The Daily Mail reports that the British police have chosen a bit of Punjabi slang from the Imperial attic to be used as the code word for the American president during his state visit.
More than one person has wanted to call Barack Obama a ‘smart alec’, and now British police will get the chance to do so without getting reprimanded.
That’s because Scotland Yard has tapped the codename ‘Chalaque’ to refer to the U.S. president for security reasons during his upcoming state visit to the United Kingdom May 24-26.
Indarjit Singh, a Punjabi speaker in the UK who is director of the Network of Sikh Organisations, told the Sunday Times the word ‘is sometimes used when we want to denigrate someone who we think is too clever for their own good’.
Another Punjabi speaker told the paper the word Chalaque is ‘not considered rude’, but could be ‘mildly offensive’.
It is also said to mean ‘cheeky, crafty and cunning’.
On balance The Economist would go for Tuyuca, of the eastern Amazon. It has a sound system with simple consonants and a few nasal vowels, so is not as hard to speak as Ubykh or !Xóõ. Like Turkish, it is heavily agglutinating, so that one word, hóabãsiriga means “I do not know how to write.” Like Kwaio, it has two words for “we”, inclusive and exclusive. The noun classes (genders) in Tuyuca’s language family (including close relatives) have been estimated at between 50 and 140. Some are rare, such as “bark that does not cling closely to a tree”, which can be extended to things such as baggy trousers, or wet plywood that has begun to peel apart.
Most fascinating is a feature that would make any journalist tremble. Tuyuca requires verb-endings on statements to show how the speaker knows something. Diga ape-wi means that “the boy played soccer (I know because I saw him)”, while diga ape-hiyi means “the boy played soccer (I assume)”. English can provide such information, but for Tuyuca that is an obligatory ending on the verb. Evidential languages force speakers to think hard about how they learned what they say they know.
Tuyuca is a postpositional agglutinative Subject Object Verb language with mandatory type II evidentiality. Five evidentiality paradigms are used: visual, nonvisual, apparent, secondhand, and assumed, though secondhand evidentiality exists only in the past tense and apparent evidentiality does not appear in the first person present tense. The language is estimated to have 50 to 140 noun classes.
French politician Rachida Dati says “fellatio” comment was slip of tongue.
Former French justice minister Rachida Dati has said the reason the word inflation came out as fellatio during her talk, was because she was speaking too fast.
Dati, 44, laughed at the mistake she had made on Canal Plus television during a radio interview.
“I just spoke too quickly but, well, if that lets everybody have a laugh, then that’s fine,” News.com.au quoted her as saying.
The MEP had confused oral sex with rising prices as she launched an attack on foreign investment funds.
[“...moi quand je vois certains qui demandent des rentabilités à 20, 25%, avec une fellation quasi-nulle et en particulier en période de crise…”]
“When I see some of them looking for returns of 20 or 25 percent, at a time when fellatio is close to zero, and in particular in a slump, that means we are destroying businesses,” she had told Canal Plus in a midday interview.
Blogs can be pretty useful. I received a chance to buy a rare sporting novel (Heather Mixture by “Klaxton”) that was absolutely unobtainable through conventional sources because I once mentioned it as an example of the impossible to find book here. I also reconnected with a long-lost school friend and fishing buddy whom I hadn’t seen in decades because I anecdotally mentioned him in passing in a posting.
Recently, I’ve been finding the bill of fare on BBC America improving. They are, for instance, now broadcasting Top Gear, an over-the-top, Limey automotive program which I’ve occasionally found video excerpts of on YouTube and linked here.
Top Gear is witty and outrageous in the less inhibited fashion of a nation that successfully exported many of its Puritans centuries ago, and I’m happy to catch some of its episodes.
Last night, one of its principals, whom I do not yet recognize, probably Jeremy Clarkson, was nattering on about moving the locale to Scotland or nearby. At which point, he monologued:
Where do Geordies actually come from? Geordies are from the Northeast. Maybe they’re all Geordies. Then there’s others, Foggies, aren’t there? There’s Foggies, Muggies and monkey hangers. I don’t know what they are. Are they all types of Geordie? Well I think so. Or maybe they’re different.They all say why-aye so they must all be Geordies.
We Americans tend to suppose that a “Geordie” is a Scotsman. But, according to Wikipedia, Geordie is a more specific term for a resident of the neighborhood of Tyneside, specifically North Tyneside, Newcastle, South Tyneside and Gateshead. But it can also refer to anybody from Northeast England or to a supporter of the Newcastle United soccer team.
Gallup polling reveals widespread public uncertainty about the “progressive” political label—a label recently embraced by no less than Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. While Kagan described her political views as “generally progressive” during her Senate confirmation hearings, fewer than half of Americans can say whether “progressive” does (12%) or does not (31%) describe their own views. The majority (54%) are unsure.
Allow me to clear it up for you, fellow Americans.
The Progressive Movement was originally a post-Civil War American political popular movement in favor of statism, regulation, and general (so-called) reform.
The earlier expressions of the Progressive impulse involved the creation of a Civil Service, the gradual expansion of state and federal regulations, the creation of new regulatory bodies, and the licensing of professions. Antitrust legislation, alcohol and drug prohibition, the Income Tax followed.
In recent years, particularly since the West learned of Communist massacres in Cambodia, China crushed demonstrations in favor of democracy in Tiananmen Square, and the Soviet Union fell, persons on the extreme left have become uncomfortable with describing themselves as Marxists or socialists. Radicals never liked being referred to as mere liberals. They despise liberals as dupes, fellow travelers, and useful idiots. And even “liberal,” since the days of Jimmy Carter, has become widely regarded in America as a pejorative and its successful application to someone a potential political liability.
Aspiration to major political office is intrinsically incompatible with describing oneself as a radical or a revolutionary, so the preferred term of art has become “Progressive.”
The progress that progressives are in favor of is directly down the path Friedrich Hayek referred to as “the Road to Serfdom,” toward ever more statism, ever more regulation, ever more redistribution, socialism, and coercion, supposedly resulting in the ultimate triumph of the rule of experts and a world in which the calculative power of human reason will have abolished tragedy, poverty, inequality, all of the ills to which flesh is heir and all the consequences of human vice and folly.
As Edmund Burke observed: “In the groves of their academy, at the end of every vista, you see nothing but the gallows.”
If Americans recognized exactly what Progressives really are, they would not be getting elected to much of anything or confirmed to Supreme Court seats.
The New York Times today leaked an environmentalist strategy memo suggesting modifying the watermelon (green on the outside, pink on the inside) left’s message in order to fool the American public.
The problem with global warming, some environmentalists believe, is “global warming.”
The term turns people off, fostering images of shaggy-haired liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes, according to extensive polling and focus group sessions conducted by ecoAmerica, a nonprofit environmental marketing and messaging firm in Washington.
Instead of grim warnings about global warming, the firm advises, talk about “our deteriorating atmosphere.” Drop discussions of carbon dioxide and bring up “moving away from the dirty fuels of the past.” Don’t confuse people with cap and trade; use terms like “cap and cash back” or “pollution reduction refund.”
Environmental issues consistently rate near the bottom of public worry, according to many public opinion polls. A Pew Research Center poll released in January found global warming last among 20 voter concerns; it trailed issues like addressing moral decline and decreasing the influence of lobbyists. “We know why it’s lowest,” said Mr. Perkowitz, a marketer of outdoor clothing and home furnishings before he started ecoAmerica, whose activities are financed by corporations, foundations and individuals. “When someone thinks of global warming, they think of a politicized, polarized argument. When you say ‘global warming,’ a certain group of Americans think that’s a code word for progressive liberals, gay marriage and other such issues.”
The answer, Mr. Perkowitz said in his presentation at the briefing, is to reframe the issue using different language. “Energy efficiency” makes people think of shivering in the dark. Instead, it is more effective to speak of “saving money for a more prosperous future.” In fact, the group’s surveys and focus groups found, it is time to drop the term “the environment” and talk about “the air we breathe, the water our children drink.”
“Another key finding: remember to speak in TALKING POINTS aspirational language about shared American ideals, like freedom, prosperity, independence and self-sufficiency while avoiding jargon and details about policy, science, economics or technology,” said the e-mail account of the group’s study….
Frank Luntz, a Republican communications consultant, prepared a strikingly similar memorandum in 2002, telling his clients that they were losing the environmental debate and advising them to adjust their language. He suggested referring to themselves as “conservationists” rather than “environmentalists,” and emphasizing “common sense” over scientific argument.
And, Mr. Luntz and Mr. Perkowitz agree, “climate change” is an easier sell than “global warming.”
The Telegraph reports one more blow on behalf of egalitarianism in Britain, the eradication of the use of Latin tags and abbreviations. Even this residual Latinity strikes some local officials as elitist.
Local authorities have ordered employees to stop using the words and phrases on documents and when communicating with members of the public and to rely on wordier alternatives instead. ...
Bournemouth Council, which has the Latin motto Pulchritudo et Salubritas, meaning beauty and health, has listed 19 terms it no longer considers acceptable for use.
This includes bona fide, eg (exempli gratia), prima facie, ad lib or ad libitum, etc or et cetera, ie or id est, inter alia, NB or nota bene, per, per se, pro rata, quid pro quo, vis-a-vis (sic), vice versa and even via.
Its list of more verbose alternatives, includes “for this special purpose”, in place of ad hoc and “existing condition” or “state of things”, instead of status quo.
In instructions to staff, the council said: “Not everyone knows Latin. Many readers do not have English as their first language so using Latin can be particularly difficult.”
The details of banned words have emerged in documents obtained from councils by the Sunday Telegraph under The Freedom of Information Act.
Of other local authorities to prohibit the use of Latin, Salisbury Council has asked staff to avoid the phrases ad hoc, ergoand QED (quod erat demonstrandum), while Fife Council has also banned ad hoc as well as ex officio.
Quos deus vult perdere prius dementat. (Those whom God would destroy, he first makes mad.) – Euripedes
Ron Liddle marvels at the words and phrases identified by the Guardian’s latest free style guide for readers as “inappropriate.”
The list of potentially wounding expressions includes:
active homosexual; career women; Third World; blacks; Asians; Australasia; Bangalore; primitive African tribes; crippled; in a wheelchair; hare lip; ethnic minorities; handicapped; spinster; committed suicide; gypsies; Bombay; illegitimate daughter; air hostess; Siamese twins; Calcutta; deaf ears; illegal asylum seeker; province of Northern Ireland; grandmother; bachelor.
Andrew Lawler describes an interesting approach to linguistic archaeology.
Measuring teeth from dead horses in upstate New York seems an unlikely way to get at the truth behind some of the most controversial questions about the Old World. But David Anthony, a historian and archaeologist at Hartwick College, discovered that by comparing the teeth of modern horses with their Eurasian ancestors, he could determine where and when the ancient ones were ridden. And answering that seemingly arcane question is important if you want to explain why nearly half the world today speaks an Indo-European language.
The origin of Indo-European tongues has roiled scholarship since a British judge in eighteenth-century Calcutta noticed that Sanskrit and English were related. Generations of linguists have labored to reconstruct the mother from which sprang dozens of languages spoken from Wales to China. Their bitter disputes about who used proto-Indo-European, where they lived, and their impact on the budding civilizations of Mesopotamia, Iran, and the Indus River Valley are legion.
That contentious debate, says Anthony, has been “alternately dryly academic, comically absurd, and brutally political.” To advance their own goals, Nazi racists, American skinheads, Russian nationalists, and Hindu fundamentalists have all latched on to the idea of light-skinned and chariot-driving Aryans as bold purveyors of an early Indo-European culture, which came to dominate Eurasia. So the search for an Indo-European homeland is now the third rail of archaeology and linguistics. Anthony compares it to the Lost Dutchman’s mine—“discovered almost everywhere but confirmed nowhere.”
Read the whole thing.
Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.
The pious and politically correct are throwing a hissy fit this morning over (a conservative radio talk show host I’m not familiar with, named) Bill Cunningham referring to someone currently active in politics named Barack Hussein Obama:
Juan Cole gets out his portable soap box, and starts rhetoricizing:
(Barack) is a name to be proud of. It is an American name. It is a blessed name. It is a heroic name, as heroic and American in its own way as the name of General Omar Nelson Bradley or the name of Benjamin Franklin. And denigrating that name is a form of racial and religious bigotry of the most vile and debased sort. It is a prejudice against names deriving from Semitic languages!
Well, not really. If Jewish and Arabic identities were both Semitic and just the same, why, Israelis and Palestinians would doubtless be living happily in peace.
It’s true that many Biblical names, like Benjamin, are popular personal names used by Christian Europeans and Americans for centuries, and some Biblical names are used in cognate forms by Muslims as well as Christians, but both Barack and Hussein are not Biblical and therefore have no real resemblance to Benjamin.
Both are Arabic names. The press has been confusing Barack (barraaq) “flashing, bright, shining, glittering” with Barakat (barakaat) “”blessings, good fortunes, prosperities.” Hussein (diminutive of Hasan) means “beautiful.” *
General Bradley was doubtless named for Omar Khayyam, the Persian author of the Rubiyat, which was extremely popular in the Edward Fitzgerald translation in the Victorian era. A one-shot use of the name of a Persian poet does not demonstrate a vital and indigenous American tradition of the use of Islamic Arabic personal names.
America is, it’s true, a nation of immigrants, but we do not have any established, familiar naturalized population of Luos from Kenya. People have been elected president whose ancestors did not arrive on the Mayflower, but, in fact, Americans have not actually elected any representatives of most well-known immigrant groups to the presidency at all. American presidents have all been of English or Scots Irish descent, with three Dutch, two German, and one single Irish Catholic exception.
No Swedes, Poles, Italians, Finns, Danes, Czechs, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Norwegians, Belgians, Lithuanians, or Jews have ever occupied the White House.
The contributions to America in war and peace of Jews and Roman Catholics have not been small, and yet there has been a single Catholic president and not one Jewish one.
Mitt Romney’s Mormonism proved a serious obstacle to his securing support in many parts of the United States, and his background is clearly considerably more conventional and familiar than Obama’s.
The left has a natural interest in drawing a line forbidding raising the question of Obama’s background, or poking fun at it, as Eric Zorn tries to do, and wants to arrange that anyone violates their taboo at peril of being ostracized and designated a bigot. But Barack Hussein Obama is alarmingly unknown, has campaigned in deliberately vague and obfuscatory style, and has successfully gotten a lot farther than normally happens by slick marketing and superficial glamor. He can hardly expect to claim an affirmative action presidency as a massive national gesture of racial compensation, while evading all scrutiny and discussion, and forbidding derisive mockery, of his alien names and exotic personal and political background.
Romney’s Mormonism was evaluated, for good or ill, by the public freely, and people made up their own minds how they felt about that. The same thing is going to happen with respect to Obama’s Islamic personal names and his Islamic childhood and education in Indonesia, and it should. Attempts to erect a protective barrier of political correctness to preclude discussion, or joking, about Obama’s exoticism will fail.
*Salahuddin Ahmed, A Dictionary of Muslim Names, New York: New York University Press, 1999.
A commission led by the prime minister (Gediminas Kirkilas, Social Democrat) approved a marketing concept which says the country of 3.4 million people should promote itself as daring. A name change is also being mulled.
“Lithuania’s transcription in English is difficult to pronounce and remember for non-native English speakers, but the name change is only an idea under consideration,” said government spokesman Laurynas Bucalis, who led the group behind the recommendations.
No ideas have been presented yet as to what the name should be in English. In Lithuanian, the country is called Lietuva. ...
Bravery marks our history — from being the last pagan nation in Europe to a nation which sparked the Soviet Union’s downfall, and today’s resolute steps,” Bucalis said.
One tends to doubt that the Slavic Litva will be their choice.
I suppose they could go back to Chaucer’s Middle English:
A knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
And therto hadde he riden, no man ferre,
As wel in Cristendom as in Hethenesse,
And evere honoured for his worthynesse.
At Alisaundre he was, whan it was wonne;
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne
Aboven alle nacions in Pruce;
In Lettow hadde he reysed, and in Ruce.
—The Canterbury Tales, Prologue, 43-54.
(A knight there was, and that a worthy man,
That from the time that he first began
To ride out, he loved chivalry,
Truth and honor, freedom and courtesy.
Full worthy was he in his lords’ wars,
And thereto had he ridden, no man farther,
Both in Christendom and in Heathen lands,
And was everywhere honored for his worthiness.
At Alexandria he had been, when it was won;
Often he had occupied the seat of honor at the dinner-table,
Above men from all nations, in Prussia;
In Lithuania he had raided, and in Russia.)
But would “Lettow” actually be better?
All this is, of course, precisely the sort of renaming-the-months, inventing-a-new-system-of weights-and-measures kind of thing modern linguistic nationalist governments like to focus on.
Hat tip to Sandip Bhattacharji.