Thursday, April 25, 2024

Canadians Should Be Better Than This

I see Pierre Poilievre illegitimately harnessing the warranted righteous anger of Canadians with the powers that be. He's fooling the less intellectually able into embracing the establishment of a more intense, mean spirited, and societally damaging regime more directly and exclusively in the control of the powers that be. None of our leaders are what they should be, but replacing a poor leader with a bad leader is not a solution to our discontent. 

What I find particularly vexatious is the appeal to hatred of another leader, hatred of outgroups, hatred of the less fortunate, and appeals to self-interest over the interests of others. The majority of us will not prosper by tearing down social safety nets and healthcare. I really want to think that Canadians are better than this. 

“Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed – in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

"Bonhoeffer was known for his staunch resistance to the Nazi dictatorship … He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at Tegel Prison for 1½ years. Later, he was transferred to Flossenbürg concentration camp … He was hanged on 9 April 1945 during the collapse of the Nazi regime." (from Wikipedia)


Sunday, April 7, 2024

Linguistic Loot: The Secret Behind English's Global Charm

In the grand bazaar of languages, English is the shopaholic, ever eager to fill its lexical cart with linguistic souvenirs from around the globe. This insatiable appetite for loan words not only enriches its vocabulary but also cements its status as the world's Lingua Franca. As lexicographer Kory Stamper once quipped, "English has been borrowing words from other languages since its infancy," highlighting its long history of linguistic acquisition. But it's James Nicoll's observation that truly captures the essence of English's relationship with other languages: "English doesn’t borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over and goes through their pockets for loose grammar."

This magpie-like tendency to collect shiny objects from other tongues makes English uniquely suited to serve as a global bridge. By incorporating words from an estimated 350 languages, English becomes a linguistic tapestry that reflects the diversity of its speakers. Whether it's the philosophical 'weltanschauung' (German) that gives us a world view, or the 'je ne sais quoi' (French) that adds a dash of the indefinable, English gleefully embraces the foreign to express the inexpressible.

So, in the spirit of celebration and a tad of humor, let's embark on a journey through time with a 'top ten' tour of English's linguistic loot. Starting with the old classics before diving into the fresh finds of the 21st Century zeitgeist:

Old English Loan Words

  • Café (French): Where one procrastinates and occasionally writes.
  • Schadenfreude (German): Feeling secretly thrilled your friend’s startup is called "Google Plus."
  • Renaissance (French): A fancy way of saying, "I’m not just old, I’m classic."
  • Algebra (Arabic): The reason why letters started invading math.
  • Sofa (Arabic): The MVP of Netflix marathons.
  • Guru (Sanskrit): What your yoga teacher calls themselves.
  • Pajamas (Hindi): Official work attire for remote employees.
  • Opera (Italian): When you want to nap in public, but with class.
  • Ketchup (Chinese): The ultimate food enhancer, originally a fish sauce.
  • Vampire (Slavic): Because "immortal nocturnal bloodsucker" didn’t fit on the book cover.

21st Century Loan Words

  • Emoji (Japanese): Because why write words when pictures of sad pizza do the trick?
  • Hikikomori (Japanese): The art of perfecting indoor hobbies, thanks to the internet.
  • K-pop (Korean): Not just music, but a global phenomenon that dictates fashion, food, and fandom.
  • Hygge (Danish): Finding deep joy in candles, coffee, and coziness. Scandinavia’s gift to self-care.
  • Sudoku (Japanese): The puzzle that proves numbers are universal, even when math isn’t.
  • Anime (Japanese): More than cartoons, it's a gateway to intricate stories and deep fandom.
  • Binge-watch (English, but reflects global digital culture): The modern way to experience TV series and films, courtesy of streaming services.
  • App (short for "application", a concept that transcends language but is deeply embedded in global tech culture): Tiny icons, endless possibilities.
  • TikTok (International, originating from China as “Douyin”): The short-form video platform that took over global social media.
  • Manga (Japanese) Graphic novels that redefine storytelling, bridging cultures with art.

In the end, English's penchant for collecting bits and pieces from other languages not only makes it a rich, evolving tapestry but also the perfect candidate for the world's Lingua Franca. It's a language that knows no boundaries, constantly evolving to reflect the global zeitgeist. So the next time you use an English word with foreign roots, remember, you're not just speaking English; you're taking a stroll through the world's largest linguistic museum. And who knows? Maybe one day, English will borrow the word for "the joy of borrowing words" from another language, because if there's one thing English loves, it's a good linguistic shopping spree.

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