Monday, May 22, 2006

Always a Godfather, Never a God ...

I have the distinct pleasure of being godfather to several of my friends' children, including all 3 of gaetanus' awesome kids, to whom I am known as Gaffer for reasons of etymology and ease of pronunciation. The older two (5 years old and below) always fascinate me with all the various ways they absorb and use language. For instance, when the second child, D, wanted to offer to the general public a gamepiece he didn't need, he announced, "Whobody needs a ....?" Sure, he could have just said "Who"--it's not like he didn't already know the word--but instead he chose to create the word "whobody" at 3 years old by analogy with words like nobody and anybody.

When I play hide-and-seek with members of my god-horde, I rarely count in English: it's a perfect opportunity to familarize them with other languages in a context that's fun, while not taking away at all from their understanding of what's going on, since they already know I'm counting. I did this recently, and while we were taking a break, I had the following exchange with the oldest, T. Oh, and keep in mind that her father, gaetanus, is a Semitics scholar.

Me: Do you guys know what language I was just counting in?
T: French!
Me: Very good! Now do you remember what language I used the first time I counted?
T: um....
Me: I'll give you a hint; this is what I said: eins, zwei, drei, vier, ... [etc.]
T: [after a moment's thought] Is it Coptic??

T is almost 5. Coptic is just more a part of her world than German is. (I promise to get out to their house more often and insert more German into her life.) :-)

One more story. T went through a phase a while back that reminded us of Tolkien's musing about why it was wrong to say "a green great dragon". Whenever she would get something new--shoes, a shirt, a jacket--she would say, "Gaffer, see my new nice shoes?" or "I got a new nice jacket!" I believe gaetanus' theory was that the adjective that we conceive of as more inherent to the nature of the thing tends to go closer to it. Hence we say "great green dragon" b/c a green dragon is a thing that may or may not be great. Greatness is more accidental, greenness is essential to what it is. So also with why we feel "new nice shoes" is "wrong": we say "nice" to indicate how we feel about the thing, not really to describe the thing, the way we use "new". But, for its part, "new" is only relatively essential; "green" is more so, so that we would say "Do you like my nice new green dragon?" (hypothetically, of course). Notice that I don't have a comma even though I have three adjectives. I think this is because a comma (replacing "and") would erroneously imply an equal footing or level of attribution for whatever words are so linked. We would never speak of a "green new nice dragon", and even T would at least have said "new nice green dragon".

The best part of the "new-nice" phase T went through came several months after we all spent a day checking out my old neighborhood in Brooklyn. Somebody said something about the trip, which prompted T to add, "we got to see Gaffer's New nice York!"

That's right: It's my island! :-)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

American Inklings tonight!

Just a reminder for anyone in the area who's interested: the first meetings of the American Inklings is tonight in Reston, VA. Details here.

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Internet Movie Dead-a-base

You know it's happened to you: You're trying to think of a movie, but you can't remember the title. You can't remember who was in it. You can't even remember when it came out. But thanks to one preposterously violent scene, you remember every detail of how that one guy died.

Well, you're in luck: Wikipedia has a list of movies organized by what kind of gory death they died. That's right, you can browse movies including death by chainsaw (Section 6), death from being eaten (Section 1), death from slicing by a sharp object where it takes some time for victim to fall apart (Section 19), even death by blendering (3).

This one's just for you, W.W. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 4, 2006


Got tagged by sauvage noble for another meme:

I am: King of Wessex and all England.
I want: my subjects to be better educated.
I wish: the Danes would stop attacking.
I hate: bad translations.
I miss: Rome (I barely remember being there as a child).
I fear: overattachment to the things of this world.
I hear: Asser's planning something special for me.
I wonder: who really wrote Beowulf.
I regret: my sins in this life.
I am not: as tall as that statue in Winchester.
I dance: but only after enough mead.
I sing: occasionally, but not in front of my scops.
I cry: when appropriate.
I am not always: as stern as I seem.
I made: the Danes withdraw from Wessex: Yay!
I write: less poetry than I'd like.
I confuse: Franks for Frisians (again, after enough mead!)
I need: more educated monks.
I should: build more Englisc ships.
I start: more translations than I can manage sometimes.
I finish: the priest's prayers in my own heart.
I tag: Emperor Charles of the Franks; Guþrun of the Danelaw; King Haraldr Hárfagri of Norway.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Another Drop in the Meme Bucket

[I copied this from somewhere, and now I can't remember where.]

A. Four Jobs I’ve Had:
1. Course Development Director
2. Parish Youth Coordinator
3. Desktop Publisher
4. King of Wessex and of all England ;-)

B. Four Movies I’ll Watch Over and Over:
1. Serenity
2. The Matrix
3. various Muppet movies
4. zombie movies generally

C. Four Places I Called Home:
1. Front Royal, VA
2. Brooklyn, NY
3. North Hampton, NH
4. Toms River, NJ

Four TV Shows I Love:
1. Firefly
2. Law & Order(s) (but I much prefer Michael Moriarty as ADA to anyone else)
3. MST3K
4. SG-1/SG:A/BSG (considered as one show)

E. Four Places I’ve Been on Vacation:
1. Rhode Island
2. Michigan (even got to see the Dead Sea Scrolls that week)
3. Cape Cod
4. Alberta (one of the most beautiful places on God's earth)

[I'm adding the next one:]

E-2. Four Places I’ve Been on Pilgrimage:
1. Rome
2. the Holy Land (for Holy Week no less: wow)
3. Lourdes
4. Atlanta (World of Coke) ;-)

F. Four Websites I Visit Daily:

G. My Four Favorite Foods:
1. Dead cow that has been briefly introduced to a heatsource.
2. Ben & Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch
3. Pizza, but only if made in Manhattan, Brooklyn, or maybe Queens.
4. Coffee. (Caffeine's a food group, right?)

H. Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:
1. Rome
2. New York
3. Coast of Maine
4. Coast of pretty much anywhere

I. Four People I’m Tagging:
1. Whoever
2. Wants
3. To
4. Participate

J. Four CD's to which I have most recently listened
(I rarely listen to whole CD's, just playlists; but if I must:)
1. TMBG, Mink Car
2. Mozart's Requiem
3. BNL, Stunt
4. Arvo Pärt, Kanon Pokajanen

Monday, May 1, 2006

Linguistic May Day

From the Speculative Grammarian, this article is appropriate for the next 30 days. Below are some of my favorites.

Dates in the Month of May that Are of Interest to Linguists

James D. McCawley
University of Chicago

May 3, 1955. Mouton & Co. discover how American libraries order books and scheme to cash in by starting several series of books on limericks. The person given charge of this project mishears and starts several series of books on linguistics. No one ever notices the mistake.

May 5, 1403. The Great English Vowel Shift begins. Giles of Tottenham calls for ale at his favorite pub and is perplexed when the barmaid tells him that the fishmonger is next door.

May 7, 1966. r-less pronunciation is observed in eight kindergarten pupils in Secaucus, N.J. The governor of New Jersey stations national guardsmen along the banks of the Hudson.

May 9, 1917. N. Ja. Marr discovers rosh, the missing link for Japhetic unity.

May 11, 1032. Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II orders isoglosses erected across northern Germany as defense against Viking intruders.

May 13. Vowel Day (Public holiday in Kabardian Autonomous Region). The ceremonial vowel is pronounced by all Kabardians as a symbol of brotherhood with all speakers of human languages.

May 18, 1941. Quang Phúc Ðông is captured by the Japanese and interned for the duration of hostilities.

May 19. Diphthong Day (Public holiday in Australia).

May 23, 38,471 B.C. God creates language.

May 26, 1945. Zellig Harris applies his newly formulated discovery procedures and discovers [t].

May 27, 1969. George Lakoff discovers the global rule. Supermarkets in Cambridge, Mass. are struck by frenzied buying of canned goods.

May 29, 1962. Angular brackets are discovered. Classes at M.I.T. are dismissed and much Latvian plum brandy is consumed.

May 30, 1939. Charles F. Hockett finishes composing the music for the Linguistic Society of America’s anthem, ‘Can You Hear the Difference?’

May 31, 1951. Chomsky discovers Affix-hopping and is reprimanded by his father for discovering rules on shabas.

Carnival of Blog Translation!

Welcome, and thank you all for coming to the April [sic] Carnival of Blog Translations. First, a warm thank you to Bev Traynor at Em duas línguas for hosting last month's carnival. This month we have various sideshows, in the form of the various interesting links you'll find on the sidebar: everything from Old Frisian texts to an index of Indo-European roots to other, very fine blogs.

And now to our main attractions. Many of our contributors were held up by the harsh winter in their home parts. Or else the beautiful explosion of spring. Making it through thick and thin this month are the following:

Angelo Mercado, at sauvage noble, has the distinction of being the first-ever two-time-in-one-month participant of a Blog Translation Carnival: Check out his translations of Birth of a Curmudgeon (from Laudator Temporis Acti) into both Latin and Tagalog.

Yours truly (you will not help but notice) just posted a translation of a short post on the Inklings blog: a quote by C.S. Lewis describing his friend JRR Tolkien's general OCD-ishness with respect to revising and perfecting.

Four languages were represented this month: English (the source language for all three translations), Latin, Old English, and Tagalog.

Though garnering the smallest turnout, this month's translationfest has yielded many firsts: the first double contributor, the first time all originals are themselves quotations, the first carnival with no modern European languages represented among the target languages, the first carnival with any, much less a majority of dead languages among the translations, and the first carnival with all target languages as debutants to the Carnival scene.

If you worked on a translation but didn't finish in time, have no fear: you can post next time at the May Carnival of Blog Translation, at sauvage noble.

Thanks for coming, everyone, and please feel free to browse, touch, click, and ask questions. My subjects will be happy to show you around the castle. Westu hal!

Lewis ymb Tolkien

[It's still April somewhere, so this too-quickly composed post is for the imminently to-be-posted Blog Translation Carnival. From the Inklings Blog post Lewis on Tolkien. I can relate, too.]

Þæt is formicele man; his onasettode geweorc, ge gescieplice ge larcræftlice, scolde nu scylf magan afyllan; hwæðere he is þara þe nis na eaþhylde miþ gewrit. Unmicloste onasettodnesse tyhting þa andsware forþgeclipaþ: Gea, ic huru þurhseo þone ond æthrinum þurhteo -- seþe tæcnað soðlice þæt he eall þæt wiht gen onginnað.