January 20 language

This afternoon I worried intermittently about the location of an “unquote” left off by some commentator on Radio Five Live. He had said that Suarez was quote the third best striker in Europe. But where was that unquote? Hours later I am still fretting about the quotation, which, in my mind, is still ambling merrily on with the gate of the unquote left yawning wide open.

Language probably causes me more heartburn than anything else.

Many Americans say that are “blessed” instead of lucky. Clearly a religious thing, as divine agency oversees all in a Panglossian universe. I insist on being lucky, not blessed.

Seen in the window of a fancy pub: stunningly private individual dining rooms for hire! Stunningly private. How stunning can privacy be?

The Ancient Sumerians had a cumulative genitive in their language. You added -ak at the end of a clause for the number of genitives in the phrase. So the cat of the son of the king would be sa’ adamu lugal ‘ak ‘ak. (cat son king of of). You can imagine the one-upmanhsip of a king with a lot of stuff (wives, children, trinkets, sheep) who would have a suite of aks at the end of his clauses. Loadsamoney! Akakakakaak!

Two linguists of Ancient Sumerian have different definitions for a part of speech found in certain literary texts. One names it the ‘frustrative ‘ case, corresponding to the expression ‘if only…’ (If only we had more sheep in the herd) Another, clearly more optimistic, calls it a ‘rhetorical, interrogative particle’ and interprets the meaning as ‘why not…?’ (why not get more sheep for the herd?) Frustrative or rhetorical, interrogative particle? Lucky or blessed? European or America? What type are you?

Sometimes I find myself listening to some poor soud pouring their heart out, unburdening themselves of terrible problems, debilitating illness, financial impasses, when what I am most concerned about is their confusion of imply and infer or their insistance in making nounns into verbs (to impact rather than make an impact) or verbs into adjectives ( the engineering work is on-going rather than going on). It is generally attested that Ancient Sumerian had only a limited number of adjectives. Might suit me better.

Language is important, but sometimes I wish I could just find it transparent.

Oh and yes, I did get a book about Ancient Sumerian for Christmas.


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