Yes, I go on and on and on about it (and I’m not even including my bouts of Safire-bashing), but dammit, it’s a scandal that the Newspaper of Record is so smugly ignorant about language. They wouldn’t permit a news story to leave the impression that protons and neutrons are pretty much the same thing, but look at these excerpts from today’s story “Mongolians and Koreans: Twins With Minimal Sibling Rivalry” by James Brooke (I’ve put the more idiotic bits in bold):
Mongolians and Koreans are ethnically related peoples cut off by centuries of history. In the 13th century, Mongolians swept across China and down the Korean peninsula, and were on the brink of invading Japan until several naval disasters changed their minds.
Mongolia’s occupation of Korea left linguistic affinities, shared genes and wild horse herds, known to this day as Mongolians, on the South Korean island of Cheju, the staging base for the frustrated invasion of Japan…. On an ethnic level, Koreans and Mongolians are like fraternal twins.
Kim Sung Chul, a South Korean pastor who has been here three years, said, “We look the same; our skin is the same; our grammar structure is the same.”…
“After two years, Koreans can speak Mongolian,” said Kim Wan Jin, a translator who is one of the roughly 1,000 Koreans who have moved here in the last five years. “But it is even easier for Mongolian people to learn Korean.”
So what have we learned? Mongolians and Koreans are “like fraternal twins,” and their languages are so closely related it takes hardly any work to learn one if you know the other, sort of like Spanish and Portuguese. All of which is balderdash. The ethnic stuff presumably means that the Mongols interjected a few genes into the Korean pool during their stay, which is doubtless true but basically meaningless—they did the same everywhere they went, as do all conquering armies, without substantially affecting the local ethnicity. And the language stuff means that some people consider Korean part of the Altaic language family. Ethnologue is conservative (as am I), and includes only Mongolian, Tungusic, and Turkic languages in Altaic; it’s possible that Korean is related (which would of course have nothing to do with “Mongolia’s occupation of Korea”), but as Andrew Dalby puts it, “If so, it must have separated from the remainder of the family many thousands of years ago”—which means that any obvious traces have long been effaced, and it’s no easier for a Korean to learn Mongolian than, say, Chinese. Here, I’ll put the numbers from one to ten side by side and you tell me if they look related.
M: nig khoyor gurav döröv tav dzorghaa doloo naym yös arav
K: hana tul set net tasôt yôsôt ilgop yôdôl ahop yôl
However, this investigation did lead me to one of the best 404 pages I’ve ever seen; it starts “404 Вам будет удача” [you will have good luck/fortune] and goes on (in Russian)
This page is good luck. The good luck has gone around the whole world. Karl Rodriguez [Карл Родригес] put http://sundukov.narod.ru/ышьздуюреьд instead of http://sundukov.narod.ru/simple.html into the address bar of his browser and wound up here. Petya Solomkin got the name of a site that had been closed down, and he too wound up at this page. Afterwards they all had good luck. It won’t pass you by either.
If you got to the Happiness Page from a Yandex link, share this joy with ten friends.
So I’m sharing it with you all!
…Except that I just double-checked the 404 link and discovered it’s entirely different now: fairly normal, except that it ends И помните: вы это не читали. [And remember: you didn’t read this.] I guess they have a number of different pages for you to hit upon. If you read Russian, go there and see what you get!