This story is especially for Hugh, because I know he likes this sort of thing.

I recently learned the Russian word for “flammable”, which is “ogneopasno”, a perfectly logical compound word from “ogon” — fire, and “opasno” — dangerous.

The building where I have my Russian lessons is right on the Neva river, and so I get to see lots of commercial ships. Recently there has been a ship docked there that has “ogneopasno” written on the side in big letters. Only, the word is divided in a weird way across four sections of the ship: OG NE OPA SNO. The first time I saw this, I puzzled over it, and then read it as “Og ne opasno.” I thought to myself, “What the hell is ‘Og’, and why is this ship telling us that it’s not dangerous?”