Surprised by Sudden Sounds

Hello, what?

A firsthand account of a hearing challenge, one told in the first person. That’s what. Hello in there, hello.

Simone: I know you’re right, Pee-wee, but…

Pee-wee: But what? Everyone I know has a big “But…? C’mon, Simone, let’s talk about *your* big “But”.

Before opting for a $400 pair of hearing aids, I asked some friends and relatives if they were happy with a pair of ear inserts, ones that had cost twice as much as the shiny new automobile I purchased in 1973 (an AMC Gremlin if you must know). Each wearer had a big but that for one reason or ‘tother, so I just kept on mishearing words — mis-heards that made me the butt of many an “Are you deaf?” joke. My sister-in-law works with the elderly, she recognized the dynamic, remarking that many who mishear are falsely diagnosed as suffering from “dementia”.fork.and.knife

Oliver Sacks, the sorely missed independent thinker,  wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times that captures his personal experience with hearing loss: “Mishearings.” A timely take on the mind’s capacity for assigning meaning to spoken language.

And yet there is often a sort of style or wit — a “dash ”— in these instantaneous inventions; they reflect, to some extent, one’s own interests and experiences, and I rather enjoy them. Only in the realm of mishearing — at least, my mishearings — can a biography of cancer become a biography of Cantor (one of my favorite mathematicians), tarot cards turn into pteropods, a grocery bag into a poetry bag, all-or-noneness into oral numbness, a porch into a Porsche, and a mere mention of Christmas Eve a command to “Kiss my feet!”

 

Hearing loss had removed many unfortunate sounds: the song of birds, the snores of Loki the Cat, the sussurance of the familiar, the soothing and the calming. However, at this very moment I am listening to the sharp, measured and deliberate crunches Loki is making — less than a meter away.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Bird Sounds on DirtNKids 🙂

 

I am able to attend Arabic language classes at the local masjid once again, to actually understand the critical meanings lost to mishearings. It’s wonderful to join in with a measure of confidence that was quite impossible before 🙂

Now here is an unexpected but welcome circumstance: turning the devices off stills the din, the conical insert even acts as an earplug of sorts.

Now I jump into a wild cacophony of sound with a grateful soul. According to the instruction manual, it’s a gradual process that takes a bit of patience. I’ve only worn them for a week now, so my mind is still refreshing the inventory of sounds unheard for many years: floorboards squeak, a wall clock clicks with each passing second (I’ve timed it!) and my feet make a sweeping sound on a carpet.

Thanks for reading.

 

Surprised by Arabic

At its largest extent, the Roman Empire surrounded Middle Earth, literally “The Mediterranean.”

inscription_cartilia2

 

In the parlance of social media, the Romans SHOUTED all their written words — minuscules would not arrive to soften the literal commotion until the 7th Century. Latin seems suited for chiseling into stone, mostly with straight lines that run from left to right. It’s not easy to curve while chiseling your way along a flat rock-face. A glance at the English alphabet reveals that individual letters also run from left to right, letters such as B D E F K L P R

The letter “J” is quite the exception. It’s one reason that some school children do this:

printable-letter-backwards-j

That letter never appears in Roman imperial inscriptions, nor did U, nor did W.

K, Y and Z were adopted to accommodate Greek vocabulary. They are not the Etruscan uttering way. Nay, they ain’t.

Let’s look at a language that appeals to my left-handedness. It’s quite a relief to see my writing as I write. Arabic was not designed with a chisel in mind. The language begins with cursive in mind, not a bland sequence of letters imprisoned within imaginary boxes, then proclaimed “words.”

My last post looked at a procrustean camel, an animal led to the eye of a needle by dint of faulty translation. Why are mistranslations carved into stone? Do not allow your metaphors to become stilted, clunky, confusing and hackneyed. That’s what I say.

Well, Arabic comes equipped with a J-sound. In fact, it’s standard equipment. However, the language does not permit a “P” letter, so please apply a “B” for words like Paris: call it Baris and learn to live with it. Palestine never needed a “P” because that name is an imposition anyway: they are the Philistines. Arabic comes equipped with an “F” sound.

 

 

arabic.jim
25+ Arabic Alphabet Letters

 

Instead of imaginary boxes, Arabic allows for up to four ways to write each letter of the alphabet. Learners of this language and readers of the Qur’an receive the gift of ten diacritical marks to aid the learning process in a clean and coherent manner. Should you ever decide to tackle Arabic, this is handy indeed. Those marks reveal the sound one millimeter at a time; however, once you become comfortable and confident with the words you can dispense with diacriticals altogether — you’ll recognize the pattern and you won’t need the training wheels.

Returning to the Romans for a moment: would you ever wish to return to Roman numerals once you’ve learned the efficacy of Arabic numerals? The word “cipher” in English is from the Arabic word for “zero”:صفر

Here is a tip for my readers who consider learning German or Arabic: if you can pronounce Cincinnati you can pronounce  صفر (sifr). Just pedanting.

Learning languages removes artificial separations between cultures and lifestyles. Those separations take the form of borders, walls and prejudice. In their stead you acquire perspectives that remove each border, wall and prejudice. They serve the minions of geopolitical advantage and the clarion to endless war, endless confusion and endless imprisonment. Producing propaganda is criminal activity. Always. Whatever your intention.

And go vegan while you’re at it. No sentient being benefits by closing the book on the Anthropocene 🙂

Thanks for reading.

Threading a Hawser Through the Eye of a Needle

“Those who know Arabic are jinn among humans, they can see what nobody else can.
Imam Shafii

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

— Matthew 19:24 (NIV)

You know this Bible quote. I am certain you’ve seen it countless times. It might be your favorite chapter and verse. But why a camel? Well, ‘camel’ is a misnomer — a mistranslation immortal. The intended object was ‘rope’, specifically a thick twisted rope: a hawser.

camel

Which is the more eloquent simile:
  1. it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle…
  2. it is easier to thread a hawser through the eye of a needle…
Why is this obviousity never mentioned?
The Bible Hub, an online resource for Bible scholars, provides English language variants for every chapter and verse, among them Matthew 19:24. Click that link to compare 28 translations regarding a rich guy’s odds of entering the Kingdom of God.
Mistranslations are the coin of many a realm, perhaps this one most appropriately so. I am hardly the first to learn, two millennia after the coin was struck, that the writer intended something comparable to a thread.
What is the camel doing in the sewing kit with the needles and threads anyway? The original metaphor roots in Aramaic language, one of the Semitic languages that use consonantal roots to convey meaning:

 

Gamla-Peshitta bible
Source

https://billziegler1947.com/2017/02/04/arabic-what-gives/#lemon

I also discuss the root system in A Safari into the Sahara

An alternative scripture, The Qur’an, provides just such a footnote. Here is one from the well-respected translator  M.A.S. Abdel Haleem:

The gates of Heaven will not be open to those who rejected Our revelations and arrogantly spurned them; even if a thick rope a were to pass through the eye of a needle they would not enter the Garden.

— Quran “The Garden” 7:40 M.A.S. Abdel Haleem translation 2004

Haleem inserts this footnote for 7:40:

Not ‘camel’. The roots of the words for ‘camel’ and ‘thick twisted rope’ are the same in Arabic and ‘rope’ makes more sense here (Razi).

 

Thanks for reading.

Dem German Endings

You may get PTSD, but learning German is a good way to learn the grammar you forgot — or the grammar you never learned. German is as fulsome as it is fulsome in that respect, something like a built-in sentence diagram.

german.cases.cartoon

There are 16 ways to say “the” in German. Just as there are 16 ways to say “the” in English?

No. Each of the 16 ways in German tell you the gender, number and case of the following noun. So just IN CASE…

Having taught the language for decades I’ve found some tricks for avoiding German’s paradigms from hell, that’s what they are — and no mistake. Something they don’t tell you about until it’s too late to drop the class, I am hoping that this post serves as warning. It may be too late for me, but not for thee.

german-article-adjective-and-pronoun-chart-updated
I found this “visual aid” at the following site. It’s a genuine P-O-S in my humblest opinion — ein Stück Scheisse.

Take a look at the über busy “visual aid” to the right. It’s a genuine P-O-S in my humblest opinion — ein Stück Scheisse, ohne Zweifel.

Mark Twain learned German (Fraktur even!) and lived to warn his readers: The Awful German Language. Fraktur inventors even thought of making the letter ‘f’ nearly indistinguishable from the letter ‘s’. So that you have to recognize the damned words containing ‘f’ and ‘s’ before you can understand what you are reading? Yes.

Consider the first line that the crow below is about to peck. “This is the Leipzig Fraktur font”:

fraktur-font-copy

I didn’t begin learning German until becoming an adult, when I needed it to study in West Germany in 1971. Sheer good fortune found me rooming with the only German student in the building who did not speak English…

Okay, enough of that, enough of that. What’s this lesson plan you wish to share?

Before the Vikings invaded Britain, English was still inflected the Saxon (Sachsen) way. The German “chs” became the simplified “x”. They had a land to plunder, so they took the gordian option — replace all the sixteen shades of inflection for the so-called “strong endings”” from der, die, das, den, dem and des to “the” and replace all the twelve shades of inflection for the so-called weak endings” to “the” as well. Knot cut.

der.die.das.the

 

German inflections do not flourish in non-German soil well. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands — all of them pretty much did away with the meaning-by-inflection technique and applied the Viking way. Similarly, the Romance languages discarded the five declensions of Latin.

The only country that retained German (Nordic Branch) was Iceland. It has maintained all four cases and three genders for a millenium. Icelandic speakers can, with a bit of effort, read the Eddas. By the way, the Icelandic word for Iceland is Island — Iceland is land, is it not?

edda

Now then, how do those inflections work in German language? I’m calling the following lesson plan The Case of the “The” by Erle Stanley Gaertner:

  1. Über den Fluss und durch den Wald,
  2. Zu Großvaters Haus gehen wir;
  3. Die Pferde kennen den Weg, den Schlitten zu tragen
  4. trotz des dreckigen und tiefen Schnees.
  5. gegen den Regen und durch den Wald,
  6. zur Grossmutter und zum Grossvater gehen wir!

 

  1. Over [object of a preposition of relative position, accusative, masculine] river and through [preposition exclusively accusative, masculine, plural] wood,
  2. To Grandfather’s house we go;
  3. [subject, nominative, masculine, plural] horses know the way [direct object, accusative, masculine, plural] to carry [direct object, accusative, masculine, singular] sleigh
  4. Despite [object of a preposition governed by genitive, masculine, singular]white and drifted snow.
  5. Against [object of a preposition of relative position, accusative, masculine, singular] rain and through[object of a preposition governed by accusative, masculine, singular] wood,
  6. to [preposition and object of a preposition governed by dative, feminine, singular] grandmother and to [preposition and object of a preposition governed by dative, masculine, singular] grandfather we go!

Thanks for reading.

It’s All About Meme

a wise meme once said

About 10,900,000 results (0.40 seconds) 

Did you mean: “a wise man once said”?

No, but thank you for the algorithm, G. Oogle. I didn’t mean that.

Did you meme: “a wise woman once said“?

Thank you Mr. Oogle, but those results are more helpful. Your bots do fine fast work.

Disinformation_vs_Misinformation
Memetics is a term invented by Richard Dawkins (1976: The Selfish Gene) to describe how information propagates in a network. The internet permits you to inform and misinform as rapidly as web-crawling bots can jump from here to anywhere.
A borg in Macedonia, a bot in Minnesota or a Shakespeare-typing monkey may be squinting at a computer screen as you read this.
Misinformation
Mr. G.O. Ogle, what’s a “meme generator”?
About 1,270,000 results (0.53 seconds) 
Why an all-caps serif-free dishwater-grey font? Personally, I would prefer Henry Ford black.meme.font
Why would Gandhi quote Martin Luther King on Einstein’s memories of Logan Paul?
Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

The LOKi Keyboard

One of my star editors, Loki the Tortie, favors a workstation with instant access to the keyboard and the monitor. Please note that this strategic location also includes a cardboard box of suitable size and, as cat fanatics know well, an empty box is filled with a cat in the earliest possible nanosecond. She puts in long hours, so a workplace with good ergonomics contributes to overall productivity.

loki.keyboard
The coincidence of the alpha characters LOKI suggests that a trickster may also be at work here 🙂

Loki possesses some skills that make her work remarkable:

  1. The ability to patiently ponder an interwoven nexus of data trails, this sometimes requiring deep concentration.
  2. A studied demeanor suitable to sustained mindful concentration.
  3. A profound understanding of breathing in and out in a supra-autonomic way.
  4. Sustained purring, understood here as a low vibratory murmur that is punctuated with sudden twitches of insight.

I have recorded the intervals of Loki’s breathing/purring ratio by applying a number of statistical measures, each calculated, graphed and annotated in the spurious index I maintain in apocryphal lab notebooks stored nowhere or other in an unrecorded carrel deep in the bowels of the hypothetical library of the unknown university where my research may not or may be conducted.

IMG_0774.jpg
Loki the Tortie in a familiar research station

Let us now proceed to Loki’s most recent research. Least, but for from first, Loki issues keystrokes in a discrete amount of time, typically in the range of 0.75 to 0.85 seconds — all conveyed with a stroke of a paw and the trail of a claw.

Here is a link to some signature work, that my fellow mammal recently keyed  in 0.732 seconds:

2p;;;;;;lok

A cursory glance suggests that Loki needed to urinate: 2p. The semicolons may be delimiters, some code or an urgency to cover the distance to the litter box — perhaps indicating 3 sets of paws (3×2=6 semicolons). In this vein, it is interesting to speculate on that missing “i” from an expected “loki”. Clearly, more research is needed.

These eleven (11) characters are as compact as any regular expression I’ve ever seen, they recall the intense memory restrictions of mid 20th Century computers such as Eniac. Coding in those days placed enormous restraints on code size at the machine level, so rapid nimble paw and claw strokes are a tribute to Loki’s computational genius and the elegance of her code.

semicolon.claws

Right now Loki  the Tortie is in the middle of a mind meld with a couch cushion. I eagerly await the results of that meld 🙂

Meanwhile I want to read up on the work of Marc-Antoine Fardin, winner of the Ig® Nobel Prize for 2017:

PHYSICS PRIZE [FRANCE, SINGAPORE, USA] — Marc-Antoine Fardin, for using fluid dynamics to probe the question “Can a Cat Be Both a Solid and a Liquid?”

Thanks for reading.

 

Alley Oop and Woogazoola

In search of the ineffable WOOGAZOOLA.

My youngest sister C. recently posed a question in an electronic forum. It addresses an etymology that continues to pique the interest of my oldest sister: T.

“My sister T. and I are trying to figure out what a “Woogazoola” is. Our mother used to say our hair looked like a “Woogazoola” when it was messed up. My understanding was that it was a comic strip character from maybe the 1920’s or 1930’s. Anyone have any idea?”

A response from H. followed in short order:

“My mom thinks it might have come from the comic strip Alley Oop from the thirty’s.”

hamlin_arizona-2

I think H.’s mom has hit a nail on the head. Let’s take some time to consider this clue. I have discovered an Alley Oop comic strip from sometime between 1932 and 1939. My mother would have been from 11 to 18 at that time, perhaps already remarking upon classmates’ messed hair. Here we see Alley Oop with The Grand Wizer:

alley.oop.wizer

A point to ponder: text contained within comic strip balloons is scarcely as googleable as:

===> this here text <===

Internet search engines do not parse the words in a balloon, so I decided to actually read some more Alley Oop comic strips from the 1930’s.

In the highly unlikely event that you are reading these words, I will point out that my findings are anecdotal at best. They are also probably incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial — I leave it to the judge to decide that.

Well then, I shall now toss in a few presumptuous conjectures. These have been peer-reviewed by our cat Loki: my go-between editor (Loki is sitting in a cardboard box between the keyboard and the monitor).

oop.punctuation

Now, let us consider context. We already know that “messed up hair” elicited what I am tentatively calling an incantation: “Woogazoola.” Additional research is needed to find other contexts that would have elicited the motherly exclamation “Woogazoola.”

But let’s work with what we have: two words that beggar the imagination. Consider the 3rd frame. The Grand Wizer has a skull on his head, he incants: “GAWOIK GEEEZOOOIE !”

Hamlin has a way with ALL CAPS, bold fonts and the gradual change in font size. Witness GEZUNK! and ZONG!

Look for the consonants G K W and Z, for example. Then switch over to vowels that wow you with their repetition: OO, OOO. The name of Oop’s girlfriend? OOOLA.

Ooptimemachine4939

Modern science fiction owes much to Hamlin’s vision. He set a model for time travel that is still familiar stuff. Take a look at The Precisely Rendered Blam to whet your interest 🙂

Woogazoola!

Thanks for reading.

 

The Case of the Missing Article

The Case of the Missing Article by E. Stanley, the Gardener.

“In the days before the arrival of the cicadas, the frogs and the dreadnoughts, in the land of the dead, the gardener tended the garden green. Suddenly a shot rang out.”

The” is definite English, it’s been that way since the Vikings killed the sixteen ways the Saxons (Sachsen) spoke, ways always to denote nouns. A part of speech now dead in the Isles of the Brit, many eons afore days of present kind.

To the victor goes the grammar. “THE” spake the Viking, and it was so.

Word order reigns where inflection governs. Do away with inflection and you become a slave to word order. By good fortune I suffered the arrows and the slings of Latin in high school. An introduction to case-driven tongues, that’s what it was.

scribblers.sculptors.scribes
Wheelock’s Latin

I’ve since revived my high-school understanding of Latin via (a Latin preposition you understand) the Wheelock method. I think that it’s fun to discover unexpected similarities between German and Latin, ones that originated in Indo-European. The preposition “in” uses the same cases (dative and accusative) to denote intra and inter movement, respectively. Now that is what I call a good time. A grand substitute for the dreadnought of sports`. In very fact, I am extraordinarily ignorant of any iota embalmed as sport.

indo.european.migrations

I like to bounce around among crowds of languages, to weigh their lot for commonalities, patterns and purposes.

No writings remain of Indo-European, the common root tongue for hundreds of languages. A tongue spoken in a geography we now call Ukraine and vicinity.

The English word “scribe” finds origin in the German schreiben.

Schreiben — writing.

Scribe – writer, transcription, scrivener (of Bartleby fame).

bartleby

When teaching German I would often encounter worthy mnemonics to aid student learning. Once, while writing the German verb “beschreiben” on the blackboard I noticed that its English equivalent “to describe” possessed an unexpected aspect: pivot the round part around the vertical part of the letter “b”, the letter “d.”

b d b d

beschreiben/describe

rotate the “b” to fashion a “d”, rotate a “d” to fashion a “b.”

be de are inseparable prefixes that lend flavor and spice to a foundational word, such as schreiben or scribe. It’s also great fun to encounter such things — the stuff of useful heuristics.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

Die schreckliche Englische Sprache

N.B. I have not yet inserted a translation plug-in.

Why not, Bill?

I don’t want to crash this blog by pasting html code improperly.

Kommen wir gleich zur Sache — die Wikinger emigrierten von Sachsen nach England im Jahre 793, und sie hatten mit den eroberten Frauen und den zukünftigen Kindern sprechen wollen. Hör mal zu: die Wikinger konnten die ungeheueren komplizierten Endungen jedes Dingworts überhaupt nicht verstehen. Die Eroberer hatten eine Lösung schnell gefunden: zum Teufel mit den verdammten Endungen.

This is a thinly veiled attack upon the official language of the free world. What be your purpose here?

WikingerServiette

Wenn Sie English lesen können, schauen Sie den folgenden Link an:

How Vikings Changed the English Language: Morphology.

Interessanterweise fing die große Vokalverschiebung zur etwa gleichen Zeit an. So viel wurden dabei geändert, aber so passieren die alternativen Geschichten.

als ob

Stellen Sie mal vor: “als ob” habe ich in einem Glossar der literarischen Ausdrücken gefunden, zwar als eine Übersetzung des Konzepts von Samuel Colleridge:

the willing suspension of disbelief 

5 Buchstaben auf Deutsch gegen 31 auf Englisch. Finde ich den Unterschied super. Eine Sprache zu lernen ist ein Abenteuer anzufangen, meiner Meinung nach.

denken.sie.doch.selber
Bill, why did you choose a SHOUTING green font to threaten world order? We’re taking names.

Gern behaupte ich, dass man einen deutschen Text schneller als einen englischen Text lesen kann. Einfach erkläre ich den Urgrund dieser Behauptung — Schon beim ersten Wort erkennen wir die Funktion des ersten Wortes, z.B. “dem” muss unbedingt das indirekte Object signalisieren. Also, entweder Maskulin oder Neutrum, oder?

Quod erat demonstrandum.

So wurde “the” erfunden. Wortstellung muss jede Funktion, bzw. jeden Kasus erklären. Konnten Herr Wiking mit der Familie anreden.

Ich hoffe, dass die Leser dieses Dingsbums mein Thema genossen haben.

 

…don’t say anything at all

Bill, you have crafted the perfect post title. Please take you own advice — say nothing…at all

 

Nice and Kind

Random acts of niceness?

One of first posts I wrote for this blog is Nice People Explained — 22 months ago. It’s about a philosopher who is tut-tutted in many circles: Bertrand Russell. That particular essay introduced me to the very concept of what it means to be nice in polite society — a form of expedience that keeps the wheels of industry churning and chugging, becoming accustomed to certain niceties. Leo Tolstoy was ahead of his time and ours.

Leo-Tolstoy-Quotes-27-I-Sit-On-A-Mans-Back-Choking-Him-And-...-Quotes-768x756

Yesterday I read great stuff on a great  blog that I recommend to you. May I direct your attention to the eponymous ShelbyCourtland. Great and timely stuff there IMO. Coincidentally, some people would not think Shelby very nice. Speaking up for the exploited doesn’t get the job done. Well, that’s nice, BUT.

Well, there’s a wide chasm between nice and  kind. Kurt Vonnegut did not say be nice, the word Kurt chose was “kind.” Many do not consider him a very nice person either. I once met an unkind person who had met Vonnegut once, and reported that he was not very nice.

You are wasting your time, my friend. By the way, have you ever heard the one about the nice nun who, let’s say ‘got the job done’ in certain elementary school classrooms of the 1950’s?

By “getting the job done” I think you mean training classroom bullies on the nicer points of humiliation? Yes. Thought very nice, very nice indeed.

nuns.with.rulers

Here’s my hypothesis: Nice people conform to the expectations imposed by authority to perpetuate the way it’s always been done and the ways that always work. They never rock boats or speak out of line. They don’t laugh at crap hounds like Jeff Sessions, lest they be likewise incarcerated. There’s nothing remotely fascist about that, is there?  Boats are not for rocking — unless the boats are carrying refugees from profitable wars initiated by the nicest country on Earth. Endless war to stop all those wars that end inconveniently: for armament suppliers. Endless slaughter of fellow sentient beings in technologically advanced death camps — it’s what’s for dinner.

Perform random acts of kindness when they are totally unexpected. Do them often. Do them creatively, even playfully. Get off someone’s back?

Smart and Pleasant

I’m asking Elwood P. Dowd to take over here while I visit the restroom. Please be kind to Mr. Dowd, who knows both smart and pleasant:

“Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” – she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

Here is a clip from the 1950 version starring Jimmy Stewart featuring the snippet above.

elwood.p.dowd

My mother, in addition to always calling me Billy, used to say to me “If you don’t have anythingnice to say…”

Or was it “…good to say?” Well let’s find out what good old Google reports on good and nice:

  1. Hits for nice: About 793,000 results (0.93 seconds)
  2. Hits for good: About 220,000 results (0.46 seconds) 
OK, let’s divide 793 by 220 and see if we obtain a result. Right.
Nice Defeats Good
Rather dour fare for a Saturday morning, don’t you know? Your really should have followed through with “… don’t say anything at all.  
Quite right, time for something restful and delightful, in full measure 🙂
The best place I know for taking a breather is upon a sentient cloud. Let’s jump in for a worthy discussion on the proper use of the ellipsis, to whit one written by Esme.

I understand that the shortest distance between two dots is another dot. So let us lose ourselves  in aethereal clouds; particularly after sloughing through this dour post.

Hey, did you know that fog is a cloud resting on the ground? We live just south of Cincinnati, I once saw the tallest building in town pointing out above a wonderful white cloud one morning while driving to where ever the heck I was working at that time.

Thanks for reading.