CONJURING MAGIC WORDS – TURNING LATIN TO SORT OF ENGLISH

I WOULD CONJURE MAGIC, BUT …
NO LATIN ALLOWED


I hadn’t thought about it. To be honest, my eyes have seen it. My brain has skimmed over it. Whoosh. Away it went with no thought given to its meaning. I do know what a couple of “Latin as part of English” shortcuts supposedly mean.

“Illegitimi non carborumdum” — which I believed (and lots of other people also believe) translates to: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down,” from the mock-Latin word, illegitimatus, or bastard, and carborundum, an ancient brand of abrasive stone. But apparently, it’s not “real” Latin. Who speaks “real Latin” anyway? Whatever Latin you speak, it ain’t the real deal. Whoever speaks Latin speaks a reconstruction of it based on what we know from old writings. No native speakers hanging around in this century.

But QED? From this morning’s Boston Globe’s Theresa Hanafin, comes this bright light for the day:


The Question of the Day from The Old Farmer’s Almanac is: What does the abbreviation “QED” stand for? It’s Latin — quod erat demonstrandum — and means “that which was to be demonstrated.” It’s often used at the end of math proofs or philosophical treatises where the writer reaches a conclusion. Sort of a “ta-da!” I always thought it stood for “Quick, eat the doughnuts,” which has been very helpful over the years.”


What does this have to do with anything?

Well, since I cannot find any conjurable magic (is that a word?), the closest I’ve got are those little Latin sayings we drop into our English language. When I was first working as a tech writer in the U.S., having been working in Israel as a tech writer for five or six years, I encountered an actual English-language editor. My editors in Israel had been a lovely French woman who had excellent English, but sometimes her editorial decisions were a bit … continental. I had a great Russian guy and some of his editorial decisions were … unique.

This was the first time I got to fight over my words in my native tongue with another New York native.

ARTWORK: Evil Squirrel’s Nest

She was fixated on never using a Latin expression if there was an equivalent English word for the same thing. Should she come upon “etcetera” she would always change it to “and so on.”

“We do not speak Latin in this department,” she would announce. To this day, when I’m editing anyone else’s work — Garry or one of the other writers on our “team” and I see an etcetera looming, I can hear her voice carrying over the television or audiobook:


WE DO NOT SPEAK LATIN IN THIS DEPARTMENT.


I am forced to change it to “and so on” and occasionally, to something more obscure like “moreover.” Can’t use “ad infinitum” either … a sad waste of clever language skills.


Ad infinitum is a Latin phrase meaning “to infinity” or “forevermore”. Description: In context, it usually means “continue forever, without limit” and this can be used to describe a non-terminating process, a non-terminating repeating process, or a set of instructions to be repeated “forever,” among other uses.


It’s amazing how a single determined editor can fix something in your brain forever, even when you have long since passed a point where you need instructions.

Thus if you are doing any conjuring today, please do it without Latin. We don’t speak Latin here.

THE COMPASS

Hebrew works differently than English and the only language very similar to it is — unsurprisingly — Arabic.

Hebrew uses root words and then twists them into various shapes to form adjectives, nouns, verbs, and other word forms that all, in some way take their original meaning from that root.

The word in Hebrew for “compass” means — as it does in English — a device that points you in a direction. But it also means the direction “North” and by mental rhyming, it also means “conscience.”

Because a compass points you north as your consciences points you in the “right direction.”

A logical language.

THE PERFECT CAMERA BAG … I THINK

I was window shopping online. I liked the way this bag looked, so I read its description, hoping to get the dimensions.

Anyone know what this means? Translation, please!


Product Highlights:

This kind of bag is made from pure cotton canvas, texture is soft, strong and durable, carry comfortable. The Lord of the bag is a pocket, the upper used the cotton rope of convergent way, plus a lid, the structure is simple. External vice bags and the ornament of fastener broke the appearance of drudgery, optional but not casually, fashion and brief. It makes the whole bag beautiful and easy, and never lose plain. This kind of bag is very suitable for photography lovers do for short trips, also can be used in the daily travel.


Who is the Lord of the bag? Does he cost extra? What is an external vice bag? The ornament of fastener broke the appearance of drudgery — which sounds like a good thing, but why? And I am glad it is options, yet not casually. Fashion and brief? Is that also transitory?

camera-bagI still don’t know the dimensions, but the price is pretty good. I’m just not sure I want to buy anything that comes with a Lord or external vice bags.

THINKING ABOUT THINKING

I have no doubt my dogs think. They have a short-term version of planning and will work together to accomplish a goal. Like opening a gate — or dismembering a toy. Surely they would hunt together if they had something to hunt. Dogs are, after all, pack animals.

They communicate. We watch them. They sit silently staring into each other’s eyes. Then they get up, together, and go out to bark, or to the kitchen to remind us they need to eat, now please. I suspect they believe we won’t remember to feed them unless they remind us.

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What forms do their thoughts take? They don’t use words. Even though they understand some words if we use them, I doubt that’s how they form ideas. So they must employ their other senses. How much is visual? Do they also think in sound and scent? It’s obvious they know what they want. They can be remarkably clever and creative in getting it … but how can they plan with no words?

Now and again, I try to “think” without words. I always fail. Inevitably, anything in my head comes with narration, conversation, and a lot of subtext.

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Dolphins and whales talk to each other in some version of language, but words used human-style is apparently species-specific. We can teach other creatures to understand and sometimes even use words, but it’s unnatural for them. Only people need words. It’s not only how we communicate, it’s inherent to our understanding of our world. It’s the way we categorize everything, remember anything.

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Ideas and concepts can’t exist without words. Language has the hooks on which we hang everything, real and conceptual. We are the only species that needs a spoken language and the only one that writes. Along with the opposable thumb, it’s how we rule the earth.

If we were to lose our languages, we would probably lose it all. I don’t think thumbs would save us.

SHARING MY WORLD: THIS WEEK IN UXBRIDGE EDITION

News-headline-newspapersWe made the news again! The gypsy moths made it a week ago, but this week … the town water is polluted! So exciting! And here we are, outside of town and we have our own well water. Our water is fine, though who know how much the flushing of the city  tanks is going to affect water pressure all over the area.

Oh, update. They fixed it. So you can drink the water again. Yay.

And now, to the main event:

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2016 WEEK 25


How many languages do you speak?

Define speak. Fluently? I speak English. American English. Regionally northeast U.S.A. with strong overtones of New York and Boston.

I used to speak Hebrew with a grating American accent. The accent was bad enough to make people say “Speak English, please!” I am living proof that being musical and having natural aptitude for languages are not the same skill set.

I still can speak Hebrew a little, but I understand a lot more than I can speak. I also understand a good deal of spoken French (all those years of schooling had some effect, however minimal), but when I try to speak, Hebrew comes out. My language buffers are insufficient and need a serious upgrade.

What are some words that just make you smile? 

Wicked which, in New England, means “great, terrific, fabulous.” Wicked good is about as good as it gets.

wicked definition

If you were the original architect of one existing building, which building would you select?

I think I’d go with the Boston Statehouse, which is very similar to the Capitol building in D.C. Same architect, same general design, but the one in Washington is much larger. I rather like our comparatively intimate edifice. Once, when I was new in Boston, Garry took me in, introduced me to one of the “old guard” people who worked there … and I got the absolutely best tour of the building you could imagine. And a lot of anecdotes to go with it.

Bill Weld was governor then and I remember Garry asking “is Himself in? I’d like him to meet my friend.” Sadly, The Honorable Governor Weld was not in attendance that day. I would have like to meet him. I’m told he was a big Pink Floyd fan.

Would you rather have telepathy or telekinesis?

Actually, I’ll hold out for teleportation. I want to take my whole body to other places. I can walk to the kitchen and get a coke without special powers, but getting myself across the ocean to Switzerland, England, France … or Australia?  That might need a more powerful magic.

Barring teleportation, I want to be a full-fledged superhero … or a powerful wizard. Or both, please.

As for telepathy? I hate eavesdropping.

What Do You Call a Group of…?

Things you always wanted know and didn’t know where to look? Here’s the answer!

Science-Based Life

There is just no way you are not going to find this interesting. Below is a (semi) complete list of what you would call various groups of animals.

I absolutely love the Victorian flair. An exaltation of larks? A shiver of sharks? Fantastic.

Feel free to break these out in conversation. “Science is the poetry of reality”, after all.

Mammals

Apes A shrewdness
Asses A pace
Badgers A cete
Bats A colony
Bears A sloth, sleuth
Buffalo A gang, an obstinacy (I suspect these refer to old world buffalo; use “herd” for American bison)
Cats A clowder, a pounce; for kittens…A kindle, litter, an intrigue
Cattle A drove, herd
Deer A herd, bevy (refers only to roe deer)
Dogs A litter (young), pack (wild), cowardice (of curs); specific to hounds…A cry, mute, pack, kennel
Elephants A herd
Elk A gang
Ferrets A business
Fox A leash, skulk, earth
Giraffes A…

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LEARNING A LANGWICH

Learning (or, in my case, trying to learn) another language provided high entertainment for those around me.

In English, I rarely if ever used a word in the wrong way. I was a serious reader very early and had a big passive vocabulary. By passive, I mean I knew a lot of words, but had never used them in conversation. I know what they meant and how to spell them, but not how they sounded.

I had no idea that Too-son and Tucson were the same place. Or that ep-ee-TOME was epitome. I remember those two examples well because of the extreme amusement they caused around me. I was all of 8-years-old. Adults weren’t as nice to kids back then as they are now.

language school

I was much more entertaining in Israel. I am sure that my fumbling attempts to learn the language, having caused extreme hilarity, probably played a part in my never actually learning Hebrew.

My first big discovery — very early in my life in Jerusalem — was that Zion (Zy-un) means penis. Properly in Hebrew, it’s tzee-own. So if you say (fondly) that Israel is the Land of Zion, using your good American pronunciation, you will reduce Israelis within earshot to tears of laughter. They can be a rough crowd.

To add another layer of problems over the difficulty in just getting the words out through my teeth which were clearly not designed for all those gutturals, many words in Hebrew are very much like one another, yet have hugely different meanings. Sha-ah is an hour. Shan-nah is a year. So there you are saying “My Hebrew isn’t all that good, I’ve only been here for two hours.”

After a while, I mostly spoke English and used Hebrew words as needed when I could fine no English equivalent. Eventually, I came home to where almost everyone could be expected to understand most of what I said. Without laughing at me.

You might ponder this when you meet immigrants who are trying to learn English. I mention this only because, having been on the other side of this experience, a little kindness to people trying to work through a difficult life transition while learning a new language (and culture) can go a long way to make them feel less lonely, threatened, excluded, and generally miserable. Just a thought.