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This is where there’s no TV here on Huliganov TV. It gathers together in one place where I’ve just used words and images without video links.

My Brexit Solution


Here’s a thought. The EU moghuls want the UK to pay a €60b Brexit bill. That would be about €2000 per working UK citizen. Some people don’t want to pay that and want a hard Brexit, some are happy for us to pay and hopefully enjoy the benefits of market freedoms in the future.

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Why does this have to be a one size fits all approach? Would it not be better (I know this is an alien concept to the EU and politicians/lawmakers in general, but…) to democratise it? Let those British people who want to have a permanent set of personal rights in the EU as they do now pay for an additional ID card like a superpassport (could be the prototype of a real EU passport) at €2000 per head or €5000 for a couple and their dependent children, with subsequent top up payments of say a quarter of the entry sum annually (collected say every four years) and the same for EU nationals wishing to work in the UK. Likewise companies wishing to import or export goods and services under the four freedoms would pay based on their employee numbers not having the card. If all their employees including subbies had the card then the company could trade up to a certain volume per head of employee based on what appears normal in databases like Amadeus. If they wanted to import unusual amounts for the size of the workforce in their sector then even if all their workforce are paid up Europeans they could make top-up payments for higher export and again that would work in both directions.

Then people, and private companies, can actually decide to be European or not. Their contributions would among other things fund their own representation as a constituency of UK Europeans in the European Government at all levels and they would also vote for their representatives. EU nation states citizens wishing to do border and tariff-free trade in the UK and buying the card in that direction could also vote for their own MP in the UK parliament, their own representation even in the House of Lords and representation at other levels of government as relevant to them. If living in the UK, they would remain entitled to vote in local elections.

In other words, the EU as far as the UK is concerned and vice versa would be an individual driven, opt-in system with complete respect for the individual and whether they identify as European or not.

If it works then it could after some years become a blueprint for further EU expansion or for those nations in the EU today potentially, for all we know as most are afraid to have a referendum, against the will of the majority of their people.

 

The mysterious case of the German biting dog…


Today’s post is not the first in taking the form of a brief epistollary.
Regular commentator and reader, though not in that order, of this blog, Mr A… B… , wrote to me a few days ago saying the following:

Dear Mr James,

Please forgive my writing directly but I’m not certain how I can post a general message on Huliganov TV.

I thought that perhaps you could put me out of my grammatical misery. I have a grammar query that is driving me nuts for want of an answer. The question concerns the case system in German (I hesitate to call it a system as it seems half-baked to me but that could be my misunderstanding).

I appreciate that in German (as in many languages) the nominative / accusative case endings (I am not concerning myself here with the other cases) applied to masculine words will enable me to identify the subject and object of a sentence. All well and good. So, for example, if I use the classic biting / bitten scenario we would have something like:-

Der Hund beisst den Mann.  And if I reverse the word order (Den Mann beisst der Hund) the meaning remains the same, namely “the dog bites the man”. Directly comparable to the Latin usage of the case system – “Canus virum mordet” with the same versatility of word order.

BUT, it seems to me that where the Latin uses it’s nominative and accusative endings consistently (in that there are ending for masculine, feminine and neuter nouns) this is not carried through to German as the different noun endings apply to the masculine nouns ONLY where the accusative is concerned.

So, if I now use a feminine object in my example, Der Hund beisst die Frau the word order would now have to be rigid as reversing it could mean that the woman is biting the dog (not impossible of course, but rather eccentric behaviour for woman or a man to have! ). Same applies to a neuter object. It seems to me there is little or no point in applying a different ending for accusative noun unless it is applied equally to ALL genders.

German ACC endings are :  (maculine) ‘der’ becoming ‘den’ ; (feminine) ‘die’ unchanged ; (neuter) ‘das’ unchanged. Had there been something like :- Der/den ; die / det ; das / dax  (the feminine and neuter accusative endings being my inventions), then I would see the point of it and it would be a very useful feature. As it is, it is confusing and pointless.

If we take a Latin feminine object example, “Canus matronam mordet” we can still have any word order without changing the meaning. This is not the case (no pun intended !) with German accusative usage as we are unable to distinguish the nominative ‘die’ from the accusative ‘die’. Hence there is uncertainty about the feminine noun being subject or object.

Allowing for my poor Latin and looking at the principle involved, am I missing some important point in the German case system or is it (as I believe it to be) poorly implemented and inconsistent ?

I do hope you can throw some light on this as nothing that I can find on an Internet trawl can offer any guidence. I even asked a German native speaker about it on a Skype session, but he seemed to miss the point of my confusion.
If my suspicion about this German case usage is correct I shall abandon any further study of the language and spend the time saved reading Mark Twain’s “The Awful German Language” section of his book of 1880, “A Tramp Abroad” .

Sincerely and with best wishes to you.

So I wrote back with the following information:

A…, 

even if the person being bitten is die Frau or das Kind, they are still in the accusative. The fact that in Germanic (the same applies incidentally in Icelandic, others have lost three genders and have two or only a default gender for all but personal pronouns) the feminine and neuter have the same endings and have had for more than a thousand years in feminine and neuter genders for the masculine and accusative cases doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Look again at it with personal pronouns.

She bites the dog – Sie beisst den Hund
The dog bites her – Der hund beisst sie.

He bites the dog – Er beisst den Hund
The dog bites him – Der Hund beisst ihn.

So, you have more diversity for gender in English, arguably, than in German, alhough the fact is we took the DATIVE case pronouns and mae them good for both the dative and the accusative.

Der Hund gibt IHM / IHR viel Vergnuegen

The dog gives him/her much pleasure. When it is not biting them, presumably. You can see the same m and r endings carrying over.

In Slavic Neuter has identical nominative and accusative, also vocative for that matter, where it exists, but differentiates in masculine and feminine. German just goes one little bit further. It is on the way to ending up with the Dutch or Scandinavian system of having two genders only.

Hope this helps.

Can I put the Q & A back onto HTV?
 
Best regards,

And then A… replies as follows:

Many thanks, David,  for your fast reply to my question and your interesting explanation. This certainly helps in addition to providing extra insights to the case system in general. 
I’m still a little confused though. Am I correct in saying that if we have a simple German sentence containing a feminine subject and a feminine object (neither being a pronoun) we could not distinguish subject from object merely by looking at the articles. Only perhaps by context or word order ? 
I can see that no problem arises where there is a masculine noun in the sentence because the change made to its ending would determine its function in the sentence and the remaining noun would automatically be determined by default. So if the masculine noun has den or einen as its article, it is an object in the sentence so the remaining noun (of any gender) has to be the subject in the sentence.  
However,if the sentence contains only feminine or neuter nouns, their appears to be no way of knowing which is intended to be the subject and which the object by inspection of the articles used. From what you have said, it seems that only the use of pronouns would resolve the uncertainty (context and word order perhaps also being of value). 
Is my understanding faulty here or am I near the mark ?

[yes please, would you put the content onto HTV for the benefit of others that are perhaps as confused by cases as I am ! ]

Very best wishes, 

And since I did not manage to answer this second letter yet, I will answer it now, especially as I have the kind agreement of A… to let everyone see our linguistic discussion.

Basically, when it comes to masculine nouns in German, they retain a fuller set of differentiation in the case endings than the feminine or neuter do, and nevertheless the word order remains flexible.

You can say “Der Hund beisst den Mann” and “Den Hund beisst der Mann” and the direction of the bite is precisely opposite, but what is not the same is the syntax.

This is what is usually left unsaid by people who use this sentence, and others like it, as an illustration of how cases work and allow more flexibility in word order. It is effectively a very good example of why syntax is one thing and grammar another. Syntax is the place at which grammar means style.

The sentence “Den Mann beisst der Hund” actualy does not have the same semantic loading as the sentence “Der Hund beisst den Mann”. True, the bite is being carrying out by the same canine agent in both sentences, but the meaning has changed. In the sentence “Der Hund beisst den Mann” you have a simple form. The dog is biting the man. There is no doubt about which dog it is or the man, as we are simply following the default SVO of German.

When I invert that and say “Den Mann beisst der Hund” then I am making a new emphasis. I am showing that there was uncertainty about which man was being bitten by the dog. Therefore I bring it to the beginning of the sentence. German sentences can be very long and if in cases of urgency I don’t bring the key information about which man it is to the start of the sentence, by the time I get to the close, he could have already bled out, und das wollen wir nicht.

This means the intonation also changes, when you say the inverted OVS sentences. You won’t hear them in the same tone of voice as the SVO simple forms. So, bearing in mind that spoken language precedes written language by centuries if not millennia, this is why there seems no need to worry that the Feminine form seems to maintain the mystery of who is biting whom. The tone of voice would have made it clear. In writing, you generally have context, and that ought to make it clear. If you make a piece of writing in which a feminine nouns is object and subject in an OVS sentence without any context, then for sure you have an ambiguity. Language speakers are usually quite good at exploiting ambiguities like this for jokes so it would be a pity if it weren’t there.

You can imagine how in German this could work and in English not:

– Eine Schlange biss meine Schwiegermutter.
– Autsch, ist sie giftig?
– Naja, aber nicht so schlimm wie der Schwiegervater.

“A snake bit my mother-in-law”
“Ouch, is it toxic?”
“Well, yes, but not as bad as my father-in-law”

There are two grammatical reasons why the joke sounds very confusing in English.

The joke is possibly confusing in German also, but only because Naja, in addition for being a common colloquial German affirmative, is the Latin name for a very poisonous snake.

No wonder the Germans come across as a little verbissen at times…

Brexit – what next? (guest article by my friend Martin Williams of European Business Solutions)


martin-williams-570x570The UK voted in the Referendum by a very narrow margin the leave the EU. But it is not as simple as that. The process of leaving begins when the UK writes formally to the EU, specifically commencing the process set out in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The Referendum is technically not binding on Parliament, the overwhelming majority of MPs preferring Britain to stay in the EU. The Prime Minister, Mr Cameron, has said he will step down for a new leader of the Conservative Party to be appointed, sometime in the Autumn, and he will not invoke Article 50, believing that this should be done by the new Prime Minister.

The leader of the “Out” side, Mr Johnson has said that he believes that the EU and the UK will retain access to each other’s markets. Mr Johnson adds that “Immigration was not the main issue in the Referendum” and a spokesman for Mrs Merkel has already commented that access to the EU Market for the UK is perfectly possible if the UK pays a contribution to the costs of the market in a similar way to Norway. Incidentally, this model also involves, for all practical purposes, free movement of people. Then what is going to change I hear you ask, and my opinion is “Not very much” The UK and the EU will continue to be effectively a free trade area, there will be movement of people and the UK will contribute to the costs. Read the rest of this entry

A good time to germinate your German


Today’s article is in response to a request I had on Facebook Messenger from a Polish youth called Adam.

He complains of having received 10 years of teaching at school in German after which he has emerged with very little German knowledge, and blames this on the teaching. He has however managed to learn English even though he didn’t get this kind of classroom time in English. He feels if anything that the lessons at school just served to make him feel bad about German as a language.

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Vergissmeinnicht – naja, das ist genau worauf wir hinauf sind…

This is not to do with any implicit dislike of German people or the country – indeed in 8 months time he means to move there on his own and wants now to learn sufficient German in the intervening 8 months to cope with the move and function properly in the country.

So I agreed to produce an 8 month plan of action for someone in this situation, but it will just be a first 8 months of an ongoing study plan, but in English and here for other people to benefit from who are in the same situation. Read the rest of this entry

Qui habet aures audiendi audiat, Audible!


It’s time for me to say publicly how unhappy I am about this policy of not allowing me to participate in some of the daily deals because I live in a different EU country to the UK. I am from the UK, I travel and work all over Europe and live in Poland, but in Europe we have a special law (ironically in this context) called the Treaty of Rome which grants us four freedoms, including freedom of the movement of people and of services and of goods.

Nothing can override these freedoms as they are lex specialis. The problem is of course, that the EU in its current form is full of good thoughts and ideas which are applied on a selective basis. When they want our votes we are told we have these rights, but afterwards there are 1001 ways in which they are limited, if only by resources but also by all the special interests which really pull the strings. How can it be that in the EU a publisher can release books in one country but not in another? I understand there can be good reasons to limit that. I understand for example “Mein Kampf” being illegal in Germany, but Mary Beard? What has she been saying that would stir shit up in Poland? Read the rest of this entry

To Polish people and others who use the term “Ms Amy”, “Mr David”, etc in English


Just for your information, a title plus the first name is decidedly old-fashioned in English now. We use it for people with very high titles, such as Sir Cliff (Richards), Dame Edna (Everage) but not Lord and Lady. Mr, Miss and Mrs were used only with surname already before Ms was revived in the 20th Century. Ms plus first name is recorded in the seventeeth century. Ms then went out of use for two centuries, (because it is actually short for “mistress” which took on a risqué meaning).

The use of any title less than Sir or Dame plus first name seems decidedly quaint now. One is put in mind of that traditional old Texas oil baron Jock Ewing, who persisted in calling his wife “Miss Ellie” even after they were married and even just before his funeral. I understand that this is a bit of a Texas thing.

Meeting his Dick (Whittington) ness Mr Boris Johnson, at least, a pasticine avatar of the same.

Meeting his Dick(Whittington)ness Mr Boris Johnson, at least, a plasticine avatar of the same.

In the English-speaking world, first names seem to be in general use now and in the main people do not even ask for permission to switch to it. However there are still situations where deference is called for, such as to a client or a teacher, in which case Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms or a professional/academic title like Dr or Professor are used with the surname. More highly honorific titles still, such as Excellency for embassadors, highness or majesty for royalty are not usually combined with names at all in direct address. It is also usually appropriate to use the term once in a meeting and then default to “sir, ma’am” after this. The use of first or second name after foreign titles used in English will follow the usage in the language of origin. Examples include Don Giovanni, Sheikh Yamani, Mufti Menk and Imam Bayildi.

Poem on the whole history of human language


I recently expanded my earlier metrical version of the Genesis account of Babel to include some further points on the history of language from that point onwards and beyond the veil of Eternity. Hope you enjoy this and find it edifying.

1.
The earth had once one speech o’erall. One tongue men used, to tell
From th’East to Shinar’s plain they came and settled there, to dwell.
Among themselves did they conspire “Bricks let us make,” said they
“To building stones them throughly burn and slime for morter lay.”
“Go to,” said they, “a city great, a tow’r to reach the sky,
We shall construct unto ourselves, our name to magnify
Lest scattered far abroad we be the whole earth’s face around”
They built the walls from bricks they’d baked and slime from lime they’d found.

2.
The Lord looked down at Adam’s kin and saw their undertaking
He knew that left alone this would become mankind’s unmaking
Although still in his infancy, not yet a million souls
Mankind was learning things with which he’d score fatal own goals
Adamic language and long life allowed the human mind
To know and build technologies while immature and blind
The Lord said “See, this people is by language unified
Now can no thing their power restrain their will to realise”

3.
“Now let Us unto them descend, their language to confound
That each the other’s speech and tongue no more may understand.”
And so the LORD did scatter them all o’er the earth from thence.
Their city no more could they build. Its name is Babel hence:
That there the LORD in mighty pow’r the earth’s speech did confound,
And He from thence did scatter them the whole earth’s face around.
For here the Lord unto each soul his single language giving
Ensured that man’s wish was to be with but close kindred living

4.
And so each man his nearest took and from the crowd did flee
They lived alone until they spoke one tongue per family
The mother taught the babies hers, the father also learned it
The elder siblings got to add some features if they earned it
And families at length combined by dint of need to wed
So tribal languages emerged as Babel’s tongues went dead
And tribe fought tribe, and strong tribes grew, their tribal tongue promoting:
The structure ever simpler, the word-stock ever growing

5.
And as they filled the earth and crossed each hill and vale and river,
Some tribes grew great and in due course their languages did sever
Through ice and fire and flood and marsh men walked and faced all dangers
To use all space this world allowed and grow to outnumber angels
And language families emerged that had one time been one
But once again they could no more grasp one another’s tongue.
One tribe, the seed of Abraham, in whom all would be blest
Got history and prophesy to cherish for the rest.

6.
But man since Babel always sought to get back there again
To build the city, raise the tower and make himself a name.
To make the countries all one state and into Unions bind
And place a ruler over all, as blind will lead the blind
Each man who tasted power’s rush soon hatched the grand ambition
To subjugate all men to himself as slaves to his volition.
But rulership of this world here is but for its Creator.
It is reserved for God the Christ and He shall take it later.

7.
For only Christ makes all things good: he’ll teach us what was missing
And speak to us in tongues of men, while angels throng to listen.
And when the Resurrection comes and all things be made new,
That ancient tongue shall sound again, the one that Adam knew.
The lives of men became too short to learn that perfect tongue
But it will be a joy to learn for the forever-young.
And so when we are healed in heart, bodies and minds restored
Again we’ll learn that language giv’n to Adam by the Lord.

I came, I sawm, I conquered…


No, that isn’t a typo in the title. Yes, it is another one of my trademark painful interlingual puns.

Fasting – known as “sawm” – during Ramadan is one of the so-called five pillars of Islam, or obligations described in Islamic texts, which many Muslims follow, alongside actions such as prayer, giving alms and making the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Thus spake today’s article on the topic in the Daily Telegraph.  They seem to have missed one of the five pillars, as I can only count four there, but such errors have never been known to bother the modern journalist. For the sake of completeness I will provide the whole list of these so-called “pillars”: shahadah (or “testifying” which means stating their belief that Allah is the name of the only God and his messenger is Mohammed as if it were fact) prayer, fasting, almsgiving and pilgrimage to Mecca. Read the rest of this entry

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