Language

Isn’t language lovely?

Or possibly, the rhetorical effects of word choices?

argued in favor of laws that require transgender people to undergo sterilization before legally changing their gender

This “sterilization” is also known as “full transition to correct gender” which is an operation that you should be paying for, haters. To argue otherwise is to deny trans people lifesaving medical treatment.

Not enough I say!

“There are over 3,000 pejorative words for ‘woman’.”

Still a good decision all the same:

Derogatory terms for women, such as “bint” and “bitch”, will remain in the Oxford Dictionary of English because to remove them would amount to censorship, the publisher has said.

After all, where are we going to learn the 3,000 when we need them if not in the dictionary?

Sigh

Royal protection is provided by Scotland Yard’s SO14. Simon Morgan was a personal protection officer for several royals, including Prince Harry, from 2007 to 2013. Harry would have come to know his police protection officers, Morgan said, as some had been with him for years and were integrated into his life. “It is a trusted role, you build up a rapport with your principle. You can understand how much anxiety having your protection detail taken away can cause,” he said.

For years I’ve whinged – gently it must be said – about the way that Americans so often get the distinction between principal and principle wrong. Apparently this is another foreign invasion into the language which we must up with put.

A language question

So, the laddie in the cornershop speaks Gurkhali. In conversation he implied that, of course, he also spoke Hindi. It’s the “of course” bit.

So, these varied Asian languages, how far apart are they? Obviously, Burmese is a different language group, Tibetan, Chinese etc etc. But Hindi, Gurkahli, Bengali…..are they just a bit more than dialects as with, say, Florentine and Milanese? More apart like Italian and Portuguese?

I know they’re not different language groups, like Basque and Bulgarian.

But how far apart are they? More a matter of accent and vocab or entirely different?

My test on this would be can you speak the one, slowly and clearly, but be largely understood by a speaker of another? Obviously, marked as some foreign git but understood?

They’re idiots as well as stupid

Academics at an Australian university, it was reported this week, not only endorse the term “chestfeeding” – they recommend alternatives to “mother” and “father”, too. The proposals appear in Australia National University’s Gender Institute Handbook. Instead of “mother”, the authors suggest “gestational parent” – and instead of “father”, they suggest “non-birthing parent”.

Their joy at trying to change the words means they’ve missed the obvious point. That the distinction between “gestational parent” and “non-birthing parent” is the same distinction as between mother and fact – indeed, as between male and female.

Which doesn’t achieve what they’re hoping to achieve, does it?

There is a point here

This is an argument about three words: “Regardless of intent.” Should intent be the only thing that counts in judgment? Obviously not. Can people do painful, harmful, stupid or objectionable things regardless of intent? Obviously.

Do any of us want to live in a world, or work in a field, where intent is categorically ruled out as a mitigating factor? I hope not.

The difference between mens rea and strict liability offence, no?

No wonder The Times has never previously been shy about citing racial slurs in order to explain a point. Here is a famous quote by the late Republican strategist Lee Atwater that has appeared at least seven times in The Times, most recently in 2019, precisely because it powerfully illuminates the mindset of a crucial political player.

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, ‘forced busing,’ ‘states’ rights’ and all that stuff.”

Is this now supposed to be a scandal? Would the ugliness of Atwater’s meaning have been equally clearer by writing “n—, n—, n—”? A journalism that turns words into totems — and totems into fears — is an impediment to clear thinking and proper understanding.

Quite so. Why you’ve done the thing, why you’ve said it, does rather matter.

This, by the way, is from the column the New York Times refused to print….

The persistence of rhyming slang

For a little piece elsewhere I needed to use the built in image finder to add an, umm, image.

So, I looked for “septic tank” as it concerned a column by India Knight.

It started showing piccies of Shermans. Maybe Grants.

Which I think is nice…….

Racism at the New York Times!

After the excursion ended, according to multiple parents of students on the trip who spoke with The Daily Beast along with documents shared with the Times and reviewed by the Beast, many participants relayed a series of troubling accusations to the paper: McNeil repeatedly made racist and sexist remarks throughout the trip including, according to two complaints, using the “n-word.”

Hmm, what did he say?

“I would change the journalist. He was a racist,” a third person wrote. “He used the ‘N’ word, said horrible things about black teenagers, and said white supremacy doesn’t exist.”

“He wasn’t respectful during some of the traditional ceremonies we attended with indigenous healers/shamans,” yet another wrote.

Gosh.

We found he had used bad judgment by repeating a racist slur in the context of a conversation about racist language.

So, to say that “White folks can’t use the word nigger but black folks can because it’s a reclamation of the slur” is in itself racist because it’s a white folk using the world that a white folk cannot use. In fact, by using the word in that sense and context here I have just been racist.

At which point we really do need to proffer that Anglo Saxon Wave a little more, don’t we?

It’s an interesting assumption, isn’t it?

Biden Seeks to Define His Presidency by an Early Emphasis on Equity
Only two presidents before him have used their first weeks in office to push for equality with the same force, according to one historian.

That is assuming that equality and equity are the same thing. That “the same” is “fair”. They are not, in fact, synonyms but we’ve a world in which they increasingly are.

Well yes…..

One of the beauties of conversing in Italian with Italians is that they rarely chide you for errors – both sides somehow manage to make themselves understood.

Most Italians don’t actually speak Italian as their first language. What we all – and they all – call Italian is actually Florentine Italian. What most grow up speaking is the Romance language of their region. Or even smaller areas than a region.

It can get very specific too. Pozzuoli speaks something closer to Catalan, rather unlike the Neopolitan of only 10 miles away. The “dialetti” can be much further apart than, say, A Jethro Cornish and Scouse or Geordie. There are villages in Sicily that still speak something closer to Provencal than anything else. And that’s before we get to the little islands of Albanian up in the hills….

For the vast majority Italian itself is actually a second language.

Collective nouns

What fun:

There were great celebrations as the first giraffe, Asiwa, was floated across Lake Baringo, western Kenya, to a sanctuary on the mainland

She had been cut off from the rest of her tower for months

The one for giraffes is “a tower”. You could probably have guessed that but I’d not heard it before.

Wasn’t there a Frenchman who…..

Phrasebooks have long spared English blushes abroad, allowing modern tourists to tentatively attempt the local language in exotic locations.

But in 19th century Britain it was rain-swept Wales which attracted intrepid travellers, and their needs were far removed from simply settling the bill or ordering a taxi.

A 180-year-old phrasebook telling early tourists how to address Welsh “peasants” has been unearthed by archivists, and reveals the demands of Victorian visitors.

The 1838 volume The Welsh Interpreter was written for those who “wish to make themselves understood by the peasantry during their rambles through Wales”.

Sadly there’s nothing really fun in it – like so where do you keep the special sheep?

Unlike “My postillion has been struck by lightning” which has a certain fame as being most fun. I may well have garbled bits of this but I think it was an Anglo Portuguese dictionary/book of phrases for the traveller. Which was done by a Frenchie who spoke neither language. He took the Luso-Frog dictionary, the Frog-real language one and worked from end to end. Leading to such phrases as that about the horse – a postillion being a type of horse I think.

Wondrous typos

I like this:

Peterborough, a cheapo dulling banjos of a place.

The loss of that “e” by our Man on the M4 – via email – just makes the description even better.

Kvetching

Meaning – To yammer on about trivial details – pendantry. Example:

Tabula can be translated as ‘wring board’. So tabula rasa would be a slate to use as a writing board. Maybe the concept ‘tabula rasa’ meant clean slate to someone spoke latin. You’d have to be a latin speaker to know.
It’s a problem with all languages. A series of words may convey a concept. But you can’t necessarily translate those words over into another language & retain the concept. My ex wife would accuse me of coming in in my big shoes. I know what that means in french. I’m damned if I can think of an equivalent phrase in english gives the same concept. Certainly nothing containing either shoes or big. “to walk all over someone” is close.

How language changes

Becciu has denied any wrongdoing. But this did not stop Italians from speculating about his relations with Cecilia Marogna, 39, like him a native of Sardinia. Dubbed a “Mata Hari” in the press, she reportedly introduced herself in the Vatican, inaccurately, as his “niece”.

Upon meeting an actual billionaire a friend of mine was introduced to his niece. The billionaire’s niece that is. Who did seem to be employed more to engage in the activity that produces families rather than was a product of the billionaire’s wider family.

Among Cardinals the meaning is traditionally different, referring to the family produced more directly by the Cardinal in breach of his vows.

So, which of these meanings is, umm, meant here?

Cecilia Marogna denies that she acted behind Rome’s back: “I have a letter from the cardinal authorizing me to travel and have diplomatic relations to help the Church in difficult territory” such as the Middle East, Uganda, Mali or Burkina Faso

Ah, that explains that then. An expert in Ugandan affairs……

They seem to be making this a bit complicated

Scientists at University College London, working in conjunction with colleagues at Yale University in the United States, succeeded in identifying important changes in the part of the brain that deals with speech and language.
Increases in activity in the left frontal lobe, are thought to have developed in order to help humans identify and overcome bias and prejudice when communicating.
It means that people with strong regional or working class accents have a tendency to speak more correctly when in mixed company, while members of the upper classes are more likely to tone down their accents when talking to those from a different background.

The oiks are poshing up and the nobs are poshing down their accents. Which perhaps could be more easily explained by both moving closer to a common language. You know, the point of language being to communicate?

And whatever we call it, RP, BBC or just middle class English does have that merit of being the most widely understandable variation of the language. As someone who has spent much of adult life speaking in calm and clear tones, in English, to Johnny Foreigner, I would insist this is true in fact. I sound a little archaic in English English these days as I’ve not kept up with the last 30 years changes in pronunciation etc. But it’s not uncommon for one or other J. Foreigner to ask why they can understand me in English and not all those other people from the same place. Further, I’ve been asked a few times why can they understand me when I speak to them but not when I speak to my other half, or some English friend?

Because, you know, I’m not doing that code-switching thing maybe?

Perfectly happy with the idea that those mental changes take place as we do the switch, even that the need to do so often enough corresponds with class differences. But balk at the idea that it is because of class that it is done.

Fools

The UK has failed to uphold its treaty obligations to promote the minority languages of Cornish, Irish and Ulster Scots, a council of European ministers has found.

A report by the Council of Europe, a civil and legal rights body, has accused the UK of failing to support indigenous minority languages in schools, the media, public life and in government, despite signing the European charter on regional or minority languages.

Cornish isn’t an indigenous language. Haven’t been any native speakers for generations.