Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

Neat Metamorphosis Tricks Department

March 22nd, 2016 Comments off

Teen charged with attempted murder after turning self into Richland County Sheriff

The State, Columbia, SC



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200,000 Years of Society and Language

April 15th, 2014 Comments off

200,000 years of evolutionary development as human beings, and 200,000 years of  language evolution!  Our language changes with the changes that devlope in our social relationships.  There are those who say that language could develop only when there was a level of trust among people: words are symbols, referents, mere sounds that point to an external reality that is not necessarily present at the time of speaking those words.  As trust develops, society changes, too; trust leads to openness, which allows us to welcome strangers in our midst.  Welcoming strangers is a liberal trait.

Categories: Humanism, Language, politicas, Uncategorized Tags:

Long-Time Social Evolution

April 14th, 2014 Comments off

Human beings, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, has been around for some 200,000 years now. But we (assuming you are human, as am I) didn’t just spring up from nowhere. The precursor to Homo Sapiens was Homo Eructus–specifically, the south-east African branch called Homo Ergaster, or Homo Rodesiensis. We are told the story of how humans came into the world from out of Africa some 150,000 years ago. But when we did leave Africa, we found that there were already out in the world other species, all very much like us, and all descendents our our common ancestor Erectus: Homo Neanderthalis, Heidelbergensis, Atecessor, Denisovan…spread all over the Eurasian continent. Humans lived beside, fought against, and sometimes mated with these other groups, and eventurally humans out-survived them.

All this time, we humans were forming families, grouping ourselves into tribes, co-operating in hunting groups, foraging together, and also fighting amongt ourselves. In short, we were engaging in the formation of societies.  Just as humans evolved over these years–developing lactose toleration, adding to or subtracting from the melanin in our skin, getting taller or shorter–so also our societies were evolving.

Is it any wonder, then, that we cannot, within one generation or less, move ourselves away from the stultifying bifurcation in our political (social) thought between conservative and liberal?

Categories: Economics, Humanism, Language, Uncategorized Tags:

Why is God a He?

January 24th, 2013 Comments off

The other day I was asked (well, not me particularly; it was a rhetorical question, made to the group, but still), “Why is God always ‘He’?  Why does god have to be masculine?”

Good question, and one with an answer.  Or many answers.

The sun was no doubt the first thing to be worshipped.  And rightly so, as we depend so much upon the sun: for heat, for light, to make our food grow, to power our solar cells… And the sun has always been represented  as masculine.  In Taoism, the sun is yang, the moon is yin; brightness versus dimness, hot versus cold.  In languages where nouns have gender, the sun is masculine: il sole, el sol, le soleil.  Even in English until about the seventeenth century, the sun was masculine.  Shakespeare, “the sun his glory, the moon her circl’d orb.”  The moon is Diana, the sun Ra, Helios, Apollo.

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Explosions Around Us

December 29th, 2011 Comments off

We were in CostCo the other day before the New Year, buying supplies, when a terrifically loud noise happened right by us.  An employee was removing the items from our cart, one of which was a bottle of Prosecco (Italian version of champaign); the bottle exploded in his hands.

My first reaction, was to shout “Jesus Christ!”  Obiously, as a swear word, not as an invocation.  I take it that this was a response prompted by what Kahneman would call my System 1 mind; an automatic response.

My second reaction, almost immediately thereafter, was to ask the emplyee “Are you all right?”

I’m so pleased that that reaction was not, “Take cover!”, or “IED! IED!”, or even “I may have been hit!”

If a gunman with a high-power rifle had been standing near the tire section, taking random shots toward the check-out counters, one of the latter might have been appropriate.  I’m glad not one of those was my response.

To Double-space or Not?

December 9th, 2011 1 comment

There’s someone on Slate, and hence on NPR, who insists that it’s improper to double-space between sentences.  Although we were all taught in typing class that we should use two spaces between sentences, that’s only because we were using a mono-spaced typeface; the way real type is set, he said, is with a single space between words and between sentences.

Like, what does he know?  Has he ever set type?  I have.  as early as in Junior High School, I took Print Shop, and was taught: between words, an en space; between sentences, an em space.

“En” space is the space used up by a lower-case n character.  “Em” space is that used up by a lower-case m character.  Look at them closely: an m takes up twice the space as an n.  Note also: an M is twice the space as an N.  An M is also called a “quad”, because it is square, or quadrangular.

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“No Spaces, Please”

December 8th, 2011 Comments off

What pisses me off?

When you are asked to enter your credit card number (or any other long series of digits), and the instructions are:  Without Spaces.

Those long numbers are separated by spaces for a reason: to make them easier to read, and easier to remember.  It’s a psychological thing called “chunking”.  Easier to member several chunks than a long, long string of numbers, or letters, or what-have you.

And it would be so easy for the programer to remove the spaces.  One simple php or c++ function would do it!

Can you tell me why they make life so difficult for us?

Categories: Language, Uncategorized Tags:

Foreign Languages…A Lot!

December 7th, 2011 Comments off

A class should be taught of foreign languages.  Foreign Languages 101.  The class is not about any particular language; it’s about languages in general. How to read them.  How to pronounce them. How they differ, from each other and from our own. (How many american kids are even able to think of English as a foreign language, even to a foreigner?)

  • The Cyrillic alphabet: Do you know how to read it? How to pronounce even one letter? If you suddently found yourself in Sarajevo, how could you identify a street by its sign?
  • How to pronounce French.  To pronounce Italian.  To pronounce German, Dutch, Spanish.  they all use the same alphabet (mostly), but pronounce their words completely differently.  but not completely: what are the differences? What are the similarities?  And why?
  • Chinese, Japanese: How do idiographs work? What’s Kanja?
  • Esperanto:  How come?
  • Sanskrit, the mother of Indo-European: how to pronounce devnagari.

Can you read aloud a sentence in Polish?  Hungarian?  I know I can’t.  Wish I could.

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From…To, To To…From

October 6th, 2011 Comments off

Honestly, I don’t know why, and resent, the change in usage from “from …to”, (which seems to me a reasonable formulation), to “to…from”.  For instance, “Usage rates have gone to 45% from 39%.”   This is just backwards.  You go from somewhere to somewhere.  If you reverse the order, it requires the reader (or listener) to make a mental recalculation, switching direction of metaphor.

You find this all the time as a matter of style in the New York Times and in lots of other publications.  It’s ugly.  It’s got to go.

I’d say, “I took a train from New York to Chicago.”  I would not say, “I took a train to Chicago from New York,” unless I was trying to emphasize the fact that it was a train, rather than a plane. Or that it was from New York that I took the train, and not Atlanta.

If I wanted to emphasize the starting point, I might say, “The usage rate rose to 50% from 35%, ” if 35% were a shockingly low number.  But that would not be the normal case.

Language should follow the order of nature.  Rivers flow from the mountains to the sea; rain falls from the sky to the ground; time’s arrow moves from the present to the future. Language must agree.

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July 25th, 2011 1 comment

Just heard a commentator on a Slate podcast use the term “harshing” — “…the critic was harshing on the film…”  Harsh is now a verb?

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