Slicing the onion – does dumbing-down language mean dumbing-down thought?


I recently came across a fine example of how keeping language “simple” means that a really deep understanding of concepts becomes impossible. Thinking depends absolutely and directly on language – people say that the purest thinking is mathematics, but all that is is words and grammar replaced by symbols. 1 means “one” or “jeden” or “uno” or whatever that is in your language – I think I can pretty much guarantee nobody reading here has abandoned their language’s word for 1, 0 etc and simply thinks about those terms in the non-linguistic way a binary circuit regards them.

So when we simplify language and remove harder constructions and any vocabulary beyond a few thousand words, what happens? The BASIC ideas may be more understandable to more people, but they are like explanations given to children.

Let’s look at the examples I found. Both are from the same source and both refer to something familiar probably to all of us, namely: why do cut onions make us cry? First the Wikipedia entry in standard English:

Eye irritation[edit]

Cut onions emit certain compounds which cause the lachrymal glands in the eyes to become irritated, releasing tears.
Chopping an onion causes damage to cells which allows enzymes called alliinases to break down amino acid sulfoxides and generate sulfenic acids. A specific sulfenic acid, 1-propenesulfenic acid, is rapidly acted on by a second enzyme, the lachrymatory factor synthase (LFS), giving syn-propanethial-S-oxide, a volatile gas known as the onion lachrymatory factor or LF.[5] This gas diffuses through the air and soon reaches the eye, where it activates sensory neurons, creating a stinging sensation. Tear glands produce tears in order to dilute and flush out the irritant.[42]

Eye irritation can be avoided by cutting onions under running water or submerged in a basin of water.[42] Leaving the root end intact also reduces irritation as the onion base has a higher concentration of sulphur compounds than the rest of the bulb.[43] Refrigerating the onions before use reduces the enzyme reaction rate and using a fan can blow the gas away from the eyes. The more often one chops onions, the less one experiences eye irritation.[44]

The amount of sulfenic acids and LF released and the irritation effect differs among Allium species. In 2008, the New Zealand Crop and Food institute created a strain of “no tears” onions by using gene-silencing biotechnology to prevent synthesis by the onions of the LFS enzyme.[45]

 

And now, the same, but from the Simple English Wikipedia set:

Why onions make eyes water[edit source]

When you cut an onion, you open some cells of the onion. Then, some chemicals react. When one chemical floats through the air and reaches your eyes, they sting. There are ways to keep the chemical away. You can:

  • Cut the onion under water
  • Keep the onion in the fridge, and cut when it is cold
  • Leave the root end on until last
  • Use a sharper knife
  • Have a fan blowing away from you on the onion
  • Wear goggles, like for swimming or skiing

 

The Simple Version keeps the practical parts, like cutting from the top, but it just can’t handle what the chemicals actually are.

The good news is of course that these “Hard words” are the most international and, paradoxically, it is often the “hard” words which give the least trouble to the polyglot, so you end up with multi-language speakers who tend to talk like this:

This gas is diffusing through air and is reaching soon eye, where it’s activate a sensory neurons, created stinking sensation.

And the equivalent in four to forty different languages.

Happy Easter!


It’s Easter Sunday, and so I gave my family the traditional Easter greeting, “Christ is risen!” Instead of responding with the traditional “He is risen indeed”, Sophie absent-mindedly responded “You too”.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that this faux pas was actually more appropriate than maybe even the traditional answer, which confirms that the second person also believes, but gives no fresh information.

Now it is, after all, because Christ was born in human flesh, lived a perfect life, died on behalf of sinners paying their price and then resurrecting on the third day that we ourselves have the hope of following Him. He is the first-fruits of the Resurrection, the body that dwells in eternity which God had in mind for humans, for His people, all along, can only be acquired this way, by faith and by our death in faith (or ascribed faith in the case of those who did not have the ability to accept the Gospel and would not have rejected it) in Jesus Christ.

Where He goes in this new body, remembered this morning, we go so that we will be where He is. And it is also written that “when we see Him, we shall be like Him”. We will already be in resurrection bodies when our eyes behold him coming to the earth. For those still living it will be as the twinkling of an eye, not two nights and a day in a stone tomb where no-one had yet been laid, as in the case of our Saviour.

It doesn’t matter what has happened to your atoms in the meantime. Maybe your organs, with or without your consent, have gone to save lives or have simply been fed to circus cats. They will be back in full force, perfectly healthy, in a body free from disease or imperfections capable of inhabiting eternity, capable of disregarding the very laws of physics that have constrained your life, senses and even most of your imagination until the time of your changing. If you were cremated and your ashes scattered to the winds and waves, or if you were carefully buried and your body consumed by worms, the worms by ducks and the ducks by various Yorkshiremen, it still doesn’t matter to God. Your resurrection body is part of the New Creation. The atoms He has in Mind for You are still exactly there, in the Mind of God, just as the current style atoms for Adam were prior to the Six-Day Creation. Your body will be returned to you recognisable and yet unrecognisable, as was Jesus when He appeared to them that knew Him best.

This is promised to those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation. He is risen, indeed. Will it be you, too?

Some surprising things about Turkish and English


I thought I’d note down a couple of things which have arisen in the course of my learning Turkish, which strangely reflect certain aspects of English. Some people might regard as completely coincidental such items appearing between languages from completely different groups — my question is how many such coincidences can there be before it becomes more than a coincidence?

1) adjectival suffix -LI

In Turkish, an adjective derived from a noun can be formed by adding -li or one of the equivalents of -li in vowel harmony. Example – ev (house) gives evli (having a house – ie married, compare the Spanish “casado”), tedbir is caution – having caution, ie “prudent” is “tedbirli”. Resim is picture, and resimli means illustrated. Interesting how this reflects the -ly of “shapely” in English.

2) Past tense in d or t. The suffix -di or -ti in Turkish closely reflects the way in which English forms past tense from most of its verbs

3) In English, the “geographicals” such as “where?”, “Here”, “there” all have a -re suffix. Same in Turkish, although you have to bear in mind that because of vowel harmony the suffix often appears as “ra”. “Where” is “nere” plus “de” making “nerede” if you mean “where at”, “nere” plus “ye” making “nereye” meaning “where to”, while nereden is wherefrom, “burada” means “here”, “orada” means “there”, etc.

This is in addition to the numerous similarities which can be explained by the fact that they appear in many languages because that’s what languages do, and also the later borrowings.

Turkish also gives us insights into the Russian language and into Ukrainian. The Russian expressions “my s toboy” or “soviet da lyubov” can be traced into Turkic, along with a sizeable amount of that vocabulary which Russian does not share with, for instance, Polish.

And of course for the Westerner Turkish offers an ease in to languages such as Arabic and Persian, given that in learning Turkish you will learn a certain quantity of loan words which you will recognise again coming to those languages.

If all this was not enough, and the logical, quite delightful structure of Turkish and the pleasantness of its sound were not enough, and the way it opens a route to a large country to explore for business or pleasure with about 80 million people, Turkish is also the best-known language and in a sense the mother ship for learning other Turkic languages, 4 out of the 5 Central Asia countries and also Azerbaydzhan as well as peoples found in many other countries, the Qirimtatarca and Tatars of Russia, the Uyghurs of China, among others. Turkish is a silk route into a very interesting, cross-continental linguistic adventure.

Chicken soup – super natural medicine?


Some people swear by chicken broth as a cure-all. Certainly Jewish traditions make a lot of it, and from them also Polish cuisine makes a big deal out of rosol, as they call it. It is a useful pick-me-up while on a liquids only fast, and it is very useful to tide oneself over between meals as an alternative to tea or coffee.

For those eating chickens, the best chickens to use are older ones, like an old rooster who has served his days making hens happy and waking your neighbours up in the morning while you blithely sleep through it. He has tough meat and is unpalatable. His Chicken Kiev would be more of a Chicken Maydan, but boiled into broth he gives you more microelements than Mendeleyev himself wrote about in the song “On the road to Mendeleyev, where the flying fishes playev”.

The Mexican recipe for chicken soup is rumoured to start with the same four words as every recipe in the Mexican recipe book, accordingly to the old joke. If you don’t know what those four words are I will not ruin the tone here by mentioning them, but maybe someone will show their knowledge of the history of comedy by mentioning them in the comments section below. (Come on, I have to do something to encourage readership participation round here!)

Something topical …


The disturbing thing of course is the way Westerners have acted with so little demonstration of understanding of what Crimea means to Russia. If they have not read Pushkin’s “Bakhchisarayskiy Fontan” in the original or Lermontov’s “Hero of our Times” then they will never understand why Crimea simply cannot be given up by Russians to a regime that outlaws the use of use of the Russian language.

We could as soon tolerate in London a bunch of Muslims telling us that English wouldn’t be allowed in Bloomsbury anymore, the home of so much of the English literary culture. Western politicians haven’t even taken this into account.

V. D. Huliganov

Should Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Reporting be mandatory?


The interesting thing is, if we were to ask individuals doing business to report on all the good they do, they could with justification point to the high ethical standard of the Sermon on the Mount and other western Christian-derived ethical ideas which make it at least in bad taste and at worse a prideful thing that would deprive you of your “reward in heaven” to boast about good social works that an individual has done.

Maybe your reaction to the above paragraph is, “ok, but we are talking about companies, companies don’t have souls, they should report”, but the point then is: should we be applying to legal entities doing business requirements that we would not be able to apply to non-legal entities (sole traders and partnerships) if these are in direct competition with them?

I would like to suggest that the requirements for CSR reporting shouldn’t be a one size fits all even when by “all” we mean “all companies over a certain size limit”. It should be applied on a sector by sector basis, with sectors which have a larger environmental/social impact being asked to address specific points in CSR reporting selected for their industry or service sector.

The standards for CSR should contain a table with industries in the column headers, 100 CSR report questions in the row headers and 20-30 mandatory ticks as well as 10-15 secondary ticks where answering these questions in the CSR report is either mandatory or strongly advised, and each industry would have a tailor-made profile. Then unincorporated businesses in the particular sectors should also answer at least the mandatory questions, which would be tailored to address the particular adverse social aspects of the particular industry.

Obviously this needs to be done on an international basis, as business is international and these days more and more companies are “born global”.

Does that not sound reasonable?

New etiquette dilemmas.


There are etiquettical situations that affect us in these days of ubiquitous oriental cuisine which our forefathers did not even realise. They didn’t have to worry about which way to point the teapot in a Japanese restaurant, or remember not to stab the sushi with the hashi, and to put them back on the hashioki. Or that it’s OK to say the “n” word if you mean a slice of raw fish perched punningly atop a blob of rice. Or that the soy sauce is not for the unaga, which has its own sweet sauce.  O tempura, o morays!

“Emerging Europe Mega Mission 2014″ – Urgh!


http://www.britishchamber.cz/data/1392646968497MegaMission-Overall-Programme.pdf

The above link shows an initiative by the UK government. However well-intentioned the aims might be, and however good it may do, and I hope it will, nevertheless whoever decided what to call it needs to be given a special edition framed gold-leaf P45 form (that’s a “pink slip”, by the way, for the benefit of my American readers, which my stats say are in the majority, and who are always welcome).

“Emerging Europe” and “Visehrad Four” was the term applied to these four countries way back in the end of the last century while these countries were the focus of attention, we didn’t know much about them other than that they were neighbours and that they emerged from behind the Iron Curtain at about the same time. In the mind of most Westerners Poland and its southern neighbours were expected to be quite similar and the major differences in culture between them which stretch back into the very different histories of these two areas over hundreds of years before the period of Soviet hegemony. Everyone had in their family people who knew life before, people were mentally prepared to spring back, and that is exactly what they did, with year after year of growth outstripping Western Europe and most of the rest of the world over a 20 year period, with legislative reforms and international consultation enabling unprecedented transfer of administrative know-how. These countries also had the advantage of computerising to a much more advanced level immediately than we had – their offices were not littered with massive green or amber screen monitors, most business people went straight onto Windows with its Word and Excel and cannot even remember the MS-DOS antecedents we struggled with and the hardware and software we clung too even when it was superseded in order not to waste the earlier IT investments.

The countries we are talking about avoided many of the errors made by a number of Western countries, problems now very apparent in the banking systems, education and health systems of western countries, problems with housing, transport, etc which are not so problematic in the more easterly countries.

On top of that these are countries which, apart from a very short period of forty years which is now 25 years over, were in the central current of European culture and thought, and had been for hundreds of years. When Luther nailed his 99 theses to the wall and they were being discussed days later in Oxford University, he did it in what was to become the German Democratic Republic, a country which, but for the existence of a larger brother constitutionally committed to reuniting with it, would also today be in the group you are calling ‘Emerging Europe”. If I mention the list of literary, musical, philosophical, artistic and other gems of this region the list (or should that be “liszt”?) would be very long indeed. These are not cultures which are only now emerging as Europe. You might call them rediscovered Europe, but emerging? Scarcely.

Furthermore, if we are going to continue to use the “Emerging Europe” label for successful, thriving European Union member states all fo which are in Schengen (unlike the UK) and one of which uses the Euro already (unlike the UK) and whose remaining currencies except for the HUF of late have proven to be just about as buoyant as the GBP for the last dozen or so years or better ( – take the Polish zloty for instance. 10 years ago precisely a pound would buy you 7.24 PLN. Today it will but you only 5.06 PLN. It has lost about 30% over those ten years against the zloty. Incomparison to the zloty, I’m afraid our currency looks like a soft currency against the zloty. Fact. Sorry, but fact) then what term are we going to use for countries which remain outside the EU, which continually have GDPs per head lower than 10,000 USD, which continually seem unable to introduce the reforms required in the Acquis Communautaire?

Let’s maybe have a poll as what what we can call those countries, if the likes of Poland or the Czech Republic is called “Emerging Europe”:

In summary, please for goodness sake stop referring to Central European EU members as “Emerging Europe”!  The term is dated, was patronising even when it was current, and just makes the British look out of touch when it is used by us, and in my experience more often than not only serves to offend the people from the Region, although, being highly cultured and European, they are usually able not to show it.

So I thought I’d show it for them.

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