Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Life of Languages

To be where you are today means that you are very lucky. For hundreds of millions of years your forebears were able to stay alive and healthy and attractive long enough to mate with another of their species and carry on doing so throughout many different species and generations. They were also able to adapt to different climates, environments, habitats, predators, prey, weather, natural disasters, unnatural calamities, wars, pestilences, violence, accidents, among many other obstacles, in order to bear you, who have survived long enough to read this post.

How has life been able to do this? By holding fast and showing unbending strength through adversity? Possibly some of that went on, but most of the time it involved bending and mutating to adapt to many different circumstances with uncanny prescient abilities. An ex post-facto game theory analysis could not have come up with a better solution in keeping life going. So while many people bemoan the loss of species (which is regrettable, although over 95% of all species that ever roamed this earth are extinct), we should celebrate the survival of ours, even though our species today bears almost no resemblance to what our ancestors looked like in the primordial soup. In fact, nothing much has persevered, save the fact that both we and they are and were living.

France is a famous example of a country wishing to regulate and promote its language. The Académie française acts as official authority of the language, coming up with new french words for new objects and phenomena, such as computers and e-mail. And the Toubon Law of 1994 decreed that all communication that had to do with any form of commerce had to be in French. This meant basically everything you saw or heard on TV (Apart from music and "original language" movies) had to be in the original French or translated into French. These are two of the reasons why French will enter a slow decline and be one day obsolete, despite France's efforts at promoting it as an international language.

English was born with the Angles and Saxons and Jutes in what is now Friesland. They traveled to the British Isles around 500 AD, where people spoke Celtic, infused with Latin from the Romans, who had left several hundred years earlier. During the ensuing centuries, Norsemen came from the North during the Viking conquests, and Normans came from the South with William the conqueror. English then became more and more standardized throughout the island. It then spread to other countries and continents during the days of the British Empire. Nowadays it is spoken from Canada to New Zealand to South Africa to Singapore, with many other places in between. Of course, at each one of these junctures, the language absorbed and mutated and grew in order to accommodate the new circumstances and situations. The result is a language considered the most expressive in the world that is thriving.

This entry may seems somewhat schizophrenic, but our species does bear a certain resemblance to the English language. While another offshoot, the Neandertals, were not able to adapt and died out, Homo Sapiens Sapiens built clothes and shelter in the winter, and hunted and gathered and traded and specialized and spoke and organized its way through existence. I am not saying the French language is like the Neandertals, but languages could be viewed as living organisms, struggling and adapting to survive. Organizations such as the Académie française will only muzzle a language without letting it grow naturally, much like insisting a native tribe not use modern technology can drive it into obsolescence.

Languages, like life, seem to find ways to adapt in order to stay alive whenever they can. So while some people scoff at the "illiterate" for ending sentences with prepositions or using modern slang, we should realize that much of that is the natural adaptation of the language. While we might bemoan the good old days, we cannot survive to see the future until we adapt to the present.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Questions to ask

What to ask a prospective personal trainer

1 - Do I actually need a PT?
Answer: If you want to learn, not follow - yes
2 - What qualifications do you have?
Answer: certified courses longer than six months
3 - Are you going to to an assessment?
Answer: Yes. If they're not assessing, they're guessing.
4 - Can you tell me about nutrition and psychology?
Answer: Of course. Fitness is about lifestyle, nutrition and mentality- not just muscles
5 - Are you insured?
Answer: Gym-based PTs are covered, but get proof of private PTs' personal and equipment liability.

Top 5 questions you should ask a nutritionist

1 - What is the easiest way to get the antioxidants I need throughout the day?
Answer: Frozen peas. Easy to add to any mail and really cheap
2 - How can I limit my risk of Heart attack?
Answer: More olive oil. Extra virgin or normal
3 - How can I bring my cholesterol Level down?
Answer: Eat more seafood and eggs.
4 - How much meat should I be eating?
Answer: Think quality, not quantity. Go for the best you can afford.
5 - What the hell are trans-fats anyway?
Answer: Chemically altered vegetable oils even worse than saturated animal fats.

Both courtesy Men's Health. Once again this serves as my notepad.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Secret Tips

Go directly to Voicemail
If you want to leave someone a message directly on voicemail you can call 267-SLY-DIAL, then dial your friend's number, and leave a message explaining that it's just not working out.
Probably only works in the US.

Secret Starbucks drinks
Red eye: Drip coffee with a shot of espresso
Black eye: Drop coffee with 2 shots of espresso.

The Flying Dutchman: Two beef patties, two cheese slices, no bun
The Neapolitan: A three-layer milkshake
Animal-Style fries: Topped with cheese, grilled onions and special sauce.
This'll only work in the west coast I guess.

I'm curious as to whether the Starbucks one works in the UK.

Both courtesy of Wired Magazine, and this is the best place I had to jot them down.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lettera a CdT

Letter mail to Peter Keller and Francesco Vitale of Corriere del Ticino on December 20th, 2008:

Mi permetto di scriverLe con una proposta intesa ad amplificare I Vostri servizi informativi.

Ho notato che il Corriere del Ticino non ha una sezione in inglese. Con la crescita di importanza del cantone non solo nella Svizzera, ma in tutto il mondo, e con l'arrivo di
ditte internazionali e l'aumento di studenti internazionali, credo sarebbe importante poter offrire una sezione, anche settimanale, che parli del nostro cantone in inglese.

Vorrei offrire le mie prestazioni per quanto riguarda tradurre articoli del vostro giornale per gente di madre lingua inglese, o per offrire una rubrica o una sezione in
inglese. Potrei inoltre presentare articoli originali di interesse particolare agli stranieri residenti in Ticino.

Io sono cresciuto bilingue (italiano/inglese) qui a Lugano, dopodiché ho studiato e lavorato negli Stati uniti. Ho sei anni d'esperienza professionale nei settori di finanze, di
marketing, e dell'immobiliare. Ho una laurea in commercio internazionale dall'Università Americana di Washington DC, ed un Master in Amministrazione Pubblica da Cornell
University, dove ero un articolista regolare su temi di economia e attualità.

Come editore del sitio scrivo spesso su temi di economia e dei mercati internazionale.

Qualora ci fossero domande sono a Vs. disposizione via e-mail or al numero 079-485-0978.

Robert Gebhardt