Monday, October 18, 2004

NicaraguaMy latest Tribune language column:
On Nicaraguan Sign Language, the youngest known language in the world.
temp link/perm.preview/reprint

Here's Ann Senghas on NSL; here's a summary from TFD and here's a piece from the Economist. Here's the UC Maroon on Marie Coppola's research (and here's a UC page). Here's the NYT Mag story in 1999, with an interesting letter in response from a prof a Gallaudet.

I asked Marie whether NSL is now taught in Nicaraguan schools

The students are not formally instructed in NSL. The teachers in the classroom vary widely in their ability to sign NSL (it is not part of their special education training), and are definitely not as proficient as the students. Some teachers attend classes in NSL at the Deaf association in Managua.

More on babies' vocabularies here and here.

This brief was cut from my column:

There are two keys to winning a stock-car racing championship: win your races and watch your tongue. Dale Earnheardt Jr.’s win at an October 3 NASCAR race in Talladega put him in first place in points in the season standings, but he fell to second two days later when NASCAR fined him 25 points for using an expletive in a post-race NBC interview.

Here's the exchange:

In Victory Lane on Sunday at Talladega, Ala., an NBC interviewer asked Earnhardt how much his fifth victory at that track meant.

"It don't mean [expletive] right now," Earnhardt replied. "Daddy's won here 10 times."

"While NASCAR is being the world's decency police, why not take another 10 points from Earnhardt Jr. as well for his grammatical error?" asked Scott Fowler in the Charlotte Observer. More from Also: Frederica Mathewes-Green on the ethics of joyous vs. angry swearing; Pittsburgh P-G on Tony Campolo saying the S-word in a sermon.

-Tribune headline: "Rising health costs resonate for voters." Shouldn't that be "resonate with" (since the relevant definition of "resonate" is "to relate harmoniously"?

-LL and NW on the history of hip.

PU-R-I thought it was interesting to see a long mark over the U in the logo of PUR, since long marks are virtually unused in English. But the mark is necessary here unless you want to say "purr" and sell cat food.

-Geoff Nunberg on sort of at LL and the NYT.

-The referee in the Vikings-Saints game last night explained that a receiver "got three feet in bounds" (meaning three steps, of course) before crossing the sideline. Said ESPN's Paul McGuire: "I wanna see the guy with three feet."

-I was puzzling over the line in the hymn I Know Whom I Have Believed (don't you love hymns' grammar?):

But I know Whom I have believèd,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.

In the hundred or so times I've sung this hymn, I wondered how you can "commit" something "against" a day. I had to look at the lyrics online today to realize it's the "keeping" that's "against that day." I think.

I'm the son of a seminary professor and I should know this, but I'm confused: is it that God is keeping/protecting the commitment against the threat of judgment day? Or is "against" somehow an old-fashioned preposition for until? Looking at side-by-side English translations of 2 Timothy 1:12, which the hymn is quoting, suggests the latter:

KJV (from Wycliffe's EB)
For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

That indeed is the reason why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know in whom my trust reposes, and I am confident that He has it in His power to keep what I have entrusted to Him safe until that day.

for which cause also these things I suffer, but I am not ashamed, for I have known in whom I have believed, and have been persuaded that he is able that which I have committed to him to guard -- to that day.

Update: My Dad weighs in:

I checked a commentary, and the reference in 2 Timothy 1:12 to "that which I
have committed unto him" could also be translated as "that which he [God] has
entrusted to me" (the word is simply "deposit"). In either case, it's probably
Paul's work or doctrine that had been entrusted to him or that Paul had
entrusted to God. And "entrusted . . . for that day" might reflect Paul's
confidence that as a steward of that which has been given him (or of what he
has given to God), he will not be found wanting on the great day of reckoning.

Here's the Greek (also see the interlinear text):

[12] di' hên aitian kai tauta paschô, all' ouk epaischunomai, oida gar hôi pepisteuka, kai pepeismai hoti dunatos estin tên parathêkên mou phulaxai eis ekeinên tên hêmeran

Here's the Latin:

[12] ob quam causam etiam haec patior sed non confundor scio enim cui credidi et certus sum quia potens est depositum meum servare in illum diem

-Geoff Pullum at LL:

I wonder how the phrase This isn't rocket science, with its conventionalized meaning "This isn't all that advanced or hard to understand", originally came from? I've got a few cliché dictionaries, but they don't cover it. Why is rocket science a byword for arcane advanced scientific mumbo jumbo? Rocket technology is thousands of years old. Sulfur, saltpeter, and charcoal powder in a tube, light and retire. A little bit of trigonometry will tell you where it will land; a little calculus and some data on thrust and combustion rates and you can work out the acceleration and the trajectory and everything. It's a good application of basic Newtonian physics and math, but it's surely not the most difficult stuff science ever got into.

-The Plain English Campaign was alerted to this sign in a Canterbury supermarket: "If you wish to change your baby, please see the lady at the
salad bar." (It's never too late for genetic engineering!)

-Nunberg on the phrase look presidential

As it happens, that phrase first became common in the American political lexicon in the 1970's, when the televised debate was permanently revived after a 16-year lull, and the networks first began broadcasting post-debate commentary and spin. "Looking presidential" in debates is like "artistic merit" in figure skating -- an imponderable that nobody feels obliged to pin down.

Earlier he notes, "the most apt sporting comparison is probably to Olympic figure skating -– a quadrennial competition that nobody has any idea how to score unless one of the competitors actually falls down."

-LL on when back in August can mean August 2005 (interesting note on the Latin "post"), and a followup post here that notes, "Canada is not above the US--go outside, look up, and see for yourself."

-Here's a sentence (from Martin Marty on 9/27) I'd like to diagram. Makes perfect sense, but the inversion seems pointless. "Not ready to whisper or be silent is Father Andrew Greeley."

-I was interested to learn at LL that you can do a Google search for there are x linguists (with certain tags included) and turn up instances with the number inserted (a similar search would be for "x statistics are made up on spot," discussed here).

Previous column and inflections

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