Friday, 29 June 2012

Proposing Terminology Development Principles (part ii)

One of the amorphously vague areas of discourse in Inuktitut has to do with the official names of the political parties in Canada at the federal level. I have seen no viable Inuktitut labels in print or any other media.

According to the terminology development principles using etymology of source terms, I would suggest looking into the informal, general names for the political parties: tories for the conservative party; grits for the liberals; (whatever the left calls itself) for new democrats.

Tuari 'tory'
Gurit 'grits'

tuari: n. qallunaatitut 'conservatives'/'tories'; taakkua tuariit gavamanit mikitittinasusuut kiinaujanik taaksiijaijarnirmit arngullutik; namminiq pinasuaqujisuut pijunnaqtunik...

gurit: n. qallunaatitut 'liberals'/'grits'; taakkua guriit gavamanik ikajuriaqaqtugitsijut inungnik kiinaujanik taaksiijaijarnirmit piuqsuarluni; namminiq pijunnarnirmik inungnut ikajuqujijut gavamakkunnit...

-there is a way of proposing and defining a term for a complex of supportive ideas of such associations with proper names. Though this is a form of transliteration, it goes further in that it has been formally rendered and defined as a functioning grammatical element of Inuktitut: in the definitions, bolded is singular in number, (tuari)/(gurit); italicized is plural in number, (tuariit)/(guriit).

The word, gavama 'government' itself is an etymologically discernible term that has been grammaticalized: gavamangat 'their government'; gavamakkut 'the government (itself)'; gavamatuqakkut 'the federal government' lit. 'the long (or, first) established government'. I would also propose: gavamaliriniq 'political (process)' -ie, the notion of being political in nature.

Though this may all seem trivial, having common and consistently applied references (especially in print and radio media), will help create sustainable discourse on modern concerns and add to the contemporary culture of Inuit society.

The real strength of such a proposal is if we place these "logical" elements in an abstract framework denoting the political/ideological spectrum and where each party would generally place philosophically and policywise in a section of a glossary of political terms, say.

In the next episode, I will talk about literary sources including and especially Inuit legends/myths as a means of generating new terms.

Jay

Proposing Terminology Development Principles (part i)

Having attended many terminology development workshops, and informally reviewed many glossaries of terms, I know that one of the pitfalls of such exercise is the tendency to construct an explanatory phrase for a given source term/concept which often cannot be used in a meaningful communication.

Rather than focussing on an explanation of a given concept/object, a noun- or verb- based descriptor (even constructed ones like, kapuuti lit. 'stabbing instrument') should be sought.

Using, again, the example, kapuuti 'syringe':

kapijaujuq 'he gets a shot from syringe'

kapuutimut imiq 'vaccine'; 'syringe-administered medicine'

kapuutimut kutuk 'intervenous drip'

kapuutimut kutugviujunga 'I am on an iv-drip'

-the flexibility of a well-considered noun or verb root (at the conceptual level) makes for ease of constructing grammatical iterations of different usages of terms (like kapuuti). Another example:

(using function/form) ujaraujaq 'concrete'; 'cement' lit. 'functions like a rock/stone'

ujaraujaliqsimajuq Iqaluit aqqutingit 'the roads in Iqaluit are paved with concrete (asphalt)'

illurjuat ujaraujaaluit Ottawa-mi 'the buildings in Ottawa are made of concrete (and stone)'

In the next instalment, I'll talk about using etymology of source terms to generate new Inuktitut terms.

Jay

Monday, 25 June 2012

Play on words and word games

The other night my aippakuluk and I watched a very interesting movie called, Catch a Fire, about Apartheid-era South Africa starring Derek Luke and Tim Robbins. This got me thinking about jingoism and other word games that comprise a large part of the arsenal of ideologically driven governments and resource-extraction corporations.

The main character starts out as a person who avoids politics and keeps his head down deliberately because he just wants to make a good living for his family. But he catches the attention of the "anti-terrorist" agency because of a botched attack on the oil/mining (its a bit ambiguious in the movie) where he works.

Anyhoo, the movie got me thinking about branding and labelling techniques used by a ruling party such as CPC to divert attention from questionable policies and practices and to spread responsibility around by appealling to personal and family safety with well-chosen words.

In the movie, ANC political officers keep telling their operatives that they aren't to kill indiscriminantly in carrying out their sabotage operations. The other side calls them terrorists. This sounds very familiar, doesn't it?

Anything that is perceived to be unkind to the oil industry in Canada is now painted as "terrorist" activity or "foreign" interference while regressive actions taken by Harper's government have to do with "sound" economic development policies or finding "efficiencies" where they actually hurt Canadians or gut out government programs (else we end up like Greece if we want to keep our social safety-nets to help the poor and the disenfranchised, though billions of tax-payers' money is spent on corporate welfare with nary an unkind word for these parasites).

Jay

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Windbags and "fringe" defamers

False modesty aside, I am a writer. Whether I'm a good one or a bad one is up for question, but I am a writer by the simple virtue that I write a lot. Or, perhaps a better descriptor of me would be that I'm a connoisseur of good writing and eloquence who dabbles in writing.

Succinct thought, as opposed to demogoguery, forms the basis of great politics so I'm also naturally drawn into political discourse. Ditto with social commentary. And great dialogue/monologue in plays, movies and radio.

I'm always and constantly on the lookout for great writing material but there is a lot that is bad out there so I end up analysing and reflecting upon bad writing and speech-making. I think people who know me know that I don't think much of people like Rex Murphy and Conrad Black and Vic Toews and Stephen Harper. I don't know these people from Adam so my dislike is not personal but rather technical and political.

I find Mr Murphy's writing wanting of soul and authenticity. He's memorized a lot of big words and mistook them for eloquence (like, I own a guitar and know some music theory but I don't consider myself a real musician). The same goes for Mr Black. Except, Mr Black has less talent than Mr Murphy if such case be possible - and it is if the measure of pedantry is countered with content. Where Mr Murphy has kept trying to craft that perfect line, Mr Black is a case of an arrested development (pun merely coincidental).

Years ago, when Gorbachev almost got himself killed in a failed coup attempt, Bush Sr. talked about the "coup plotters" and the words just struck me as sophomoric and too obvious for a man of such stature (disregarding his politics for the moment). I'm also struck by the talking points of Harper's regime when they say expressions like "baseless smears"; "solid, stable conservative majority"; etc. etc. -I also misheard Mr Black in the interview with Peter Mansbridge when he reacted badly to Mulcair's words and slipped in something to the effect: "I could call him a fringe ("French" is what he actually said) defamer but I won't".

Bad writing (or weak choice of words) stems from intellectual laziness and/or unadornable vulgarity. I'm not talking Peter Griffin bad - the writers of The Family Guy are excellent, talented writers and utter joy to experience as a connoisseur of good writing: I'm talking poorly-thought-out as in an old man with jet black hair bad. All that money wasted on an education: truly, one cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

As a kid I was taught that I should try and write in the active voice and avoid superfluous brush-strokes: to strive for elegance. Sometimes one leads the imagination with well-crafted sentences, but immodesty is unbecoming of an artiste. It is exactly the same as the scientific principle of parsimony (or, that elusive beauty of a mathematical equation that the English mathematician Hardy valued so). It is like that wonderful title of Tolstoy: how much land does a man need? -Pure genius. There is no mistaking quality for quantity though quantity of words is not a weakness of Tolstoy's.

Jay

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The bullied bus monitor

That youtube video about the school bus monitor who was video-taped being bullied and tormented by young boys is really an inside look at what happens every schoolday for many of our youth. In a school system depleted of "culture" and social values - and I mean here discussion and discourse on the narrative, parable, socialization, psychologically-insightful literature about who we are and what we can become - the school bully and his/her victims are the default culture. The Lord of the Flies.

Stephen Harper is the end-result of victimhood (the initiate); Peter Mackay is the bully (the handler). In fact, the whole CPC culture is the unexamined life resulting from that school system: unvoiced and unquestioned suggestion that the whole country is culpable somehow in this or that perversion and/or corruption and/or outrage is how the system works. Might is right. Black and white. Good and evil. Us and them.

The social narrative provides not only role models for us to try and emulate, to inspire us, it also provides that imagined space for action and assessment of consequences. The narrative is a profound source of language and communication. Catch 22; "pulling a Yeltsin"*...

*when one ultimately saves someone whom one has fought against for so long (remember the coup attempt against Gorbachev, centuries ago)

The narrative need not be old and is in fact most potent in contemporary media, but its relevancy is archetypal. At the meta level, the youtube video is itself a perfect example of the social narrative. The quality of CPC and the political discourse in general on the one hand and people like Breivik, Maggota, that security guard killer from Edmonton, on the other are all symptoms of a society of universalism/internationalism (in direct opposition to "constitutionalism") gone amok.

Religion and ideology (corporations) cannot and do not themselves create equality and justice - these messy little things are totally beyond their purview. Equality and justice are results of hard work and scrapes and cuts, not ready-made and packaged consumer products but cultivated characteristics of the human soul.

The cleaning up or outright censorship of literature (fiction and non-fiction) and fairy-tales/legends (as age-appropriate or psychologically damaging) creates these types of personalities. Abe Lincoln is a great historical figure (whether one is for or against, worts and all) and his story is compelling examination of human possibilities in and of itself. Abe Lincoln the vampire slayer is a devolution, like some of the historical stuff that issues from Harper's mouth - remember NDP and Hitler, Canada never having been a colonial empirialist... that Canada is an energy-superpower... war of 1812... the anniversary of repatriation of the Canadian constitution...

Thoughlessness goes hand-in-hand with sparknotes history and unchecked ego-wishing. This is sociopathy writ large.

Jay

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The question of form and function

As a liberal arts education advocate, I'm fascinated by the notion of posing open-ended questions to life's issues. Posing open-ended questions is key to critical thinking: am I my brother's keeper? may not have a pat answer (ie, answering the question seems to depend upon the case - social, political, ideological, personal, etc.) but that doesn't mean that no decision can be made thoughtfully. In fact, looking into an open-ended question is often the very process of educating oneself and becoming personally (socially) engaged (ie, becoming a critical thinker).

The act of critical thinking has nothing to do with being negative about something, but having to do with engagement with the discourse.

One of the basic things I like asking myself to help me better think about anything is "what is its form; what is its function?" This may not sound very pertinent and ground-shaking, but its very examination is the key to advancing humanity. Even if only one side of the question can be determined it helps to inform subsequent thoughts and feelings on the subject.

For example, before Newton physical phenomena and the astronomical sciences especially were almost always religious/mystical in nature. The very act of "formulating" the question of gravity in the way Newton did casted the universe in a new way.

The other great thinker that I admire who formulated questions in such a way is Thomas Paine. In the Rights of Man, Paine talks about the distinction between the "form" of government and the "business" of government. It is through this lens where he advances critiques on the various forms of government, and the levels of legitimacy of political power. Granted, he had an agenda to forward but he makes mince-meat out of the hapless Mr Burke who only talks about the God-given right of Monarchy to rule, and the God-given role of the oppressed to be ruled, even by child-rulers.

Thomas Paine, like Newton, does not just fawn over tradition but strips away the "form" in which that tradition has usurped and dominated all subsequent discourse by looking into the source and necessity of legitimate political power (ie, the "business" of government).

The question of "aboriginal education" must be examined in the same fashion for it is a gate that aboriginals rarely ever pass. Is "education" like science and political power the sole purview of the Church and State (ie, bureaucracy), or is it a fundamental right of society? Is education a right or a privilege? Whose interests are served in granting or denying education to a discernible group of Canadians such as aboriginals?

These are legitimate questions. Immigrants (not that I want to compare apples with oranges) even from "third-world" countries do much better on the main than aboriginal Canadians, politically, economically or by any subjective/objective measure. To me, this is a question of commitment by government (Canada in comparison to other countries) to do its business consciously, deliberately, properly and effectively.

This question is, after all, is not a question of "winners" and "losers" (as vacuous social darwinism would have us believe) but a question of fair distribution/contribution (the business of government and society, as Paine contends).

At a more basic level: what are the participation rates in politics, criminal justice/welfare systems, science and other public discourse for aboriginals in comparison to other Canadians? In terms of aboriginal education (and the life prospects it implies), is it the case of "round" bullets for "christians" and "square" bullets for the "pagans"?

Jay

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Pebble notation as intro to number theory

I've been emailing with a friend of mine who is sub-teaching right now. I've been trying to convince him that this style of presentation of maths to children with rudimentary mastery over the four basic operations of arithmetic is the best way to introduce higher mathematics to young children. Below is what I've shown him so far (I hope it makes sense). I think capturing the imagination of children requires us to re-think what we know of numbers, perhaps the answers lay not in the future but the distant past.

The notion of “number” according to ancient Greek pebble notation:

Triangular numbers
 

*

**   1+2=3;



*

**

*** 1+2+3=6;



*

**

***

**** 1+2+3+4=10;



*

**

***

****

***** 1+2+3+4+5=15…

Square numbers


**

**  22=4;



***

***

*** 32=9;



****

****

****

**** 42=16

by summing consecutive odd numbers, this pattern for “square” numbers emerges:

1+3=4;

1+3+5=9;

1+3+5+7=16

-what would the next number in this sequence be? (solve through 1+3+5+…

because (2n-1) = odd number, which sum when squared come to n2 for square numbers: 4, 9, 16…

Solving for the next odd number:

(2x1-1) = 1;

(2x2-1) = 3;

(2x3-1) = 5;

(2x4-1) = 7;

(2x5-1) = 9;

1+3+5+7+9=25 = (52) or, in pebble notation:

*****

*****

*****

*****

*****

Oblong numbers


***

*** = 6;



****

****

**** = 12;



*****

*****

*****

***** = 20…

these “oblong” numbers may also be expressed as:  3+3=6; 6+6=12; 10+10=20… or (sum of two triangular numbers) see by drawing a dividing line diagonally
 

**

* /    *

        ** 3+3=6;



***

**

*/    *

       **

     *** 6+6=12;



****

***

**

*/    *

       **

     ***

   **** 10+10=20…

These interconnected “interactions” between the different pebble configurations: ie, triangular numbers to oblong numbers; the summing of consecutive counting numbers to construct triangular numbers; 1+2+3+4+5=15; the summing of consecutive odd numbers to construct square numbers:1+3+5+ (2n-1) = odd number which is squared (n2); the summing of two like triangular numbers to construct “oblong” numbers: 3+3=6; 6+6=12; 10+10=20; 15+15=30… oblong numbers may also be expressed like this: (b* x a**) = 3x2=6; 4x3=12; 5x4=20; 6x5=30… (*b is horizontal; **a is vertical)

-all of these connections have to do with the quality, quantity and deeper patterns that result from arranging “numbers” following rules that are allowed by pebble arrangements and other “mapping” techniques.

-what happens when we sum all even numbers: 

2+4=6;

2+4+6=12;

2+4+6+8=20;

2+4+6+8+10=30;

2+4+6+8+10+12=42

2+4+6+8+10+12+14=56…

-can this number sequence be arranged in a regular pebble pattern?

Next time, we will look at equations, functions and how they work using these new ways of looking at numbers. Mathematics is less about calculating numbers than making symbolic statements about how things relate to each other, what patterns connect with which other ones, etc. These are expressed as equations and functions in Math.

It is also about how to define a number by its given properties: What are “even” numbers; what are “odd” numbers; what are “composite” numbers; and, what are numbers that are not expressible into whole number fractions by any other number than itself and one?

We will also look at how “scientific notation” of very large and very small numbers work. We will look at how these “numbers” and their “magnitudes” are used in measuring systems, like the metric system.
_______________________________________________________

Oblong numbers revisited

***

*** 3x2=6;



****

****

**** 4x3=12;



*****

*****

*****

***** 5x4=20;



******

******

******

******

****** 6x5=30;



*******

*******

*******

*******

*******

******* 7x6=42…

 f we add one more pebble to these arrangements, like this:
 

***

**** 6+1=7;



****

****

***** 12+1=13;



******

******

******

******

******* 30+1=31…

these are all examples of numbers that are “not expressible into whole number fractions” (a/b) or, by whole number “ratios” (a:b). We call these “prime” numbers because they cannot be arranged into regular configurations like oblong numbers or triangular numbers, other than a straight line. The first few prime numbers are 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43…

These numbers may be used to generate all other counting numbers because they are either prime numbers themselves or numbers that factor into (at least a pair) n number of primes: 2; 3; 22 or (2x2) =4; 5; 2x3=6; 7; 23 or 2x(2x2) =8; 32 or (3x3)=9; 5x2=10; 11; 3x(2x2)=12; 13; 7x2=14; 5x3=15; 24 or (2x2x2x2) =16; 17;  and so on, with prime numbers in bold. –show how number 18 may be expressed.

Prime numbers can be found by using a technique called, the Sieve of Eratosthenes’ by arranging the counting number sequence like this:

1          2          3          4          5          6          7          8          9          10

11       12       13       14       15       16       17       18       19       20

21       22       23       24       25       26       27       28       29       30

31       32       33       34       35       36       37       38       39       40

41       42       43       44       45       46       47       48       49       50

51       52       53       54       55       56       57       58       59       60

61       62       63       64       65       66       67       68       69       70

71       72       73       74       75       76       77       78       79       80

81       82       83       84       85       86       87       88       89       90

91       92       93       94       95       96       97       98       99       100

since 2 is a prime number every multiple of it (or, even number here after) is eliminated with the sieve; since 3 is a prime number every multiple of it here after is eliminated; since 5 is a prime number every multiple of it here after is eliminated; so it is with 7; and so on.

Here is a special arrangement of counting numbers that seem to show a pattern for prime numbers:

1          2          3          4          5          6

7          8          9          10       11       12

13       14       15       16       17       18

19       20       21       22       23       24

25       26       27       28       29       30

31       32       33       34       35       36

37       38       39       40       41       42

43       44       45       46       47       48

49       50       51       52       53       54

55       56       57       58       59       60

61       62       63       64       65       66

67       68       69       70       71       72

73       74       75       76       77       78

79       80       81       82       83       84

85       86       87       88       89       90

91       92       93       94       95       96

97       98       99       100

every prime number greater than 3 (P > 3) occurs either in the first column or the fifth column. On a clock calculator with 6 numbers on the face, prime numbers greater 3 occur at 5 o’clock and 1 o’clock only. Twin primes, those that differ by two: (11 and 13; 17 and 19; 29 and 31; 41 and 43; and so on) occur at 5 o’clock for the first prime and its twin occurs at 1 o’clock.

Why this is so is still an unsettled question in maths.
________________________

Polynomials

The next thing we will examine here is what a polynomial is. A polynomial is an expression like the triangular generator that sums a sequence of numbers or multiplies numbers together, like oblong and, especially, square numbers. The difference between two consecutive numbers is constant and regular.

A polynomial may have a form like: ax + b. If a and b do not have the same whole-number divisors then its sum is a prime number: if we let a = 2 and b = 1, we get the basic polynomial, 2x + 1.

We let x = 1 so that (2x1) + 1 = 3;

when x = 2 the expression generates:

(2x2) + 1 = 5;

and so on.

The polynomial, 2x + 1, generates odd numbers: 3, 5, 7, 9, 11… as x increases up the sequence of numbers. This expression will generate prime numbers at about 39.6% for the first 1000 values of x. (eg, first two odd primes: 3 and 5 for x values 1 and 2 respectively). 2x + 1 is an example of a first degree polynomial.

A second-degree polynomial may take the form, ax2 + bx + c. The great Euler’s equation for generating prime numbers is in this form: x2 + x + 41 (ie, a second-degree polynomial).

For all values of x from 0 to 39, prime numbers from 41 to 1601 are generated:

x = 0:

0 + 0 + 41 = 41

x = 1:

1 + 1 + 41 = 43

x = 2:

4 + 2 + 41 = 47

x = 3:

9 + 3 + 41 = 53

x = 4:

16 + 4 + 41 = 61…

But things fall apart for this equation when x = 40:

1600 + 40 + 41 = 1681, which is factored into: 41x 41 = 1681.

A third-degree polynomial has the general form: ax3 + bx2 + cx + d. One productive third-degree polynomial, x3 + x2 – 349, which generates 411 prime numbers for the first 1000 values of x.

 One thing you’ll have noticed about polynomial equations in graphing them is that they grow quite fast, and they do not always begin at zero or one. Exponentiation, or a number multiplied by itself a number of times, is inherently geometric in growth.

Going back to the notion of triangular numbers, there is a deeper connection between them and an equation attributed to Gauss: ½ x (N + 1) x N.

Remember that polynomials have the property that “the difference between two consecutive numbers is constant and regular”; this fact allows for an equation like

½ x (N + 1) x N to work beautifully.

Using this equation, we can calculate the sum of any consecutive sequence whatsoever. Gauss, as an elementary student, is said to have used it to calculate the sum of the numbers from 1 to 100. Now, inputting 100 to the equation:

½ x (100 + 1) x 100

we get

½ x (101) x 100 = 50 x 101 x 100 = 5,050.

In examining this equation, we realize that the sum of the first (1) and last (100) terms equals 101. So do the second and penultimate numbers: 2 + 99 = 101; and the ones following, like 3 + 98 = 101; 4 + 97 = 101… this is where the (N + 1) happens: the last number N (100, in this case) + 1 (the first term). Then, we multiply by the last number (100) to 101, which we multiply again the result by half (50) – or, that which make up the 50 pairs of 101 between 1 and 100.

Triangular numbers may be generated like this: (n(n+1))/2.

n =1

(1(1+1)) /2 = (1x2)/2 = 2/2 = 1

n = 2

(2(2+1))/2 = (2x3)/2 = 6/2 = 3

n = 3

(3(3+1))/2 = (3x4)/2 = 12/2 = 6

n = 4

(4(4+1))/2 = (4x5)/2 = 20/2 = 10

n = 5

(5(5+1))/2 = (5x6)/2 = 30/2 = 15

The equation may be expressed in three different ways: (3(3+1))/2 = (3x4)/2 = 12/2

with (n(n+1))/2 being the “basic” expression as stated initially..

Given any equation, one may input numbers not necessarily just whole positive numbers: C = 2π says that the circumference of a circle equals πx2 radians. Rotating around a circle twice equals to πx4. The number, pi, is a transcendental number. It is not a rational number or is not a ratio of two whole numbers, p:q. Its decimal expansion never reveals what the next number in the sequence will be nor terminate and settle into a repeating sequence of numbers. In other words, its proper placement in the number line can ever only be approximated and never properly placed therein.

In the next instalment, we will look into the number or “real” line, what “different” types of numbers there are and what they mean.


Jay

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Some features of Inuktitut (part viii)

I spoke earlier in this blog about the demonstrative class in Inuktitut, and how it has the only "pre-" fix ([ta-]) in existence in Inuktitut.

taanna - 'that one' - is analysed as ta+una (-emically) = 'thine+this'

taika - 'there it (goes)' - is analysed as ta+ikka = 'thine+there'

and so on... I think Louis-Jacques Dorais' 'thine' for ta- is a stroke of brilliance.

I've been thinking about this (largely out of guilt that I couldn't submit something to a noble request by LJD for a mutual friend who has passed on) and it occurs to me that we may be looking at the problem from a wrong perspective. For instance, one may also analyse further the syntactical structure and try and account for the apparent "prefix". I suggest this line of reasoning:

Ø+ta una, where:
Ø = the obligatory grammatical subject slot;
[-ta] = third person possessive in relation to another third person;
una = this

The fusion of (originally) possessive marker to the following demonstrative morpheme [una]  phonologically creates, Ø+taanna

The apparently empty subject slot in the construct creates the imppression of a "prefix" but the same phenomenon is also recreate-able in such constructs as:

Ø+annirrannut isirit - '(you) into my house, enter'
subject object verbal imperative

where the second person marker ('you') is implicit though (by definition and necessity) not absent in the phrase, strictly speaking.

I think this may be a psychological breakthrough: looking at the problem from a syntactical perspective, we realize that the 'you' is implicit while its possessive marker is residually explicit
[-ta] and this then joins with and affects the following demonstrative morpheme.

The once explicit uniqueness of the demonstrative, in relation to its phonological assimilation to the presence of the possessive in the subject slot [-ta], on the one hand and, a case ending on the other, makes the morpho-phonological assimilation two way: to the rear,[-ta]; and, to the front, case endings, if they are present - to, from, through, etc. These make the phonological rules governing the demonstratives seem overtly complex and intractible, when the assimiliation processes may, in fact, be sequential while remaining particular to a given case ending from the other end.

Jay

Verbosity does/does not translate

Like many people in Canada, I guess, I watched the Peter Mansbridge interview with Conrad Black out of sheer curiosity what hubris looks like. For a man who hides behind obscure, polysyllabic mots, the man certainly gives away a lot of his contempt with his sneering, shifty-eyed, clinched-teeth, monotonic delivery (morse code has more soul). Clearly, it is not eloquence but passive, legalistic disclaiming of the sometimes cruel and crude things he wants, needs to say, for his singular satisfaction.

He claims to be a writer but that is like saying because someone is good at calculating numbers they is a math wiz. One could admit that he (lord black of cross-currents) is a writer if one is willing to admit that adding big numbers together is great arithmetic. It sounds impressive but does it really say anything?

Baron Black's interview got me thinking a lot about some of the translation material that passes my desk. These are usually research proposals by newly minted Masters and PhD degrees. The quality of academic writing tends to change and improve with the experience of the author, thankfully, which is more than I can say about the fat old cat. The best writing I see in scientific papers is done by Department of Fisheries & Oceans. They just do excellent science, and it shows through in the way they draft their official responses...

Now, after this long-winded, windbaggery: I was thinking about how cultural archetypes, including class and social positions, colour our subconscious perception of certain people (especially in cross-cultural situations). More precisely, I was thinking about Eco's maxim: The limits of interpretation are determined by the freedom of the text (or something to that effect).

It sounds impressive (if not campy and dated), for example, to English speakers to give "superheros" names like:

The Green Lantern;

Superman;

Mermaid-man and BarnacleBoy

or, better yet, take Hollywood titles rendered in foreign languages - some real gems in them thar titles. I've heard that "Donald Duck" in Chinese is "Walking, talking, yum-yum old man peiking duck"

The Green Lantern in Inuktitut sounds silly: Uujaujaq Naniruuti;
Superman sounds really sexist (pilgrim): Angurjuarmiaq - super, big macho man - HA! - the appellation of [-juaq-]/[-suaq] is usually given after the person has died: Qillaqsuaq was most likely never used on Qillaq while he was alive but when he passed into legend, -suaq (the great) was added.

The CPC campaign in Nunavut was couched in quasi-religious terms because their propaganda is designed that way. In the last federal elections Minister Aglukkaq told her audience that her "work is not yet completed" invoking images of Christ threatened to be prematurely crucified...

Much to my chagrin, her tactics worked.

The Eco maxim is real. As a linguist and translator I've always believed in it and have spent a great deal of time thinking about its meaning. In the hands of cunning, unscrupulous political parties and corporate advertisement (and their legal departments), auto-suggestion is this type can be utterly devastating. There is almost no way but to respond emotively, viscerally because one is forced to react to something that is not, strictly-speaking, there rather than to what was said (which is often nothing). This is one of the many reasons why I love watching politics and debates.

Harper would have lost bigtime if he had gone through with his acceptance of Iggy's challenge for a public one-on-one debate. He cannot operate, cannot afford to operate outside of his script. He doesn't have the depth of intelligence nor the honesty to say something convincing outside of the script. Improvisation requires honesty and authentic reactions to a fluid situation. Fluid situations are sheer chaos to the CPC "Brain Trust" whose MPs often cannot engage in debate but spew out rigid talking points.

I dare Minister Oliver to publicly demonstrate his willingness to drink from the next decommissioned tailings pond and not come out 'til he reels in a (mutant) fish. It is that kind of rhetoric rather than responding to policy challenges with intelligence and cunning that divide true debates from propaganda.

Jay