Archive for the ‘languages’ Category

Nowadays, in Europe we can still sometimes observe the strong opposition between the City and the provinces, or the city and the countryside, or the Capital and other cities. This opposition often has the form of ridiculous snobbish posturing and frankly laughable claims about the “true” city-dweller (hint: one’s ancestors would have had to be city-dwellers since at least 4 generations), often the word “bourgeoisie” is used as it is something positive (hint: it is not).

Almost 350 years ago on another continent, the absurd situation was also noticed by Ihara Saikaku:

So, this was the capital. People in Kyoto had eyes and noses like everyone else it seemed, and even though this group hailed from Osaka their arms and legs were attached in much the same way.

However, Saikaku failed to make the last step and break the vicious circle of bourgeois hate:

As he crossed the crmbling bridge at Shijou, he was spotted by a most unusual-looking man who could not have been more unmistakably from the north country if he had worna sign around his neck announcing the fact.

Well, that might have well been 350 years ago, but what’s the excuse in 2010?

(Ihara Saikaku, The Great Mirror of Male Love, translated and with introduction by Paul Gordon Schalow)


Once you have a dirty mind, apparently you just can’t stop making this sort of connections:


(Translation: Telescope

so boastful

but then it retracts again(1))

Apparently, for some pornographers, telescopes were very evocative of penises.


(Translation: The place we’re heading to now

is the where the telescopes are

on the Yushima hill(1))

Apparently, other pornographers were clever enough to notice that the Yushima hill had plenty of telescopes-telescopes and male prostitutes with their telescopes, and promptly exploited the bad (oh Cthulhu, so bad) pun in poetry.

Earth, it’s such an amazing place to live.

Even without a telescope (to look at the stars)

ETA: Poems quoted in: Screech, Timon, Sex and the Floating World.

(1) This is my own translation, which means: 1) it’s very loose, 2) the innuendo is translated without regard for the literal meaning 3) also, I fail as a translator and human being, and also should never touch any poetry ever with my filthy little fingers that are connected to a mind that hates poetry and defaults to prose immediately, and woe. Woe!

Guise, I ‘m a generally irritable and mercurial person. However, I try to be fair (not really) and don’t make scenes when people disagree with me although I’m obviously totally right all the time (actually, it’s just laziness). Nevertheless, there are several pet-peeves and other things that will get your comment deleted wherever I can delete things:

1) Leaving a racist comment without your real name/recognizable and characteristic internet alias (and I mean you, white supremacist scumbagshit from this post. In fact, I haven’t deleted your comment, but rather sent it to the Comment Limbo, so if you’re reading this and wanna come back and sign it with your real name this time I’m totally gonna publish it, darling. Send me your FB profile so I can verify.

By which I mean, racist shitfaced fuckwads like you should be shamed publicly)

2) Ruining my mood

3) Insisting that certain languages/dialects are just better than others. In fact, my stance on this issue has been briefly summed up here and is absolutely non-negotiable.

4) Using the word “teabonics”

So if you think you’d like your local old media thingy to publish something like that:

British English More Natural, Scientists Say

A recent survey analysis carried out by a team of evolutionary psychologists at LSE suggests that British English might be more intuitive and more natural, and thus easier for human brains to learn. “It’s very likely that British English, a dialect of English that has been around for a very long time,” so says the team leader Hitoshi Kanazawa, “and yet survived until today, and is also used internationally and widely considered to be very easy to learn did not just survive by accident. We think that English, especially its British dialect, might be the language that is actually closest to the language used by our savannah ancestors thousands of years ago”.

90% of the responders of the LSE survey claimed that British English is the easiest language they have ever learned, with over 60% claiming it to be the only language they can speak fluently. “British English” was most frequently associated with such adjectives as “good”, “nice”, “pleasant”, “natural”, “poetic”, “educated”, and “high-brow”. The language most frequently associated with concepts such as “strange” and “uncivilised” was Polish, while the one responders classified as most “foreign” was Urdu.

(“English Dialects and Prototypicality”, Evolutionary Psycholinguistics 17/2011, Hitoshi Kanazawa, Stanley Binker, Richard J. Herrnstier. The survey was conducted on 900 white male British undergraduates)

(hurr hurr, sauce)

(ETA: this thing above about a survey is a parody of course *facepalm* I thought it was obvious, but yeah, it is eerily evocative of some evo-psy research, hurr hurr, so I get that it’s somehow *almost* like the real thing, but nonetheless, a parody. Not real. Don’t haaaaaaaaaaaaate)

you can as well save yourself the trouble and not comment at all, because I’m gonna be, like, a Cyberman to your London!civilian!person, and DELETE! everything and also seriously, I feel really energetic today, by which I mean, trigger-happy.


The dialect of English I was taught, when I was a very tiny Sendai, by a series of mostly interchangeable mostly middle-aged ladies with perfect RP (or a perfect imitation thereof) was invariably the British one.

This left a mark: I’d normally say torch, lift, football, pavement, trousers, lorry, rubbers, bonnet, and also tend to spell colour with an extra “u”. Hopefully, though, my pronunciation is not a perfect imitation of RP: one must always strive to surpass one’s teachers.

Once, an American prof from the American Lit department and I were waiting for the lift in Sendai, but he apparently felt the necessity of ascertaining my intentions towards the lift(1), because he asked

“Are you standing in the line?”

It took me 90 seconds of helpless blinking to establish that he meant  “queue”.

There are, however, exceptions:

1) A trunk is a trunk. “Boot” is a shoe.

2) The differences between stuff like “cake”, “cookie”, “biscuit” etc, are completely elusive to me. It is my utmost conviction that there should be less words for food. In fact, a good, thrifty, efficient language could just get away with bare necessities, like:

edible food, poisonous food, spicy food, coffee

I could seriously do without the rest.

3) When I was tiny, I read a book about teddy bears or something. An important part of the plot was one of the bears trying a jumper on. Unfortunately, the idea that wearing a jumper is something a bear from a children’s book would do persisted, and I switch between “sweater” and “jumper”, but probably say “sweater” most of the time.

4) “Plimsoll” is a word whose ridiculousness is only equal to that of “kaloryfer” and “palimpsest”. DNW.

The biggest hangup, of course, was getting over the instant visualisation of a guy in pants-pants, instead of a guy in trousers, when someone says “guy in pants”, which is something one has to do when one wants to stay sane on teh internets, which are teeming with AmE dialect speakers.

So there.

Any words (in any language, any dialect) you’ve ever had problems with?

(1) 責任を取りましたwwwww。

I was going to sleep, but I’m still all smug about having written 25 pages today. 25 pages, guys(1).

Anyway, somewhere between page 16 and page 16 1/2 I took a break and read “Itineraries and travellers in the Middle Assyrian Period” by Betina Faist, from SAAB XV/2006, where I found the following edifying(2) quotes.

1) Having summed up various peculiarities of travel during the MA (Middle Assyrian) period, BF states:

“Finally, a brief mention is owed to aspects unattested so far. In the religious realm, we do not have any indications referring to pilgrimages to the important shrines.”

Tsk, tsk, Betina. Something obvious and self-evident in your culture doesn’t have to be obvious, self-evident, expected or even present at all in others. Take Introduction to Anthropology or something, plz.

2) Trying to tie-up things cutely — something I’m absolutely in favour of — Betina(3) quotes a 1755 letter of a Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, to his sister, Wilhelmine, who was very enthusiastic about her journey to Italy:

“…I have a very high regard of the beauty of Italy, her wonderful climate, her monuments, her past greatness as well as her modern buildings. …But I also believe the Italians to be great braggarts; they exaggerate the beauty and the value of their paintings, their statues, and a thousand things more. Everything is uno spavento, una maraviglia; big words that do not stir my ear more than would the noise of a turnspit [a kind of dog -Sendai]. …I believe if I saw Italy I should not always agree with the ciceroni, which would console me for my fatherland’s barrenness; otherwise, the comparison would be too humiliating for poor Germany…”

Aww, poor Germany.

(Done commiserating yet? Hurr hurr)

Anyway, what we have here is a typically occidental assumption that people actually mean what they say. The assumption is naturally based on the firm yet quaint conviction that people always do what they should do.

(Incidentally, this conviction also allows us to date the letter as having been written sometime before the French Revolution derp)

Anyway, it is perhaps useful to suggest to puzzled Frederick a better approach to understanding the confusingly enthusiastic Italian guides. Or, even, two approaches:

A) The guides are lying. They don’t in fact think that the Italian landscape is anything like anything they imagine a wonder to be; but they have to sell it somehow, hence the unscrupulous use of more florid turn of phrase. They do not in fact intend to communicate their honest opinion about anything at all, but rather say what they think a customer might want to hear.

B) From a pragmatic standpoint, calling something “a wonder” might mean much less to a native speaker of Italian than it would mean to a native speaker of German.

Both approaches would need testing, of  course.

This is all nerd jokes and useless pedantry, as  Frederick the Great’s couldn’t have possibly known anything about the 20th century developments in linguistics.

Betina, however, could have. Alas, directly following the Frederick the Great quote:

“Sources of that nature, relevant to the cultural aspect of travel, are completely absent from our material. Nevertheless, I can imagine Tukulti-Ninurta I reclined (sic) on his throne and musing in a similar way after having received the Egyptian delegation.”

Tsk, tsk, Betina. I recommend taking Introduction to Modern Linguistics.

Also: ah, the subtle difference between absolutism and enlightened absolutism hurr hurr de hurr(5).

Nonetheless, it was a very interesting read, not only because I immediately visualised Tukulti-Ninurta musing about his Vaterland.

Aw, it’s 3 am already, I can sleep n_n

(1) There are no words in any language I know for how smug I am. The smugness; it fills my entire room, oozes through windows, and gently slinks down onto the street; then rushes to left – towards the cathedral – or right – towards the Rhine, but then it gets worse still, but I can’t see anything, once it disappears behind the corner.

No words, srsly.

(2) I feel more edified than the cathedral today.

And the big one in Mainz, too.

(3) I’m terribly sorry (not), but the name “Betina” makes my wretched black little heart warm and gives me fuzzy feelings of malicious glee. I can’t not use the name. It is imperative that I use the name.

Betina, Betina, Betina~~~~~~~

I will not be stopped.

(5) For those of you who might be confused, a journey:

– in enlightened absolutism means going abroad and making a couple of sketches, preferably of ruins,

– in Tukulti-Ninurta’s “absolutism” would mean going abroad with an army and making a couple of conquests, preferably leaving behind only ruins.

(I wanted to something completely different, but lost the book with visual aids. Can you believe it?)

Bishop of Homoco, or, in the correct Japanese transcription Honmoku, is the assumed name of possibly Hoffman Atkinson (at least according to S. Kaiser; different theories, however, do exist), who in 1879 published the second edition of the non-existent first edition of Exercises in the Yokohama Dialect. The whole book might have started out as a joke; however,  it soon took on a life of its own, occasionally popping up on internet forums to this day, mostly when the silly Asians need to be made fun of:

The reason it’s so important is that it contains the earliest examples of the “Chinese” pidgin, written in a crappy English transcription, such as:

“Am buy worry arimas?” (<— Anbai warui arimasu? <– Are you be ill?)


Cocoanuts arimas” (<— Kokonotsu arimasu <— It’s be nine)

What a joker. NUH-HUH.

(As a matter of fact, I strongly dislike the sort of HURR DURR humour where you use “foreign” sounding absurd and/or offensive phrases to make fun of a language they’re supposed to imitate. Pfff.

Is there a name for that sort of thing? There might be, and I prefer to label things I prefer to avoid)

ETA: You can read the entire book here.  The formatting seems to be pretty bizarre, though.

(Scan ganked from Baacharu nihongo. Yakuwarigo no nazo by Satoshi Kinsui)

Nice things, as I said, which means,  I lazily use other person’s explanation instead of doing it myself ^^J


And now, transliteration + translation:

It’s a very easy text, though!

(ed. Daniels, Bright, The World’s Writing Systems)

1. If at 14 you believe you’re ready to have children, you are of course wrong.

However, if ten or even twenty years later you persist in your delusion  belief  that you were ready to have children at 14? You are totes not ready to have children still.

Hilary Mantel thinks you should be popping out children at 14, which is, like, absolutely not influenced by her being infertile and unhappy about it. Oh, I do realise it must be a terrible tragedy for her, but for some people? Getting pregnant at the age 14 is, too.

(Pity she’s such a douche, her books seem like something I could pick up when my brain needs several days in a semi-enjoyable stand-by mode)


2. How (Not) to Write About Africa. (Un?)surprisingly some of those boring, offensive, ridiculous, dehumanizing tropes still persist. Also, an audiovisual aid for those less willing to read (there’re no Morning Musume in there, I promise!):


3. NHK website about hikikomori (wiki on hikikomori). I just want to say, at first I snickered at the irony of NHK of all places having a website about hikikomori stuff, then I got sucked in and spent about two hours reading through the FAQ (STATISTICS!!!!!!!!11!1!!).

It’s in Japanese, though.


4. Shakesville post about rape culture. I just want to say, I’m sooooooo happy I don’t have to write it.


5. How to sell your snake oil thing, or any kind of woo, really. Should be read together with any of Orac’s excellent posts about woomeisters always blaming the patient.


6. I’ll freely and nonchalantly admit I only discovered it about a week ago: English without non-Germanic words, aka Uncleftish Beholding. I will also admit that my brain tells me to visualise “uncleftish” every time I hear/see the (non) word.

Suffering ensues.


7. An interesting article about the cancer that is killing vampire fiction like you could kill the cancer that is vampire fiction with a different cancer hurr durr Twilight and cultural appropriation. What it lacks is a mention of the problematic portrayal of Quileute in the books (ahahahahaha, BOOKS AHAHAHAHA) in the first place, but this can be easily found with the help of Google and some resourceful typing.


8. The crazy terrorist anti-tax guy who crashed into an IRS office is being white-washed by his daughter thus:

Asked whether she considered her father a hero, Stack’s adult daughter, Samantha Dawn Bell, said during a telephone interview broadcast Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “Yes. Because now maybe people will listen.” But she stressed that his actions were “inappropriate.”

The catch: the daughter lives in Norway. NORWAY! One would think a greedy sociopath tax protester could find a better place to live than Norway:

– The basic tax rate is 28 % of the net income. The social security contribution is 7,8 % of the gross income. Therefore, the total tax rate rarely exceeds 36 %. However, on gross income exceeding NOK 456.400 (relevant as of salary grade 60) a surtax (toppskatt) of 9 % is levied. On gross income exceeding NOK 741.700 (relevant as of salary grade 82) a surtax of 12 % is levied. (source)


(Btw, the income tax is not all the tax that an individual has to pay in Norway. There’s also the so-called wealth tax, so in many cases you’d have to pay much moar)

(Mmmm, taxes  <3)


9. I discovered Vox Day(1), the most odious person and at the same time the most pretentious cretin on the internets. Seriously. I expect to have time to make fun of him properly soon.


In other news, I’ve been hearing rumours about late (as in, in June) spring in Poland this year. I might have to reconsider my spring break plans.

Also, wisdom tooth is a whore.

(1) Bad pun is  bad, especially as “dei” is totes not pronounced like that.