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

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 45,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 17 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Son of Man hath not where to lay His head…

Recently on Facebook a friend by name of John who has a tendency to challenge people about faith questions, taking basically it would seem an opposing view to traditional Christian theology linked me in the course of a discussion about a series of photos I had uploaded showing our Christmas meal to the following article.


He also gave other links and each article had a numer of bones to pick with traditional Christian understandings of Scripture. In particular there wwas the old chestnut about “almah” not necessarily meaning a Virgin. I wrote the following rebuttal of that point:

I will take just one point for now, about Mary being just “a young woman” – clearly there is more meanings to almah than just “virgin” – one is reminded of Jungfrau in German – it means literally a young woman but is also the standard German word for virgin. There is no paucity of Germans and their literature in the world today so no room to get confused about that one, but clearly there is room for people to get confused about the semantic map of a word in classical Hebrew in an age where little Hebrew existed outside the remaining religious texts and even the Talmud is rather Aramaic than Hebrew.

The article argues that if Isaiah had meant virgin he would have used betulah not almah. But the same problem exists with betulah – all it really means is a woman who is to be married. Her chasteness is a societal presumption. There were no words in Hebrew of a medical or biological import describing intact hymens etc that have at any rate survived in the corpus of Hebrew writing. Therefore the self same objections could have been raised to betulah.

In the Bible almah never is used in the sense of a woman about to be married, it is always about young women in a society where extramarital chastity and intactness of the young is presumed.

But the biggest argument of course is why would Isaiah make a big deal about messiah being born of an almah if that simply means a young woman? Would anyone have expected a firstborn to be born of an old crone or of a man? The verse simply becomes absurd with this reading.

Another point is that a pregnant woman would have been honoured and not left with whatever was left, the claim of the article about the manger. This is all very well but as an argument it barely stacks up in a situation where foreign government has sent people around the country to the place the man was born in in order to register for tax there. This was a typical case of an ill thought-out government imposition of duty on citizens with the resultant usual chaos compounded by the fact that the Roman rule had no love for the Jews and probably were having a great laugh at the logistical nightmare they had created.

So we have no idea how many married couples with pregnant ladies were turning up in Bethlehem and of course Joseph had no way of booking ahead, I am sure he did what he could, but as for consulting tripadvisor off of a mobile phone, well I doubt his donkey was equipped with that. So he got the leftovers. It’s hard to imagine turfing out rich clients who have already paid top shekel for the good rooms or asking them would you mind budging over for a pregnant lady when there probably were already quite a few pregnant ladies wrapped up in the chaos.

But the real reason Jesus was placed in a feeding trough was again, prophetic. You see the feeding troughs such as they were resembled the ones you probably saw in the forests in Poland when food is laid out for deer. It is basically a trestle – two cross beams making X shapes at either end standing each on the bottom two feet while planks of wood join together the upper part of the X in a V shaped trough. In this goes straw, and the wrapped baby who is the Maker of each piece of mass or each photon or other unit of any physical force in this Universe is carefully placed inside it. You see Him between two crosses – just as he was on the day of His crucifixion. This is why He was born in this way.
John then replied:

“Leave the virgin birth out for the moment. We could have a long debate about it but let’s not. I should perhaps have trimmed the two articles to exclude it but I always prefer, if possible, to present complete articles rather than risk taking things out of context.

What I was really wondering was what you think of the suggested confusion of the words for inn and guest room and suggestion that the manger would have been located inside a house rather than in a barn. You may have relevant linguistic knowledge and I’m sure your opinion will be informed”.

Well, let us grab the part of the article that John refers to here:
So, what are we to make of the “no room at the inn” and the manger portion then? Well, he goes on to describe the common living quarters at the time, which was common place since the time of David through even the twentieth century time frame. Most common folk had small living quarters that consisted of mainly three sections in a house. The main room, the family room, was the large area where all daily life living took place, from eating to sleeping. There was usually a second room attached in the back, or sometimes on the roof, which was considered basically a guest room.

The family room portion was most often a few steps higher, off of ground level. As you entered into a home, on ground level, you had a small pinned off area, like a modern day “foyer” we’d have today, and then you would step up a few steps into the actual living area. That entrance was foyer area was where common folk brought in and stored their few family animals at night for warmth and protection. In the morning, they were taken outside and tied up in a courtyard area of the property, and that nightly stable area was cleaned for daily use.

At the edge of the living room area, within reach of the stable area, were elongated circular pocket style recesses in the floor where food for the animals could be stored and easily reached by them at night. These areas were referred to as mangers. So, if Joseph and Mary were staying in the house of someone that took them in, and Jesus was born in the family room and laid to rest in this recessed manger area, that would perfectly match the cultural scenario of the living quarters.

When it comes to the idea of the “inn” the original language gives us much insight on it’s own, but the cultural understanding makes it even more clear. Most understand this verse in Luke to be referring to a common hotel type place that had the no vacancy sign lit when Joseph arrived. However, the Greek word used here does not refer to a public lodging place. A public lodging facility, a lodging place for strangers, was a pandocheion (see Luke 10:34). The word used here in Luke 2:7 is the Greek word kataluma, which more properly means the guest chamber (and is translated as such in the Young’s Literal translation). We see this same word being used exactly as that in Mark 14:14 – and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ (see also Luke 22:11).

This guest room was, as mentioned before, the second major room of a common dwelling. So, in this case, if the family that took Joseph and Mary in, already had additional guests in the guests room, then we find Mary and Joseph sharing the front family room with their hosts, and therefore, when Jesus was born, he was laid in the manger portion of that family room, because the guest room was already taken.

There is so much more detail and historical as well as biblical backing for this explanation in his book, but this in essence is the overview of what would have been culturally understood at the time of Luke’s writing. All of this to say that Jesus wasn’t necessarily born in a barn, out in the cold, rejected by all the local living places, but was rather, born in the family room of a family who already had additional guests in the guest room.

This is basically at issue as earlier on in our discussion I had spoken of Jesus Christ as being the maker of every atom and yet placed in a feeding trough. I hadn’t actually made an issue of whether the manager was a separate barn or incorporated into an area where people also lived. I am fully aware that in earlier agricultural settings quarters could be shared with animals. To this very day the Chinese and Japanese character for a house or home

effectively represents a pig under a roof. There is also no doubt a wealth of archeological evidence that shows common usage of space between livestock and humans, be they the family members or servile ranks.
The issue really isn’t here as I cannot think of one single Christian doctrine which hangs on whether this all took place in a separate barn or not.
But let’s look at the text anyway, and pretend that it really matters what the cut-off between “kataluma” and “pandocheion” is, and see what happens.
Let’s have a look then at the Greek as it is seen in Luke 2.7
” καὶ ἔτεκεν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς τὸν πρωτότοκον καὶ ἐσπαργάνωσεν αὐτὸν καὶ ἀνέκλινεν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ φάτνῃ διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι “. This is Textus receptus, Westcott-Hort by the way being the same except for one detail – it drops the “te” of “te phatne”. But KJV translates it as “a manger” anyway, ignoring the definite article, so once again the point is moot.
What would be less moot is that the kalatyma in question that they were turned away from was unlikely to have been a single room for the simple contextually obvious reason thatit says “διότι οὐκ ἦν αὐτοῖς τόπος ἐν τῷ καταλύματι” or “because not was to/for them space/place in the katalyma”.

This makes it clear – they came with a reasonable expectation of using the katalyma, but there was no space left in it. If it were a single guest room there wouldn’t be a issue of space being in it. A guest room is for one person unless it’s like a dormitory or a hostel where people are sleeping in an open space who do not know each other. The point at issue was that they expected to stay there but there was no space for them. Talking about whether the Greek should have used “pandocheion” instead of “katalyma” is as pointless as arguing whether instead of an “inn” that could not accommodate them it was a B&B, or a hostel, or a motel, or a hotel, or a hostelry, a karczma, or a zajazd, or a Logis de France, or how many jolly Michelin stars the place had. Every language has a whole bunch of interchangeable terms for places that offer a night’s rest as their business. Getting into what the culture of it was back then is as irrelevant as trying to work out what Joseph’s budget was and if he was getting ripped off.

The point at issue was that they expected to be able to room in civilised conditions as understood at the time, and instead of this they find no room. No space. Ouk topos. End of topic.
So we move on to the word which is more pregnant with meaning the phatne. The translation “manger” is a good one as this is related to the verb in French for to eat, as is the word “phatne” related to the Greek work for eating also. This was a food container for animals. He was placed in a food container for animals and what this looked liked could have taken various forms – not likely so much to have been a hollow in the floor of a space intended for use by humans as it would not be practical to clean it, but there are stone troughs from that time still in existance, but generally speaking they would have been made from wood – wood doesn’t survive the centuries as well as stone so the numer like this of the total is probably not representative, but the most basic shape of a manger is basically this:
Effectively two wooden crosses with slats running between as I described in the thread. It is not so fanciful to envisage this as the place Jesus was laid.

The point of all of this is summarised later on by the Lord Himself when He spoke of His position in earthly terms:

“And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Luke 9 v 58).

Whether in birth nor in ministry did the Lord of all the Universe have a place to call His own in the Earth He made and owns. He was the sufferer of the gravest and greatest injustices this planet has ever produced, so that He would be qualified to judge or to forgive. Even in death his tomb was one given by a stranger. But that tomb was our place, and His rightful place was in all Eternity in Heaven at the right hand of the Father Almighty.
And the ownership of the whole world belongs to nobody but Christ. Although so many maniacs have sought to achieve this for themselves and will keep trying.
The answer, my friend, is to stop blowing against the wind of God’s truth with strawman arguments of little relevance like what Katalyma means or whether it should be a different translation to “inn”, like we really know such details. The answer is to bow the knee to worship one who made this sacrifice for us, to say “I am not worthy that the richest of the rich and fairest of the fair should have been made a homeless baby for my sake, should have been unjustly accused and finally killed brutally for my sake, but without this intervention, I would have had no hope. With it, I can by believing and repenting be acceptable and forgiven from my sins and have the seal of God placed on me so that I am counted among his flock at the end. I give up my rebellion and self-will and unbelief as futile and only helpful for the devil, and I seek to made one with God in Christ Jesus, because this, without my deserving, is what is promised to every believer”.

Another go at the Huliganov Christmas Language Quiz from 2008

This was very popular at the time!

Now we can play again. Each person getting will get a mark out of 10. Guesses are limited to one per day (CET) per player. If anyone guesses more frequently than that their guess won’t be marked.

No prizes. No clicking on the links to the original clips until after the quiz is over.



One commentator on Chris Huff’s Video states “I’m not sure that Davey’s method does reflect Ebbinghaus, but it seems to work anyway”. True or False?

True. It is only a working approximation to Ebbinghaus. Supermemo and Anki can get on his curve much closer, but the problem is in order to work they repeat material you really already know and this method enables you to skip writing that again, thus focusing only on the unlearned material. In order to achieve that economy, I have a working approximation to the curve, which works on reiteration of unlearned material. Like scissors cutting the hair too long but then cutting again until you get what you want versus electric shears with a set depth which might not be precisely the depth you wanted and only work if a short cut is desired, and the shears won’t work at all unless you have electricity.

It’s harder to see the curve that it is with the Supermemo algorithm, but by the application of the 14 days with iteration, you do cover the same thing, only with less work and less risk of switching on more short-term memory.

In addition to that I have a scientifically untested hypothesis which is divergent from Ebbinghaus, namely that short-term memory and long-term memory are distinct functions, the one happening when we remember consciously and the other when we allow it to function like breathing when we forget about it. This idea is my own conclusion from non-scientific observation of my own case and the case of users.

The number of contented users of GLM who keep going with it into repeated projects year on year, some of whom have done as many if not more than I have and probably will end up doing much more, proves that the method certainly works, it works probably regardless of people’s views about their own learning type as long as they at least enjoy the process of writing.

In short you’ve made a fair comment about the relation of Ebbinghaus. I want to acknowledge the input of what I learned from Ebbinghaus, but you correctly note it doesn’t stop there.

Not enough real science has been done with memory and if anyone wants to fund or test in a real university setting the hypotheses underlying the GLM then I’m happy to be involved.

The Psalms of Davey #10 – “O blest and only Potentate”

This is the tenth of my cycle of ten Hymns, called “The Psalms of Davey”. They are being reproduced in a special category on this blog one after another. In only one case is the tune my own (that’s this one – number ten). In other cases, please follow the links to get to the midi for the tunes, courtesy of http://www.cyberhymnal.org To find the category of “Psalms of Davey” please review the categories section in the side bar.


(Words and music, Uncle Davey, Cambridge, 1986. Tune name “Alexandra”.) In fact this is the only one of the hymns where I prefer my own tune, Alexandra, which is an 8888 metre tune.

At the moment I don’t have a version of the tune Alexandra to upload.

My suggested chord progression, if the melody starts on E, is C, C, d, e, C / C, G, e, F, G7 / d, d, e, F, G7 / d, F, d, F, C, (G7).

The hymn was written as a one-off, at a different time, rather later than the others, after it seemed that I had stopped writing hymns. I did not even keep it over the years in the same book with the others. Nevertheless, it must be evident that it is much of a muchness with the other hymns written by me, possibly the best of them from a poetic viewpoint, with much theology. Probably if someone felt they could take only one hymn from my collection and add it to a hymn book for use in churches, I suppose I would most rather that this one were chosen, especially as it has its own tune, with number six as possibly second choice.

As befits a closing hymn, this one is based on a New Testament doxology, in this case a pauline doxology for Timothy, that tells us among many other verses that Christ is God. If you have been looking at all the hymns from the beginning of the collection to this, the end, thank you for your patience in bearing with me. I consider it a tremendous priviledge to have a readership, and am always delighted with any feedback, either by mail or on the comments section.  Another project I have in mind for the future is a page linking to my most favorite hymns of all time.

God bless, and please enjoy the articles and other parts of my site.

O blest and only Potentate,
Thou King of Kings and Lord of Lords
I look unto Thy mercies great
And I am lost, am lost for words.

Thou didst in kindness set Thy love
Upon this wicked soul of mine
E’en or Thou camest from above
E’en or the sun, the sun did shine.

Thou hast in anguish lovéd me
When beat the sun upon Thy brow
When nailéd to the accurséd tree
For me at Calvary wast Thou.

T’was then all bleeding on the rood
That Thou didst mine atonement make
Thou didst eclipse the wrath of God
In dying, dying for my sake.

Although Thou righteous art alway
And glorious in Thine holiness
Yet didst Thou take my plague away
And clothe me, clothe me in Thy dress.

Christ, Thou hast scanned mine inmost thought
Yea, known mine every grief and care
And  Thou hast intercession wrought
And holy, spotless made my prayer.

Shall I not say; Thou art my King?
My Lord and God I shall adore
Thy name proclaim, thy glories sing
Henceforth, till death, and evermore.


“I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6 vv 13-16)

First published 27th June 2004, on usenetposts.com


Advanced Learners’ Literature Drill (“Advanced Drill”) with the GoldList Method.

I have mentioned this technique for advanced learners in earlier articles on Huliganov.TV, but today I wanted to make one article explaining who the Literature Drill is for and how exactly to do it, and incorporate it into a full learning programme stretching from complete beginner to near native.

Who should do the Advanced Drill?

In a sense this is about the most advanced drill that can be done, it is already intended for people who have completed all the grammar that is currently used and who know the top 5,000 frequency words – they have probably studied already exhaustively such excellent learners’ material as the “Using French” series from Cambridge University press, the Mot-a-Mot series or some similar, the Essential Grammars and the Frequency Dictionary series that are produced by Routledge. These in turn sit on top of having studied through a goof introductory course or two like the ones provided by Teach Yourself, Colloquial series and Living Language – some swear by Assimil and also there is a very good resource made by my friend Mike Campbell called the Glossika series. Each of these resources can be placed into your Goldlist. Prior to Goldlisting I tend to recommend front-loading audio only (though that’s not necessary with the Glossika method as there is audio for all of it and audio is part of the method intrinsic to Glossika) and so for most learners I would recommend going through whatever is available on Pimsleur before they even start the Goldlist phase and prior to Pimsleur for the few languages in which they are available, I recommend taking the very first steps using Michel Thomas method or Paul Noble for the three languages he does. Since all of these audio-only courses are not about writing this is all pre-goldlist stuff but helps to have an “inner voice” and a knowledge of how to pronounce the language which would be missing if we went straight into goldlisting a language form grammar books which we didn’t know how to pronounce. For classical languages that’s all there really is, I suppose – you can’t do audio only before Goldlisting Wright’s Gothic Grammar.

So I basically just went backwards along a list of things which a learner would be advise to do. If you don’t recognise the steps I just mentioned and can’t say that you know the sort of examples I gave for French in whichever language you are studying then probably the Advanced Learners’ Literature Drill I am going to talk about in a moment isn’t for you. Not yet, anyway. You’ll get there. Carry on doing the kind of steps for now that I’ve outlined in reverse order above.

However, if you are someone who has basically run out of learning material and you don’t know what to do next short of goldlisting a 20,000 word dictionary (which has its merits, too, quite a few people have done it to good effect but is a task not to be undertaken lightly). After all, most learning material is for beginners, there is some for intermediate learners and some for what they call advanced learners (usually the choice gets smaller the further you get) but for anything beyond the most popular languages you are going to encounter a dearth of learning material at the right level and instead you are going to have to “go live” with your languages, reading the same classics of the language which the natives did in school which will strengthen your cultural link with them and greatly enhance and deepen your feel of the language.The easy way in to using literature is graded readers. Read the rest of this entry

Question about Slavonic verb aspect.


I received the following question from a person who was not specific as to whether they knew me from YT or some other source:

Hi David,

I have a question. Seeing you are a native speaker of English and a Slavic languages expert, I reckon you can answer this better than most!

What, in a nutshell, is verbal aspect all about? I know the grammar book stuff about “completed actions”, etc. It doesn’t cut it for me! What I need are some solid English equivalents. For example, when a Russian says (using future perfective aspect) “I will visit the museum tomorrow”, would we say: “I will have visited the museum (by) tomorrow”? Or is it more a sense of: “I will DO A VISIT to the museum tomorrow”? (Or is it something else entirely?)

And as regards the past perfective, what’s the deal if you want to say: “Tsar So-and-so built this palace in 1820”? Should that be perfective or imperfective? Or is there a choice? If so, what’s the difference?

I really want to learn some Russian but this stuff is doing my head in! (Cases are one thing – at least there is a clear logic there!) Any simple low-down help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, J..

Verbal aspect is about whether the FOCUS of an utterance is concerned with whether the action of the verb is now over and done with or not, or, in the case where the verb describes a state like lying or standing, whether this state has changed or not.

If the answer is yes, then the perfective aspect is used, and in all other cases the imperfective aspect is used.  Read the rest of this entry

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