Tongue wagging on Germanic roots and Latinate fauna

Bill blogged in response to my tougue in cheek gloating over American discomfort over the word homeland. Let me just thank Bil for his generous compliment about my blog. It's an ego gratifying boost to read how much he enjoys my ramblings on just about everything. Today's blog hopefully wil continue his enjoyment of my mumblings and stumblings.

Bill's joyful praise of Tyndale's use of the earthy, simple Germanic origin word for his Bible translation provokes my humourously sarondic observation that such words make reading the translation hard for the rest of us. One of the more bemusing reaction from native English speakers is their incredulity at the difficulty non-natives have with English words, grammer and spelling. Contrary to what most native Anglophones presume English is often viewed as an irrational language with weird grammer rules, weirder exceptions and an orthography that defies explanation. Of course it's not true but some of the complaints are sound as I'll explain further below.

Personal experiences will illustrate my point. For me, English is an acquired language- the school, the street and TV were the major learning sources- not my parents. Like anyone who learns a new language, I have lots of lacunae in understanding the full extent of the language.

Reading English language literature with a preference for the Germanic roots is a real slough for those who acquired English. Lord of the Rings is my favourite example. It's a beautiful book but sometimes I found it to be a real grind when I read it as a teen. A lot of the words he used were unfamiliar precisely because Tolkein chose to tell the story through the Germanic roots of English. I don't lambast him. On the contrary, I always interpreted part of the story as a synthesis of the Germanic legends of the Volkwanderüng of the 5th AD. I also saw the Christian allegories so I had a blast reading Tolkein's reinterpretation of the formation of the European identity at the fall of the Roman empire. The fusion between the Germanic, Asiatic, (the Magyars or Hungarians came with Atilla the Hun as slave raiders) Celtic and Latinate peoples and the adoption of Christanity.

Worse for me is that he used certain obselete and archaic words which drove me crazy because I couldn't find them in the dictionary (I used the Webster's; I'm not one who reflexively bows and swoons upon hearing the words Oxford English dictionary/OED) Consequently, I didn't quite grasp some scenes. Other problems were on pronunciation of those words. Until I saw the movie, I didn't realize that I misprounouced some of the words that Tolkein used. I liked Tolkien's other books too but I concede that reading them weren't always easy.

One of the soundest criticism I and other 'acquirers' have towards English is the orthography. As a kid, I hated spelling because it took some time to master its intricacies. Worse is that English spelling has the rather unfortunate habit of aggravating dyslexia- I didn't quite have the classical type- as I was confused between the sounds and their letters but I still dreaded spelling homework. Mind you, I'm pretty lazy when I spell in the other languages I know. I let my word processor's spell checker correct the transpositions and the accents. However, with English I have to be a bit stricter because if the spelling isn't 'standard' I don't understand what I'm reading. That's a common problem with others too. I notice that with my adults students as well; non-standard spelling really interferes with their learning. Another personal example, Chaucher's Cantebury tales. I can't read the story because the spelling is standard 15th English but it doesn't make sense to me and I can't make out the words. I have the same problem with Spenser and even Hobbes is exhausting because his spelling and capitalizations really throw me off.

When my students complain about the irrationality of English orthography, I point out to them, like so much in British history, there was an accident. When the printing press diffused throughout Europe, many regions took the opportunity to reform their orthography and systematize their grammers; by contrast, when Caxton brought the printing press to London, it had the opposite effect, it froze the orthography at a moment that it too was naturally evolving. Further, like elsewhere in Europe, Caxton used the language spoken in the capital city to publish the Bible. Interesting, its publication in the London dialect had enormous lexical consequences: the Lord's prayer that Anglophone Christians recite today was incomprehensible to the neighbouring village some 80 km whose townfolks spoke a completely different dialect. No wonder medieval Arab travellers and historians were baffled by the wide diversity of European languages. I suppose they viewed us back then the same way we viewed Viet Montangards where one tribe couldn't understand the other from the next mountain. Contrary to the medieval Arab intellectuals linguistic diversity isn't a weakness but a strength and a real competative advantage as the Mideast has learnt to its chagrin.

If there's one pet peeve that I have is the absence of an authoritative grammer resource in English. As both a student and a teacher, I've been deeply dissatisfied with the flippant answers my teachers gave me about certain grammer questions in elementary and high school . Why for example does the word city in the plural change to I before adding es? The explanation I give to my students- after disclaiming that I speculate on the matter- that in the case of city, it's for euphonic reasons to preserve the first I sound; the same sound preservation applies for words that end in X, CH, SH when pluralized. If Bill tells me I'm right then it's a lucky guess and no thanks to my teachers.

Another advantage with an authouritative grammer is that it prevents such ludicriously amusing if ultimately sterile conflicts over correct word usage and acceptable expression of written works. I'm thinking of the tiff that Brenden O'Neill caused within the Anglophone over his opinions on the subject. My own view is that spanner is a sissy word for a wrench and surely the Brits could've picked a better one. I'm sure the Brits also have their disdain for some North American English words. I hope they do.

Let me conclude and state that I enjoy English. It's a fortunate language because it has 2 roots.


The European militaries: they make great waterboys!

Reading through Den Beste's latest musings on Europe, I can't help but conclude that he articulates a position in some quarters in both American society and military that fears and disdains a resurgent European military committment. I suspect that deep down the American military and the more interventionist quarters within the foreign/intelligence/military-industrial groups are actually quite satisfied with the weakened European militaries. Weak European allies serve American interests because the former can't influence in any significant way the future course of events and make convenient waterboys.

Iraq is a good example. American bloggers wouldn't be so cavilier in ignoring European perspectives if its militaries were relatively comparable to the American. Worse from an American perspectives of its national interests, a strong European military would give its political leadership enough leverage to 'interfere' with American foreign policy. Presently, the current American attitude- especiallty among the bloggers is to pooh-pooh the Europeans as appeasers, dumbasses, wussies and whiners. While some criticism of the contradictory European response to American foreign policy and the war on Islamic integrist terrorism are legitmate; the rest quickly denegerates into jingositic chest thumping under the blare of Queen's We are the champions at full blast.

Den Beste also articulates a latent but contradictory trend within American public opinion: that for America to take any ally seriously, they need to increase drastically their defense budgets but at the same time the Americans don't want to provoke resurgent European 'militarism.' It's as if the Americans are ambivalent. They want the European to adopt a more martial attitude towards their own defense but not enough to challenge American military might. The allies are somewhat fed up I do think the Europeans (and Canadians) should increase their budgets if only because it's in their interest; if the allies want to influence American foreign policy at best; at worse, use their strong militaries as leverage to compel the American administration to heed Allied interest in certain international matters

L'obsession anti-américaine

Le livre est fort intéerssant. Comme revel lui-même motive que ceci est une grande mise-à-jour de son Ni Marx ni Jésus. Pour l'instant je ne dispute pas ses analyses mais je ne lis qu'un quart. Je serai fort curieux à lire ses propos envers les défauts des Américains et du pays.

Blogging will be rather light today

Busy busy and a totally hectic week will do that. I'll try to blog during the weekend.

Homeland: or why having a Romance language is handy

Bill Allison has posted an amusing article of how some Americans bristle at the word:homeland. It seems that the word is 'unAmerican' and gives chills due to the police state connatations. Once again, as a Canadian I get to gloat over the Americans for their unilingualism and as well as the bloggers of the Anglosphere persuasion. In French and the other Romance languages, the word homeland translates more or less extacly as patrie/patria. Consequently, in French, you'd have the new Ministère de la défense de la patrie or DEFENSEPAT for the fancy pants acronym.

Patrie resonates with the wholesome love of place and country. I laughed quite loud when Peggy frets about the Teutonic sounding name of homeland. Errr Peggy, English at its base is a Germanic language. Let's face it, the Norman invasion was a blessing as it made softened a harsh sounding laanguage, introduced a pletora of new vocabulary and made English more comprehensible than it otherwise would've been. I can't fathom the influence or reach of the language if William the Conqueror had failed. Indeed English is very fortunate to have doublets that no other European language has. Of course the downside are the incorporation of 2 nasal sounds (gn and ng which causes havoc with Romance language speakers. As kids, my brothers and me had a hell of a time distinguishing signal from single),unreformed orthography that aggravates dyslexia and the inability for ordinary people to read the origins of their literature without specialized classes or translations.

Maybe because I've had to study English as a second language, but home has always resonated as a word for a warm, intimate place for me. I point out to my students that home is also the old locative case for house- at home; in the home; for the home. So, I somewhat surprised by the Americans' discomfort on the word homeland. I think it captures the emotion, sober appreciation, pride that that equivalent Romance word patrie/patria conveys.

If the Americans are still unconvinced;take a look Tolkien's studies and novels, and shamelssly plagirize them. Though I wouldn't recommend shire as the word doesn't quite convey America's complexity and diversity.

Sociological study of Saudi Life

Arabnews has published this interesting study and expertly intepreted by none other than the Editor in chief John Bradely (no laughing in the back of the class!) Basically, it,s pretty standard,boring stuff, until the section on parental authourity. It seems that there's a growing generational clash between dad and kids. Dads can't quite understand why their kids want to imitate Western ways (well gee maybe because the patriarchial nature of the dad's authourity highlights a rigid or inflexible authourity) More importantly, dads aren't home becaue 40% would rather spend their time with friends than with their families.

Again I suspect that the rigid family structure as well as the confusion between fathering as childrearing turns off Saudi men. Even more interesting, is the youth's complaints that there parents aren't around and so are being supervised by maids and drivers. More worrisome to the Saudi perspective is that the maids who aren't Arab or Moslem impede (in the anthropological understanding of the word) the transmission of the language, culture and religious values.
I interprete those finding 2 ways:
1) There's an increase of parental abdication of their educative and nurturing roles. The dad's case is clearly borne out by the study as noted above. What's surprising is the mom's diminished role. What new opportunity have (suddenly??) arisen within Saudi society that allows mothers to choose to spend more time away from home? If no new opportunities have arisen, are the mothers engaged in some illicit social activities? (no I don't mean having affairs but the women ostensibly go to have tea with friends but that's a cover to engage in lingerie showings or learning to drive a car in some isolated place)
2) That the supervision by non-Arab/non-Moslem domestic employees could present an opportunity to make the Saudi youth to become less inward and more responsive to the outside world. If the kids are exposed to such people at an early age, the former will less likely view non-Moslems in derogatory or stereotypical fashion and respect them.

One last tidbit that's also interesting: some 39% of Saudi women claim they know how to drive. Obviously, they either learnt it while abroad or surreptiously within Saudi Arabia. I'm sure the bloggers will mine this study and uncover even more interesting societal tendencies. I can't wait

L'obsession anti-américane: je l'ai!

Je viens d'achéter le boquin ultérieur de Revel; je donnerai mon avis dès que je le termine. Je pense sérieusement à en donner dans les deux langues.

Arabnews on Michel Houellbeque

Arabnews comments on l'affaire Hoellbeque I agree with Taheri that there was no need to take the French authour to court for racism- Islam is a relgion not a race- I flatly diagree with Taheri that Moslem aren't intolerant bigots opposed to free speech.

You are.

Hopefully my disdain will galvinize you to refute my skepticism but I doubt it very much.
Let's just review what happened between last week and this one. The New Brownshirt thugs rioted and prevented Netanhahyu from discoursing. This week, a Jewish student was beaten up because he took down a poster. Yesterday, 4 gunmen in Pakistan, tie up 6 Christian workers in their office and then execute them with shots to the head. On Monday, a number of gunman go to a Hindu temple and gun down and bomb with grenades 30 people including women and children.

It seems to me that at present the Moselms are intolerant bigots who need to exterminate non-Moslems or those who oppose them. I look around and I simply don't hear any moderate Moslem denoucing the evil conduct adopted by despiciable correlgionists. On the contary, I view the silence as tacit approval.
Contrary then to Taheri's assertion, it appears that Islam does need the protection of the French judicial system and bombastic fatwas because Moslems have no tradition of apologetics. Nor do I really see Islam developing such a tradition because its logic as being the Final, Complete and Perfect Revelation foretalls such an enterprise.
With respect to the claim that Islamic civilization tolerated dissension; perhaps, but that tolerance was never generalized to the entire population under Islamic rule. The dhimmi couldn't go to the Caliph and denounce their second class status; women didn't found poltical organizations to lobby for a more active role in public life. Ismalis never debated the Shi'as and and Sunni at the universities or mosques.

So once again, moderate Moslems by their ommissions are regarded with suspicion with respect to their committment to the open society. How unfortunate.

Jews and Western languages: a correction

Stephan Schwartz in a heated argument with the LGF commentators argued that the Jews never used western languages in their theological writings until the 19th century.Something in the back of my head buzzed because it didn't sound correct. So I went off to Google and typed in the words: aljamia+llenua+jueues and I got thisresult (in Catalan) Aljamia is basically a Romance language- in this case Catalan which would evolve into the Valencian dialect- written in Arabic script. Within the Romance population of Catalunya, there were 2 groups:the muladites who were Islamized and the mossarabs who didn't (and later become the Valencians) Within the latter group were Jews; so Schwartz is mistaken when he claims that Jews never .
Of course, my affirmations are conditional as to what Prof H.D. Miller has to say on the subject as his speciality happens to be on the mossarabs (hey if you're gonna be fisked, why not have the best do it?) However, I'm confident that I'm correct.

L'analphabétisme au Québec

Un potrait fascinant maisdéprimant 1 million de Québécois- 1 sur 5- sont analphabète. Ce chiffre expose des énormes conséquences non seulement au niveau de société mais aussi banale que comprehend combien de pilules à prendre dans un temps détérminé. Le rapport de l'OCDE cité dans l'article est un peu dramatique.On ne doit pas non plus exagarer non plus l'impact de l'analphabétisme envers la démocratie car les greques anciens qui ont été citoyens, la majorité auraient été analphabètes selon la définition donnée dans l'article, mais cet handicap ne a les pas empêché de bâtir une civilization donce nous sommes les hértiers.

Ce que je réproche de cette article c'est le fétitchisme de la lecture. Les statistiques que Choiunard cite: 30% de la population québécois fréquent des bibliothèques et 43% des adultes affirment de ne pas lire ou très peu ne surprend guère.
Ces chiffres sont sembables à ceux qu'on trouvent dans des sondages des lecteurs/taux de lectures d'espagnols, portuguais, catalans et italiens. C'est à dire qu'il y a un facteur culturel que les analystes ne prennent pas en compte ou ne se posent mais pas lorqu'ils confecctionnes leurs sondages ou études.

Je suis un biliophile passionné mais je réconnais que la socialisation plutôt orale- ou plus précisement la culture du café-terrasse n'est pas irrationnelle ou mauvaise en soi par rapport à la culture livresque. J'inviterai aux lectures de consulter les livres de Glenn Caudill Dealy:The Public Man et The Latin Americans. Il rappelle que les populations de la Mediterranée/sociétés catholiques sont les héritères de l'heritage du monde classique qui a été une civilization avec une culture dirgiée vers la place publique;donc la lecture, qui est un activité tranquille et privée, s'accord une deuxième place en comparision avec le rhétorique et autres activités culturelles publiques comme le théâtre, les débats, les discours et ainsi de suite.

On ne doit pas oublier que pendant la Siècle des Lumières, la reforme de la langue française a été amenée par des salons présidés par des femmes. Les salon ont été des rancontre sociales qui permettait les invités de converser, discuter, lire en public des ébauches d'un écrit ou même polémiciser avec des rivaux dans la même salle. Voyez que les salon n'ont pas été comme des bibliothèques monestaire dont la silence obligatoire régnait. pour y permettre la contemplation serene

L'analphabétisme c'est un problème sérieux sans des solutions faciles mais fétischiser la lecture en exclusivité d'autres activités d'apprentissage non plus.

Corsairs, Pirates and the Phillipines

When Bill recounted his enjoyment with the Marlyland Renaissance fair and pointed out that pirates didn't quite exist, I wrote to him, pointing that piracy was a real problem until the early 19th century. Pirates in the Mediterranean were corsairs; however they also had an official status and their role was codified in the medieval/early modern laws of war. Basically, a corsair would buy a contract from the king or the republic to raid and plunder the enemy's merchant shipping. In any case, Bill has published my clarification so I won't belabour the point.

Orrin Judd wrote a critique about Krugman and I misunderstood him when he said that when America took over the Phillipines, the latter was a Christian country. I protested to Orrin but when he wrote back, it was clear he knew that the Phillipines was a Christian country; it's just that thanks to American imperialism, the island stayed Christian. I have some rather strong opinions about the Spanish-American War but they're irrelevant to the present issue at hand. Thanks to Orrin for his quick clarification and bringing to my attention my misunderstanding. You see we bloggers quickly squelch tempests in teapots before they begin.


Gloating over France

I pointed out to Charles Johnson that all that French bashing by the bloggers has come back to embarass them. It seems that Germany, for now, is more gratuitiously anti-American than the French. I'm gloating because while the French elite is largely anti-American; the ordinary French aren't. Further Chirac has shown much more astuteness in advancing French national interest in comparasion to Schroeder has for Germany. The French understand that if the Americans and British will invade Iraq; might as well help out and then get a seat at the table. Let's not forget that during the 80s until the Gulf war, France was Iraq's second largest trading partner and there's probably a strong francophilism among the upper and middle classes. So I suspect that the French want to play up teh that francophilism to secure new contracts for oil and other trade as well as to gravitate Iraq towards the Francophonie as much as possible. Who knows? Perhaps the synergy between the Anglopshere and the Francophonie could have the same beneficial effects for Iraq as Quebec. Perhaps not. At least, Iraq would open up, if ever there's a post Saddam regime, to the world once again and hopefully become a model for other Mideast states.

Les Vert et Fischer: les 'faiseur de rois'

Maitre de jeu c'est un peu antiscéptique et imprécis pour décrir le rôle que Fischer et les Verts joueront dans la coalition du gouvernment. Donc, j'ai récorru à l'anglicisme. Compte tenu que Fischer continuera comme Ministre d'affaires extérieures, on demanderont comment il va en faire pour réparer les rélations avec les Américains. Ulcéré c'est une façon diplomatique de constater la réaction de l'Administration américaine. En tout cas, on ne pourra pas se plaindre que la politique allémande sera ennuyeuse.

New kitchen

Not quite. My parents are having the kitchen redone so I helped out. After 30 years or so, I guess it's OK to change the kitchen. Sure will be different according to the 3D drawings but very nice. I look forward to seeing the new kitchen in real life.

Shoerder: homme d'état?

Excuse-moi si vous vomissiez en lisant cette pérle du Monde.On conclut que cet article nous dit plus evers Le Monde que Shoerder, En tout cas, je ne vois pas comment un politicien qui a souscrit à un anti-américanisme le plus crasse et une pacifisme le plus naisieux imaginable pour ganger à tout prix des éléctions. Cet homme non seulement provoqué une crise gratuite avec les États-Unis, mais a aliené ses collègues au sien de l'Union. Ni ces pays-là ne se sont pas opposés à une intervention militaire si l'ONU l'autorisât.
Je déplore cet article car le journaliste a décidé de lui dedédier un article plus propice chez les revues de coeur qu'un journal sérieux qui doit à ses lecteurs une analyse d'envégure qui décortique les conséquences de cette victoire absoluemment serrée. Mais non c'est un article sychophantique qui n'avance en rien.

Marreucos anula un cumbre

Me preguinataba cuando Marreeucos se presentaría de nuevos en las notíticias EL paíis ha anulado un cumbre acusandado el Gobierno español que violó el espacio aereo marroquí con una Cessana de la Fuerzas areas. Lo veo como un excusa petulente de no reunirse en negociaciones para reabrir las relaciones bilaterales que ha sido suspendidas desde el octubre 2001. Debe haber conflictos al seno del corte marroquí sobre sí o no de resestablecer las relaciones entre ambos paises. Por ahora, se puede concluir que la facción que no le interesa a normalizar relaciones han ganado... por ahora. Es una sitauación a echar un vistazo de vez en cuanto para ver adónde va.

Why the longbow ceased to be an effective weapon

Den Beste forays once again into military history. The theme is on the demise of the longbow as a military weapon He's not totally wrong but neither is he completely accurate. The principal reason why the longbow declined as a military weapon is because it requires highly specialized training at an early age. Consequently, longbowman are a scare, expensive resource and not one that generals want to lose through death or casualities. They're irreplacable. By contrast, crossbows are relatively easy weapons to produce, it doesn't require extensive training and anyone can quickly learn how to fire and reload it. Further the crossbow fits rather well the Western way of war to give cheap easy to use weapons in the hands of just about anyone with a minimal amount of training. Crossbows were so effective that the Fourth Lateran Council tried to ban them in war. Cynically, one could argue that the knights resented being taken out by some pimply faced kid or beerbellyed peasant;though the Church had no theological qualm about using crossbows against Moselms.
I flatly disagree with Den Beste that there were millions of rounds fired during the battles of the Napoleonic wars. The rate of fire was simply too slow and there weren't the huge number of troops then as there are today. I might agree with him that since the 1860s, millions of rounds were fired in single engagements between opposing armies. There's no neeed to belabour the point with the World wars or the subsequent postwar conflicts.

Learning Welsh: a nice tribute to the Anglosphere

Digging through the libertarian blog Samizdata I come across this wonderful article It certainly assuages my tendency to be very worried about the Anglopshere's interest in foreign languages (though to be accurate I don't consider Welsh to be anymore foreign to Britian than Gallego is to Spain) The desire by Anglophone Brits to learn Welsh with gusto is a great tribute to the Anglopshere's curiosity and desire to enrich themselves culturally from others. In fact, I'm also rather jealous, becaue I wish that the Spanish and French had the same attitude with their regional/minority languages instead of denigrating them as patois and whatever insult comes to mind.
I hope that other regions and countries are inspired to imitate the Brits learning Welsh.

The German election results: my take

I don't pretend to offer any blazing insights about Schroeder's victory. However, I diagree with Andrew Sullivan that the very narrow electoral victory will compel Shroeder to moderate his stance. In fact, he'll interprete the electoral results as a vindication of his demogogic anti-Americanism and will become even more insufferable as a result. I expect some very serious tensions with the other European leaders let alone the American administration.
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