Weareconditionedsoeffectivelytoplay artificialrolesthatwemistake them for our true nature.Jean–Jacques
John, an expat who recently relocated to Colombia, approached the desk at the Medellín immigration office. “Cómo puedo ayudarte” (how can I help you), the lady behind the glass window at the reception counter asked?
John had no idea what she was saying, so he shook his head and said, “I want to apply for a visa. Does anyone here speak English?”
The lady at reception rolled her eyes and called over her supervisor who responded in English and looked over the information John had provided in the online application. “What is your nationality,” the supervisor asked?
“I’m American,” John replied in a matter of fact manner.
“We are Americans too Señor. What is your country of origin,” the…
Hello. My name is Aaron, and I am calling you from a robotic voice-activated recording device…click, whirr…How are you today?…click, whirr.
Hello. My name is Erin, and I am calling you from a robotic voice-activated recording device…click, whirr…How are you today?…click, whirr.
As it were. As it is.
I’m an irregular regular at library discard sales, usually browsing the orphaned texts that possess no universal product codes to reveal their identity for the database-connected; however, among my fellow book-seeking regulars are buyers equipped with handheld scanners that report the marginal value of each barcoded volume: one electronic click-seek at a time…leave, buy, buy, leave, leave, leave — leafing is not only unnecessary but a wasted effort that squanders marginal value.
I’m a leafer, I’m a laugher, I’m a midnight loafer. Sure don’t want to hurt no one.
I try to become inured of the unpleasant encounter, the expectedly callous, the inconceivably gullible, the luck of the licentious liar — so far without success. But it leaves me something to write about on this electronic leaf.
I can find the noun Kardashianism online, but I seem the only person in the Googlesphere searching for this noun: “inurance,”
The robiotic keyboard-activated borgs presently responsible for all things “inurance” have found not a twit, so I am coining the word as you read, as the search-bots report back to the robiotics, the results of their crawls. Long live inurance!
Essential absurdity is yet the essential existential explanation.
Arabic is a subtle language with a script that flows from right to left one millimeter at a time. Arabic sounds originate from vocal chord to the tip of the tongue, each brings slight variations in tone, in duration — these determine intent, what you seek to share. Meaning relies on accurate spoken and written construction.
It’s also a shape-shifter. Each letter may morph in four ways — a single letter may assume four forms, yet remain as unambiguously and reliably distinguishable as a pattern-matching schema. Examine the Arabic letter nunn (“n”):
Arabic describes those slight but significant sound variations with a dozen diacritical marks, then it permits one to double those diacritics when ambiguity threatens to destroy the intended meaning.
Yes, Arabic has an impressive set of tools. Here are a few:
It sets a meter with musical aspects. Each sound may extend in duration by holding a tone twice or three times as long. It’s really much like reading a piece of sheet music, a musical score.
It has tools for creating calligraphic expressions that allow each writer to break away — to proceed beyond a ceiling-line and below a floor-line. By comparison, Latin-based alphabets seem designed with confinement in mind, something designed with the chisel in mind. Keep within the lines, please. The Romans manipulated numbers borrowed from their alphabet. You can count to 100 in Roman numerals before encountering a curved figure.
Did you know that Arabic vocabulary is context sensitive? Language environments are dynamic places, words adapt to merge with the spirit and the moment and the intent — not the other way around. Translations that do not recognize context contort meaning, they must be challenged. Twisting words to serve agendas is a dark art.
The English language uses a different set of tools, different metrics that root into the soil of a different geography.
Language has brought me opportunities to remove borders. A thorough understanding of the German language (my second language) permits me to learn Arabic from a teacher who has likewise learned German as her second language. There’s something breathtaking about acquiring a third language without the unnecessary baggage of my mother tongue. Something very humbling and very satisfying.
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”.
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.
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.
At its largest extent, the Roman Empire surrounded Middle Earth, literally “The Mediterranean.”
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:
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.
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 🙂
“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.
Which is the more eloquent simile:
it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle…
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:
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.
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.
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”:
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.
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?
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:
Über den Fluss und durch den Wald,
Zu Großvaters Haus gehen wir;
Die Pferde kennen den Weg, den Schlitten zu tragen
trotz des dreckigen und tiefen Schnees.
gegen den Regen und durch den Wald,
zur Grossmutter und zum Grossvater gehen wir!
Over [object of a preposition of relative position, accusative, masculine] river and through [preposition exclusively accusative, masculine, plural] wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
[subject, nominative, neuter, plural] horses know the way [direct object, accusative, masculine, plural] to carry [direct object, accusative, masculine, singular] sleigh
Despite [object of a preposition governed by genitive, masculine, singular]white and drifted snow.
Against [object of a preposition of relative position, accusative, masculine, singular] rain and through[object of a preposition governed by accusative, masculine, singular] wood,
to [preposition andobject 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!
Thank you Mr. Oogle, but those results are more helpful. Your bots do fine fast work.
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.
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.
Why would Gandhi quote Martin Luther King on Einstein’s memories of Logan Paul?
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 possesses some skills that make her work remarkable:
The ability to patiently ponder an interwoven nexus of data trails, this sometimes requiring deep concentration.
A studied demeanor suitable to sustained mindful concentration.
A profound understanding of breathing in and out in a supra-autonomic way.
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.
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:
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.
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 Prizefor 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?”
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.”
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:
A point to ponder: text contained within comic strip balloons is scarcely as googleable as:
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).
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.
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 🙂