All posts by Roger Terry

Oldie with a young family, retired from business and teaching/coaching/writing in English

English – Time to add a little more German?

Say it quick(ly) and write fast may be the way we communicate now, but if you think that efficiency is the driver of language development, as attested by the Oxford English Dictionary, you would be wrong. Their so-called development of the language, 650 words added in March 2019, is just a hobby for academics and far removed from the reality of the down and dirty evolution which it taking place all around us.

If you really want to witness a language developing look no further than German. Not the grammar of course, where the introduction of three genders randomly allocated to nouns was reputedly created by God in order to slow them down and stop them taking over the world, but in the creation of new words based solely on efficiency or, to put it simply, why use a long word when a short one will do?

Now anybody familiar with German will now be screaming denial, after all, German is the home of such amazingly long words as:Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft(80 characters) which for those unfamiliar with the language means:

Association for Subordinate Officials of the Head Office Management of the Danube Steamboat Electrical Services (100 characters).

So the German is actually shorter – and even shorter when considering the way we say words since they are not pronounced letter by letter but syllable by syllable. Here the German is a clear winner, 24 syllables in German, 34 in English.

In fact, English can be considered the home of brevity with translations from German usually being shorter, though there are outstanding contradictions. “Zeitgeist” with two syllables is infinitely more efficient than the English “spirit of the times” with five and has earned a rightful place in the English dictionary and all the quality newspapers.

In fact, comparing the efficiency of words base on syllables, German might have quite a lot to offer. A favourite of mine is “Umwelt” (2) for environment (4) (limited though to the natural world) which has immediately spawned a new German word “unweltfighter” (4) for environmental activist (8). On this basis of course it is clear why the Titanic struck an iceberg and not an ice mountain. It was all to do with efficiency.

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A Medal for Freedom Fighters

The Amritsa massacre, carried out by troops of the British Empire under the command of English officers, is a shameful episode in British history. But it was a long time ago. What is also shameful, and still continuing is the attitude of the British Government towards the Kurds in Northern Iraq.

For those unfamiliar with the issue, in 1916 representatives of the British and French governments Mark Sykes and Francois Piquet, entered into a secret agreement to carve up the Ottoman Empire (the area controlled by Turkey, a 1stWorld War enemy) so that Britain would get the Southern bit and France the Lebanon and Syria. If you ever wondered why the borders are mostly straight lines the reason is that straight lines are easier to draw. For more information go here https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-25299553

Within this area is the land of Kurdistan, homeland of the Kurds and after World War One and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the victorious Western allies made provision for a Kurdish state in the 1920 Treaty of Sevres.Such hopes were dashed three years later, however, when the Treaty of Lausanne, which set the boundaries of modern Turkey, made no provision for a Kurdish state and left Kurds with minority status in their respective countries. Over the past 80 years, any move by Kurds to set up an independent state have been brutally quashed.

So the Kurds got less than nothing. So whereas in the UK, Scotland can campaign for independence, Kurds who do this in Turkey are considered terrorists.

Come IS (or ISIS), the Kurds became the loyalist and most motivated of the anti IS forces with a military composed of both men and women fighting in the front line, aided by volunteers from Europe and the USA, just like the International Brigade fighting against fascism in Spain the 1930’s.

The difference is that now, the UK government have decided that those from Britain fighting against IS will be designated as terrorists. Sure, Sajid Javid, the British Home Secretary (interior minister) likes to play the tough guy, no compassion in this particular Muslim, but this is a stretch too far. Rather than penalising those brave fighters resisting the brutality of this most bloody of Muslim sects, the British government should be awarding them medals (though in many cases it will be too late as they died in the fight). So, contact your Government now and join the campaign. “A medal for freedom fighters”. It really is time!

For more information about the Kurds go here:

So, contact your Government now and join the campaign. “A medal for freedom fighters”. It really is time!

For more information about the Kurds go here:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29702440

Let’s talk about ostracism.

Let’s talk about ostracism.

Facebook is doing it, ancient Athens did it. Isn’t it about time we all embraced the one idea which could save our democracy? Put simply, Ostracism means excluding somebody from society. In the case of Facebook, it simply means stopping them from posting on the app. In ancient Greece it meant banishing them from the country.

To quote Wikipedia, “while some instances clearly expressed popular anger at the person, ostracism was often used pre-emptively, as a way of neutralizing someone thought to be a threat to the state or potential tyrant.”

Now I would be the first to admit that this might be just a little contentious, especially under international law where it is forbidden to make somebody stateless, but the benefits could be considerable.

First let’s consider the class of those to be considered. Much as I see no point in Neil Hamilton, the bribe taking former (although at it again through UKIP and the European Parliament – salary £78,000 pa) MP, ostracism would be too much. Quiet contempt works better here I think.  However, the self-appointed kingmaker Rupert Murdoch, he of News International and Fox in the USA is a different case. Here is a man deigning all knowledge of his employees’ phone tapping exploits then being recorded saying that “we all do it”. How he didn’t go to prison for perjury is a mystery to me. The good news is that he is old, even older than me, so he can’t publish his poison for much longer. Of course, Boris Johnson is a potential for the exit door. This Eton and Oxford educated US/UK citizen and would-be leader of the Conservative party spread lies and misinformation about the EU for many years before actually not standing for the leadership of the Conservative party, finally realising that being Prime Minister might actually involve some work other than that of a stand up comedian. This is the man who actually has US citizenship but said that the US would never join a Union. “You idiot, the US is a Union”.

Of course, there are many more for whom I consider ostracism to be appropriate. Naturally Nigel F*!+%@ springs to mind, dangerous bully with little appetite for either the truth or common decency. Then again Britain’s worst Prime Minister David Cameron, “Austerity, we are all in it together”, he from a school which costs £26,000 per year whilst state schools lack books with which to teach. This list is probably endless so why not think of your own particular favourite nominee for this ancient custom. Time for a revival.

The Far Right of German politics

Far Right and Far Left are political terms which are hard to clearly define. For the vociferous left of centre, Far Right is one step away from Fascism, the movement which killed around 30 million people, whilst for the right of centre Far Left is next to communism, the movement which also killed around 30 million, though in both cases the numbers vary depending on who is counting

So, as a centrist liberal I cannot but be shocked that I agree, in part, with the German so called “Far right AfD chairperson Dr Alice Weidel, when she said that the whole Brexit mess was due to the EU since David Cameron failed to get any meaningful concessions from the EU prior to the calling of the Brexit referendum. Though I am a committed European and understand the economic benefits of immigration I can understand that the reason for the vote for Brexit was first and foremost immigration. Too many people too quickly. It doesn’t matter that there was a persistent hint of racism and nationalism in the vote. Too many, too quickly settled that matter. Unfortunately Dr Weidel then continued to make unsubstantiated claims which, as far as I am concerned, destroyed her credibility but probably pleased her supporters. As the Nation Union of Journalists say “never let the truth spoil a good story”.

The other Brexit reasons are riding on the coat tails of immigration. Does anybody know what loss of sovereignty actually means? Who in Britain has suffered from a lack of sovereignty apart from the little fish who want to be bigger fish in a UK free from the constraints of the EU? Who will actually benefit? Workers? Clearly not, financial speculators, probably.

It is abundantly clear that the EU is not perfect and that urgent reform is necessary. Let’s be frank, any parliament which has to move itself completely for four days once a month to a different city is nothing short of ridiculous. Quite how that continues is beyond me. Yet for Britain to leave is equally crazy. Unfortunately, we are manged by politicians when what we need are statesmen, people with the clear sightedness and personality to achieve results which will inspire rather than embarrass. Britain should take the lead in EU reform and not slink away to become a kind of 51stState of the American Union the land of opportunity, as long as you are rich.

 

English is easy

English is supposed to be easy but it often fails to make sense, especially the spelling. For example, Christmas is a good time to wind down, like a mechanical clock, to gradually relax and stop working. But the same word is used for the movement of air: “the wind blows”. Now there is a kind of rule in English which says that the sound of a vowel like  “i” and the name of the letter “i” can change if there is an “e” following the next letter. For example, a small piece of carpet on the front door step of a home is called a mat, with the “a” pronounced as a sound and not the name. But if an “e” is added to the end, the word becomes mate, with the “a” sounding its name. Mate is a common word for friend. On this basis “wind” (as in to wind a clock), should be spelt wined, which it is when used as the past tense in the phrase “wine and dine” (drink wine and eat food”. So, we wined and dined together in a restaurant. All this goes to show that, if it is rules you need, don’t look to English.

In fact I predict that one particularly solid rule, that of “mass” or “uncountable” nouns will soon cease to exist. It is supposed to work like this: if you can count something, for example “cars” then you say that there are “fewer” cars, not “less” cars. Less is reserved for things which you cannot count, for example “water”. You can count glasses of water, litres of water and even drips or drops of water but water alone is not countable. Neither can you count “rice”, which comes in sacks, bags or grains. What brought this to the attention of the public was the sign placed on the express checkouts of Tesco supermarkets. It stated “ten items or less”. As the grammar police were quick to point out, you can count items just as you can count cars, so the phrase should be “ten items or fewer”. Tesco changed all the signs, but that could be the very last time the grammar police could claim a victory. Since that time I am acutely aware of just how often “less” and “fewer” are interchanged, without any reference to the rule. Even in the printed word of the BBC or the Guardian, the “rule” is broken, and even more frequently in the speech of experts (though clearly not grammar experts). This rule is set to disappear and only be missed by people like me.

In fact the Grammar Police (which don’t actually exist) are on shaky ground. The elderly among you may well remember the opening phrase of the first series of the TV programme Star Trek”. It states “to boldly go where no man has gone before”. The offence, if it existed, was to put the “boldly” between “to” and “go”, so called “splitting the infinitive” (with “go” being the infinitive of the irregular verb GO). Actually the rule about splitting the infinitive never existed in English. The over-educated who spoke Latin claimed it on the basis of the rule in Latin. They seem to have forgotten that in Latin, the infinitive is just one word, so couldn’t be split in any cases.

All of this leads me to the suspicion that, in order to fulfil its role as the global language, English will have to accelerate its pace of change. One way to do this would be to adopt more words from other languages. By my observation, English speakers already have an affinity to short words, and I mean short in terms of syllables. For example “zeitgeist” (two syllables) is normally used instead of the more English phrase “spirit of the time” (five syllable). Similarly “leitmotiv” (three syllables) instead of “persistent underlining theme” (eight). Possible the best example is “Schadenfreude”. This four syllable word replaces a complete phrase which has too many syllables to count (actually 16), but which means “a feeling of pleasure at seeing somebody else’s failure”. The list of these short words co-opted into English (or do I mean stolen) is long. Think “poltergeist” (three) for malevolent spirit (six) or Geisterfahre (four) for the English “person driving the wrong way on the motorway (12). Clearly English is changing faster than ever and sometimes its hard to keep up.

Theresa May plays Poker with £2 Billion tax payer’s stake.

In probably the worlds highest stakes poker game Theresa May put £2 billion down in a game of poker played against the Tories who oppose here Brexit deal. The money, to be spent on logistics plans for a no deal Brexit is designed to frighten the Remainers in her party into accepting the deal she has managed to agree with the EU. Will she win the game and walk away with the prize? She has a good chance. Few will realise that this money is not the government’s but the taxpayer’s who have, on previous occasions, indicated a preference for the NHS to get any spare cash available. Of course there is still a chance that wiser heads will prevail though with the Labour party leadership playing their own game of Trotsky’s “the worse the better” strategy and the Liberal Democrats weakened by their insistence on honesty, it might be hard to find where they are going to come from.

Of course successful poker playing means you actually have to convince your opponent that you are serious. This will be easy for M/s May who actually believes she is right.

Watch tomorrow for the further exciting instalment of “ Save the Tories from Extinction”, showing everywhere. All the time.

Brexit, the propaganda war part 2

In a previous post “25 year of poison finally kills the UK” I described the propaganda war waged by the UK right wing press against the EU. The headline says it all. There is a totally inadequate response by the EU here Euro myths . It is clear that whereas the UK press is sensationalist and attention grabbing, the EU are coolly rational. But as we all know, cool heads and rationality are not the way to win a propaganda war. Propaganda requires sensationalism of which one of the best examples was the babies in the incubator stories from the first Iraq war:
The Nayirah testimony was false testimony given before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990 by a 15-year-old girl who provided only her first name, Nayirah. The testimony was widely publicised, and was cited numerous times by United States senators and President George H. W. Bush in their rationale to back Kuwait in the Gulf War. In 1992, it was revealed that Nayirah’s last name was al-Ṣabaḥand that she was the daughter of Saud Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. Furthermore, it was revealed that her testimony was organized as part of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait public relations campaign which was run by an American public relations firm Hill & Knowlton for the Kuwaiti government. Following this, al-Sabah’s testimony has come to be regarded as a classic example of modern atrocity propaganda.
In her emotional testimony, Nayirah stated that after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers take babies out of incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital, take the incubators, and leave the babies to die.
We probably all know that in war, the first victim is truth yet time and again we fall for the story. Retraction and clarification comes far later and cannot compete with the initial lie which by then, has been forgotten.
And so the EU. Emotion based on false testimony won the day. Britain is due to leave the EU on the 31st March 2019. And now the next round of the propaganda war begins. Who to blame?
For the right wing press in the UK it is clear. It is the fault of Brussels. They are out to punish Britain. You will know this to be true if you study reader’s comments on newspaper websites. So if the UK crashes out of the EU, if you can’t get fresh fruit or vegetables, if you can’t fly to Spain for your holidays (or Sardinia if you are richer) or if your factory closes. You will know who to blame. It will be Brussels. The truth may be different but the image of little Britain fighting against the mighty Brussels, (a 2019 version of David v Goliath), plays strait to the heart of Britain’s finest hour, circa 1940. Britain against the Eu is a wining card just waiting to be played. We can all stand together.

By the way. Nigel Farage’s children have German passports. Smart move Nigel. Savour vour victory as you take your EU pension.