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“In general, every country has the language it deserves”*…

 

The folks at Idibon, a natural language processing company, spend a great deal deal of time thinking about how we say what we say.  Of late, they’ve become positively ruminative…

The language that is most different from the majority of all other languages in the world [that’s 2,67 other languages] is a verb-initial tonal languages spoken by 6,000 people in Oaxaca, Mexico, known as Chalcatongo Mixtec (aka San Miguel el Grande Mixtec). Number two is spoken in Siberia by 22,000 people: Nenets (that’s where we get the word parka from). Number three is Choctaw, spoken by about 10,000 people, mostly in Oklahoma.

But here’s the rub—some of the weirdest languages in the world are ones you’ve heard of: German, Dutch, Norwegian, Czech, Spanish, and Mandarin.  And actually English is #33 in the Language Weirdness Index.

The 25 weirdest languages of the world. In North America: Chalcatongo Mixtec, Choctaw, Mesa Grande Diegueño, Kutenai, and Zoque; in South America: Paumarí and Trumai; in Australia/Oceania: Pitjantjatjara and Lavukaleve; in Africa: Harar Oromo, Iraqw, Kongo, Mumuye, Ju|’hoan, and Khoekhoe; in Asia: Nenets, Eastern Armenian, Abkhaz, Ladakhi, and Mandarin; and in Europe: German, Dutch, Norwegian, Czech, and Spanish.

The five least-weird languages in the world?  Lithuanian, Indonesian, Turkish, Basque, and Cantonese.

Read the entire tale– from background and methodology to tongue-twisting examples– at “The Weirdest Languages.”

* Jorge Luis Borges’ wry twist on Wittgenstein’s insistence that “the limits of my language means the limits of my world”

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As we e-nun-ci-ate, we might recall that it was on this date in 1995 that Amazon.com made its first sale: a copy of Douglas Hofstadter’s Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought.

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The Secret? Never leave home without your toothbrush…

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From Amazon.com, a review (verbatim, but for the reviewer’s name, which he disclosed) of Rhonda Byrne’s best-seller, The Secret:

8,261 of 8,553 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secret saved my life!, December 4, 2007
By     xxxxxxxxxxxxx (Kensington, CA United States) – See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)

Please allow me to share with you how “The Secret” changed my life and in a very real and substantive way allowed me to overcome a severe crisis in my personal life. It is well known that the premise of “The Secret” is the science of attracting the things in life that you desire and need and in removing from your life those things that you don’t want. Before finding this book, I knew nothing of these principles, the process of positive visualization, and had actually engaged in reckless behaviors to the point of endangering my own life and wellbeing.
At age 36, I found myself in a medium security prison serving 3-5 years for destruction of government property and public intoxication. This was stiff punishment for drunkenly defecating in a mailbox but as the judge pointed out, this was my third conviction for the exact same crime. I obviously had an alcohol problem and a deep and intense disrespect for the postal system, but even more importantly I was ignoring the very fabric of our metaphysical reality and inviting destructive influences into my life.
My fourth day in prison was the first day that I was allowed in general population and while in the recreation yard I was approached by a prisoner named Marcus who calmly informed me that as a new prisoner I had been purchased by him for three packs of Winston cigarettes and 8 ounces of Pruno (prison wine). Marcus elaborated further that I could expect to be raped by him on a daily basis and that I had pretty eyes.
Needless to say, I was deeply shocked that my life had sunk to this level. Although I’ve never been homophobic I was discovering that I was very rape phobic and dismayed by my overall personal street value of roughly $15. I returned to my cell and sat very quietly, searching myself for answers on how I could improve my life and distance myself from harmful outside influences. At that point, in what I consider to be a miraculous moment, my cell mate Jim Norton informed me that he knew about the Marcus situation and that he had something that could solve my problems. He handed me a copy of “The Secret”. Normally I wouldn’t have turned to a self help book to resolve such a severe and immediate threat but I literally didn’t have any other available alternatives. I immediately opened the book and began to read.
The first few chapters deal with the essence of something called the “Law of Attraction” in which a primal universal force is available to us and can be harnessed for the betterment of our lives. The theoretical nature of the first few chapters wasn’t exactly putting me at peace. In fact, I had never meditated and had great difficulty with closing out the chaotic noises of the prison and visualizing the positive changes that I so dearly needed. It was when I reached Chapter 6 “The Secret to Relationships” that I realized how this book could help me distance myself from Marcus and his negative intentions. Starting with chapter six there was a cavity carved into the book and in that cavity was a prison shiv. This particular shiv was a toothbrush with a handle that had been repeatedly melted and ground into a razor sharp point.
The next day in the exercise yard I carried “The Secret” with me and when Marcus approached me I opened the book and stabbed him in the neck. The next eight weeks in solitary confinement provided ample time to practice positive visualization and the 16 hours per day of absolute darkness made visualization about the only thing that I actually could do. I’m not sure that everybody’s life will be changed in such a dramatic way by this book but I’m very thankful to have found it and will continue to recommend it heartily.

Finally, a self-help book that actually helps.

As we practice our exercise yard etiquette, we might recall that it was on this date in 1994 that George Foreman– Olympic Gold Medalist, sire of a long line of eponymously-named sons, and front man for a counter-top grilling empire– became the oldest Heavyweight boxing champion in history.

The Champ

Written by LW

November 5, 2009 at 1:01 am

Butchering sacred cows…

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While for the most part, one tends to act on positive recommendations– to see films with good reviews, to catch acts about which one’s friends are enthusiastic– it can be useful to be warned off as well…

“A programmer named Chris” at Cynical-C has stepped up to oblige.  In “You Can’t Please Everyone,” he’s collected one-star reviews of classics, posted on Amazon…

Consider for example, this pithy reaction to Homer’s Odyssey:

This book sucks. I dont care if Homer was blind or not this book is like 900 pages too long. I could tell this story in about 10 pages. Homer taking all long to say stupid stuff. Teens if you are reading this all I have to say is CLIFF NOTES CLIFF NOTES you will pass the test, unless you are in AP classes. The teachers expect kids to read cliff notes trust me my moms a teacher. P.S this book SUCKS.

…Or this reaction to Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in Robert Wise’s film of Rogers’ and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music:

This movie should be called the Sound of Mucus. The only redeeming quality is that the family has to run from nazis.

For more (much more) of this kind of corrective to the conventional wisdom, see here.

As we reconsider the classics, we might feel compelled to “Whistle a Happy Tune” or ask “Shall We Dance?”, because it was on this date in 1949 that Siam changed it’s name to Thailand (five years after Margaret Landon’s novel, Anna and The King of Siam; three years after John Cromwell’s film adaptation of that book, but two years before Rogers’ and Hammerstein’s musical, The King and I)…

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