Sean of the dread

There’s this guy I run into every few months and each time we see each other, we have a chat.

I know quite a lot about him now. He’s from Ireland and he works as a teacher of children with special needs. I’ve also met quite a few of his colleagues, and they are all very nice people.

There’s just one problem that makes it uncomfortable for me each time we meet. For the life of me, I can never remember his name.

It became especially embarrassing on our last encounter, because he called me out on it. “You don’t know my name, do you? I remember your name, but you don’t remember mine!”

He’s right and I really have no defence. He’s a red-headed Irishman and his name is Sean — which is probably the first or second name you’d guess for an Irishman.

But the thing is that I only now know that his name is Sean because I wrote it down. I hope to remember it next time I see him without having to consult the notebook in my pocket.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to discover why it is that I have trouble remembering Sean’s name.

According to a newspaper story based on some actual scientific research, there are three possible reasons that may work alone or in conjunction with each other.

The first is that we often usually have no way of associating people’s names with their physical characteristics, so we can’t use one of the most popular memory tools.

The second is that often so focussed on ourselves when we meet people that we don’t listen to what they have to say, even when they tell us their name.

The third reason is that we don’t care because we  don’t expect to see that person again, so his or her name is dispensable information.

Since I’ve already seen Sean at least three times  in the same place, and he really is a  bloke who’s worth talking to,  I really should start to care.

The next time I see him, though, I’m definitely going to ask how it is that he remembers my name.

Year of the cat (or rabbit)


This is another excerpt from my unpublished (as yet) book about cats for young and general readers

In Vietnamese astrology, the cat is one of the twelve animals of the zodiac, but in the Chinese version it is replaced by the rabbit. The story goes that the Jade Emperor beckoned all the animals to his palace for inclusion in the zodiac, but the rat either omitted to tell his friend the cat or pushed the cat into the water along the way so he would not arrive in time. The cat, who came 13th and missed its place, vowed to be the rat’s enemy from that day forward. In other versions of the story, the animals were summonsed to the Buddha’s death bed but the cat either didn’t turn up because he was napping, or did turn up but disgraced himself by eating the mouse.

In the Vietnamese tradition, people born in the Year of the Cat (roughly 1903, 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999 and 2011) are “smooth talkers, talented and ambitious and will succeed in studies” . They are, unsurprisingly, not compatible with people born under the sign of the rat (every 12th year from 1900).

Throughout Asia, cats are still used as symbols of good luck. In Japan, especially, many people own talisman cats with one paw raised. The legend of the “Beckoning Cat”, which is believed to ward-off bad luck and protect from pain and ill-health, concerns the poverty-stricken monks at the Gotoku-ji temple who shared what little food they had with a pet cat. One day when a group of wealthy samurai were passing by during a heavy storm, the cat “beckoned” them into the temple, where they passed their time learning the principles of Buddhism. In one variant of the story, lightning hits the spot where the samurai had been standing, so the cat has saved their lives. In any case, the samurai bestowed great gifts on the monks, and a small cat shrine exists to this day.

Almost ubiquitous in South East Asia, and now in the western world, is Hello Kitty. This cute white feline with a pink bow and no mouth owes more to the gods of marketing than to any religious order. Created in 1974 by the Sanrio company in Japan, this cool cat has created a billion-dollar empire, and is seen on merchandise ranging from clothes to mobile phones and credit cards. She even has her own theme park called Harmonyland.

Cats also played an important part in Norse mythology, with two of them pulling the chariot that carried Freya, the goddess of married love, the hearth and death. Also in Scandanavian folklore, there is a mythical “butter cat” known as Para or Smieragatto that is a bringer of gifts, particularly butter and milk. To this day, practitioners of Wicca (witchcraft) believe cats are especially tuned into the spirit world and can sense evil.

References: Roni Jay, The Kingdom of the Cat, op cit; Barbara Cohen and Huu Ngoc, The Vietnamese Zodiac,; Desmond Morris, Cat World: A Feline Encyclopedia, Ebury Press, 1996; Official Hello Kitty website:; The Hutchison Encyclopedia of Ideas, 2003

… and I feel fine

Another day, another grand conspiracy theory.

Apparently, the vast global network of unlikely allies that has done such a bang-up job of running the world for the past (insert feasible number) of years has had enough, and a third of us are going to be killed by means as-yet unknown on October 24.

According to my unimpeachable online source, this is in accordance with “New World Order / Agenda 21 / United Nations / Illuminati conspiracy orchestrated by Satan, Obama, Putin, ISIS and “Turncoat” Malcolm Turnbull (put into power, apparently, because Tony Abbott wouldn’t sign over Australia to the United Nations)”.

The October 24 date comes in handy, since we’ve just passed the October 7 deadline set by some fringe Christians for the end of the world, and it gives them something else to look forward to.

Now, I’m usually one to live and let live, but when people start making predictions that trouble the gullible and the elderly, then it’s really time to call them out. To tell people to give away all their possessions because they won’t be needing them — as professional doomsayer Harold Canning used to do — is just plain evil in my book.

If you really believe there’s going to be a human cull within the next fortnight, I guess it’s time to start thinking about which group you’d want to be among, the stayers or the leavers.

This post is deliberately link-ess, because I don’t want to give too much oxygen to the crazies.. Or perhaps it’s because I’m part of the conspiracy.

Official: Pope is Catholic



When I was a journalism student, I had to write about the meaning of “news”. There are plenty of definitions out there, but the handiest one seemed to be “something that you didn’t know yesterday”.

Of course, it’s an incomplete answer because there are many things we didn’t know yesterday that are so mundane that we have no interest in knowing them at all.

A more complete definition might also include something about the event being relevant to the audience, or being somehow unusual or unexpected. For example, a car accident down the street from where I live is more interesting to me than an equivalent event in a town in Armenia, but for an Armenian person it may be the other way around. However, if the car accident in Armenia involved a Volvo being driven by a chimpanzee and a semi-trailer carrying a load of bananas, then we’d both be interested.

The problem with journalism is that you can’t just sit around waiting for the news to come to you. Unless you work for one of those aggregation sites that merely put a spin on stories already published on the web and wire services, you have to go out and find the news for yourself.

And that involves going to places where you anticipate that something newsworthy will emerge: say, local council meetings, speeches by dignitaries or courts of law. And, of course, sporting fixtures.

It is, again for example, only natural that the media would cover a sermon by the Pope. And so, every so often, we get news stories the Pope calling for peace, love and harmony. Occasionally, especially, with the current pope, we get something considered a little left-field, which tends to suggest he supports a few causes that popes are generally shy to talk about. But, more often than not, it’s generally pretty much the same, worthy thing, and it gets a good run online, in newspapers and on news bulletins. That’s often because anything associated with the Catholic church generally lends to good visuals — they sure know how to put on a colourful show, with lots of ceremony, bling and interesting costumes — but it’s also because it would be a waste of resources if they didn’t run something they’d spent a lot of time in effort in covering.

In other words, you know you’ll be in the news when you call a media conference and the media actually turn up. (And you know you’re yesterday’s news when, as the former Queensland premier Campbell Newman did recently, you hold a book signing and nobody turns up.)

As much as covering speeches and council meetings are a journalist’s bread and butter (or they used to be when there were enough journalists to do these things in every city and town), the stories you get from these events are generally not exciting in the same way as a big, unexpected incident that has you scrambling to the scene.

Well, for most journalists, anyway. There’s always the (probably apocryphal) story about the student reporter who returned to the newsroom after being assigned to cover a council meeting. “Where’s the story?” the editor asked. “There is no story,” the reporter replied, “they had to call off the meeting because the building burnt down.”

A brief earlier version of this post appeared on in April, 2006

Sorting fact from fiction



Like millions of children of my generation, the one before it, and the ones since, I’ve watched thousands of hours of cartoons, live-action television shows and movies in which the characters have died in the most awful ways.

It has not inspired me, or the vast majority of others who consumed this material, to take a weapon to another person.

Yet, every so often, we hear somebody wanting to ban or censor violent TV shows or video games because of the damage they supposedly do to youngsters.

In the West, a cartoon is probably the closest a child is going to get to a death, other than the demise of a family pet. In some parts of the world, children are experiencing the deaths of others — friends, parents, neighbours — on a daily basis.

As the much-publicised perversities of the so-called Islamic State (ISIL/ Daesh/ ISIS; call them anything) have shown, what happens in real life is worse than anything any animator could imagine.

Kids of my age knew it wasn’t not real when Wyle E Coyote was squashed by a rock, then squeezed out from under it, dusted himself off and wrote off to the ACME company for some other device with which to fail to capture the Road Runner. Just as children now know, that as crude as they are, the situations in video games are just imaginary.

To think censoring films and television programs beyond the restrictions already in place will magically solve schoolyard violence is, at best, naive and at worst dangerously misguided. Good parenting and good schooling will make a difference, though.

The challenge for parents and teachers, however, is when and how to tell children that the footage they see on the television news, or on YouTube, of the obscenities committed in war and terror attacks are real, and that poverty and disease do exist.

Harder still will be the discussion about how this genuine threat may encroach on their own lives unless all generations and nationalities act now to stop it.

An earlier version of this article appeared on in 2006

Pizza the action



Is this the ultimate “coals to Newcastle” story? The US-based Domino’s pizza chain says it is taking on the Italian market.

Apparently, previous attempts by outside players have failed to lure Italian consumers away from the original product, but Domino’s has a cunning plan.

Apart from using local ingredients and different recipe to tempt Italian palates, they are going to install an efficient home-delivery system as they have done elsewhere in the world.

In other words, I guess, they are betting that customer  laziness will overcome the questions of quality and authenticity.

They may well be right.

Plane crazy



Why would somebody book and pay for a flight, come to an airport, queue up, check in, proceed through immigration and security, and then not board their plane?

On several occasions, I’ve heard people being paged and seen crew scurrying up and down the aisles, knocking on the rest room doors, trying to locate a missing passenger before the plane can leave the gate.

Once, the pilot came on the tannoy to say what had happened and explain the procedure they were obliged to follow. If a checked-in passenger doesn’t show at the gate after being paged, then the baggage handlers have to reboard the luggage compartment, identify the person’s belongings and remove them from the aircraft. That, of course takes time, and can cause long delays at busy airports where vacant departure slots are few and far between.

I also once sat at the terminal gate before boarding my own flight and watched on in slight bemusement as an airline employee at the neighbouring gate paged a passenger in vaguely threatening language — “Everybody else has boarded the plane …” but in vain.

Of course, the obvious concern of the airlines and airport security staff is that the person may have put an explosive device in their luggage. But I suppose there are other reasons for missing a flight even when you’re at the airport.

Perhaps some people suddenly get sick, have a fear-of-flying attack, change their plans at the last minute, or get stuck in the toilet (or at the bar).

Or, and this is my favourite theory, there are rich people out there who have no intention of flying but do it just to mess with the rest of us.

Uber über alles?

When we talk “disruption” these days, as we so often do, the conversation tends to swing towards Uber, the “ride-sharing” service that has taken the world by storm.

Its customers love it. An easily downloaded app on their smartphone allows them to book a lift, see in real time where the car is and who the driver is, and pay for the ride cashlessly.

Not so keen are the taxi drivers who see their business disappearing as people prefer to use an Uber. This has spilled over into violence, most recently in my hometown of Brisbane, where it’s alleged that two taxi drivers beat up an Uber dirver who they accused of stealing their business.

I stress that, as I write, the case is before the court, and I make no judgement on the guilt or otherwise of the defendants. I do, however, note that other taxi drivers or cab owners have threatened violence against Uber drivers, so I stand by this post I put on social media earlier today:

Looks like the two taxi companies in Brisbane urgently need a good PR campaign and, especially, to weed out some very bad eggs. Passenger choice now seems to be between taking a not-quite-legal Uber or a legal taxi driven by somebody who might be the type to bash an Uber driver.

In further online discussion, I pointed out, as others have before me, that it could be argued that Uber services are safer for passengers because the driver can be easily identified, the vehicle is traced by GPS and there is a record of every journey.

Anecdotal reports suggest that Uber drivers are more polite than taxi drivers, but I guess that’s a matter of perception and/or luck of the draw.

The thing about Uber, though, is that it operates on the fringes of the law. The sticking point, as one of my contacts noted, is that governments licence taxi services, and have made a lot of money out of them. If they legalise Uber, then they risk making long-held taxi licences worthless and running the people who hold them out of business.

It’s a dilemma, but one thing is certain: taxi drivers who turn to use violence against Uber drivers will only achieve the opposite to what they wanct. Instead of running the competition out of business, they will reinforce the stereotype that many cabbies are thugs.

Shock of the old

It doesn’t feel like it was 40 years ago that The Rocky Horror Picture Show first burst upon cinema screens.

Admittedly, I didn’t see it in its first release, but it wasn’t too long afterwards, probably at one of the screenings at the Crystal cinema in inner-Brisbane, where it ran and ran and ran. As it did around the world, Rocky Horror became a fixture on the big screen with a big enough “cult” audience to keep it going for, well, forever.

The movie still attracts crowds who come dressed as their favourite characters to enjoy a singalong and sometimes a stage show presented by people who’ve devoted the best part of their lives to the sci-fi rock opera.

And then there’s the stage show, which pops up every decade or so, often with stunt casting in the Narrator role. The urbane Stuart Wagstaff played it in the first Australian production I saw (at the now-demolished Her Majesty’s Theatre in Brisbane). In New Zealand, the role once went to former prime minister Robert “Piggy” Muldoon, and one US production featured Jerry Springer.

But it’s the movie that helped launched some serious careers — including Susan Sarandon (Janet), Meat Loaf (Eddie) and Tim Curry (Frank-N-Furter). They

Reportedly there’s a made-for-TV version, with the working title of The Rocky Horror Picture Show Event, in the works at the US Fox network. Will it succeed, or is Rocky Horror one show that’s best left alone?

Cat in the crypt

Cat at Peter and Paul Cathedral, St Petersburg
Cat at Peter and Paul Cathedral, St Petersburg

I took hundreds of photographs on my first visit to St Petersburg, Russia*, in 2009, but this is one of my favourites.

Admittedly,the quality is not excellent, but the subject matter is. This cat apparently has (or, at the time, had) the run of the Peter and Paul Cathedral, where the tsars of Russia from Peter the Great onwards are buried.

I also learned from a television report that there are cats at the Hermitage Museum, where their job is to keep the magnificent former royal place and its surrounds free of rats and mice.

* I added the word Russia because I’ve also been to St Petersburg in Miami, US, which is kind of historic, too.

That’s easy for you to say

One of the first things I learned in newspapers is that an editor should not pay an undue amount of attention to the content of the letters page. Mostly, I was told (and later discovered for myself), they were written by the same people grinding the same axes, and they were in no way indicative of the consensus of the general (or targetted) public.

The fact though was that, if you wrote to the newspaper enough, the chances were that you’d get published often and your opinion would be given disproportionate prominence.

The same is true of callers to talk radio — ring in a lot and, especially if you’re provocative or a bit simple (so they can poke fun of you), or it’s a slow time of day, you’ll get to air. In the online world, there is often no filter: post a lot of comments and no matter how awful, inane or inflammatory they are, they will all appear.

In my experience of many different papers on three continents,  letters to the editor are read carefully and edited by professional journalists who understand the laws of defamation, contempt of court and sub-judice, and have a fairly well-honed sense of what is appropriate and fair, and what isn’t. Many papers also go to the effort of confirming the  identity of the writer by phoning them.

On radio, producers vet callers before they go to air, and “live” broadcasts are on a 5-to-7-second delay, meaning the announcer, producer or panel operator can press a “kill” button if things get out of hand and the offending words won’t be heard by the listeners.

But all this is falling apart. The sheer volume of comments on many websites mean they are often published unmoderated, with the publishers hoping that other readers will draw their attention to inappropriate comments.

Now, however, many reputable media organisations — newspapers and broadcasters — are simply turning comments off altogether. About a year ago, CNN announced that it was phasing comments out, saying this was in line with other prominent websites including Reuters, Popular Science and the Chicago Sun-Times. This past week, the Toronto Sun and its sister papers have also announced that they will be shutting down comments on most of their websites.

Part of the explanation for the CNN move was was the much of the online discussion had moved to social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. But it was also an economic and legally savvy mood. No need to employ moderators, and no need to worry about being sued for something written by a troll who is using the comment section to launch, often vicious, personal abuse at the writer, or the people mentioned in the article.

From where I’m sitting now, though, getting trolled is the least of my problems. As with any personal blog, the key is getting enough attention first.

(This post builds on an argument I first made online in August 2011.)


In plane sight

I don’t often get excited about advertisements, but I  really loved this Emirates commercial featuring Friends star Jennifer Aniston.

Aniston puts in a fine performance, but for me the whole point of it is made in the casting of the “other airline” crew near the beginning of the one-minute clip.

Anybody who has ever flown long haul on an US air carrier will recognise them. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they aren’t even actors, just actual staff from any American airline.

I know that American Airlines, Delta, United and others are in a “free skies” legal battle with Emirates and Etihad at the moment. Whatever the arguments are at the political and commercial level, this ad sums up the situation from a passenger’s viewpoint.

Not everybody gets access to the shower and the bar on an Emirates A380, but I am willing to bet that, even in cattle class, you’ll get treated better in the air by a Gulf-based airline that you will by an American one.

Future schlock


As Danish physicist Niels Bohr may have said, prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.

And when we start to think about the future, people of a certain generation will say: “Where’s my hoverboard?” — a reference to the 1980s Back to the Future movie franchise which suggested, among other things, that we’d be able to buy levitating skateboards by now.

The message is that before you try your hand at prediction, bear in mind how bad we’ve been at it in the past.

The Washington Post has published some drawings made by Jean-Marc Côté and other French artists in the late 1900s and early 20th Century purporting to show France in the year 2000.

Of course, they mostly look absurd because the artists were extrapolating on what they already knew; imaging refinements to technologies and behaviours already in existence. They were not able to envisage true innovation.

One of my favourites, which I’ve inserted at the top of the post (I believe it to be in the public domain, somebody please correct me if I’m wrong), shows a postman on a flying vehicle delivering a letter or some other paper documents to a man on a balcony. The artist perceived, correctly, that door-to-door delivery by a man on a bicycle would no longer be the norm in the future, but couldn’t imagine a plane without a propeller let alone the fact that the document itself could be digitised and transmitted across wires and the airwaves.

The price you pay


Bangkok skyline
Bangkok skyline

When I visited a museum in Saint Petersburg with a Russian-speaking Belarusian friend a few years ago, she suggested that she buy the tickets. “Why?” I asked. “Because we will get in much cheaper.”


“Because there is one price for Russians and a much higher price for foreigners. So you just shut up and we will get in cheap.”

As a fairly seasoned traveller, I was not unaccustomed to having pay more than the local population, and I was prepared to do so. But I also like a bargain, so I just shut up and we got in cheap.

A dual pricing system operates in a lot of places, especially poorer countries. It is particularly prevalent in Thailand.

I hadn’t thought about it for a while, until I noticed this story in the Bangkok Post, where a Thai citizen who looks like a farang (foreigner) complains about being charged 10 times as much to enter a popular attraction in Krabi.

“It’s like racism,” he is quoted as saying.

Now the story doesn’t really make it clear whether he is objecting to the dual-pricing system per se or the fact that he was a victim of it on the grounds of mistaken identity.

The logic behind dual pricing is simple.  It is, usually correctly, assumed that foreigners can afford to pay more, and accepted that they should subsidise the locals who might not otherwise be able to get in to certain attractions.

But is it fair to charge a different price based on someone’s appearance or passport? There are, after all, rich Thais and poor farang.

Either way, there would be outrage, and almost certainly an action by the discrimination commissioner or some other authority, if a venue in Britain, the US or Australia adopted a policy of ethnicity-based pricing.


Past imperfect


Advisory: I am not a scientist, so it’s entirely possible that I have this all wrong.

I occasionally bore people with a story about a discussion I once had with an old friend about something that happened to us when we were much younger.

The intriguing thing, to me at least, was that she and I remembered the details very differently. Neither of us had a reason to remember it differently — in neither version was it an incident that put either of us in a bad light — but we did. Had it been a matter of consequence, which is wasn’t, we could have both sworn in a court of law that our version of events was the correct one.

But how could this be, that two sensible people without agendas, had recollections that were entirely at odds?

In this piece in the Huffington Post, Dr Robert Lanza says some scientists are now suggesting that the past is not a fixed thing, and that whether things actually occurred in the past may depend on events in the future.

Imagine the ramifications of this — and not just for the scriptwriters of Doctor Who. For example, that lie you told the wife about what you were doing last night may not have been a lie, because the past isn’t set in stone.

On a more serious level, a person convicted of and punished for a crime may, in fact, prove to be innocent once the past is properly played out. Perhaps those thought dead may, in fact, turn out to be alive. It’s intriguing, and scary stuff.

But wait, there’s more. Some scientists believe in the theory of parallel universes. And some people have taken this to mean that there are multiple, perhaps infinite, but different versions of our “reality” out there — in which case, presumably, there are many pasts and many futures.

This creates a whole new raft of mindblowing possibilities. As Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory puts it: “You know, it just occurred to me, if there are an infinite number of parallel universes, in one of them, there’s probably a Sheldon who doesn’t believe parallel universes exist.”

Or, as I put it, “There’s a Brett out there who’s having a lot more fun than me. And I’m envious.”

(An earlier — or, perhaps, later — version of this post may have appeared on in January 2012)

Tofu or not tofu?



This is something of an unusual post for me. Usually, I write something here and the post the link on Facebook (and other social-media platforms). This time, I posted a simple question on Facebook and got such a big response that I decided there must be a blog article in it.

So, what happened was a discussion over the brunch table on Friday about the value of tofu, which, according to Google, is “a soft white substance made from mashed soya beans, used chiefly in Asian and vegetarian cookery”.

For many people, tofu is in the category of a “faux meat” — a substance that has been created artificially specifically to create some psychological comfort in people who have become vegetarian but, deep down, really want to be carnivores.

For others, it’s a kind of wonderfood.

Anyway, after some robust debate around the table, I posted the following short sentence on Facebook:

Table talk. Tofu: food or not food?

Here are some of the responses:


Food! Absolutely! Korean style teriyaki tofu is one of the tastiest things on the planet.

Delicious. What would a good laksa be without it?

Funny, you never see meat advertised as tasting like tofu …

Disgusting muck. (This was from a quite well known food and beverage writer.)

Paper. Food or not food?

Yes, buried in a stir-fry, it’s all well and groovy but I think we need to accept that tofu — unadorned by various sauces, soups and condiments — does not stand up to the the stand-alone taste test. One could cover a sock in peanut sauce and make it delicious.

Add soft tofu to scrambled eggs. Takes a pedestrian dish to another level.

Food. Icecream, flour, candles, yoghurt — all a bit suspicious!

And late entry from Twitter:

Next: Is couscous grounds for divorce?

By any other name

The song in this video is called Cool For Cats. At just over 2 minutes 30 seconds, it’s a taut, quirky pop anthem that was quite popular when I was a lad (although may be considered slightly politically incorrect today).

If you search for the song online, you’ll almost certainly find it credited to Squeeze. But that wasn’t the name of the band when and where I first heard it.

In Australia, the band led by songwriters Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook was known as UK Squeeze, because apparently there was already an Australian band called Squeeze in the late 1970s. Finding any information about them on Google is a little difficult, however, so perhaps the name change was in vain.

Around the same time, while international audiences were enjoying the laugh-a-minute movie Airplane!, Aussies (and people in New Zealand, South Africa, Japan and the Philippines) were watching the same thing, except it carried the title Flying High!

These are not isolated incidents. Along with many other companies, film distributors and record labels have often renamed their product for a different market. Sometimes it’s because it clashes with a local copyright or trademark or because the foreign name is inappropriate (it may be a slang or swear word, for instance.)

Lately, however, there has been a trend to homogenise names. The skincare product known as Oil of Ulan in Australia for decades was renamed Oil of Olay quite a few years ago, presumably to fit in with international manufacturing and marketing demands. Especially in the internet age, it is cheaper to produce something with just one label and one advertising campaign.

In the UK, the American animated TV series Top Cat became Boss Cat to avoid confusion with a local comic character, and there was outcry  when Marathon chocolate bars became Snickers and Jif bathroom cleaner became Cif to fall into line with the European name (despite, in my opinion, Jif being a far more fit-for-purpose name).

There’s a list on Wikipedia of names that are different in different markets, including a tweak to the title of The Avengers, the superhero film, to distinguish it from the great 1960s British TV series of the same name.

But does changing the name make a difference? Probably not. Shakespeare’s theory that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet is, I believe, backed up by reliable data insofar as roses have different names in different languages yet remain essentially the same.