Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 21st, 2020

English is not normal

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Fascinating article in Aeon by John McWhorter, professor of linguistics and American studies at Columbia University:

English speakers know that their language is odd. So do people saddled with learning it non-natively. The oddity that we all perceive most readily is its spelling, which is indeed a nightmare. In countries where English isn’t spoken, there is no such thing as a ‘spelling bee’ competition. For a normal language, spelling at least pretends a basic correspondence to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal.

Spelling is a matter of writing, of course, whereas language is fundamentally about speaking. Speaking came long before writing, we speak much more, and all but a couple of hundred of the world’s thousands of languages are rarely or never written. Yet even in its spoken form, English is weird. It’s weird in ways that are easy to miss, especially since Anglophones in the United States and Britain are not exactly rabid to learn other languages. But our monolingual tendency leaves us like the proverbial fish not knowing that it is wet. Our language feels ‘normal’ only until you get a sense of what normal really is.

There is no other language, for example, that is close enough to English that we can get about half of what people are saying without training and the rest with only modest effort. German and Dutch are like that, as are Spanish and Portuguese, or Thai and Lao. The closest an Anglophone can get is with the obscure Northern European language called Frisian: if you know that tsiis is cheese and Frysk is Frisian, then it isn’t hard to figure out what this means: Brea, bûter, en griene tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Frysk. But that sentence is a cooked one, and overall, we tend to find that Frisian seems more like German, which it is.

We think it’s a nuisance that so many European languages assign gender to nouns for no reason, with French having female moons and male boats and such. But actually, it’s us who are odd: almost all European languages belong to one family – Indo-European – and of all of them, English is the only one that doesn’t assign genders that way.

More weirdness? OK. There is exactly one language on Earth whose present tense requires a special ending only in the third‑person singular. I’m writing in it. I talkyou talkhe/she talks – why just that? The present‑tense verbs of a normal language have either no endings or a bunch of different ones (Spanish: hablohablashabla). And try naming another language where you have to slip do into sentences to negate or question something. Do you find that difficult? Unless you happen to be from Wales, Ireland or the north of France, probably.

Why is our language so eccentric? Just what is this thing we’re speaking, and what happened to make it this way? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2020 at 9:09 pm

Posted in Education

Food as Medicine – Preventing & Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet

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This is from 2015, and is a video of a presentation recorded live at the University of Pittsburgh on July 11, 2015.  See below for links related to the talk:

For more on dreaded diseases see:

How Not to Die from Heart Disease (…)
How Not to Die from Cancer (…)
How Not to Die from Diabetes (…)
How Not to Die from Kidney Disease (…)
How Not to Die from High Blood Pressure (…)
What Is the Healthiest Diet? (…)
How Not to Die: An Animated Summary (…)
Dining by Traffic Light: Green Is for Go, Red Is for Stop (…)
Greger’s Daily Dozen Checklist (…)
What Are the Best Foods? (…)

Check out my other talks here:

Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death (2012) –…
More than an Apple a Day: Preventing the Most Common Diseases (2013) –…
From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food (2014) –…
How Not to Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, & Reversing Our Top 15 Killers (2016) –… Evidence-Based Weight Loss (2019) –…

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2020 at 7:00 pm

Is deficit spending a good idea right now?

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Kevin Drum has a good data-and-chart-based answer. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2020 at 10:28 am

Art of Shaving Sandalwood and the wonderful (and low-cost) Baili 171

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Continuing the synthetic series, this extremely nice Plissoft brush is Maggard Razors’ own 22mm brush. With a Plissoft 22mm knot, which crops up in various brushes, the focus shifts somewhat to the handle, which is were the brushes differ (cf. the Edwin Jagger double-edge safety razors: they all have the same head, so the focus becomes the handle).

That said, the knot is really quite good in feel and performance, and I like this style of handle — quite a fine brush for $10. And the lather was extremely good. Art of Shaving’s Sandalwood soap, I once was told, is made by Valobra (or was at the time), so it’s a good soap, and the sandalwood fragrance is very present, a pleasure for the shave, though some men find their skin is sensitive to sandalwood. Luckily, I belong to the non-sensitive majority.

And speaking of low-cost excellence, the Baili 171 is hard to beat: $6 for an extremely comfortable and efficient razor with what strikes me as an attractive design. The handle is comfortable, and with three passes my face was totally smooth.

A small squirt of Esbjerg’s wonderful aftershave gel, and the day begins, with the weekend dead ahead.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2020 at 10:25 am

Posted in Shaving

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