Category Archives: language

Politically Correct Monsters


I was reading a post on a friend’s blog on “political correctness” and thought that I wanted to post on that topic too.  But I am also late with my annual Halloween post! Oh, what to do…..what to do……..ah, do both!

So Happy Halloween boys and girls!  Hope it was a good one!

Image result for politically incorrect words black

(thank you John Atkinson for that cartoon).

Political correctness seeks to stop forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.  And I totally agree that in a civilised society, all of us should be against the marginalisation, abuse and denigration of the disadvantaged or the disenfranchised or discrimination based on religion, gender or race.

In fact, that used to be just good old common sense civility and good manners.  Something that does seem to have become a rare commodity these days – we just need to look at the current gutter rhetoric being used in the current U.S. presidential race.  The name calling, the lack of respect and bigotry on display is truly soul sapping.  The Trump is a bully (amongst other things!)

However, I do believe that in this topsy-turvy world, some craziness is also being enforced on people, in the name of political correctness, by a small minority who seem to feel their voice deserves to be greater and their easily offended feelings or views more important than others. They are bullies too.

What is needed is a change of heart, a need to have mutual respect and the development of empathy for others.  These are things that are achieved by developing relationships, awareness, putting ourselves in others shoes and by having leaders who demonstrate it by example.  Trying to achieve it by a list of don’t s does not achieve this change of heart.

Here are some examples where I think we have thrown common sense out the window.

  1. Cultural Appropriation:-  Hilary Duff and boyfriend recently had to apologise for dressing up as a Pilgrim and a Native American for Halloween.  They were accused of disrespect and cultural appropriation. What happened to “imitation is the highest form of flattery”?  What is important is whether they intended by their action to marginalise, abuse or denigrate anyone – I think they did not.
  2. In Australia, a boy wanted to dress up as his football hero.  The boy put on the sports gear with the appropriate name and number.  But the boy is white and his football hero is an Aborigine.  To complete his costume for the school event, he put on black face paint.  He and his mother was roundly criticised for disrespect.  Is the message that young persons of Caucasian descent are not allowed to emulate heroes of other ethnic backgrounds?  (notice how I was careful with my wording of the last sentence).  Which is more racist?
  3. When I was at University, we used to celebrate our different cultures by having international nights and festivals where we get to try each others food, learn each others cultures, and dress up in each others national and ethnic costumes.  Now it seems that in some places that is viewed as cultural appropriation and insensitive.  This attitude will only increase problems and not improve race relations.
  4. Just this month in Malaysia, certain authorities tried to force food outlets to stop using the word “dog” as it is offensive to a portion of society.  Specifically words like “hot dog”, “Coney Dog”, “corn dog” and “pretzel dog” were to be removed.  It was a move that would have cost businesses tons of money as they would have to change their menus, printed materials and ad campaigns.  Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed in the end.
  5. Many years ago in UK, a local council voted to ban the use of the word “pet” to describe our cats and dogs. These valuable members of our society were to be referred to as “animal companions”. This still did not please everyone as some objected to the word “animal” as derogatory. There were also attempts to ban the use of words like “blacklisted”, “blackballed”, “black magic” and “black death” as it offended “black people”.Yet these same people thought it was ridiculous when someone pointed out (sarcastically) that we should also ban words like “whitewash” and “yellow bellied”.

    Another sharp wit said that he would follow the council’s decision on cats and dogs even though he thought that the council was being “animal companion-ery” (translation: petty)

  6. Some words have been used cruelly like “retard” or “basket case” and they should be avoided because they do cause hurt.  But again, some changes are of dubious value. Like saying “sanitation engineer” instead of “garbage collector”.  The problem is not which title we use for the job but that we somehow view a garbage collector as someone beneath us.  I think I have no problem being called a garbage collector if I am treated with respect as a human being doing a valued and necessary task.  In this case, the problem lies in our heart not in our words.

Let me just end on a personal note.  Recently my doctor was very politically correct and did not want to use the word “obese” or “overweight”.  So he told me that I was weight challenged for my height.  I immediately replied that I prefer to think of it as vertically challenged for my weight.

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The Literary Bum


Long term groupies of the Realm (all two of you), will know that I quit my longtime job about two years ago to make time for unemployment, starvation and the pursuit of other ambitions.  One of my ambitions was to live the life of a beach bum.

I am happy to report that I am halfway there …………. I am now definitely a bum.  Unfortunately, apart from a short week in Bali, this bum is beachless.  Hmmm, have to work on getting that beach!

Another of my “other ambitions” was to take up writing and to become a rich and famous novelist.  Now I admit that I was motivated to do so after seeing how some rather poor quality story telling and writing had become best sellers, been made into movies and was raking in the big bucks. ( I don’t want to mention any names but one of them involves pale guys that sparkle in the sun and often topless but buff Native Americans who smell like wet dog after running in the rain – you know who I mean).

I thought to myself, ” I can write as bad as that too ……..let the fame and fortune start rolling in!”  But lo, fame and fortune has not rolled in.  Instead, I find myself doing countless re-writes because I am having trouble getting the first line right.

I think my problem is that perhaps the literary geniuses that have been a big influence to my art may not have been the best choices.  Although I can say that I am greatly influenced by the works of Maxim Gorky, most of my writing lean more heavily on the works of Snoopy and his “it was a dark and stormy night…..” approach.

darkstormy6

Here are some more opening lines which I may have wrongly used as my inspirations (most of them are winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest)  What do you think?

  • Adventure:-When the dead moose floated into view the famished crew cheered – this had to mean land! – but Captain Walgrove, flinty-eyed and clear headed thanks to the starvation cleanse in progress, gave fateful orders to remain on the original course and await the appearance of a second and confirming moose. — Elizabeth (Betsy) Dorfman, Bainbridge Island, WA

As the sun dropped below the horizon, the safari guide confirmed the approaching cape buffaloes were herbivores, which calmed everyone in the group, except for Herb, of course. — Ron D Smith, Louisville, KY

“Die, commie pigs!” grunted Sergeant “Rocky” Steele through his cigar stub as he machine-gunned the North korean farm animals. – Dave Ranson, Calgary, Alberta

  • Romance:-

For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity’s affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss — a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil. – Molly Ringle

As an ornithologist, George was fascinated by the fact that urine and feces mix in birds’ rectums to form a unified, homogeneous slurry that is expelled through defecation, although eying Greta’s face, and sensing the reaction of the congregation, he immediately realized he should have used a different analogy to describe their relationship in his wedding vows. – David Pepper

Sex with Rachel after she turned fifty was like driving the last-place team on the last day of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, the point no longer the ride but the finish, the difficulty not the speed but keeping all the parts moving in the right direction, not to mention all that irritating barking. – Dan Winters

The Cunard “Carinthia” glided through the starry waters of the Bering Sea, 843 passengers aboard, including Harriet Dobbs, resignedly single for over a decade, while a nautical mile due west slunk the K-18 submarine, under the command of lonely Ukrainian Captain First Rank Nikolai Shevchenko: ships that passed in the night (although the second technically a boat). — Dr. Sarah Cockram, Edinburgh, U.K.

  • Crime:-

As I stood among the ransacked ruin that had been my home, surveying the aftermath of the senseless horrors and atrocities that had been perpetrated on my family and everything I hold dear, I swore to myself that no matter where I had to go, no matter what I had to do or endure, I would find the man who did this … and when I did, when I did, oh, there would be words. — Rodney Reed, Ooltewah, TN

Chief Inspector Blancharde knew that this murder would be easy to solve – despite the fact that the clever killer had apparently dismembered his victim, run the corpse through a chipper-shredder with some Columbian beans to throw off the police dogs, and had run the mix through the industrial-sized coffee maker in the diner owned by Joseph Tilby (the apparent murder victim) – if only he could figure out who would want a hot cup of Joe. — Matthew Chambers, Hambleton, WV

maybenot

Inspired by the great Spike Milligan, I offer two more possible first lines;

  • Our hero was sitting on the park bench feeding the pigeons when suddenly………..nothing happened.  But it happened quite suddenly.
  • When I interrogated the murder suspect, Joe Smith, the suspect told me that no one had called him “Joe” in years but instead they all used his nickname ……”Nick”.

Name Game


Be prepared for another rambling post.  It’s a mystery where the post will end up.  Let’s start……

Here is my Chinese name ………

chi leongMy very wise parents chose this name for me and I am often told either that the name suits me or that I have lived up to the name given me.  It is pronounced “ci liang” and means “kind and good”.

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to be named “rich and famous” but I  guess that is not a bad thing to have a name like “kind and good”.

One has to be careful with Chinese names because characters with similar sounds can mean something totally different.  For example, my brother’s name actually means “kind dragon” (which I think is really cool to be called a ‘dragon’, don’t cha think?).  However, with just a slightly wrong pronunciation and accent, such as might be said by a Westerner with no experience with the Chinese language , then “kind dragon” will suddenly be transformed into “pig sty”.

It is precisely because of all these mispronunciations of my name when I studied in the United Kingdom that I decided to adopt an Anglicized name.

I chose “Calvin”.  I like “Calvin”. However, in retrospect, it was not the wisest of choices.

If you were to look up the meaning of the name “Calvin”, it has only one unfortunate meaning…………”bald”.

BALD!!!!

Oh, yea.  Good choice there squirrel.  Can you imagine a bald squirrel?  No bushy tail?  Not a pretty sight, I think.

Many years ago, I went to Geneva, Switzerland and got to see a statue representing a rather famous “Calvin”……………John Calvin – a key historical figure of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.  The statue is part of a series of Protestant figures in what is called the “Reformation Wall“.

Photo by LGS
Photo by LGS

 

Calvin is the second from the left.  Now, I am not 100% sure, but don’t they all look bald to you?

Apart from being an important church figure, they also named a beer after him called Calvinus Beer.  I tried it.  It’s okay but not great……certainly won’t put hair on your head.

Strangely, there aren’t a lot of famous ‘Calvin”s.   The 30th President of the United States was a ‘Calvin” but he is mostly known for being a bit strange and being a man of few words. The story is told that a matron, seated next to him at a dinner, said to him, “I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you.” He replied, “You lose.”   Another tale relates  that upon learning that Calvin Coolidge had died, Dorothy Parker reportedly remarked, “How can they tell?”

The only other ‘Calvin” that people seem to have in their consciousness is “Calvin and Hobbes”.

A Boy and His Tiger (comics by Bill Watterson)
A Boy and His Tiger (comics by Bill Watterson)

 

Now I don’t mind that association cause Calvin is kinda cool but it gets a little tiresome when people keep asking me “Where’s Hobbes?’

Anyway, what does your name mean and are you happy with it?

Year of the Horse


This is the Year of the Horse!   Now I am a Tiger (yes – that’s right – a tiger squirrel!  I have a picture of just such a creature HERE on this blog).  My year was in 2010 and I think we can say that us Tigers gave you a good year.  You are welcome.

My wife is actually a Snake.  Her kind gave us last year.  It wasn’t a particularly bad sort of year but let’s face it …..it wasn’t a Tiger year.

Now for those who hold stock in traditional Chinese astrology, they say that a Tiger – Snake romantic pairing is not an auspicious one and the relationship will not work well.  Perhaps for that reason, when we were first dating, my wife told me that she was actually a Rabbit.  Sometimes when someone asks about her Chinese astrological sign, she will still say that she is a Rabbit.  To set the record straight, I tell that person that “this Rabbit speaks with forked tongue!”

So this is the Year of the Horse!  Yes, well, I don’t know much about horses but I will gladly share my general ignorance with all of you dear readers.

First, my sister is a Horse.  Enough said.  I dare not say more.  She can kick like a ……

Second, the word for horse in Chinese is “Ma” and is often one of the first words that they teach how to write when you are trying to learn Chinese.  This is probably because it clearly shows the pictographic nature of many Chinese characters.  The earliest character for “Ma” really resembled a picture representation for a horse and it evolved into the present day character. (see below)

Chinese_horse
The evolution of the Chinese character for the word horse. Source: Tan Huay Peng, What’s in a Chinese Character.

Third, I  actually had the privilege of seeing the Przewalski’s horse roaming wild in Mongolia (see post).  The Pzewalski’s Horse is considered the only remaining truly wild horse in the world. Woohoo!  Perhaps an ancestor of the horses I saw was the inspiration or model for that very first Chinese character for “Ma”.

Rubbing It's Behind on the Rough Rock
Rubbing It’s Behind on the Rough Rock (photo by LGS)

Fourth, when I was a wee lad, the only horse I knew was the “Hoss” on TV.  For me , he was the “Hoss”.

"Hoss" Cartwright (the one in front) of TV's Bonanza fame.
“Hoss” Cartwright (the one in front) of TV’s Bonanza fame.

Fifth and final point; lovely button mushrooms (yum yum) are grown on horse dung (not so yum yum) and that’s no bullshit!

And that brings to and end all that I know about horses.  Must go now……head feels ….kinda…….empty…..

What He Said


You would think that politicians would have the gift of the gab but very often they appear to have the gift of putting their foot in their mouth.  Or they come up with some ridiculous statement that leaves us incredulous and shaking our heads in dismay or rolling about in laughter.

I suppose that given the high volume of speeches they make and the extensive media coverage they get, the likeliness of guffaws is almost a certainty.

No one is immune and no nation’s politicians are exempt.  Ex-President Bush was a well known as being afflicted with  the foot in mouth disease.   Clinton’s “I smoked but I didn’t inhale’ is also memorable.

Never one to be outdone, the Prime Minister of Malaysia placed an entry in this exalted field last week.  Both what he said and various satirical comments and parodies rapidly went viral on social media.  This even led to the  BBC covering the story as a “trending” news and it appear that later, access to that BBC article was barred in Malaysia.  So what did the PM say?

The PM  accused the people of being unfair because when the prices of things go up, they blame the government but when the price of things like that for the kangkung (water spinach) goes down, no one thanks the government.

manfaat-kankung

His statement resulted in much derision from the netizens. Kangkung is a very commonly found vegetable.  In fact it can be readily found growing wild in many watery areas in the country.  It is considered a poor man’s vegetable and doesn’t cost very much.  Also, it’s price is not determined by the government at all but by market pressures.

The government was under criticism for a whole range of price and fee hikes that came in the new year such as higher costs of fuel, electricity and many food items as well as increases in assessment tax.  All together a whole basket of bad news.  The good news we were now told is that there was a drop in price of an already cheap vegetable.

But the PM is not the only politician in Malaysia with this particular knack.  Here are some other gems.

  1. “I have just returned from (the state of) Sarawak. And because of corruption, there is still no road to my kampung (village)”.  – this was surprising because the MP who said this is not from Sarawak nor is his constituency there.
  2. There was an international uproar against a statement attributed to the then Deputy Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad by the press in which he was reported to have said about Vietnamese boat refugees, that “we will shoot them on sight”.  It was later claimed that he was misquoted and that he had actually said , “We will shoo them on sight.”
  3. “It is a waste of money to send people to the moon.  We should send them to the sun!  Only then will the USA and Russia respect us!”  – ex Minister of Public Works.
  4. “Mail it off tomorrow and it will arrive today.”  – same minister when launching the new Express Post service.
  5. Same minister promised to build a bridge for the villagers but the villagers pointed out there was no need for a bridge as there was no river there. His response, “If there is no river, we will BUILD a river!”
  6. This same minister again is not very fluent in Bahasa Malaysia (the national language) and this can lead to some interesting miscommunications; “This matter has caused me a great deal of embarrassment.  In fact, the size of my private parts is huge!” (he meant that is embarrassment was huge).
  7. In response to complaints from parents and health professionals that school kids were suffering from having to carry too many heavy school books to school, the Minister of Education at that time said “Let them just bring their laptops.”   – is it just me or does this remind you of “Let them eat cake”?
  8. Another minister responding to a financial scandal back in the 1980’s was reported to have said that there was no point making a big fuss because all the money was already gone.

I could go on and on but it is time for me to fry up some kangkung for lunch.  Now if only, the price of nuts could drop.

 

 

 

Logos


The bible is so readily available in the English speaking world today that many take it for granted.   Yet the history of the translation of the bible into English is one scattered with stories of sacrifices and suffering, even unto death.  Similarly, many paid with their lives to ensure that the bible was translated into other languages too, so that others may read about the Good News of God in their native tongue.

In Southeast Asia, the Malay language is the lingua franca of about 215 million people.  In Malaysia, there is an estimated 2 million Christians of which for some 70 % Malay is their mother tongue and main language.  For them, having a Malay bible is a cherished blessing especially as they have faced difficulties previously from certain authorities who have tried to ban it, confiscate it, limit its distribution and even defaced it.  At the moment, the Malay language bible or the AlKitab has been allowed into the country but pending court cases means that the matter has not been settled permanently.

A week ago, I attended a function that celebrated 400 years of the Malay translation of the bible.  I had to admit that I was surprised to learn that the Malay language was the first non-European language into which the bible was translated.  A Dutch East India Company junior trader, Albert Cornelius Ruyl, translated the Gospel of Matthew into Malay in 1612 which was only one year later after the release of the King James’ Version.  His pioneering work would lead to the first complete Malay bible completed in 1733.

Albert Cornelius Ruyl had no formal training in linguistics but seemed to be extraordinarily gifted, allowing him to accomplish this feat.  He also pioneered the principle of “cultural substitution” in bible translation, something that would not receive widespread acceptance until it was promoted again almost 300 years later.  All previous translations, when faced with something that was not known to the new language, a word was adopted and adapted from the source language.  However, the new word would still be alien in meaning and did not promote understanding.

So Ruyl did some cultural substitution.  For example, there are no “fig trees” such as those found in the Middle East on the island of Sumatra.  Instead, Ruyl used “pisang” or banana tree as a cultural substitute.  Similarly, “wolves” was replaced with “tiger” and foxes with “mousedeer”.  Now a fox and a mousedeer are very different species; the former is a predetor while the latter is a prey species.  But just as we understand a fox to be cunning, in Malay folklore, it is the mousedeer that is cunning, often using its wits to escape the tiger and the crocodile.

Anyway, I am awestruck by seeing how God has led His word to be translated into the languages of the world (although there remains almost 200 languages that do not have the bible in their language), by the sacrifices made by many to carry out this work and how the work continues today even to some of the most remote tribes in the jungle as well as by how the Word of God is transforming many of these tribes.  There were many at the function that testify how knowledge of God’s word has set them free from fear and given them joy.

I am reminded to read my bible more faithfully and not take for granted my access to it.

My Name is Mud


You may have heard on the news that the village of Dull, Scotland and the town of Boring, Oregon have become sister communities. There is even a Dull and Boring Facebook page.

I have always been fascinated by names and place names are fun too. Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia may sound like some exotic Far Eastern city but in the local language, the name means “Muddy Rivermouth” which essentially is what it was when it was founded.

Paris is sometimes called “the City of Lights” but its name evolved from the Roman name “Lutetia Parisiorum”  which was used up to the 6th century.  The Parisii were a Gaulish clan that first inhabited the area and “lutetia” is of Celtic-Gaelic derivation and is believed to carry the meaning of “a dirty marsh”.  Therefore, Paris actually refers to the “dirty marsh of the Parisii”.  I guess a lot of cities started on some muddy river bank or another.

The BBC asked its viewers to submit other unusual place names that they were aware of.  And so, we now know we can be stuck in a Hole in Devon, UK; have Piles in Greece; be in an Accident, Maryland, USA; visit a Happy Bottom in Dorset, UK; or perhaps Lost in Scotland; visit Les Arses in Switzerland; get a good night’s rest or not in Little Snoring and its larger neighbour, Great Snoring in Norfolk, UK but should avoid breakfast at Rottenegg, Austria.

I personally have been to the village of Ugley in the UK which has the distinction of having an Ugley Village Hall but I cannot verify rumours of an Ugley Women’s Institute!  However, it seems there is a nearby town of Nasty and when a woman from one village married a man from the other, the local newspaper quipped; “Ugley woman marries Nasty man.”

 

 

But my personal favorite is Hope, British Columbia.  What’s so strange about an uplifting name like “Hope”, you may ask?  Well, the name is quite nice, I suppose, and the area around the town quite beautiful.  In fact, it has been the place where many movies have been filmed such as Rambo: First Blood and Shoot to Kill.

But what really sticks in my memory from my visit many years ago was this sign by the side of the road that was visible as you drove out of Hope and on towards the Rockies.  It said, “You are now beyond Hope”.