09 August 2005 by Published in: links 5 comments

Yesterday was a day filled with melancholy, in which I wished very much to not be in the world, because of stories like this, this, and this. Please note, it’s all horrifying stuff. I wouldn’t blame you a bit for not wanting to know. I didn’t.

Today I feel a bit better, in part because I slipped sideways into Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and vanished from here for a few hours, and in part because of things like this. Discovery landed safely, with a woman commander, how cool is that? And I learned something new, I didn’t know the shuttle got carted around on the back of 747 NASA carrier jet.

What a perplexing, sad and awe inspiring time to be alive.

Also, this is a weird thing that I have no explanation for, but I hope one of my readers can point me to one. There’s an African country that is currently undergoing a starvation catastrophe. Yet another one of those things that has me disheartened because everyone knew this was coming and no one did anything about it. I digress, though. The mystery is when I was young, I learned to say this country name as ‘nI-j&r, but I increasingly hear it pronounced in a more Frenchified way, as nE-‘zher. When did this happen? And why? The other day I actually heard a radio announcer correct themselves from the first pronunciation to the second. What is that about? Anyone know?

I heard this most moving story concerning a woman’s remembrances of the bombing of Hiroshima, sixty years ago last Saturday. There’s four parts to the series, all of which are excellent and worth hearing (though you will need to guard yourself against becoming depressed on listening, if you are at all like me). A day or so after the story that I linked above aired, the station read an angry letter from a guy who was totally outraged that nothing in the piece justified the bomb dropping. This seemed so odd to me. Why would a bombing survivor have any business talking about how great the bombing was? I understand that arguments can be made (though never proven) for a quicker end to the war and therefore a smaller loss of life overall because of the United States’ use of the atomic bomb, but I hardly think it’s appropriate that every article about Hiroshima contain a cheering section for slaughter, regardless of potential justifications. How does that honor the dead and the living? Why would anyone demand that others capitulate their position and abnegate their actual experience in order to praise the actions of their enemies? It’s a bizarre sort of thing to be offended about, to my mind, and I can’t quite fathom it. You can hear the letter for yourself here under the entire program link, at about the 22 minute mark.

I am also concerned about the impending, forced evacuation of Israelis from the settlements in Gaza. I don’t want there to be any violence from any person on any side of this polygonal dispute. It is a courageous move on the part of the Israeli government to publicly cede land and I hope the Palestinians can see that. Turning the military on your own people is always dangerous, always difficult and rarely wise. I hope the settlers can understand this is a move of duress on the part of their government. I will be praying for a peaceful transition in which no one (else) comes to harm.

And that’s today’s newscast through the Anarkey filter.

One last thing, Slacktivist is as insightful as ever, with his piece on the difference between need and greed. Today I bless you, reader, in this way: may you always remember that there is enough, whether you have it when you do or not. Dayenu.


Tue 09th Aug 2005 at 10:56 pm

Speaking as someone who grew up (and, in fact, made it to her 30s) saying NI-jur and who now, after a couple of years of dealing with text about Africa every day, says nee-JAIR: it’s kind of about courtesy. The people who live in Niger–who are very different, culturally, from the people who live in Nigeria, by the way, besides being astronomically poorer–never said NI-jur. The people who live in Lesotho have always said le-SUIT-oh, not leh-SO-tho. The people who live in Cote d’Ivoire say Cote d’Ivoire, not Ivory Coast. And so on. Much of Africa speaks French, many of the countries (from Mozambique northwest to the Atlantic, really) were named in French, and we English speakers have spent centuries simply pronouncing stuff wrong. . . . However, we know our limits when it comes to the names of African nations; at least we still don’t spell Tchad with a T like everyone else does. (By the way, it’s Asia too: remember in junior high when Peking became Beijing? A few years ago when East Timor became Timor Leste? Years before that when Burma became Myanmar? It’s all the same. It’s part of admitting–finally–that the names an imperialist nation gave to a land they landed on were not the same names given to that land by the people who were already there.)

Tue 09th Aug 2005 at 10:58 pm

It reminds me of a great Eddie Izzard bit, now I think about it. "You can’t claim us. We live here!" "…Do you have a flag?"

Wed 10th Aug 2005 at 7:02 am

I really didn’t think that wikipedia article was long enough, but that’s the great thing about wiki, isn’t it?

I think of the word a lot when I read the newspaper.

Wed 10th Aug 2005 at 7:28 am

I’ll buy that the change in pronounciation is to make it closer to how it’s pronounced in the native language. But it isn’t like it’s an imperialist thing. Names of cities and countries change from language to language. I don’t say pair-ee. I say pair-is. I don’t say knee-pohn. I say jah-pan. Likewise, when I speak with folks from other countries they have localized names of OUR cities and even our country. "Nueva York" or "Los Estados Unidos" etc.. and sometimes it isn’t a straight translation, it’s a phonetic one and sometimes it’s not that close.

I think it’s a leftover of poor communication in the 18th/19th centuries when most of these names were given. It wasn’t like someone could just call up a native and ask them. These names were published in papers by people who were traveling. Or by talking to someone who knew someone who went there.

I do find the constant tweaking to be a bit fascinating. I also think it’s a healthy and good thing.

Wed 10th Aug 2005 at 9:53 am

Just to upset the boat more, I thought that this change in pronuncation for English speakers was instigated by the BBC through the radio (see article: http://www.yaelf.com/rp.shtml). There was a point at which the BBC tried to become more culturally sensitive, but only in the case where the spelling was already the same and it was a question of mispronuciation.
I believe there is now a RP guide, both for the BBC and for America. The two seem to be less distinct as time moves on.
Interesting point.

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