What I’m Reading, September 21, 2015

Police Officer Fired For Racial Bias After Falsely Claiming Black Man Attacked Her With Golf Club, Andy Campbell, Huffington Post, September 17, 2015

Seattle Police Officer Cynthia Whitlatch was fired Tuesday for showing racial bias and a lack of remorse when she improperly arrested a 69-year-old black man who was using a golf club as a cane.

“I was disappointed by your failure during your Loudermill hearing to take any responsibility, or show any understanding that your conduct at issue here was inappropriate,” Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole wrote in her decision to fire Whitlatch. “In particular, when I asked you what if anything you would do differently in retrospect, you stated that you would do nothing differently.”

‘The narrowing of opportunity in modern America’ (And the rise of the “mandarin” class), Nick Sorrentino, Against Crony Capitalism, February 15, 2015 Continue reading



Here’s an interesting bit of trivia about the Valyrian language in Game of Thrones (via Wikipedia):

To create the Dothraki and Valyrian languages to be spoken in Game of Thrones, HBO selected the linguist David J. Peterson through a competition among conlangers. The producers gave Peterson a largely free hand in developing the languages, as, according to Peterson, George R. R. Martin himself was not very interested in the linguistic aspect of his works. The already published novels include only a few words of High Valyrian, including valar morghulis (“all men must die”), valar dohaeris (“all men must serve”) and dracarys (“dragonfire”). For the forthcoming novel The Winds of Winter, Peterson has supplied Martin with additional Valyrian translations.

Peterson commented that he considered unfortunate Martin’s choice of dracarys because of its (presumably intended) similarity to the Latin word for dragon, draco. Because the Latin language does not exist in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, Peterson chose to treat the similarity as coincidental and made dracarys an independent lexeme; his High Valyrian term for dragon is zaldrīzes. The phrases valar morghulis and valar dohaeris, on the other hand, became the basis of the language’s conjugation system

I’m intrigued by the discussion of the word dracarys and its relation to the English word “dragon,” or the Latin word draco. I’d like to posit an alternate theory, just for the heck of it. Continue reading


Fun with Numbers in Other Languages

Multiples of ten in Russian, for the most part, have a common suffix, sort of like “-ty” in English (i.e. twenty, thirty, etc.) “Twenty” and “thirty” in Russian are “двадцать” and “тридцать” (pronounced “dvadtsat” and “treedtsat,” basically).

Note that they both end in “-цать.” “Forty” is different, though. (The words for “fifty” through “eighty” have a different suffix in common. “Ninety” is different, too, but that’s for another day.) I find this sort of thing interesting, and it’s my blog, so nyah.

The word for “forty” in Russian is “сорок” (pronounced “sorok.”) This threw us for a loop in Russian class back in college, and the professor’s explanation was interesting. I thought I’d share it today. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but Google helped me find the same basic linguistic theory.

A post by Joseph F. Foster, a University of Cincinnati anthropologist, at the website The Linguist List cites A.G. Preobrazhensky’s “Etymological Dictionary of the Russian Language,” which suggests that the Russian word for forty “is related to this Russian form: sorochka = ‘shirt, blouse. shift (sack dress)’.” Foster explains: Continue reading


What I’m Reading, March 28, 2014

The Internet, Where Languages Go to Die?, Ross Perlin, Al Jazeera America, March 18, 2014

We’re used to the triumphalist universalism of the digital utopians: Google organizes the world’s information. Facebook connects everyone. Twitter tells you what’s happening. Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit. It’s all true — for a mere 5 percent of the world’s languages.

What few acknowledge is that the online world — when compared with offline, analog diversity — is very nearly a monoculture, an echo chamber where the planet’s few dominant cultures talk among themselves. English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic and just a handful of other languages dominate digital communication. Thanks to their sheer size and to the powerful official and commercial forces behind them, the populations that speak and write these languages can plug in, develop the necessary tools and assume that their languages will follow them into an ever-expanding range of virtual realms.

Copyright Alliance Attacks ChillingEffects.org As ‘Repugnant,’ Wants DMCA System With No Public Accountability, TechDirt, March 17, 2014

Sandra Aistars of the Copyright Alliance issued a statement during the recent DMCA-related hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee. As was noted earlier, a bunch of effort was made to turn the “notice and takedown” system into a “notice and stay down” system, and weirdly, the word “free” was thrown about as if it was synonymous with “infringement.”

Her statement details the shortcomings of the DMCA system from the expected position, citing the personal travails of creators like Kathy Wolfe, who for some reason has chosen to spend half her profits battling infringement. In general, it painted a bleak picture for future creativity, claiming that unless infringement is massively curbed, creators will stop creating. (There seems to be no place in this argument about the lowered barriers to entry, and the swell of creation that has enabled.)

But where her statement really goes off the rails (even for the Copyright Alliance) is with the attack on the popular copyright notice clearinghouse, Chilling Effects.

We Shouldn’t Arrest One More Person for Having Marijuana, Dice Raw, Blog of Rights, March 18, 2014

When you look at marijuana arrest data in the U.S., you’ll be floored to know that every 37 seconds, someone gets handcuffed and booked for weed-related crime, and Black people are 3.73 times more likely to be the ones arrested (communities of color have felt this to be true for a long time, and now we have the stats to back us up).

That doesn’t reflect the true voice of the people. In fact, 9 out of 10 adults in the U.S. don’t think a person should face jail time for a small amount weed. In 2010 alone, states spent $3.61 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws, yet many cities also experienced mass school closings that threaten to hinder the progress of our youth.