema or cineplex in town. Pure torture for a movie buff like me.

There is a decent invasion of American franchises here. 1 KFC outlet, 1 Pizza Hut outlet (where waiters and waitresses can be seen swatting flies, literally & figuratively), 1 McDonalds. For your pharmaceutical needs, 1 Watsons, 1 Guardian but loads of chinese medicine shops. Banks are abundant here – HSBC, Hong Leong, Public Bank, Maybank, CIMB etc … The gravevines tell us that there is a LOT of timber money swirling around! There is no shortage of clinics too. The top dental clinic in town does have a sinister reputation though. I heard the dentist is all too ready to ‘operate’ on any sort of wisdom teeth trouble! On the fashion front, there are multiple stand alone ’boutiques’ selling low range clothing at mid-high range prices, to choose from.

The townspeople are predominantly Chinese i.e. 80%  (not official)…. Language Spoken – Mandarin.  You speak in Cantonese and they’ll immediately identify you as a KLite.

The economic activity  centres around the businesses in town, hence it is an important source of employment. The town is also supported by the Temerloh Industrial Park situated at the fringe of the town along the old Karak trunk road. A lot of people also make a living from logging and concession activities nearby.  

That pretty much is the sum total of the town and from the 10 plus years that we have lived there (albeit during weekdays only), we have discovered some of the quirks inherent in rural living…. 

Social Behaviour:

  • Everyone knows everyone else in town, so don’t be surprised if someone calls out to you by name … and you don’t know who the heck he or she is.
  • Everyone knows of everyone else’s whereabouts and… be careful here, ……it gets reported back to their  spouses.
  • You can go to the town’s best Karaoke wearing shorts. 
  • You are probably the only one picking an English song at the Karaoke.


  • Although some cars crawl at about 40 – 50 km an hour, cars at the back follow patiently behind without honking.
  • At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are hell drivers who travel at 100 – 120 km an hour on small roads. Be careful of this group, they treat yellow and red lights as ‘go faster’.


  • More often than not, as a woman, you’re expected not to think, not to give an opinion and most importantly not be smarter than a man. If you are, you’re very likely to remain single.

Spirit of neighbourliness:

  • Don’t be surprised if strange old women (who claim to be your neighbours from a few doors away) come into your garden uninvited, with a parang, and starts chopping the ‘jantung pisang’ off your banana tree …. (Trust me on this one… I’ve experienced it firsthand. Shocked me speechless. How do you say NO to a person holding a parang? You tell me.)  

Putting busy bodies and the initial culture shock aside,  small town living grows on you after awhile. The air’s fresher. Traffic is light. Fat Dragon has the luxury of waking up as late as 8pm in order to go to work by 8:30pm sharp.

Yes, there is a lack of privacy because everyone knows you. But on the other hand, it gives you a sense of belonging. There’s always a warm greeting from your neighbours, the vegetable lady calls out to you heartily if she recognises you in the streets, the jogger at the park never fails to give you an encouraging smile to urge you on. Priceless.  

Every amenity, facility and point of entertainment  is only 10 – 15 minutes away (maximum).  Less time spent traveling equals more time for recreational and sporting activities. More quality time with family & friends. A far cry from the rat race of KL.  The place gives you a healthier, more personal, stress free environment for living………not to mention ‘to die for’ and ‘kick ass’ river fish meals for sustenance.   

Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not a pure convert. I admit, the weekend breaks in KL are welcome. I am addicted to the pollution & mess of city living. I miss the crowds and the anonymity. I miss the malls, the cinemas, the bookshops, the company of kindred spirit …….. but then again …… 

Small town living is an acquired taste … once you get hooked on it, you will crave for it… just like I crave for the peace and quiet of it now, as I sit in the middle of this din … Krkakkkkakkkakka, ddddrrrrriiidrdriiidridri … Rattatttattttattt ….

Happy Feet = Healthy Mind & Body?


Fat Dragon and I had a really full social calendar the past three months. 

Now a healthy social life, doesn’t necessarily mean everything else is healthy. Namely, our bodies. We’ve been exercising our mouths, our livers to the maximum what with the merry making of catching up with friends back from overseas…with friends from out of town…..with friends during the Raya celebrations …. and so on and so forth…. There really has been no let up. And I can assure you, this form of exercise does nothing to shrink the numbers on your weighing scale!!!

We decided to go on a quest to make sure all these overworked organs remain healthy and in good shape for the next round of merry making in December…  X’mas & New Year! Ahahahahahah………

…So, we enlisted the help of our feet, of course! Sort of a walking, running, dancing bootcamp, you could say.  And here are some highlights of its activities………..

They trudged heavily & courageously on a mushy path in a 6 hour trek up and down  Gunung Berembun in Cameron Highlands, with Fat Dragon’s feet as companions. The trail was steep and mossy, hence the name, which translates into Mossy Hill. Such a wave of exhaustion hit us as we climbed and descended the slippery & ‘bouncy’ trail (Some parts of the ground was not solid ground. It was actually made up of root systems which felt suspended from the ground)… But we made it..shaky knees and all….and all we left behind, were our footprints! We did not take anything with us…not even pictures. We were just too exhausted!   

The lower extremities of our bodies were tested to the limit again, when they got fitted with dancing shoes during the Raya celebrations. Our feet shuffled and stepped to the sounds of 3 live bands (pic of one of them shown below) playing Santana beats and music from the 70’s and 80’s at the Cross Roads in  Concorde Hotel. I would say the Roaring Fortiers stepped up (pun intended) to the challenge given the extra loads and expanding waistlines that the feet had to carry but boy did we move. And…we passed with flying colours…..It would make the youngsters cringe but hey …  WHO CARES!

Warning: Please do not adjust your screen. The fuzzy image you see below was taken under the influence of alcohol… 🙂

They also got a chance to pound the hard, interlocking-tiled sidewalk along of Gurney Drive (Penang). This pavement is flanked by the sea on one side & and traffic on the other. So you get to breathe in a cocktail of sea breeze & exhaust fumes. How about that? The jog might not sound like a great fete to you but it really is a first for me. All the years that I have visited Penang, I’ve never run along Gurney Drive. I would never have dreamed being able to do 5km in half an hour, so it was an achievement for me and my dear old feet! 

 Now, you tell me, how often do you a get a scene like while jogging in KL?

Our feet succeeded in trekking up the steep road of Maxwell Hill (new name Bukit Larut, located in Taiping, Perak)), which was reportedly 6 miles long and not 6 km long … We completed about 5 miles up the road but given the failing light and rain.. we decided that the peak was to be ‘conquered’ another day! After all, the creepy stories of Japanese Occupation beheadings were at the back of our minds, (which is probably why the locals who met us along the way kept telling us “Its time to go down!”…  as the sun was setting) … But, we’ll be back – Wouldn’t miss another date with this giant centipede again………

 Sunset at Maxwell Hill

For the first time ever, our feet did a walking tour of Ipoh (as opposed to driving) and the slow pace of walking allowed us to savour the old charm of the city even more. We caught sights of the old FMS restaurant building, the newly repainted Ipoh Railway Station and Majestic Hotel, the Courts & the beautiful facades of colonial buildings which housed the various banks i.e. HSBC, Standard Chartered, OCBC etc. Our feet walked colourful mosaic pavements, which is such a nice change to the boring interlocking pavements and raw concrete flooring that adorns most of KL’s pavements nowadays. They walked under beautifully aligned arches of corridors to the old shoplot buildings. They walked by colourful flower beds which lined all these majestic old buildings ..  it was a highly peaceful and therapeutic activity. Highly recommended.

The colours of old charm…

And the highlight was probably the fact that we managed to join the footfalls of a group of new acquintances who share the same quest for wet & slippery adventures, in search of waterfalls in Malaysia … They call themselves the Waterfall Survivors under the passionate & energetic leadership of Ms. Joe Yap. Thanks to them, Fat Dragon & I managed to find the Tanglir Falls in Bukit Tinggi (which previously eluded us & led us to a wild goose chase to Janda Baik instead) and the beautiful and sandy Lata Khong in Karak (Sungai Dua area)!  One can’t help being contemplative under the influence of negative ions … as this young man seems to be doing at the foot of the Lata Khong falls. How cool is that?

Lata Khong…(Picture courtesy of Fat Dragon)

I’d say, without a doubt, happy feet translates into a happy mind & healthy body! …. Thank you so much or putting up with the eccentricities of this bunch of Roaring Fortiers! Thank you so much for helping us keep in shape! 

………. & we’ll celebrate it with a toast or two during X’mas, eh?  After all, the other organs and limbs deserve attention too, no? BOTTOMS UP! GAN BEI! CHEERS to our dear old feet! *$Burp#@

p.s. Apologies for the long absence from my blog. My fingers went into a meltdown phase. They refused to move, although the brain kept reminding them that their services were needed in updating my blog.

p.p.s. For those who find the idea of exercise dreary … do try to mix the activity with some fun: do it with friends, combine it with photo taking activities, vary the places you go to – walk in a concrete jungle one day and a real jungle the next … last but not least – arm yourself with a ‘can do’ spirit …Never fails!