Wednesday, March 23, 2005

In a thousand tongues.

Hey, don't laugh at her! How many languages do you speak?

- Brian, Avenue Q


How many, really? Aside from English and Tagalog and perhaps (a smattering) of your regional dialect? It's amazing, our facility to speak and understand multiple languages. There are hundreds of ways to say "I love you", for example, by making use of all the languages of the world, providing your partner thinks you're being romantic enough. Try "Aez dae warzyn" out for size.

The world has approximately more than 6,000 languages today. After a fashion, that might seem a bit paltry, where some linguists estimate that more than 12,000 languages were spoken when the world was less populated.

The Bible tells us of the Tower of Babel, and how the Lord struck all His people with thousands of tongues to punish their pride and arrogance. And so they were scattered, all over the world. A veritable start of multilinguism, if you find yourself believing this version.

In the January issue of The Economist, there's an article about world languages and the rate that it's disappearing (one a fortnight). What's making it disappear so fast in the first place?
In recent centuries, colonization, trade, industrialization, the development of the nation-state and the spread of compulsory education, among many other things, have helped to extirpate many languages that had previously prospered in isolation. And in the past few decades, thanks to globalization and better communications, the rate of attrition has greatly accelerated, and dominant languages such as English, Spanish, and Chinese are increasingly taking over.
The culprit isn't a new thing. Globalization has been, at one point or another, been blamed for the extermination of locality and culture, pinning that alongside with dialect decay as well.

And according to the Summer Institute of Linguistics in Dallas, the language distribution is very uneven as well.
The general rule is that temperate zones have relatively few languages, often spoken by many people, whereas hot, wet zones have lots, often spoken by small numbers. Europe has only 200 languages; the Americas about 1,000; Africa 2,400; and Asia and the Pacific perhaps 3,200, of which Papua New Guinea alone accounts for well over 800.
The article goes on to say that "already well over 400 of the total 6,800 languages are close to extinction, with only a few elderly speakers left." Take a look: Busuu in Cameroon (eight remaining speakers); Chiapaneco in Mexico (150), Lipan Apache in the US (two or three); Wadjigu (one, with a question mark). It's safe to say that unless massive action is taken, these languages will languish in historical indistinction.

On the flipside, observers say that life could perhaps be made simpler and more peaceful with just one world language, without the resulting tension from cultural misunderstandings. However, the article posits,
...there is little evidence that monolingualism promotes peace. In Northern Ireland, Protestants and Catholics speak the same language. Vietnam and Somalia are both predominantly monolingual. When Yugoslavia fell into civil war, most of its people were speaking Serbo-Croat.
The "one world language" card has been played and it's been found wanting, fortunately.

I mean hello, wouldn't it be much more satisfying to say "F*ck you!" in your native tongue without worrying about the backlash?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I've been seDOOCEd.

You know when you start laughing in a quiet room full of working people and struggle valiantly to hide it, even though all that comes out is snorts?

That's the Dooce Effect. First, you start with the intense desire to laugh, then you'll feel the laughter coming out of your throat, then you'll actually start laughing and laughing, and then the laughter dies down to snorts, and then, and then...it starts all over again.

So what are you doing reading this? Snorts are waiting to capture you in mid-laughter.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Ethical Living.

It's always the bathrooms for me.

I have to make sure that the faucets are properly closed and that they're not leaking water, because for me, that's sacrilege. I don't turn the tap on full blast and I give the Evil Eye to girls in public bathrooms who leave it on while chattering with their friends. Such a waste, and I don't mean the girls.

It looks like I'm not the only one anal about such "little" things either. Leo Hickman is TheGuardian's Ethical Expert on living, and below are bits and pieces from his March 3rd article.
Are second homes a selfish luxury or a harmless retreat?

More than a million Britons now own a second home. Many argue that these out-of-towners bring economic benefits to rural communities. Equally, though, second homes can price local people, including key workers, out of the housing market.

And the second-home phenomenon is spreading its wings. British buyers now snap up thousands of foreign homes every year. Their dream of a place in the sun is increasingly realised by the expanding reach of low-cost airlines. By 2012, it is estimated that second homers will take 12 million flights a year to visit their properties, exacerbating the environmental impact of air travel...

In 2003, 40% of all property sold in Spain went to non-nationals, while young Spaniards, unable to get on the property ladder, remain living with their parents in unprecedented numbers. By 2003, homes in the French region of Languedoc Roussillon cost 28% more than the year before, largely due to demand for second homes.

What type of contraceptive should I use: the pill or a condom?

Millions of oral contraceptive pills containing synthetic oestrogen are consumed every day. This compound is ultimately discharged into the sewage system, and from there it is flushed into rivers and the sea, where it remains active for up to a month. In 2002, Environment Agency researchers suggested that the steady drop in male fertility in Britain may be caused by men ingesting female hormones in drinking water that is drawn from rivers that contain recycled sewage.

But condoms themselves can also be harmful to the environment. The Environment Agency estimates that, in the UK, between 60 and 100 million condoms are thrown away every year, with many of the ones flushed down toilets being found in rivers, on beaches and in the sea. There are also concerns about some spermicides commonly used on condoms and caps. One in particular - nonoxynol-9 - has been the focus of much debate in recent years, with some studies suggesting that, as its high toxicity can cause genital lesions, it may increase the risk of HIV infection among women already at high risk of infection. If you use condoms, wrap them up and put them in a bin rather than flushing them away.

And my favorite:

Do we need to wash our hair?

In essence, most mainstream shampoos are glamorously packaged surfactants - chemicals that dislodge dirt and grease. You will find it hard to find a shampoo that doesn't specify its suitability for "daily use" or "frequent washing" despite the fact that most dermatologists warn that over-washing hair strips it of its natural oils. The scalp secretes sebum, which naturally lubricates and protects hair against dirt and bacteria.

Left to their own devices, our own natural oils in effect wash our hair without water or extra products. In fact, hair products have been shown to over-stimulate oil glands and attract dirt.

Few of us, however, may be prepared to run the risk of social exclusion by leaving our hair unwashed. The first six weeks are said to be the worst, culminating in a very oily phase between weeks five and six. This first phase conforms to the popular perception of unwashed hair - uncomfortable and unhygienic. But after this period, non-hair washers report healthy, self-regulating hair that looks better than ever. So good, in fact, that many vow never to wash their hair again.

I oughtta try this one time.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Vignette #4.

Who: Me, The Father, and The Mother
What: Nothing in particular
Where: Couch-lounging in the living room, channel-surfing
When: 11.30 pm, February 28

"Ooh Mom, it's The Hours on Lifestyle Network."
The Mother snorts.
"Heh! I don't like that movie."
The Father comes over and shooes The Mother's legs off the rest of the couch.
"Mom, Nicole Kidman won an Oscar for her performance there."
"Oh I know, it's a good movie, but it's not the best, in my opinion."
I snort.
"Mom's opinion of a good movie is Collateral," I mutter to The Father.
Excitement suspiciously enters The Mother's voice.
"Hon, sayang di mo napanood! Ang ganda ganda. Sayang wala ka dito when I watched with John. Or was it you, anak?"
The TV shows us the opening scene of the movie where Nicole Kidman had a crooked nose.
"What is The Hours about?"
"It's a movie that I watched in the theaters. I didn't really like it."
"What is it about nga?"
"Basta, it's not a good movie. I mean it's good, but not in my opinion."
"Why isn't it a good movie nga?!"
"I just really didn't like it."

Mothers. Women.