Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Things that might make you say “Hmm”

A. Customs change at different rates. Sometimes the change happens so slowly that people hardly even notice. Sometimes it happens so suddenly that people can't help but notice.

For example, people who took annual vacations in Ukraine stopped doing that suddenly about a year ago, and everybody knows why. Another example: After Mount St. Helens erupted a few years ago, fewer people wanted to climb dormant volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest. (I don't really know if that's true, but it makes a nifty example.)

An example of slower change is the way people respond to being told "Thank you." In my age group (the Older Than Dirt crowd), we were taught to say "You're welcome". Around the time my children became adults, people didn't say "You're welcome" any more, and everybody was saying "No problem." Now that even my grandchildren are adults, "No problem" has fallen by the wayside. Gen Z'ers and millennials say "Of course!"

The world continues to be a strange place, if I do say so myself.

B. Many words that start with S in English start with E in Spanish and French, I will now use my newly-acquired skill of creating a table with HTML to show you some examples.

school escuela école
star estrella étoile
spinach espinaca épinard
Stephen Esteban Étienne
Spain España Espagne

C. Some alphabets have more letters than others. Here are some examples:

Hawaiian has 12 letters, 13 if you include apostrophe, and you probably should.

Greek has 24 letters. The one that looks like an X sounds like a K. The one that sounds like an X looks nothing like an X.

The Latin alphabet that we use for English has the 26 letters we know and love. J and W are fairly recent additions, relatively speaking. Old English had two letters called edh and thorn that have disappeared altogether.

The Russian alphabet has 33 letters. Several countries including Russia use the Cyrillic alphabet instead of the Latin one. When the old USSR used to send athletes to the Olympic Games, their uniforms said CCCP. Americans found this very confusing.

The Albanian alphabet has 36 letters, including ç, dh, ë, gj, ll, nj, rr, sh, th, and xh as distinct sounds. The xh sounds like a J. The J does not.

The Swedish alphabet has 29 letters consisting of the Latin letters A through Z plus Å, Ä, and Ö.

The written language of the Cherokee Indians is composed of 85 symbols that represent syllables (sounds) instead of letters.

Mandarin Chinese consists of around 50,000 ideographs although modern dictionaries contain only about 20,000 of them; an educated Chinese person might know about 8,000 of them. To be able to read a newspaper requires knowing between 2,000 and 3,000 of them.

All in all, I find the sort of stuff in this post to be very interesting. I hope you do too. I would hate to think I am talking to myself.

Friday, January 20, 2023

After while, crocodile

You wii understand the title of this post by the time you reach the end of it.

Words fascinate me, how written words are put together from alphabetic characters to document the sounds that come from our mouths. This post, like certain others I have written, will delve into some baffling things about our English language. If you do not share my interest in language you may want to leave right now, but I hope you stay because you just might learn something.

Let us consider the letter C. It can feel extraneous because a 'hard C' sounds like K (cloister, crimson) and a 'soft C' sounds like S (ceiling, celebrate). When you put an H after a C, though, you retain the sound of K in some words (choir, chorus, chloroform) but you come up with an additional sound (church, China) or two (charade, machine) in others. And sometimes the very same string of letters produces two different sounds (cello has a CH sound but cellophane has an S sound). It is all very strange.

Putting two Cs together produces several sounds: baccalaureate (K), cacciatore (CH), and vaccination (KS or X as long as it is the X in exit, not the X in xylophone).

The "Gloria in excelsis Deo" so popular at Christmas time has morphed over the centuries. Choir directors everywhere have to teach their singers how to pronounce it. When classical Latin ruled in ancient Roman times, excelsis had a 'hard C' or K sound (ex-KELL-sis). By medieval times when Italianized church Latin was all the rage, the K sound had become a CH sound (ex-CHELL-sis). Speakers of modern English, who see a word that reminds them of excel, excellent, or excelsior, want to sing an S sound (ex-SELL-sis). Many choir directors, however, tell their people to sing an SH sound (egg-SHELL-sis) instead. C grows curiouser and curiouser.

Vowels can also be confusing because there are 'long vowels' and 'short' vowels' and other kinds of vowels. Consider the sound of the letter U in the words lunar (long U), butter (short U), funeral (diphthong), and put (the sound of the OO in book, cook, and look but not the OO in shoot, loot, and boot). Confusion abounds when it comes to trying to learn the English language.

Some words have U twice but the sounds are different (pendulum). Even if you put our old friend C before U two times in a single word, the same phenomenon occurs (cucumber).

I think it is fitting to end this post in the same way my deaf friend Dave W. used to end our conversations, through a humorous combination of fingerspelling and American Sign Language (ASL) signs:

C U later, alligator.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Your roving reporter, January 15th

On this day in 1559, Elizabeth I was crowned Queen of England and Ireland in Westminster Abbey, London.

On this day in 1892, James Naismith published the rules of basketball.

On this day in 1919, the Great Molasses Flood, also known as the Boston Molasses Disaster, occurred when a wave of molasses caused by an exploding storage tank swept through Boston, Massachusetts, killing 21 people and wounding 150.

On this day in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis Presley was one week old.

Elvis died on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42. Three days ago, Elvis's only child, his daughter Lisa Marie, died at the age of 54 due to heart problems. Two days before her unexpected death, she had attended the 80th Golden Globes Awards ceremony in Beverly Hills, California, with her mother, Priscilla Presley, where actor Austin Butler was awarded the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture--Drama for his performance as Elvis Presley in a film entitled Elvis.

Out of all the many facts about January 15th I could have mentioned to you today, I chose these four. Please rank them in order of importance and state your reasons.

My own feeling is that one's perspective, based on one's experience, determines one's conclusions. For example, Shaquille O'Neal might reach a different conclusion than Mary, Queen of Scots would.

This is what passes for deep thinking in the year 2023.

Friday, January 13, 2023

I do not want to live

...where there are hurricanes.
I do not want to live where there are tornadoes.
I do not want to live where there are tsunamis.
I do not want to live where there are forest fires.
I do not want to live where there are earthquakes.
I do not want to live where there are mudslides.
I do not want to live where there are blizzards.
I do not want to live where there is frostbite.
I do not want to live where there is heatstroke.
I do not want to live where there are avalanches.
I do not want to live where there are poisonous snakes.
I do not want to live where there are scorpions.
I do not want to live where there are deadly black widow or brown recluse spiders.
I do not want to live where there are sharks.
I do not want to live where there are alligators.
I so not want to live where there are crocodiles.
I do not want to live where there are lions.
I do not want to live where there are tigers.
I do not want to live where there are bears.

Oh, my!

Make no mistake. In spite of what you may have thought when you first read the title of this post, I do want to live. I just don't want to live where any of the hazards mentioned above are possible as I do not have a death wish of any sort.

i also dislike assault rifles, sharp knives, bows and arrows, and armed gangs in the streets.

In our country's pioneer days, I probably would not have been the adventurous sort. I probably would have preferred to remain back east in Philadelphia.

As further proof of my essential wimpiness -- I prefer the term good sense -- I also avoid skydiving, ziplining, the edges of cliffs, aerial cable car riding, rock climbing, and other things that could endanger life and limb. I am not all that fond of roller coasters either, although I have ridden them with my children, who enjoyed the experience far more than I did.

This post was undertaken in the interest of transparency in blogging since our politicians lately have been advocating transparency in political affairs, especially the political affairs of politicians in other parties.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

I thought you would want to know

On last night's Jeopardy! program, where all the answwrs must be in the form of a question, there were three answers that none of the contestants knew, but I did:

1. Who is John Quincy Adams? (president just before Andrew Jackson)

2. What is "What's Love Got To Do With It?"? (1984 Tina Turner hit song whose title was in the form of a question)

3. Who is Roberta Flack? (this woman's hit songs included "Killing Me Softly" and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face". The clue included a photo of Ms. Flack)

In other news, Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 118th Congress of the United States on the 15th ballot, the most since 1859 when 44 ballots were necessary to elect a new Speaker.

You can make your own decision as to whether the facts in this post are presented in ascending or descending order of importance.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

A rose by any other name and other topicsh

Back in the Dark Ages, back when Hector was a pup, by which I mean a few decades ago, my job as a Technical Writer in a Major Corporation included the act of proofreading user manuals, and I was paid very handsomely to do it. I said that to say this: I pay attention to detail. I am a stickler for accuracy. Sometimes this job skill/hobby of mine leads me into unusual places.

For example, errors were introduced unintentionally into the Bible by Hebrew scribes whose job was making copies of scrolls by hand in ancient times. One of these errors involves a certain king of Assyria who lived about 2,800 years ago.

In the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) the name Tiglathpileser is mentioned three times in the book of 2 Kings (twice in the 15th chapter and once in the 16th chapter) and the name Tilgathpilneser is mentioned twice in the 5th chapter of 1 Chronicles and once in the 28th chapter of 2 Chronicles. Notice the differences: "Tiglath" versus "Tilgath" and "pileser" versus "pilneser". These appear in the King James Version (KJV) of the English-language Bible first published in 1611 as transliterations of rhe Hebrew originals. In the English Standard Version (ESV) published in 2001, however, the single spelling Tiglath-pileser (including the hyphen) appears in all six places.

Big deal, you may be saying, who cares if the guy's name was Tiglathpileser or Tilgathpilneser?

I do, that's who.

So which is more authentic, the KJV that accurately reproduces the earlier documents or the ESV that correctly indicates that only one person was being referred to and not possibly two different persons?

What is interesting to me is that both the KJV and the ESV are correct in different ways. The ESV makes all six instances of the king's name the same, since there was clearly a single king of Assyria at that time, not two kings with slghtly different names, thus elminating what were undoubtedly errors made by ancient scribes in producing the Hebrew text that the translators of the KJV used. But here's the thing. The KJV translatore faithfully transliterated into English the Hebrew names they encountered and the ESV translators didn't.

I learned to read Hebrew about a year ago, and

תִּגְלַ֣ת פִּלְאֶסֶר֮ in First and Second Kings definitely is Tiglathpileser and

תִּלְּגַ֥ת פִּלְנְאֶ֖סֶר in First and Second Chronicles definitely is Tilgathpilneser.

The discrepancy is actually in the Hebrew, which is being converted accurately into English. Perhaps they are not "errors" but merely variants of the same name, like Brian and Bryan.

Proper names are one thing; ordinary words are another matter entirely. Take the basically twin verses of 1 Kings 10:22 and 2 Chronicles 9:21 where we find not only the by-now-familiar variant spellings of proper names (Tharshish/Tarshish, Huram/Hiram) but also the very real dispariy at the end of the verses where some translations say the ships brought "gold and silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks" and other translations say they brought "gold and silver, ivory, apes, and baboons."

Which is it? Clearly, both can't be right unless the same word means both peacocks and baboons, which I doubt.

In the book of Proverbs, two verses in close proximity -- actually, they are adjacent -- give contradictory information. Proverbs 26:4 says "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou be like unto him." The very next verse, Proverbs 26:5, says "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit." It is rather like reading "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" followed immediately by "Out of sight, out of mind."

The thing to remember is that this particular book is called Proverbs because it contains a large collection of proverbs, not a list of instructions to be followed religiously (pun intended), which in the case of being able both to answer and not to answer simultaneously is impossible. Like the absence/out-of-sight pair, however, both might be applicable at different times depending on the situation in which one finds oneself.

People who believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures should remember to say "in the original writings" to be intellectually honest. Unfortunately, the oldest copies known to exist today are centuries removed from when the originals were produced. Until originals are found, all bets are off, or at least hedged.

In this post we have touched upon, but only slightly, two schools of thought concerning translations of any kind, not just Biblical translation, whether to follow Formal Equivalence principles (word-for-word translation) or Dynamic Equivalence principles (sense-for-sense translation). If, for example, you were translating the Lord's Prayer into the language of people living on a remote Island in the Pacific who had never heard of or seen bread and whose chief sustenance was derived from fishing, would you insist on saying "Give us this day our daily bread" or might you decide to say "Give us this day our daily fish" instead?

I apologize that this post somehow turned into a rather long and rambling treatise, but like Topsy, it just grew (Topsy is a character in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin).

Sunday, January 1, 2023

I know we are all getting older

...but what you are about to read is unbelievable. It is impossible. It is ridiculous. It is also true.

Donnie Osmond is now eligible to receive Medicare.

He turned 65 on December 9th, exactly one week before Ludwig van Beethoven, if he were still alive, would have turned 252.

But Beethoven, who was born in Bonn in 1770, died in Vienna in 1827 at the age of 56, so he never was able to receive Medicare, mainly because it was not available back then, and even if it had been available and he had been 65 instead of 56 he still would not have been eligible to receive it because he was German, not American.

This blog is nothing if not educational.

<b> Things that might make you say “Hmm” </b>

A. Customs change at different rates. Sometimes the change happens so slowly that people hardly even notice. Sometimes it happens so su...